Sunday, 24 July 2016

Mommy & Daddy Have Split - Now What About The Children?

My wife and I split a year and a half ago.  I was that man who wanted to rub the word “divorce” out of the dictionary; refuse its existence.  Everyone’s breakup story is unique to them, not only as a couple, but as individuals within that couple too.

Some relationships have the luxury of both parties working hard together when times get tough, struggling day in and day out to keep it alive.  Others have one person working hard at keeping it alive, whilst still others have no one making any effort to revive the slowly dying mummer of a heartbeat.  It’s tragic and brutal for the most part and whilst many want to seek solace in the idea of being a winner over one’s partner, there are seldom any winners.

What I have learnt is that there is only making the best of a difficult, unfortunate situation.  The idea of finding a winner, and therefore by default a loser, especially when children are involved, is a complete delusion.  Some may benefit from a split financially, others may benefit in assets and then there are those who see it as a new-found freedom.  Sure, there may be benefits for the individuals involved, but there is also a trail of entrails left behind of what was once the family body.  These entrails might well be our children; the innocent ones in all of this.  There is little beauty in this analogy, much like the real thing.  Where do we go from here?  Where do we find the strength to be the superhero mom or superhero dad?

I’ve written on what it is like going at child-rearing alone (Going At It Alone) and I’ve written on relationship breakdown (What I Have Learnt About Relationship Breakdown), but I’m wondering what it is like for my daughter.  As much as my (ex) wife and I disagree from time to time, the most productive thing we can do is keep our daughter’s safety and security at the forefront of our minds.  It was not my daughter’s choice to be born into our family and therefore it needs to be our decision to do all that we can as her parents to ensure her protection.  

We are both extremely in love with our little girl and this is where our focus needs to lie.  My daughter is seemingly very happy.  She has adapted well to having two homes, two beds, toys scattered across two living room floors, but it hasn’t always been easy.  She has just turned six and we managed to celebrate the day as a family, but I still harbour guilt over the fact that she now joins the statistics of children who come from a “broken home”.  Writing that phrase, broken home, feels so far from the reality of it all in some way.  Whilst there has been separation, I cannot hand-on-heart call it broken.  Fractured perhaps.  Either way, her parents are no longer together and it is up to us to ensure that her sense of worth and value remain intact.  It has not been easy coming to terms with our circumstances, but I am desperate to cushion the blow when it comes to my little girl.

I hear more often that I would like of adults splitting, family breakdown, divorce...It is fast becoming the norm, yet somehow it is still one of the most difficult and challenging experiences life might throw at you.  I still struggle to come to the realisation that two people, once so very close and intimate, who have birthed children, can become so detached from one another.  I understand full well that some may grow apart, but the vulgarity, anger and bitterness that some may adopt as their method of coping is very often witnessed by the children involved.  We can be quick to forget that these little ones are far more alert than we might give them credit for, or perhaps it is us as adults who are too naive to believe just how in-tune our children really can be.  They absorb what is around them at such a rapid rate and hence can be in real danger of developing a sense of misguided guilt.  

There is an overbearing push-and-pull factor which children who are the victims of marital breakdown often silently grapple with - "mommy is sad and I want to protect her" or "daddy is crying can I make him feel better?". Our inability to realise just how much our children may be absorbing when we are hauling abuse at one another can be so damaging on an unconscious level - far deeper than we might ever realise.

My little girl seems really settled and happy, yet I am not going to pretend that she hasn't experienced hurt, a sense of loss, or guilt in that she cannot always help mommy or daddy feel better.  It is such a burden we as parents might place on those little shoulders. I still hate the words divorce and separation. I fully appreciate that sometimes it makes complete sense that a relationship should come to an end, but surely there should be a common goal of ensuring that the children come first.  Why should they suffer off the back of my or your difficulties?  Why should they battle confusion and guilt?

It is heartbreaking to learn that children get caught up in the crossfire of harsh words, violent overreactions and abusive retaliation. Using a child as a pawn to control one's ex-partner or to "get back at them", is quite frankly sick and nothing less than disgusting.  We as adults experience trials and tribulations, but when I learn of those who use their children as tools for manipulation, my sympathy quickly wanes.

Be brave in the face of your little one. Relationship breakdowns are messy and complicated, but keeping things amicable for the sake of your children is perhaps the greatest action you can perform during the turbulent times.

We are not alone in our experiences; draw hope from that.                     

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