Will my children be broken? Will coming from a ‘broken’ home define them? There are so many things you could think and worry about as a parent beginning with how you feed them (if Jamie Oliver’s recent comments in the UK media are anything to go by I have already doomed my youngest son to a life of poor health and low grade educational attainment by choosing to bottle feed him as a baby) and on to your child’s age as they enter primary school. But the biggie, the one that is apparently singled out by some child psychology courses as one of the most significant indicators of, essentially, future failure, is divorce.
For my personality disordered husband this ‘fact’, gleaned no doubt from the media or maybe a paragraph he read in a psychology textbook twenty years ago, is what it’s all about.
The day I told him I had made my mind up to pursue a divorce the very first thing he said to me was that if I went ahead and made this decision then our children’s lives would be ‘ruined’. He made this statement not only to me, but also to our six year old son: “Mummy is going to ruin your life”. He told me that all the statistics point to children of ‘broken’ homes failing at school, dropping out, taking drugs, turning to a life of crime. When I pointed out that his own 11 year old daughter (of a former ‘broken’ home from his previous divorce) was doing exceptionally well at school he brushed that off putting it down to the support she has been given by his parents.
Correct me if I’m wrong but isn’t extended family support one of the counter-acting factors in the outcome for any child whose parents go through a break up? And if so was he saying that his parents won’t be willing to support our children in the same way that they supported their grand-daughter?
In fact, if you read further into the literature on this subject (and indeed use your own common sense) support from extended family and friends is just one of the ways in which negative outcomes can be counter-acted. Other factors include: financial, class and background – even children who may have to make do with less in the way of holidays presents and treats are still going to be clothed, fed and loved the same.
Obviously moving to a ‘rough’ neighbourhood , could have an impact but I don’t believe that is a given for the majority of divorcing couples, particularly those who have enjoyed a, for want of a better expression, ‘middle class’ lifestyle up to that point.
Yesterday I read an interview with the eponymous Will.i.am which uncovered the fact that his single mum raised him in one of the roughest neighbourhoods of East LA, but she ensured that he spent as little time as possible under the influence of his local peers, bussing him to a school two hours away from home in order to get him a better education.
That is really inspirational and shows the power we have as parents – single or otherwise -to influence our children’s future prospects whatever the challenges along the way.
It makes me angry that my husband seems willing to just give up on his children and put that on me -his actions have had consequences, and his inaction could do the same or worse.
This leads me on to the relationship between the separated parents, surely one of the key factors to be considered when it comes to the emotional stability of the kids involved. Unfortunately I can only do so much -this isn’t an amicable break up and whilst I can ensure that I never say negative things about him or constantly reference the negative impact his actions might be having on me there is little I can do to change or influence the way he behaves or the things he says in their presence.
Take for example the way in which my three year old apparently contentedly playing the other day, suddenly looked up from what he was doing to say “it’s a nightmare for Daddy” before returning once more to his activity. I can only hope that time will reduce my husband’s need to constantly reference the situation and his own opinion of it in front of the children. It can’t be any worse for them than living in a situation where their parents can be heard shouting angrily late at night, doors slammed and even objects thrown and broken in anger by their father.
I admit I’m an optimist – I can only think positive thoughts for the future right now and if you look at the roll call of successful people who were raised by single parents they include the likes of Barack Obama, Jodie Foster, Steven King and Maya Angelou – all people who I have an enormous amount of respect for.
In conclusion, I would argue that a broken relationship does not necessarily spell a broken ‘home’ or a broken life for that matter. We have the ability to empower our children, provide them with stability, support and surround them with love and that’s about as in tact as it gets.
Picture credit: The Forgotten by Shaun Lowe
Linking this post to this week’s Prompt (‘Broken’) from Sara at Mum turned Mom.