Many husbands and wives who end a marriage say “The kids will be fine” after divorce. The reality is that children aren’t fine when mom and dad divorce.
We’ve all heard of departing spouses – most often husbands – who say their children will be fine about their parents breaking up. A common mantra from fathers divorcing their children’s mother is “The kids will be fine as long as their mother doesn’t turn them against me.”
This blame shifting is dishonest on a couple of levels. Firstly, when children are upset by divorce it’s because their parents’ marriage has ended, not because of something their mother says. Yes, there are some bitter divorcees who try to turn their children against the ex-husband, but fathers who abandon their families are being dishonest if they claim their children will be fine about divorce depending on how their mother behaves.
Think the kids will be fine if you divorce? They won’t, they’ll be hurt!
There’s a second way in which “The children will be fine” is dishonest. The departing spouse clearly felt he (or she) wouldn’t be fine staying in the marriage and family. He or she wouldn’t accept the kids saying “Stay dad – honestly, you’ll be fine.” By the same token, to say the kids will be fine is just too glib. It’s a selfish parent whitewashing their selfishness. Maybe it’s just too hard to say “The kids will suffer but I’m breaking the family up anyway.”
Divorce rates are incredibly high in part because husbands and wives feel entitled to put their desires before those of their children. A couple gets together, marries and starts a family and then one party to the marriage decides to divorce in the belief, usually, that another partner will bring them more happiness. The original attraction that brought the couple together is forgotten, often even denied. The idea of working through a bad patch in marriage has become almost obsolete. At the first sign that the grass might be greener elsewhere, mention of divorce rears its head. Usually, of course, a secret affair is involved too.
The grass isn’t greener in broken families
In our democratic society, what happens between a husband and wife is treated strictly as their own business. Which is fine – except where children are involved, it’s not just their business. Children are entirely dependent on their mother and father for love and security as well as material well-being. Divorce shatters kids’ security and forces them to cope with a broken family and often a complicated web of new step-parents, step-siblings, and half-siblings.
It’s been trendy for decades to say “It’s better to divorce than have the kids see us not getting along.” It would be even better though, surely, to maintain the marriage, improve it and face the responsibility of raising the children created within it. Together. That may not sound like fun to the father who wants to run off with his young mistress or the mother who’s breathlessly reunited with her first boyfriend online. But living with a broken family is no fun for the children of divorced parents and why shouldn’t their needs come first?
Why are the desires of a departing father more pressing than the needs of his children? And will a mother ditching her husband really be a lot happier a few years on, living with a lover, her two unhappy kids – shuttled back and forth between mum and dad – and the lover’s two confused children visiting at weekends?
Here are the stories of three people whose parents divorced when they were children. It does make you wonder how many divorcing couples really think through the consequences of divorce for their kids.
My sister and I had to go and live with my mother and her lover when I was six. My sister was three years old. I remember feeling very sad that we didn’t live with dad anymore. We’d visit him every other weekend, that was all. The atmosphere was always strained when we were children. A sort of false jollity between my mother and her lover and a terrible sorrow at dad’s house.
The divorce could never be discussed but it hung there like a cloud. I think I probably imagined my mother and father both decided to break up the family and then after that, she met her lover. I was much older when I understood. I never really took to my step-father. I was always aware that he wasn’t part of my family but my mother kind of pressed us to act as if he was. I was always worried about dad being alone.
When I was around 24, 25, I asked my dad one day exactly what had caused the divorce. I’d been having a look at old photos – of when we were a family – and I saw how happy we all looked together. Mum, dad and two little girls. Why did that stop? He slithered a bit and then said: “Ask your mother about it.” I did, but she more or less refused to go over “ancient history.” Then I told dad he had to explain. He told me they were married for 12 years and very happy. Then my mother met this German man – my stepfather – and started having an affair. Dad tried for a year to persuade her not to break the family up. He tolerated the affair hoping it would fizzle out.
But then, one morning, mum appeared at the house with her boyfriend, took me and my sister, and left. I have no recall of that moment but dad says both my sister and I were screaming as they jammed us in their car and dad was left weeping in front of the house. Knowing what she did is horrible. I see her as a different person really – someone very selfish who put her love life before her two small daughters. She decided to break up our family and separate us from our father so she could pursue her new love life. I’ve lost respect for her. My love and respect for my father is tremendous though. His family was snatched away from him but he’s behaved with so much dignity.
There were four kids in our family, two boys, and two girls. I’m the youngest. I remember dad and mum arguing when we were little. Dad was having an affair, I found out later. When I was 12, he cleared out to be with his girlfriend and her children. It was horrible when my parents argued – but it was much worse when they divorced. I felt my father had betrayed us.
He’d chosen another family, another man’s kids over his own. Why did he want to live in a house with some other man’s kids and not us? My mother took valium and drank a lot. It was scary. Suddenly your family has collapsed. The ‘other woman’ had broken up her kids’ family too. People are so casual about divorce.
The ones who do the cheating always talk about “moving on” as if it’s no big deal. It is a big deal. It causes heartbreak for the partner who gets ditched and insecurity for the children. Half the time I wonder if the majority of divorces are just because one partner in the marriage fancies having an affair. Unfortunately, it’s other people in the family who get hurt.
My father left us when I was 9. He had a girlfriend and just said to mum that he wasn’t in love with her anymore. We stayed living in the house and he went off with this girl. Nothing was any good after he went. We were alone.
When he divorced mum, he married the girlfriend. I still live with mum but spend a bit of time with dad and Ann, his second wife. It’s weird because they argue a lot and mum and dad didn’t argue. It used to be peaceful at our house. I daren’t ask him if he’s happier since divorcing and remarrying but I want to. Ann wants to have a baby now and I know dad doesn’t, and I don’t want them to either. It seems stupid having more kids when he wasn’t a proper father to his first family.
I wish dad and mum had stayed married. It’s too complicated since they divorced. I know it’s normal these days to have divorced parents but I think the one that breaks up the family is selfish. It screws kids up and makes them unhappy. I wish they’d stayed together.
Brian Rulpmon is a freelance writer passionate about digital marketing, branding and evolving startups. Also he is a professional editor who holds degree in creative writing at Essaysarea.com. He hopes to contribute to the students’ development with writing for his blog, where he provide some educational tips.