Sixty percent of the time, my stepdaughter’s bed is empty. Toys aren’t in the hallway. I don’t step on legos. My mac and cheese supply is still strong. I sleep until I want to get up. Paw Patrol isn’t blaring on the TV. I don’t set the Stoplight Clock (if you don’t know what that is, you can buy it on Amazon and you’re welcome). I’m not trying to figure out where the heck “Bear-Bear” is or why that bear smells like death. There is no Captain Crunch ground into the carpet, and no long blonde hair to brush.

It feels painful to type those words; to acknowledge that we miss so much of Nyra’s life. There are truly no words to describe the heartbreak that is shared custody.

Despite the fact that Nyra does not live here all the time, let me assure you of something, we are not part-time parents.

We sometimes enjoy a kid-free weekend and we sneak in a date. However, most of the time, I’m catching up on laundry. Or I’m sorting toys. Or buying a new organizer for the millions of Legos. I’m realizing that she is growing like a weed and buying her a new bathing suit for summer. We are calling her and asking how she is and missing her. We worry, dream, and think about her 100% of the time. We are still responsible for her and her little heart whether or not she happens to be in our home that day.

Whether or not it is my husband’s “day” there are still doctor’s appointments and parent-teacher conferences. She still loses teeth or gets sick. Life does not stop for a court-ordered parenting plan. Our lives, whether she is with us that day or not, affect her significantly and that is not something we take lightly.

People will often say to me, “Wow it must be so nice to have a break! I would kill for a kid-free weekend, I can’t remember the last time I slept in.” Be careful with those words. The truth is, we would kill to never have a “kid-free weekend” ever again. We would be absolutely thrilled if we didn’t have to go days without seeing my stepdaughter. I will speak for my husband on this one, parents are not supposed to regularly go days without seeing their children. It is a special kind of grieving, one that I hope most people never have to experience. It has taken a great deal of counseling, Jesus, and grace for my husband to be able to function in this life.

My husband is a full-time parent to his precious daughter who does not live with us all of the time. And a damn good one, at that.