Lately, I’ve been pondering where do children in divorced families call home? Not sure what got me started on this – I do remember our family therapist, Dr. Shirley Thomas, saying that creating Two Happy Homes should be our goal so maybe that was in the back of my head. As I thought about this I realized that “home” has many meanings. For example, when I go back to England where I grew up and where my Dad and sister still live, I say ‘I’m going back home,’ even though I’ve lived here in the US for over 20 years. When I’m in England, I’ll say ‘I’m going back home’ when my trip is over and I’m headed back to Colorado.
I’ve been listening (eavesdropping?) to my children when they talk to their friends. What seems to be the pattern there is when they’re asked where they’re going or where they are, and a specific location is not needed, they’ll say “I’m going home” or “I’m at home.” When a specific location is needed, that’s when they’ll say “Mom’s house” or “Dad’s house.”
That they use home to refer to both their Dad’s house and mine makes me happy. I was very concerned in the early days of our separation that the children would feel they were being shuttled between two hotels and were only able to check-in if there was a reservation – i.e. the parenting agreement. That lead to my telling the children that my house was their home and they were always welcome. They don’t have to ask permission to come to my house but they do need to let me know and they do have to discuss it with their Dad, if it’s his parenting time. I especially like to know if it’s going to be late at night and I’m likely to be asleep – don’t want to be calling the police to assist with intruders who turn out to be my kids!
When I talked to Ann Rouse recently, I asked her where her six-year-old son called home. Here’s what she said….
He asked me that the other day. “Mom? How many homes do I have?”
“Well, you have two,” I said.
“I think I have three. Your house, Dad’s house and Grandma’s house. Actually, I have four – Grammy’s house too.”
That’s one of the things my siblings and I felt growing up – that we didn’t belong anywhere even though we mostly lived with my mom and just visited Dad on the weekends. Unwanted guests everywhere. So I’ve taken pains to makes sure my son knows, ‘this is your house, too.’ One of the things I’m happiest with post-divorce is how much I’ve grown and gained confidence and healed myself. So even from the time he was born I’ve taken pains to treat him like an individual and show him there are choices in life. He can choose what his room looks like and he can choose what he wants in his room. We started calling the family room ‘the den’ because he thought it was more appropriate. He helps clean and he has a little area in the yard where his watermelon is growing and the place where he keeps his bike. I hope he feels it’s a partnership instead of this is one place I stay.
I think one of the barriers to creating two happy homes can be the parenting agreement. There have been times when my children have wanted to stay at their Dad’s house on my parenting time and vice versa. Sometimes the moving between the houses just becomes too much and they want to stay in one place for longer. Who can blame them? My ex and I are flexible when we can be and do our best to avoid getting caught up in the agreement says this or that. I will say it’s easier now than in the early days but I do think that flexibility adds to the children’s feeling of being welcomed in both places.
Was there something you did to help your children know they have a home? If you moved out of the marital home, what did you do to help your children adjust to their new surroundings? You can leave a comment here or hop over to my Blogfrog community and join the Two Happy Homes discussion.