When I first told people I was getting divorced, a few acquaintances reacted with sideways glances and long sighs. After a few rounds of this, I confronted one of the “sighers” and she said, “Well, now that your kids come from a broken home, they don’t have much of a chance of being successful, especially since your husband isn’t around much. Without a male presence in her life, Abby will probably turn to drugs or sex.”
Huh? What? SERIOUSLY?
It’s been nearly four years since my husband left me for another woman, and nearly three years since the divorce papers were signed. I have 100% custody of our daughter Abby, and our son Eytan sees his father every other weekend and every Wednesday night.
As I write this, the kitchen is relatively clean after dinner and the kids are in the other room giggling as they look over Abby’s yearbook while discussing “Game of Thrones” trivia. To say my kids come from a “broken home” because I’m divorced does them, and me, and great disservice. The connotations are unstated but obvious—kids from broken homes are more likely to be sexually active at a younger age, more likely to experiment with drugs, less likely to graduate high school or college, and less likely to perform well academically.
While I was married I worked very hard to create a loving and nurturing home for my family. It wasn’t always immaculate, but I did my best to fill our lives with love. My husband at the time was more interested in his job and his hobbies and was fairly disconnected from daily family life. So even when I was married, I was still the “go to” parent for everything from math homework, sports gear, school permission slips, and removing the giant palmetto bugs that appear every summer.
Now that my husband is my ex-husband and mostly out of our lives, not much has changed. I certainly have less money than I did when I was married, but we make do with what we have. We don’t take fancy vacations but have mastered the art of the “staycation.” Abby and Eytan have grown remarkably close and rely heavily on each other. When Abby was going through a bad period with her father, Eytan rose to the occasion and learned to comfort his sister when she was sad. It’s a life skill for him.
Given all the bad press about single moms and broken homes, I was very nervous when I asked their father to leave permanently. But instead of acting out, Abby immersed herself in schoolwork and continued to excel academically, to the point where none of her teachers knew that her father and I were divorcing. I know it was a form of denial, but it was healthier than some of the other things she could have done.
Oddly enough, Eytan’s behavior improved dramatically after his father left. All his nervous tics and quirks and his needs to have things done the same way every time just disappeared. His father had never had a predictable work schedule and Eytan is an “order, structure, and routine” kind of kid, so by removing his father’s unpredictability and replacing it with a predictable visitation schedule, he has grown into the person he was meant to be—funny, warm, and loving.
The unspoken tension that permeated our lives when I was married is mostly gone. On the other hand, our lives are financially more precarious. An unexpected car repair or some big doctor bills coming up have me on edge, but we’ll handle it. So far I’ve managed to keep food in the fridge and a roof over our heads. My siblings have been wonderful. Our neighbors are extraordinarily generous, helping out with yard work and some home-cooked meals. We’ve stayed close to our friends within the Jewish community—I’ve never been ostracized, looked down on, or told to “get a man.” Abby is very engaged in the youth group at our temple and the other teens have been a great source of both fun and comfort.
So instead of saying my kids come from a “broken home,” let’s just say they come from a “loving home.”