I was raised in a divorce shared-custody structured household. If you ask my parents separately who raised me, they would each say they were responsible. My parents decided that No Fault Divorce was the best thing for our “family” when I was less than one year old. I can only remember a time my parents were both in the same room together as being somewhat of a “Special Occasion.” My childhood consisted of two divorced people living separate lives and passing me off to each other…back-and-forth between each household every week. By textbook standards, other kids would say that I was “spoiled” because I had two rooms all to myself in two different houses, and on Christmas I visited each house and got to open presents at each location. I, on the other hand, recall longing for a family that I never felt I ever had-even as a very young child. I remember feeling very lonely as an only-child of divorced parents and longing for a single family in one home together and feeling very jealous of kids who had one home and just two parents instead of four and wishing I felt loved and possibly enjoying the company of siblings that I would never have. When I would go to school, I would always have to describe my family in class as just being “me and my separated parents.” I never recall ever seeing my mother and father in the same room together except at special occasions like my high school graduation and at 30 years old at my own wedding. I was told to “play” alone a lot as a child and learned to read and draw as creative outlets that would pass time and keep me “out of the adults’ hair.” In my mother’s house I saw her struggle as a single mother to keep us in an apartment or a condo until she began to date someone at her work and eventually that person would become my first of three other stepfathers.

My mother remarried for the first time around my 7th birthday. I was able to be a flower girl in her “dream” wedding and didn’t fully comprehend what was happening at the party until the man she married moved us into a house and out of the apartment my mother and I shared. In the house she claimed we would have a better life and when they wanted to go on honeymoon or vacation alone together, they would send me to stay at either my grandma’s house or my dad’s house or my cousin’s house. My father remarried around the same time and when I was at his house, I noticed that I enjoyed some of the same things (like my own room to decorate) but with much stricter rules to follow at his house that he shared with his second of three wives. My dad was much more strict with rules and when he and his wife needed time alone, I would be sent back to my mother’s house. My first stepmother was an only child also and I remember bonding with her and enjoying her company, but she never had any children of her own. I only received one letter from her when they divorced, and I always wondered where she was after they split up. I found out recently she was deceased. I saw my dad every week during this time for dinner for a couple nights and stayed overnight at his house every other weekend with him and my stepmother. Sometimes the three of us would enjoy going bowling or doing activities outside. In high school my dad divorced my first stepmother and married his 3rd wife and I was told very little about why they divorced except that he “found his high school girlfriend at a reunion and she was now divorced… so he had a shot at getting together with her”. He dumped my stepmother at the time and almost immediately moved out of state to be with his new wife. Because my father was no longer going to “share custody” or visit me in high school I began seeing him only once a year when he would pay for my flights to see him and his new wife and her kids (from her first marriage). 

My mother during this time decided that since my dad was not going to be around every week to visit that she would move her and I and her husband at the time closer to extended family (her only sister) 1,000 miles away from where I was born/raised. I was uprooted without any consideration to my feelings during a very tumultuous time in a young person’s life, high school. So, I began to adjust to high school in a new state, in a new house, and also noticed some very unusual behavior between my mother and stepfather. They seemed to be fighting more and began to act really strangely in what I found out later to be their phase of becoming ‘swingers.’ During my high school years, I came home to other couples staying in our house with my mother and stepfather and later learned and walked-in on some R-Rated situations in our “home.”

During my college years I visited my dad once a year and grew increasingly jealous of the life he led with my second stepmother and her children. My father was more actively involved in their lives than in mine and in every way seemed to enjoy their company over mine. I felt like a 3rd wheel stepping into their lives. Meanwhile my mother divorced my stepfather after they moved out of state again and she moved back to town and was moving on to date both men and women and eventually settled on my second stepfather (who never introduced me to his own children and seemed to be estranged from them). I was not fond of my first stepfather because he was verbally abusive to me and also not fond of the second one who shared similar personality traits with my first stepfather. My second stepfather was rather poor and seemed to get himself into financial situations that caused my mother to make large purchases she probably would have never made otherwise (like 3 boats). Eventually she separated from him and before she could even remove all of the items from their shared home together and place them into a dumpster, she had already begun to introduce us to her now third stepfather choice – whom she is currently in love with and plans to marry. She recently left me and her only grandchildren to flee to another state for the newest love of her life. She has even recorded her new love’s name in her last will & testament and has not given me or her only sister a copy of the document and has been living in his house for the past year with very little contact.

My relationship to my biological parents is not great, presently. There have been times they were more actively involved in my life but that has not been consistent based on their personal relationships with others. They seemed to value their love lives more than me and I have seemed to always be an afterthought. I have sought therapy for years to try to understand and resolve my feelings that I was not good enough or deserving enough to be given a real family. I speak to them minimally now and do not consider them actively involved in my daily life or the lives of their only biological grandchildren. They chose to selfishly live their lives as if I was a minor accessory to it and it has impacted me to this very day in my late 30’s. I feel responsible that my children should know they have grandparents but that their everyday interactions be very little with them because I do not want to inflict the pain and suffering I felt as a child on them when they ask me the same questions that I asked my parents as a child and never got an answer to…like: “why aren’t grandpa and grandma married?” “why are they living in other states?” “Why don’t they visit regularly?” etc. 

As a 30-something year old adult with children of my own, I notice that I still feel anger and jealousy over the fact that I was never provided a stable and loving single family home. I still struggle with feelings of loneliness, even though I am happily married. I still have difficulty trusting people and keeping friends. I push people away and out of my life and only admit to really having 2 close friends. I struggle with oversharing my trauma in social situations when meeting people and the first things they ask about are my childhood and casually asking why I moved homes so many times etc. Each time either of my parents remarried they moved. 

I know that my anger and jealousy are caused by the fact that I was never shown a role model of true love and acceptance as a child. I cannot understand why chasing selfish happiness at the expense of providing a child a stable home/family would seem logical. I know that literature states that a happy parent can make happy children and to some extent that is a true statement, but in my experience, I have seen the repercussions of people acting and thinking selfishly that their own happiness will cause ripple effects into their child’s life and that is not necessarily the case. The truth is children still notice what is going on in the adults’ lives around them.