The following is a compilation of the voices of the many children I have seen over the years, who have shared their experience of living in two homes after their parents have divorced and moved on with their lives.
My sixth grade play had just gotten over and I stood surrounded by family who had come to see me. My mom and dad with each of their families were there; mom with her new husband, Tim; and dad with his wife Marcia, and their little baby boy. Mom and Tim stood on one side of me and dad and his family were on my other side. Not far away were some of my friends with their parents. They had all decided to go to Dairy Queen after the performance to celebrate. My mom was friends with them and was going too.
I knew my friends wanted me to come with them but it was dad's weekend to have me and we had made plans as well. Dad said it was "up to me" if I wanted to go with them; that I should do what I wanted. My family and friends stood looking at me, waiting for an answer. No one pressure me or told me what to do but I knew exactly which decision would make which person happy. I heard mom say, "just do what you want to honey, whatever you decide is okay." While it helped to hear this and quieted the voice that often urged me to try and please everyone, I was still uneasy inside. It wasn't so much that I didn't want to let anyone down. the real question I realized, was what did I want? What would make me happy? I would be happy going with dad but going with him automatically meant I'd miss mom and being with my friends. Yet, if I went with mom and my friends, I wouldn't see dad again for another week and then I'd miss him.
I saw my friends putting on their coats and getting ready to leave. Mom and dad both looked at me, waiting for me to decide what to do, again reassuring me that it was up to me. I blurted out, "I know, but it's just so hard!" All I wanted right then was to not have to choose between my mom and dad at all; I wanted to be with them both and for it to feel normal. But it was my weekend with dad so I decided to go with him. I hugged my mom good-bye and watched as they all walked away.
This happened just last weekend mom and dad; remember? Maybe it didn't seem like a big deal but ever since this happened I've been thinking and decided I wanted to let you know some things about my world -- the world that was created for me when you decided to get divorced. I'm not mad at you and I don't want to make you feel bad. You both know I was scared and mad, hurt and confused when you split up. Things were really rough for awhile. But you were both there for me and I'm pretty much used to how things are now. I'll even admit I like my two new families. Step parents aren't as bad as they're cracked up to be and my little brother can even be kind of fun.
But sometimes it feels so hard to live in two such different worlds. You guys don't fight or disagree about too many important things about my life. But you are different from one another and living in each of your worlds sometimes gets to be sort of mind-boggling and hard. When I leave to go to dad's mom, you might miss me but you stay put in your home with Tim and your life is the same (same with you dad). When I leave though, I go to a completely different home where I have a family and I belong, but it is different from where I've been and it isn't always easy to switch gears. At dad's I go to bed at 9:00 but at your house mom, I get to stay up until 9:30 or 10:00. Dad, you're allergic to lots of things so we don't have any pets. At mom's I have George, our dog, and the two cats so that means I have chores to do that I don't have at dad's and I miss them when I'm gone at dad's. At dad's there's my little brother who I get to play with and help take care of and when I'm at mom's I miss him. Mom, your rules for the computer and being online are stricter than dad's so when I'm with you I have to tell my friends I can't talk to them as much online. With you mom, I can speak out about how I feel about things, whenever I want to. Dad thinks that's being disrespectful so at his house I have to watch it. At dad's we go to church so I get up early on Sundays but at your house, mom, we only go to church once in awhile so I sleep in on Sundays.
Maybe it doesn't seem like much. I guess these do sound like small things when you think about it. Buy you know, it adds up and there are times when I feel like I just don't relax and want life to be simpler. What if I've had a tough week and don't want to go through the hassle it sometime takes to get ready for the change between the two homes? What if I'm tired or having fun and just want to stay put, wherever I am?
Did you know that every time I go to be with one of you it means not being with my other parent? That seems so obvious as I write it but do you really stop to think about what that's like for me? I love you both so much but I am almost never with both of you at the same time (and if we are...awkward). Being with one of you always means leaving the other. Sometimes I feel like I'm two people; one when I'm with you dad, and one when I'm with you mom. Yet how often I have wished there were two of me or that you guys lived in one big house; you and Tim on one level mom, and you and Marcia and my little brother on another, dad, with a special stairway that only I could use to go back and forth between each family whenever I wanted, with a room of my own inbetween.
I'm not telling you all this to make you feel bad mom and dad. And you know, I guess I don't even really know why I'm telling you th is except that I don't want to keep it all to myself any longer. Just letting you know that this is how it is for me helps a little, I think.
I know by now that you aren't getting back together and I'm not even sure I'd want that anymore. And I sure know you won't move in together with each of your families. I'm old enough to know there isn't really any big thing you can do to make things different for me; you are divorced and because I'm your kid and want to be with you both, I will have two homes. Just the same though, I think it will help to know you think about what it's like to be me and that you understand.