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Divorce’s Silver Lining

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I’ll start this blog post by telling you how my last one ended. When I wrote about breastfeeding last month I was wondering whether I would be a breastfeeding mother for much longer.

While I took my week-long course of antibiotics I expressed and Ethan was fed bottles. I started to breastfeed him again after the medication had left my system, but a week of bottles had made Ethan not want to work for his milk any more and he refused me. I tried to breastfeed him again, unsuccessfully, each feed for 24 hours until I accepted he had weaned himself.

I felt a mixture of emotions – sadness that the special time I had with him several times a day was now over, but also elation that I could now have my body back and I wouldn’t start leaking at inopportune times. It was a strange combination of feelings, but one many other mothers had told me about.

Another situation that evokes a combination of feelings is divorce. After reading Alison Sainsbury’s pro divorce blog, The Pluses of Division, and following a number of other conversations this week (including discovering two sets of friends had separated), I’ve been pondering the benefits of divorce a lot.

I know a fair bit about divorce – I am the child of divorced parents and have been divorced myself. When I was young my parents waited until they thought my brother and I were asleep before starting their arguments. Of course my brother and I remember the screaming matches, upset our parents spoke to each other so horribly and wondering what was going on. And then there were the times where they used their children as their only form of communication, not actually speaking for months.

When they finally decided to separate I was 25. I was sad, but old enough to realise it was the best scenario – and something that should have happened years before. I am definitely not a believer in the “staying together for the sake of the children” argument. Both my brother and I responded by saying it was about time. My parents were surprised by this reaction, clearly showing they had no idea of the impact their rocky relationship had made on our lives. They were not the best relationship role models, but on the up side they showed me what not to do.

So now we come to me as a divorced – and now happily remarried – woman. I met my first husband at school and we married when we were 22. By the time we were 29 our goals were vastly different, our ideas of a functional relationship were poles apart and we weren’t working well as a couple. I saw years of fighting stretching before and decided to leave. It was not a decision I made lightly, not one I made without support from a counsellor and friends, but one that was necessary for me.

As anyone who follows my blogs will know, I am married (again) with two children and I’m deliriously happy with my life. My ex-husband and I didn’t have children (I thought I didn’t want to) so I don’t have to continue a relationship with him, like my friends will with their exes. Those friends are constantly renegotiating children’s visits amid battles about responsibility, money and new partners. I can only imagine how much worse their battles would be if the couples were still together. Still, they are showing their children how disagreements can be resolved and I think that is a far better example to set for your children than screaming late at night.

Central Coast mum and singer Kasey Chambers has recently discussed her seven-year-old son Talon’s thoughts on divorce, when sharing their collaboration on the song Two Houses. Talon’s lyrics include the verse:

“I have two houses, lucky me
At my Mum’s I go to bed at eight
At my Dad’s I sometimes stay up late
At my Mum’s I have a little brother of my own
My Dad’s house has a pool, a dog named Emmy Lou
And all my bedrooms walls are painted blue”

Clearly Talon sees the benefits of his parent’s divorce. I am not making light of the potentially destructive situation that can be divorce at all, but I think it really is the best solution in so many cases.

Do you think divorce is good? Are there benefits for children?

5 Comments on “Divorce’s Silver Lining”

  1. My family did “blended” in the early seventies before it became “a trend”. No books, workshops or advice columns just a mother, father, stepfather and stepmother committed to putting aside their issues to create homes for 5 kids ….it wasn’t perfect, but it was loving and supportive and almost forty years later we can all come together (plus the 11 grandkids) for happy family gatherings. I divorced in my twenties (no children from that relationship) and now have 2 young children with a strong commitment and belief that my children are best benefited from growing in a home together with Mum & Dad who love, respect and value the their relationship. But this isn’t always possible …In discussing divorce and children I wouldn’t evaluate by using the word benefit….very few children benefit from divorce however they do benefit from both parents putting the children’s needs before their own and making the best of a sad, emotionally fraught and complex situation with the wellbeing of their children as the priority.

  2. Thanks Johanna, I was amazed by the positive responses the article got actually. I was expecting a lot more “but divorce is 100% terrible for everybody” but it was pretty balanced. I think it all comes down to whether or not the parents can both behave like adults – and it does need to be both – and allow the children to be the children. It’s hard but it’s absolutely necessary.

  3. I agree staying together for ‘the sake of the children’ is not a useful strategy. Creating a supportive loving environment for your children and modeling healthy relationships is much more important.
    I divorced when my boys were 2 and 5, my youngest is now 18. It was certainly tough to raise children as a sole parent however they grew into amazing young men, who had a relationship with both parents.
    Really all parents want their children to be healthy and happy, what better way than to model healthy and happy for them to follow!

  4. Thank you for sharing your story Jo. You are so right when you say it is up to divorced parents to put their children first. When I asked about the benefits, I really meant the opposite of detriment, which I think is often the situation when parents stay together, but don’t want to be together.

  5. Alison I am so glad your read my blog, since your article was one of the reasons I wrote it. I, too, have been amazed by the positive reactions I have received because the topic is such an emotional issue. Many people are just interested in hearing another story which throws some light on their situation.

    Lenore modeling healthy relationships is the key to my argument. If children can’t see how two parents can be together in a loving and supportive relationship, then it is better for them to be in a loving environment with parents living separately, rather than one filled with tension.

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