I am sure most of us are sick to death of all the studies on how divorce screws up kids. I know I am! Having been a kid of the 90s, pretty much half the kids in my class were in single families where the other parent had gone MIA (usually the dad), had parents who split custody, or had parents about to split up. What was rare were the kids whose parents were still happily married, but all my life I had to hear how much better “they” had it. How much more stable their home life was and how that was why they had better grades and better toys and would have better jobs too. And we of the divorced parents would have a harder time in relationships because we never saw our parents in healthy ones. Yeah, the odds sure were stacked against us.
Except I turned out pretty awesome and aside from a few quirks in my personality and my anxiety issues I have to say having been raised in a single parent home wasn’t that detrimental. In fact, it came with some awesome benefits those kids from happy families will never have. So instead of the usual list, how about some positive stuff to cheer up all us poor screwed up kids of divorce?
1) We are more careful in selecting a mate. When you grow up watching your parents in disaster relationships, you learn pretty quickly that you don’t want the same for yourself. I may have had a few sexual partners but when it came to true love I was extremely cautious. Sex wasn’t as big a deal as choosing a man to spend the rest of my life with; provided that sex was with a condom and I made damn sure I wouldn’t wind up pregnant. But when it came to a REAL relationship, with dating and feelings and actually wanting to spend time together outside the bedroom, that was a HUGE deal. I have only had ONE real relationship; the one with my hubby. And I spent months keeping my feelings hidden from Ty before finally telling him I loved him because those words were not to be said lightly. By loving him I knew that there was no turning back and I had to make sure that he was the man I wanted to grow old with. Ty did the opposite, choosing serial monogamy as opposed to dating around, but he always left those women when they wanted to get serious. It wasn’t that he didn’t want to think about houses and babies and marriage, it was that he hadn’t found ME yet. You know, the one woman he had the good sense to lock down with a ring? But seriously, commitment is a HUGE deal for both of us. The fact that we moved in together and started discussing marriage and kids one year after that was not something we took lightly. That pretty much solidified out “we’re in it forever” deal.
2) We are more realistic about kids. After seeing what can happen when the wrong people start a family,neither of us wanted to have kids until we were sure it was forever. Ty and I obviously had a timeline, because neither of us wanted to be “old” parents, and plus there’s that whole biological clock to consider, but we certainly didn’t plan on parenthood right away like some of our friends. Instead we had an understanding that kids would come by the time he was 30, but we weren’t going to “try” until after the wedding. We all know that didn’t happen, but our decision to go through with the pregnancy and postpone the wedding was made due to the fact that we were already planning to have a baby in a year anyway. It’s the whole reason we got a house when we did and ensured it had as many bedrooms as it does. Had this happened when we weren’t ready, the choice might have been a lot harder to make. But it wouldn’t have happened anyway because back when I wasn’t ready I made sure that my pill was never missed and if I wasn’t sure I bought Plan B just in case. And in the case of our son, yeah, I totally could have been more careful with birth control and he could have worn a condom. We didn’t use a backup method and never questioned what the Ativan would do to my cycle. I never freaked at missing TWO periods and wasn’t so quick to refill my birth control either. And when I told him we were having a baby, in my stunned shock, HE was the one who was calm and said “okay, so we become parents a year early and have our kid at our wedding. Can’t control everything, you know, and maybe this happened for a reason.” That is SO what his mother says, but she was bugging us for grandkids for over a year anyway and really, with him being almost 30 it wasn’t like we would be waiting much longer.
3) We are more mindful of things that could affect our marriage. Now that we have a child we are even more invested in keeping our marriage strong. I absolutely refuse to be a single mother, so I refuse to let our relationship decay. The usual fights over money don’t exist in our home. Instead we both keep an eye on spending habits and make sure bills get paid. Sex is still a priority, even if we can’t always fit it into our day. In lieu of sex we flirt, grab at each other playfully, and kiss. We cuddle and make sure we get out for a date every few weeks. We do little things for each other or bring home treats, just to show we care. In short, we have never taken each other for granted. And if we are fighting then we try to figure out what is causing the stress. For a while it was Ty’s job, and now that he has a new one he hasn’t snapped at me in months. So I guess watching our parents screw up has made us better partners.
