My Daughter’s Two Mothers
My Daughter’s Two Mothers
Recently I met a new person (Let’s call him Peter) in the home of my daughter’s stepmother (Let’s call her Ann). Peter already knew Ann pretty well and already knew my daughter (Let’s call her Laurie) as Ann’s stepdaughter, so Laurie introduced me as her other mom. I said to Peter “Yes, I’m her other mom, or, more accurately, I’m her Mama and Ann is her Mom.” The odd thing was, nothing about that felt odd.
Laurie has had two mothers since she was three years old. Ann and I have different personalities, different interests, different skills, and different annoying habits, but we have both loved Laurie for a very long time. We both raised her, as did her father and her stepfather. She has had two families for as long as she can remember.
Laurie is in her mid-twenties now. She got to live with her dad and stepmom for a couple of years when she was young, including a year when her dad was living in another country working for the State Department. That year was hard for me. I saw her only once (winter break) during the whole school year, because the travel costs were very high. Most years, though, she saw each parent or each pair of parents often.
Sometimes Laurie hated having to divide her time between two families, having to spend 45 to 60 minutes traveling from one home to the other, and not being able to stay in one place with one set of friends almost all the time. Other times she loved having so many relatives in her two families, with half-siblings and/or step-siblings as well as aunts, uncles, grandparents, and cousins on both sides. She had many people who cared about her and many people from whom she could learn about life.
Some people thought I was crazy to sign a mediated agreement that said Laurie would live with her dad during some of her school years. I disagreed. I had seen too many fathers fade out of their children’s lives entirely or almost entirely. The children lost their dads, and often they also lost most of the child support their fathers should have paid. I wanted Laurie to know her dad — the good, maybe some of the bad, and the just plain ordinary. I wanted her dad to have plenty of reasons to stay very involved in her life and to be willing to pay child support during the times when she lived with me. (I was also willing to pay child support during the times she lived with him, but I earned less, so I paid less.)
Laurie did well in school, enjoyed her friends, graduated from college, got a good job, and lives in a distant state now. When she visits her homes, she spends time with her two families and with her friends. We are all proud of her. We all treasure the visits.
Laurie’s father and I had a short and very difficult marriage. We were not good for each other, but he was a good dad. Ann was a much better wife for him, and my second husband is a much better husband for me. The first years after Laurie’s dad and I separated were very hard and very bumpy, but as time passed, cooperative, respectful co-parenting became easy. A couple of decades later, and for as long as we live, Laurie has two moms. We still have different personalities and interests and so on, but it is easy to let Laurie love both of us.
As is often the case, there is not much of a moral to this story. What works for one family may not work for another. What worked well for Laurie did not work as well for her brother, but that’s a story for a different day. What I hope people take from this is that parents taking turns having their kids live with each of them sometimes works out very well. It definitely increases the second parent’s involvement with the child and his or her willingness to pay child support. It also gives the child two models of what family life can be like. That has value as the child, now an adult, makes decisions about what her family will be like if she marries and has children.
Virginia L Colin, Ph.D. is a Professional Family Mediator certified by the Virginia Supreme Court. She is not an attorney or a therapist. For a free consultation about whether family mediation would be helpful for you, contact her at mediatorQ@gmail.com or 703-864-2101.