If you’re thinking of ending your marriage and you have children, there’s no doubt your biggest concern will be the impact your split will have on your family. Has anyone ever asked how do children feel about divorce?
And I felt exactly the same; all I’d ever wanted for my kids was the nuclear family, the mum and dad and Labrador, the comfortable house, the bunk-beds, the organic diets. Such an important part of which, felt to me, was a stable marriage.
So when mine went down the pan I was absolutely horrified at the damage I’d be doing to my kids. The irreparable fucked-upery I’d be leaving them with for the rest of their lives, the emotional scars and years of therapy it’d take to get over their parents separation. It was almost enough to not get divorced, until we rationalised that two happy parents apart were much better role models than two unhappy ones together. And so the rest, as they say, is history.
The affect the divorce continues to have still plays on my mind though, I still worry about how it might affect Elfie and Hux both back then and now, five years down the road. Although they spend time with him regularly, do they keenly feel the fact their dad doesn’t live with us? Do they miss having such an ever-present male figure in their lives? Put simply, is our single parent family screwing them up for the future? How do children feel about divorce?
“Maybe we should ask Daddy to live next door? But then we can’t do that because then the neighbours would have nowhere to live”
I thought it’d be best to go to the horse’s mouth for the answers to these important questions, and so asked the kids themselves what they thought.
Hux told me that sometimes the fact he didn’t live with daddy was “a bit weird, and maybe we should ask Daddy to live next door? But then we can’t do that because then the neighbours would have nowhere to live”. When I asked him if he wanted to have children when he grew up he said yes, but only with Elfie, not another girl. And when I enquired what he loved about living only with mummy he said he liked it when I took him out for dinner and cooked him breakfast. It bodes well for us that all his happy memories, like mine, revolve around food.
He also told me that ladies are stronger than boys, and when I asked why he said “because they are like you, Mummy” (my heart burst). So there you go – there may be no Daddy in the house but strong female role models, we have them (I did correct him and tell him men can be just as strong as women, obviously ;).
I asked the same ‘how do children feel about divorce’ question of Elfie, and she had similar answers. She said she feels happy and sad when she leaves both mummy and daddy’s houses because she loves us both, but it is normally “fine”, and she “doesn’t mind”. “I can’t remember what it was like having daddy at home”, she said, “and mummies can be strong by themselves, just as strong as men”. This feminist sentiment, as you can imagine, made me very proud.
“It’s not really a problem”, she said, “quite a few of my new friends just live with their mummies but I can’t remember who. It doesn’t matter for us”.
So there you have it. In the matters of your divorce causing huge emotional upheaval, the person who probably comes out of it with the most hurt feelings is you. Kids are adaptable and flexible; as long as they have a grown-up who loves and supports them, they’re going to turn out as wonderfully as if their mum and dad were together at home with their organic diets and bunk-beds. I’m pretty satisfied with the answers to the question of how do children feel about divorce.
Photographs by the ever-talented Alice Dempsey