4) We know how to fight. I won’t say our fights are without pain, but they aren’t too ugly either. We never cuss at each other or put each other down. The most we have said is that one of us is annoying the other. He punches the wall when he gets super pissed and I throw things, but never has he laid a hand on me, even when I provoked him to. Don’t look at me like that! I had to see if he would take the bait and he didn’t, okay? Besides, I really felt I would deserve it because I had left our baby alone and he crawled off the bed and I wanted to hurt for allowing him to get hurt (he’s okay. No lasting damage and he falls a lot more now that he’s mobile). But that’s past now and I’m glad Ty wouldn’t do it. Just proves he never will.
5) We aren’t hung up on gender roles. That is to say that my husband does most of the cooking and has no problem nurturing our son. Picture a guy with tattoos and a shaved head, all muscle and intimidation, and now picture him with a baby in a snuggly, rocking him and singing soft lullabies. Yeah, it’s sometimes surreal to me that this man who can strike terror in people just by looking at them the wrong way is also such a devoted daddy, but that’s my Ty! Also, because I was raised by my dad, I grew up knowing that dads are just as capable as moms. It actually pisses me off when I see jokes about dads screwing up the simplest of tasks, because I know that my own father and now also my husband both excel in the domestic arts. And it’s because I saw this growing up that I have never treated Ty like a babysitter. I never worry when he takes our son for the day and I can trust that the house will not fall apart if I get sick and can’t do the chores. As for me trying to move furniture or fix something, Ty knows I can do it, but it takes me a lot longer since I’m not as strong as he is. But hey, I did manage to take apart and rebuild the crib into a cosleeper and when I told him that was what I was doing he only asked me to be careful. So neither one of us has any illusions that one can do a better job at something just because they have an X or Y chromosome. And that’s good, because I can’t sew worth shit and hate to cook (but love to bake). So if my hubby wants to take on those “womanly” tasks then so much the better!
6) Extended family. One of the major perks is actually more of a benefit for the offspring of the divorced grandparents, but I feel it’s one of the most advantageous. See, my mother remarried and took on the role of stepmother when I was eight years old. My two step siblings have since grown up and had kids, so my son already has older cousins in spite of the fact that my baby brother won’t be starting a family anytime soon (unless he stupidly knocks up his girlfriend, in which case I will have to kill him). My stepsister also lives close now so when she pops out this next kid soon enough my son will have another cousin close in age. My step dad has taken on the grandfather role and with the addition of my dad, Ty’s dad, and Ty’s step dad that makes FOUR grandfathers to dote on our kid(s). He still only has two grandmothers though, because Ty’s dad never remarried and that witch my father insists on marrying will never be my son’s grandmother. This isn’t including aunts and uncles and first cousins on my side and Ty’s. We clean up pretty well when it comes to getting clothes and toys for our son, so financially it’s been great. Didn’t really buy anything baby-gear wise. With our parents divorced each grandparent bought their own things, so I got the stroller from my dad, the playpen from my mom, the bassinet from my mother-in-law, and the diaper genie and electric breastpump from my father-in-law. So with so many extra family members this kid will never want for anything, and he has twice as many people to love him.
7) We are better equipped to tell the rest of the world to fuck off. We’re already screwed up from divorce, so we’re used to being judged and criticized. It rolls off our thick skins and we turn around and give those people the middle finger. Every decision we make is for US, because one of the sad things about being a product of divorce is that you’re used to people letting you down. So instead of expecting others to help us or validate our existence we learned to trust in ourselves. For instance, a lot of new parents would crumble under the judgement of family and friends over things like home birth, bed sharing and breastfeeding. Not us. Even when more family members were against us, telling us to put that baby in his crib, we shrugged and did what we wanted anyway, and didn’t lie about it or apologize for it. Because at the end of the day we also know that WE are the ones who would have to suffer through the crying and sleepless nights of me having to get out of bed to feed or comfort our son. And since that doesn’t rate high on my list of things I want to do, baby stays in the bed. Or rather the cosleeper/sprawled across my chest. But my point is we do what we want and what works, and we don’t feel one iota of shame.
So really, my parents divorcing worked out in my son’s favor. You know, except for the whole part about my dad marrying that witch, but we can’t have everything. ;p