I wrote this article for The Huffington Post. It really touched a nerve with readers as it encouraged a significant number of comments, even to my email account. Please feel free to join in, and submit your comments to this blog.
My home is run down, but it’s not broken…
The legal community and researchers often define divorce matters in technical terms: custodial parent, custody, access, primary residence, amongst others. I understand the reasons behind those terms, which help to describe and label the concepts in the legal arena to eliminate confusion. But a term that is often used, and in my mind, has little rationale, is “broken home.” In today’s society, there are so many different configurations of a “family” unit. But, when it comes to defining a family run by a single parent as “broken,” I wonder, where is the break? Perhaps I’m sensitive, but I don’t consider my children to be growing up in a “broken home.” When I talk to my children, we call ourselves a family, without any negative connotations, because that is what we are.
Many of my divorce consulting clients are so full of fear that their kids will be stigmatized because of their divorce, and worried that people will whisper behind their backs, “those children come from a broken home.” So I help them reframe their thinking and encourage them to banish those thoughts by sharing details about my own home as an example. We look at the physical and emotional aspects of my home.
The cabinet door in my kitchen has fallen off the hinge, the hot water tank just burst, the fridge door won’t close properly and, I need a new roof. Yes, my home is in need of physical repair, but it certainly does not need emotional repair–and there is nothing that can’t be fixed.
You wouldn’t believe how this way of thinking resonates with so many.
The reality is, we should not compare ourselves to more “traditional” families with two parents living at home. Divorce may change a family’s structure, but it’s still a family. All families–so-called “traditional” families and the rest of us–have challenges, no matter how our living arrangements are configured.
If you are able to change your perspective of what “family” is, your children’s outlook will be positive as well. As a parent, our challenge is to make life work for our kids. We need to ensure they don’t perceive themselves as disadvantaged or as “children of divorce.” They need to think of themselves as just regular kids.
I feel confident as a single parent. I may be a bit more frazzled than someone in a home with two parents living there, but that’s because of the practical everyday exigencies of life with three active children (and who really knows what goes on behind closed doors? Just because there are two parents, does that always mean both parents share all the responsibilities? Don’t compare!) When I glimpse into families with two parents living at home, my home often appears to be working wonderfully well.
Despite an incredible amount of multitasking and juggling, I’ve had to find creative ways to meet my children’s needs, which seem to converge at the same time, like having to be in two places at the same time. But, while I do it all on my own and don’t have a partner to share the responsibility, I find ways to make it work: carpooling, encouraging a child’s independence by walking or riding a bike to their activity. And, I can’t shirk my own responsibilities –I run a business, manage my personal affairs, and make time for “me.” So while I might be a bit more stressed, my children are growing up in a healthy and loving environment.
It’s a well known fact that effective parenting is paramount, especially when parents are separated; the need to maintain routine, structure and rules should be non negotiable no matter if there are one or two parents living at home. I have house rules, set curfews (although I have been a bit lax at times), my children must get their homework done, and I’m always there to kiss them goodnight and listen to their worries.
If you still consider a divorced family to be “broken” then think about a few things:
How about a family where both parents are living together, but constantly fighting?
Or, a family where both parents live together but one parent is never at home? Always working, always away on weekends and never around for the kids.
What about blended families? Does blending suddenly unbreak “broken homes”?
What about the blended families where the culture is more like oil and water?
So, what do my kids think of our family? A happy and loving household, a close knit family unit, and a life full of hope and promise.
Copyright ©2011 The Smart Divorce® and Deborah Moskovitch
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