We call it “The Moms’ House” (that’s actually what the return address on our Christmas cards says), and it contains a whole lot of estrogen. The current makeup is three moms and three daughters. We are a family, not all related by blood, but intertwined as all families are.
When my ex-husband and I split up a few years ago, I didn’t want our divorce to disrupt the children’s lives any more than it had to. And I wanted the daughter that he and I had together to continue to grow up with her sisters, his daughters from his first wife.
I had been through a previous divorce that involved stepchildren, and when that relationship ended, I didn’t have the option to maintain contact with those children, two stepsons who had been a part of my life for eight years. I don’t think that’s good for children. And I know it wasn’t good for me either.
The solution I came up with this time around was to invite my ex-husband’s first wife to become my roommate. (The other mom in our house is my mom.) We share our children, 50-50 custody, with my ex-husband, and our daughters are together almost every day, either with us, at The Moms’ House, or with their dad (my youngest daughter has taken to calling his house The Dad’s House, even though it’s just him). This has been our situation since April 2009.
We are still in the same house, and the girls have all continued going to the same schools. It’s not perfect, but it has worked for us so far.
Most people who hear about this say, “Wow, you should write a book” or “That could be a reality show.” Maybe so. But it’s not entertainment programming for a mass audience — it’s our life. I do write about it to some extent, but I’m also protective of the fact that this is the situation we live in, day in and day out.
Sometimes it’s touching or funny. But other times it’s real and painful and tough — just like every kind of blended, or “normal,” family. We need to be able to process those more difficult times in private, to worry about preserving our relationships, not creating maximum drama to improve ratings.
Of the six of us in our house, four of us are active in social media (Grandma isn’t interested and Katie is too young). Our minor children haven’t had the option of not “friending” parents. But we’ve fostered relationships and respected each other’s online personas in ways that have maintained those Facebook friendships as two of our children have grown into adulthood (the girls’ older brother, Mikel, has moved on from The Moms’ House, starting his own family).
We’ve had discussions as a family about not airing family disagreements on Facebook. And I try to respect those same guidelines in my writing about our situation. Maybe with some more time and distance, some situations will become subjects for later writings. But some of it is just too raw to share with the greater world as it is happening.
Yolanda and I share cooking responsibilities when the kids are with us (Grandma jumps in sometimes too, which is nice for all of us), and at least once or twice a week, we have family dinners together. We also have had joint birthday parties or dinners for the kids with their dad.
This situation has not only provided the kids with more stability and continuity than other options might have, it has provided me with a tremendous support system during what otherwise would have been a very disruptive phase in my personal life. I do not EVER feel like a single mom. I have tremendous back up from the other moms in my house.
I also don’t discount how much watching my girls grow up together has benefitted me. I’ve gotten to be a part of their lives for the past 13 years.
I remember a conversation with my youngest daughter a few months ago. I said to her, “Yolanda is kind of like a stepmom to you, isn’t she?” She corrected me: “No, she’s like a half-mom.”
And I’m OK with that. Very much OK.