The other day my blog post stirred a heated conversation about divorce, and whether choosing to divorce (as opposed to choosing to stay together) can be justified for the sake of the children. A lot of readers agreed--but a lot of readers got angry and completely disagreed, telling me that I'm breaking up relationships, breaking up the faith of the American family, that I'm quitting on the sacred bond of marriage. I read your posts and I'm going to disagree with you one more time.
I truly believe that when a child is living in a home that is free of tension, free of fighting, and free of anxiety, that child has the best chance to blossom as a young person. Not only do I think that divorce can be justified for the sake of the children, in some situations it is the better thing to do for the children.
The portrait of the American Dream is for every great American family to buy a house, and we can see where that path has taken us over the last eight years. As part of the American Dream, we're supposed to have this perfect family: a fulfilling marriage, three kids, an ugly SUV in the driveway, everything perfect under the roof of that house.
That fantasy--that illusion--well, it just isn't a reality for the majority of us. Under the roof of many Americans homes lives a family filled with tension, where the children are not blossoming even though they are excelling in class, taking part in wonderful after-school activities, and playing in safe wholesome neighborhoods. These children are not blossoming because, at home, their parents are at each others' throats.
I have faith in single parenthood. I'm a firm believer in single parenthood. "Oh God, this guy is just trying to break up the American family," some of you may be thinking. Absolutely not. If the family unit is strong and the parents are able to work on their relationship with love and respect for one another, then their child will have a great ability to blossom in that type of environment. However, if the parents are unable to continue on in their relationship with each other, if they've tried everything they could to save the marriage but still cannot find it in their hearts to love one another, their child will lose so much opportunity to fully blossom as long as the parents force themselves to keep the family together.
I know a lot of great single parents, and they are fantastic parents. I think single parents are fully capable of giving their children all the love that each child needs--with or without their ex involved. A child absolutely needs and deserves love, whether that child is a two-year-old toddler or a 14-year-old rambunctious teenager. A single parent may be unable to display acts of affection without a steady partner in life, so the child may not learn how to display intimate love by watching and observing the parents. What a single parent does have the ability to do, however, is to teach the child about the beauty of life.
A single parent who is angry after a divorce and trashes the ex is inevitably going to do more harm than good. That child is learning in its formative years that when you break up a relationship, you need not show any respect for the person you once loved, you can spit venom, and you blame everything on them. That child runs a great risk, from childhood into adulthood, of becoming a blamer, of blaming everybody and everything around them for all their own faults in life.
But if you're a divorced single parent and you teach your child of the beautiful things that can happen in life, you speak positively of your ex and you teach that relationships with the right person can be absolutely amazing, your child has the chance to grow and learn from you about love in a positive light. If they see you in great relationships with your friends, they see the way you interact with strangers, if you interact with the people around you with caring, with compassion, with empathy, that child is going to learn how to deal with people. Most of all, that child is going to learn how to deal with herself and learn to embrace herself for who she is as a person.
If you're a single parent and your child spends time with your ex, honor that time and allow your child to enjoy that time. Put your personal feelings toward your ex aside, because that is your ex's time, that is your ex's time to experience life with his or her child. If your child receives love and learns the beauty of how to conduct relationships--including relationships that have broken up--when that child becomes an adult, she is not going to be bitter and angry and frustrated like some of the comments that I read.
Some readers base their view of relationships completely on anger. You haven't come to terms with your issues yet. You haven't really embraced your own divorce. You haven't even taken notice of what your issues are. And you haven't really accepted that you are the only person who you can hold responsible for your past relationships.
As parents, we are role models no matter what. That is why I applaud single parents. Single parents are some of the best role models that I've ever met, no matter that they are divorced. Their decision to divorce was not selfish at all. Many of them have had to think hard and dig deep, and they have concluded that their children are better off raised by only one parent than under the shoddy roof of a failed or deteriorating marriage. I know a lot of strong people who came from single parents, and they experience fantastic relationships because their mothers and their fathers served as role models who did not force themselves to play the loveless roles of each other's spouse.
You may not be able to show intimate affection if you're not in a relationship, but instilling in your child the ability to love goes beyond merely displaying love to your significant other. It's showing it to everybody around you, it is acts of kindness, compassion and empathy.
Thanks for the great comments on the last blog. Now I'd love to hear from all of you. What's it like after your divorce, being a single parent? How do you feel? What are some of your issues? Have you worked out all of your anger? Because if you haven't, your child is going to see this anger and learn to deal with the world with a very angry foot forward.