"When My Parents Split Up" is a HuffPost series that explores what it's like to have your parents divorce at all ages, from infancy to adulthood. Want to share your experience as a child of divorce? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Maegan Ellicott was about six when her parents divorced. She can barely recall a time when they were married and her family was all under one roof. What she does remember is how hard her mom and dad tried to put the needs of their daughters first after the separation.
"It wasn't perfect and it was still a very difficult experience for me and my family but I know how lucky my older sister and I were to have parents that handled divorce the way they did," Elicott, 29, told The Huffington Post recently.
Below, the Alaska resident shares how her parents were able to keep the peace -- and how the split affected her views on marriage and long-term relationships.
Breaking The News:
"I actually don't recall how they broke the news; I don't remember them discussing it with me and my sister or my Dad moving out. I do remember my Dad finding an apartment about a mile from the house we grew up in. I'm not sure if my lack of memories of this time period is because of my young age or because I simply don't want to remember. My sister was 12 when they divorced and has told me they sat us down in the living room and discussed it with us very calmly."
The Custody Arrangement:
"My parents had a fairly odd custody arrangement -- they really tried to keep it 50/50. I spent Monday night to Wednesday morning at my Dad's house. On Wednesday afternoon I went home from school with my Mom until Friday morning. I swapped houses every other weekend. Of course changing houses mid-school week meant I left a lot of things at houses -- this brought my parents into a lot of contact. They also traded most holidays. The only thing set in stone was my Dad had Christmas Eve and my Mom had Christmas morning. And they both were sure to attend my birthday parties."
The First Few Years:
"The constant moving back and forth was very confusing for many of my friends (especially because this was before smart phones and quick contact!) but I really don't remember having problems with it. Kids are very adaptable. I remember having friends and later step-sisters (when my dad remarried) that only stayed every other weekend with their dads. I felt bad that they spent so little time with them. My parents worked hard to have a good relationship; I am sure it was incredibly difficult and painful for both of them but I have no memory of them fighting ever. My parents never complained about the other to me and I am so appreciative of that today.
My Dad remarried when I was 10 and my Mom did the same when I was 13. Each time I gained two step-siblings. I think the fact that I was so young when they came into my family allowed me to really bond with them and grow up with them. I appreciate how fluid and flexible my family is and how distinctions based on birth parents were never important."
"I've realized that some of my views on relationships were definitely influenced by my parents' divorce. I don't value marriage at all. I have no desire to marry and do not see it as something to aspire to. I don't think I ever dreamed of my wedding day like they say little girls do. This is not to say I don't think you can be in a committed relationship but I don't find marriage any more special than a committed relationship. It could all be because of the divorce or it could just be me. I guess I just don't see it as necessarily permanent. I know it can be -- my grandparents have been married 60+ years and are still very happy. I just don't desire it for myself. If someday I meet a person to whom marriage is really important I would consider it but I would prefer to just elope or go to a courthouse if that happened."
Her Relationship With Her Parents Today:
"Both my parents have been in their second marriages for approximately 20 years now and I am so lucky to have such a wonderful large family that gets along. All my major life events have been celebrated with both sides of my family present. When I graduated from my Master's program, my Dad, stepmom and Mom all flew from California to Alaska for my graduation. We then traveled around Alaska for about a week together. For me it was normal, but I realize that many people can't imagine a man traveling with his current and ex-wife without there being tension.
I'm visiting my family in a few months and today I woke up to an email from my stepmother telling everyone in the family when I would be home and that they would be hosting a family night while I'm there -- included in the email was my Mom and her wife. Things like that mean the world to me."
"Going from house to house was normal for me but my parents were also smart enough to get me in counseling very early and to continue it as needed throughout my childhood. It was so helpful. If you're a parent reading this, know that while kids are very adaptable, it's a good idea to find a child psychologist to talk to your children. It will help them work through all the changes in their lives."
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