Save your pity, sweetheart

I wrote a more serious take recently about my pending divorce over at DotMoms last week – normally a bastion for thoughtful, supportive comments. But one commenter felt obliged to make this drive-by comment:

I feel so sorry for the children that have to live through a divorce. If I remember correctly, the marriage vows say “until death do us part.”

I chose to ignore the comment over there – but here? I can be as combative as I want to. And after days of less than optimal sleep? I’m feeling pretty combative…even days later, this comment still pisses me off at its blatant assumption that we’re being ‘selfish’ or, worse, that we just blew off the commitment we took seriously 13* years ago on a whim.

I’d argue that most people (celebrities excluded) don’t set out thinking ‘hey, if this doesn’t work out, we can just end it.’ I’d also argue that most parents (same exemption applies here) are ultra-sensitive to the responsibilities and requirements of having kids, and want to do everything possible to support their emotional needs. I know that we were, and are.

I may be flip about the fact that I’m divorcing, and you may only see the warm and sunny ‘rah rah!’ aspects of trying to parent two kids from two different households – but never assume that there wasn’t plenty of tears and anguish and emotional heartbreak involved when deciding to end my marriage.

Finally, I grew up in a household that went through an acrimonious divorce – thirty years later, my parents avoid speaking to each other or sharing even the most minor of contact. I know what not do to to my own kids as a result, and I also have a pretty good idea of what they’re going through. Yes, it was painful – but the alternative wasn’t any picnic either.

My parents didn’t keep their dysfunctionality well hidden – and I’d like to believe that The Father and I did a better job of keeping our own differences under the covers. But in both cases, I firmly believe that the kids – my siblings and me, my own two children – are better off spending time in two functional, happy households than they would be living under one roof with parents who can’t function well together as a team. Did I wish my parents could have gotten their act together? Sure – what kid doesn’t? But I also instinctively knew at the time that if they’d stayed together, our life would have been worthy of that pity the commenter above reserves for my children.

It already was.

Another commenter echoed this take, when she shared her own experiences as a child growing up in a divorced household:

So please don’t feel sorry for me or my siblings because I lived through a divorce as a child. Feel happy for us that we lived because of one.

I ask you, commenter with the hotmail email address – what about situations where one parent is abusing the children? Does until ‘death do us part’ apply then?

I know I’d rather have my children living in a household where people can admit that they’re not perfect, face up to their mistakes, and then take responsibility for dealing with the fallout that comes from righting said mistakes. As opposed to, say, what must be your own rigid, judgemental house.

* Yes, I know I said twelve years in the earlier post. Turns out I was wrong – a fact a third party had to point out to both of us, no less!


  1. The Pirate King

    Sorry, J***. RIP

    (revised this so that it makes sense…) Does this mean we have to whack The Father? Hmm. I’ve got Tony Soprano’s phone number around here somewhere…

  2. Armchair quarterbacking is so easy, isn’t it?

    I would ask that commenter if it’s more selfish to take yourself and your children out of a dysfunctional situation, or to wallow in your own martyrdom and risk harm to your children because you “took a vow?” Is it better to be a victim than a hero?

  3. I took a vow, to be sure. You know what else I did? I became a father, and my responsibility to make certain that my children grow up in the healthiest environment possible far outweighs my responsibility to an oath I took when I was barely out of my teens and, truly, an entirely different person. Luckily, the woman I married has the exact same (or greater, possibly) commitment to putting the kids first that I do. We’re divorced now, but our kids no longer live in a household dominated by unhealthy emotional undercurrents and poor communications practices.

    Any decision about divorce, when there are kids involved, that doesn’t take the REAL best interests of the children into account is a selfish decision. However… nobody (but nobody!) but the parents in question can decide what’s truly best.

    Your last paragraph is spot-on. I salute you.

  4. Well said, Betsy. I can’t improve upon what you wrote so I’m not going to try… but I did want to had me “Me too!” :) I feel sorry for the spouse and children of that closed-minded commenter!

  5. OK, I swear that second line said, “but I did want to add my “me too!” when I hit “submit comment!” Sheesh. Where are my typing skills?

  6. This is such a hot button issue for me, both as a child of divorce when most men didn’t seek or get remotely equal time with their children and as a mother in a less-than-ideal situation with her child’s father, both of us trying our best to keep our kid out of the middle of our stuff. You continue to handle your situation with grace and humor and lots of good sense.

  7. Here’s the other side of the picture for your bone-headed commenter.

    My parents, unfortunately, heeded his sentiment. They stayed together far longer than they should have and made our home a living hell. Finally, both were hit with good sense and divorced. End of story?

    Oh, no. Society started to weigh on them. What about your vows? Think of the children, society pleaded. So, my two dysfunctional parents married each other a SECOND time and this second union was more disasterous than the first.

    I was a teenager at the time. I begged my parents not to remarry, but the voice of people like your commentator drown me out.

    When my parents divorced a second time, my younger brother and I could finally let out a sigh of relief. We could try to lead happier lives (though the constant parental war of wits has taken a huge toll on my dear brother).

  8. This is the Doctor Laura mentality: get married and stay married come hell or high water. Never get divorced. It’s idiotic, as is most of her advice. Unfortunately, many people think that she possesses some sort of fabulous insight into parenting and relationships. Bullshit. The woman is screwed up, and her advice even more so.

    Great entry, Betsy.

Surely you're not going to let me have the last word - are you?