It's a painful memory that still sends a chill down my spine every time it crosses my mind: the night my husband and I told our boys, ages nine and 11 at the time, that we'd be divorcing. It was horrible – the sheer devastation on their innocent little faces, the tears they cried as they begged us to reconsider, the continuous questions of “why?" as they tried to process the news; every last second of it was torture.
Divorce is not something anyone plans for. No one walks down the aisle thinking,
This will probably end. No, you confidently say your I-dos, settle down in suburbia, and fill your home with little people as you work your way towards happily ever after.
Then, seemingly out of nowhere, the marriage ends. The vision you had for your life – for your kids – has been incinerated.
At least, that's how it happened for me.
In the early days of my divorce, I was hyper-focused on my kids: Were they okay? Were they acting out? Were they repressing anger, depression or anxiety? Were they scarred for life? Would this divorce damage them, irreparably?
I did not come from a divorced home. All I knew was that picture of a complete, intact family – not one with shared parenting time, alimony payments, or step-anything. My parents got married and stayed married. Divorce was simply a foreign concept to me.
Yet here I was, divorced.
As I near the three-year anniversary of that horrible, rotten conversation that changed the course of my children's lives, I find myself pleasantly surprised at just how well they've adjusted. In fact, as I look for the sliver lining of the whole situation, I feel compelled to focus not on the disastrous, negative effects my divorce may be having on my children, but rather on how the divorce might actually be serving them well.
They're no longer witness to an unhealthy marriage
Full disclosure: on the surface, my marriage looked fine. We didn't fight all that much – no yelling, no disparaging remarks, and we still slept in the same bed – but it was flawed, nonetheless. We didn't communicate effectively, we pretty much went our separate ways when we were home together and we didn't exactly consider each other's feelings or needs on any kind of consistent basis. There were many more problems than those that existed behind the scenes, but looking at the relationship through the eyes of my children, I now realize this was not one I was proud to be role-modeling for my kids.
Though I never supplied them with the specific details that led to the final plug-pull on the marriage, they are aware that it ended because it was not a healthy situation. I never wanted this for them, or for me – but at the end of the day, at least I know they're no longer growing up in a household thinking the relationship they were witnessing was in any way something they should aspire to. They deserve better.
They see that it's possible to get along with someone despite disagreements and past hurts
My ex-husband and I don't just have an amicable relationship; we have a friendly one. We sit at baseball games together, discuss and decide on important events in our children's lives, and even swap recipes on occasion. My kids have witnessed a few divorce-gone-bad scenarios in their friends' parents – and in the beginning, they feared their father and I would succumb to the same fate: firing spews of venomous rage at each other as we fought over money, the children, or the color of the sky.
Instead, what they've observed over the last three years is two no-longer-married people – with vastly different personalities who don't agree on everything – finding a way to get along for the sake of a common interest: the children. They see that in spite of past hurts, crushed egos, and financial complexities, we've been able to make a co-parenting relationship work. While I was not proud of the relationship we were role modeling when we were married, I am proud of the one we're role-modeling today.
They spend more time with each of us
Strangely, they spend more time with their dad now that he's out of the house than when he lived at home. The fact is, prior to the divorce they spent most of their time with me. He traveled a lot, so we got used to it just being the three of us most of the time. When he was home, that didn't really change much. Whenever they needed something, they came to me. When they wanted to play a game, watch a movie, or go to the park, I was their go-to. It was the three of us, most of the time. I'm not tooting my own horn, here; it's just how it worked out – and we were all content with those roles.
Now when they see their dad, as per the parenting schedule, the time they spend with him is quality. They go out for dinner, hit the batting cages, and even go on weekend trips together – all things they never did before. It's not just the fun stuff, either: when they're with him, it is he who makes their breakfast, enforces bedtimes and removes the occasional splinter. Now they see both parents as their caretakers – not just the one they see more often.
Divorce is an incredibly painful life event – and when kids are in the picture, we need to protect not only our own hearts, but theirs as well. That's exactly what my ex-husband and I set out to do. Despite being raised in what many would consider a “broken home," my children have adjusted beautifully. Don't get me wrong, I'm not condoning or encouraging divorce in any way – but finding the positives in a less-than-ideal situation has been a saving grace to this divorced mom and her impressionable children.