Growing up as a child of divorce, I was blessed to have parents who worked together to make things as easy as possible on my sister and me. My parents were best friends, and I can honestly say that they were much better apart than they were together. I was 9 when my parents divorced, and I remember life before they split up. Even though they did their best to shield us from their problems, I can remember hearing them argue behind closed doors, and how they barely spoke to each other in the months right before my dad moved out. However, by the time I was 12, they had made amends and I grew up thinking that all divorced families were like ours: divorced spouses were still considered part of the family, and still came to family events like nothing had ever changed, divorced parents could travel together and even share hotel rooms if it meant getting to spend time with their children who lived in another state, and still shared a lot of the same friend group. I didn’t realize this was not the norm until I was in my late teenage years, when my friends would remark about how “weird” it was for my dad to invite my mom and her new boyfriend over for dinner, or how my dad still went to all the family gatherings with my mom’s side of the family. Even in the first couple of years after my parents’ divorce, they never really fought in front of us, and tried hard to make us believe everything was ok between them.

When my ex-husband and I separated in 2016, I told him I knew things would be hard for a while but that I hoped for the same for my kids; I wanted us to be able to do things together for the sake of the kids, and to still get along. For those who were there, you know this was definitely not the case for a long time. The first few years after our divorce were filled with fighting and drama, and it wreaked havoc on my kids’ mental health and wellbeing. I won’t hash out the details here, ’cause it’s none of anyone’s business, but there were a few years there that were very dark for us, and looking back now, it makes me so sad and ashamed that the kids had to go through what they did. However, I can safely say that today, 8 years later, things are much different.

It has taken us a very long time to get here, but I am very happy about where our family stands at this point. My ex-husband and I now get along really well, as well as me and my kids’ stepmom; we can talk to each other like old friends these days. Since Caitlyn lives with her dad now, they graciously open their home to me anytime I want or need to stay there, whether it be to come visit the kids or to stay the night before or after business trips and I don’t feel like driving so far to/from the airport. My ex mother-in-law and sister-in-law and I wish each other Happy Mother’s Day and Happy Birthday, and I tell them I love them when we get off the phone or when we say goodbye after a visit. The kids’ sister from their dad’s new marriage calls me “Aunt Brittany”, and I give her hugs and kisses when I visit- just like my own children. The kids are happy because they no longer feel like they have to choose between parents, and holidays and school breaks aren’t so stressful for them anymore. We can all be together to celebrate birthdays and things without drama or tension, as we recently did to celebrate Sawyer’s birthday:

That is a picture of me in the middle of my former in-laws, taken in the kitchen where my ex husband lives with his new wife. If you had told me 7 or 8 years ago that this would be possible, I would have laughed; In those first few years, I didn’t think we’d ever be able to be friendly again, but I’m so glad we got through that period of our lives. This is what I wanted when I divorced my ex husband 8 years ago. I wanted to be able to be friends, so that the kids could have what I had growing up with my mom and dad. It makes things so much easier for everyone now that we can all get along and work together to be the best parents possible for our children.

There have definitely been awkward moments. Sawyer was so little when I divorced his dad that he doesn’t even remember us being married and what it was like for us to live in the same house. He used to ask all the time why I couldn’t move into the same house with his dad and stepmom, and I have had to explain to him that sometimes mommies and daddies don’t live together, but that doesn’t mean they don’t love their kids just as much as the other one does. When he was younger he also made a few comments that made things a little awkward for the rest of us, but we get through it with some giggles and try to explain things the best we can.

Our bunch (minus JulieAnna) coming together to support Sawyer at the Special Olympics)
Supporting Caitlyn at a color guard competition

We are all aware this is not “normal” for most people, but we laugh about it because guess what? It works for us. Our blended family may be strange for everyone around us, but we don’t care. Everyone has their own “normal”, and this is ours.

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