(Courtesy of the author)
(Courtesy of the author)

I love my family of six. I have four children – two boys and two girls – and a husband I adore. It is what I always secretly wished for. We fill our home with love and laughter. But, we are also very real. We get on each other’s nerves. We get frustrated. We are not afraid to show emotion or get impassioned. We are allowed to disagree (sometimes loudly). We are not overly strict, but we have boundaries. We have expectations, but will never make anyone feel like a failure if they can’t or won’t meet them. For me, this is perfection. My perfect family.

And yet, sometimes I feel like there is a void in the home – when our six drops to five. When my oldest son goes to his father’s house each week. When I have to pull out calendars and negotiate days. When I have to decide if I should plan a family outing without my 15-year-old.

In 11 years of sharing custody, I have never gotten used to his absence. And yet, I probably would not have changed my decision to have such an equal sharing of my son. At the time, I came up with what felt like the fairest schedule and arrangement. A schedule that gave my son the chance to live with both his parents. To have both sides of his family. To not experience the sense of loss I felt when my own parents divorced and my father moved away.

I could not have predicted then that one day my little 4-year-old, who was an only child a the time, would have three siblings from me and two more on his father’s side. I couldn’t have predicted that 11 years later, we would still be making the trek back and forth – negotiating holidays and extra-curricular activities. Figuring out how to accommodate his budding social life and the demands of having a teenager. I had no understanding of what it would mean to co-parent separately with his father and sometimes his step-mother, but also to balance the raising of my children, including my oldest, with my husband, who is a dedicated and patient Dad to all of them equally.

It’s not easy. In fact, sometimes it feels hard. There are challenges that are hard to put into words, especially when your younger children start to ask why their brother lives in two homes. They want to know why he has two dads. They want to know if that means one day I won’t be married to their father. If one day they will have two dads or two moms.

Other times, it feels like we are anomalies – even though I know we are not the only ones dealing with this “sharing.” According to the The U.S. Census Bureau, there is one divorce approximately every 36 seconds. That’s nearly 2,400 divorces per day, 16,800 divorces per week and 876,000 divorces a year.
The thing is, I never thought I would fall into that statistic. As a child – especially a child of divorce – I swore that it wouldn’t happen to me. Then again, there are many things about my journey in life that were unpredictable.

The truth is, doing the best we can with our lives is all we can do. There are things about sharing custody and being divorced that I hate. Like missing time with my son, especially on some holidays. Always needing a quorum with every big decision. Repeatedly having to answer teacher’s questions about who to contact. Adding four parent e-mails to every coach’s list. Explaining to other parents on sidelines of sporting events “who is who.”

There are other things about sharing custody that I have grown to appreciate. My son is so very loved. He has more parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles than most. He is a treasured and respected member of all our families. He is offered more opportunities to travel and experience life than many. He always has one of the biggest cheering sections at games and is adored by two brothers and three sisters.

I am not ashamed of the family I have created or the choices we have all made together because it is our normal. It is what works for us. It is what we do to put our son first. We make sacrifices and have to occasionally deal with uncomfortable situations. But, we do it out of love and out of a commitment to raising a family we can be proud of. A perfect family. Our perfect family.
Nicole Dash is a writer, blogger, and business owner who lives outside Washington D.C. with her husband and four children. Nicole writes about life, family and finding herself amid the chaos on her blog Tiny Steps Mommy. Connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.

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