The mantra I hear in divorce circles is that you need to put the kids first. There are multiple problems with this. One of the more common terms is child-centric divorce. I have stated so many times before, that if it were about the children, then the divorce wouldn’t be the event that they are having to adjust to. Lets just put the idea to bed that there is such a thing as a good divorce for children. As I sit here happier than I have been in most of the last fifteen years, I still believe that divorce was the wrong course to take. I also have to recognize that for so many reasons, I can’t go back. Number one of course is she doesn’t want to, but as I have thought about things, neither do I. For different reasons. For me, it is about the kids. I won’t put them back on that roller coaster just to wait and see when it will happen again. I don’t trust her. This has been covered before, so read the rest of the blog to understand why, because that is a long story.
The Fallacy of Child Centered
Divorce by its very nature puts aside what is very best for the children for the benefit of one or both parents desires. The very act is not child centered, except in rare instances where it is done to protect the children from the other parent. That is not what is considered when people say child centered. In a child centered divorce, the children become the focus. The parents throw themselves into the children’s lives as they are dealing with the trauma of divorce. The core ideas of trying to create the softest landing for their kids as possible are good, but they become such the focus that the parents aren’t seeing the bigger picture for the family, which by the way includes themselves. Divorce at its core is a selfish act, and doing things the child centered way makes the parents feel better about the divorce, but more often than not its still about the parents. They get wrapped up into competing with their old partner in life over who is the better parent. It should be noted that one parent is always better than the other, and it may not be the same parent as last week this week. This new child centered ideal for divorce has moved children from the same position as the furniture to a new position of actors in the parents’ play. They get confused over which parent to try to please and when. It is about the kids looking like they are doing as well as the kids from intact homes. It becomes yet another way for people to keep up with the Jones. The kids are not doing as well as similar kids in intact homes. They just can’t. They may develop new skills, and there are plenty of bright sides to their new life, if they can overcome the trauma of divorce. Everyone should understand that the child centered divorce is not about the children, but about alleviating the guilt the parents feel about the divorce regarding their children. I often see that the initiator or causer of the divorce uses the child centeredness of the the other parent as a way to get their way. It is rare that both parents are truly trying to be partners in this. It become a lever for manipulation.
Why Is It A Problem
Most people I know who have tried the child centered approach to divorce have a common problem in their marriage. The marriage became about the kids. All the couples time together was with children, or exhausted from children. One or both people never got out to do things without the kids, and they certainly never got out together. This is something that opens the marriage up to all sorts of problems. Men and women have affairs. They develop interests and don’t share them with their partner. They grow apart while spending most of their time together, and they stop enjoying each other at all. They lose patience for the things that bothered them, but they decided to accept when they took their vows. I think this happens often by accident, but initially when the kids are little they need lots of care. As the kids become older it is easy for one or both parents to stay completely engaged as if the kid needs them every moment. The longer this goes on, the harder it is for the couple to come back together. One of the things my wife told me when she asked for a divorce is “We are great partners, but horrible lovers.” There is truth to that. I know what I have written here played a part in that, and I was the one who ended up hiding in the kid stuff. As the rest of the blog explains, this is probably less true for us than many others I have seen. My response to her was that we wouldn’t necessarily stay as good a partners, because without the marriage bond our desires and interests for the kids would diverge, and probably sooner than we know. In the past year to year and half that has certainly been the case. We have fought over medicating my son, and what soccer team the kids will play on. These are the issues I am holding strong on, or at least for one soccer team, since my niece plays with my daughter. On many issues I state my opinion, and ask her to take time and think about it, and if she doesn’t change her mind, then I will usually acquiesce. I do believe that too much conflict will only hurt the kids, and she is high conflict. The only way to avoid conflict is to not take on every issue ready to fight.
In marriage and in divorce there is a balance. I am not good at it, but I see where I need to get. As parents we need to allow the kids to develop and make mistakes. We have to tell them no sometimes not because we can’t do something, but because we need the time. In my case, we should have divided and conquered more for kids events. We should have taken time out together. That is one thing in divorce that I am not going to do wrong. I will take time for myself. I will take the time to play for me. I will not feel guilty for missing 1 or 2 games in a weekend when there are 8 to 12 games. With the tougher schedule of separation, I will not go to the late games if I have other opportunities most of the time now. I need to get out and see friends. I needed to to do that within the confines of marriage. I am spending my time rebuilding relationships that would be strong if I had done some of this before. If I need to clean the house, and the kids are with their mom, then I might not make it to a couple of events. I hate to miss them, but my world comes crashing down on me, if I don’t take the time to do the things I need to do. In the US we are not good at balance. I have known men and women who’s life stops because of divorce with the kids. They devote all of their time to the kids. Not just put kids first when the kids need the parent, but in every moment of every day they devote to the kids. They are usually praised and their egos are fed through this. These people become bitter as their kids don’t devote that same kind of attention on them as they grow up. Just as the married couple who fails to connect and devotes everything to the kids has nothing when the kids move out, so is true for the divorced parent who always puts the kids first. They are alone, and many make their children feel guilty about it. It is not the children’s fault that they are alone, it is their own. They didn’t have a balanced life. I know that I did not, and its tough to get there, but I find more and more joy as I do, and I enjoy my children more, because they become less of a burden. A word I would not have described them as before, but as things change I realize that I allowed them to become that to me.
Its not about the kids. The divorce, the marriage, the future none of it is about the kids. The kids are but one piece to the puzzle. If it is all about the kids, then you will be unhappy, and the kids will be spoiled and unhappy. The children raised in poorer cultures learn the lessons of family, and grow up to be much more balanced themselves. This is why these children can come to the US with no money and no skill, and end up running businesses that are successful. It is better for our kids to see us live. They will not appreciate us for giving up everything for them as they grow into adults, they will pity us. They will not visit to be our companion or friend, but out of guilt for all that we gave up for them. Family matters. Family is the most important thing in your life. Remember that your family includes you, and your well being matters as well.