5/18/14

Video: "Voice of the Child of Divorce" Now With 100% More Guilt!

Several people have shared this video with me over the past couple of days. I didn't watch it for a few reasons...mainly because I thought it would make me sad. One morning, however, I decided to give it a go. The friend who shared it with me (a wonderful and loving person, by the way, this post is not meant to disparage her) warned me to "grab a box of tissues" before watching it.

Turns out, I didn't need tissues. Go ahead, watch it now:


Am I the only one who thinks he looks a little like the youngest kid on Weeds? Shane Botwin? Amirite?

Okay. No way a child wrote that. Nope. Not unless there's a Doogie Howser of Divorced Kids out there. This was a script written by an adult with an agenda. Read by a kid in order to tweak emotions and to drive the point home. And that point?

Divorce is bad. If you get a divorce, your children are screwed. Children of divorce are doomed. Selfish people who get divorces are ruining their children's lives. And so on, and so forth. Got it?

A little bit of research led me to the maker of the video, Monica Epperson. Epperson is the co-founder of a non-profit called The Child of Divorce. The mission of this non-profit is "to give children of divorce a voice- and age is irrelevant". A little bit more research led me to discover that Epperson is, not surprisingly, a child of divorce herself. Her parents divorced before she was one, and her mother remarried, and divorced, 4 more times before she was 12.

She experienced 5 divorces. In an interview she spoke about the revolving door of men, of step-fathers in her life, and how she learned from a way, way too early age that eventually, everybody leaves. My heart goes out to her, however, I think I see where the agenda comes from.

Listen, I'm not going to argue with anyone about how bad divorce is for kids. Having gone through it as a kid, and watching my four children deal with it for the past several years, I know firsthand how crappy it is. No matter how great the ex-spouses get along, no matter how evenly divided the parenting times are, no matter how well-cared for the children are, it's going to suck.

And God help all of you if it's a messy divorce. Because "suck" doesn't even begin to describe that.

However, this video does nothing to help anyone. It's shaming those of us who have had to make the tough choice to divorce and it's giving fodder to those who think parents who divorce are selfish, awful people who don't give a shit about their kids.

Are there people like that? People who put themselves, their wants and needs before those of their children? Of course there are. Every divorce is different, but they all end the same: a once intact family is broken. Does that mean, as this video says, that parents who divorce are telling their children that "it is better to be right that to be loved?" Or that parents who divorce are "robbing their kids of their childhoods"? Or that when a parent decides there is no other option left but divorce, they are "not thinking of their children's futures"?

No, no, no. A thousand times no. Making the choice to pursue a divorce is not made lightly. You don't wake up one morning and say to yourself, "Gee...I have this extra $20,000 here and some spare afternoons. Say, why don't I get divorced!". There are always going to be those who do it and convince themselves that the children will bounce back, unscathed and absolutely tickled pink about having two houses and two Christmases and two Playstations. But the majority of parents who divorce do so with great trepidation and oh, oh...oh so much guilt.

In my case, I had no choice. My husband had moved out and into a home with his girlfriend. He refused to begin the proceedings, seemingly content to remain married on paper but apart in life. Calling a divorce attorney was one of the hardest things I've ever done.

But I had no other options.

Was I doing it to prove how right I was? Did I do it to rob my children of their childhoods? Did I sign the papers with nary a thought regarding my children's futures?

No. I did it in order to move on with my life. In order to keep life moving forward for myself, and more importantly, for my kids. I thought of my children's futures, and little else.

Most people in the throes of divorce are going to make some mistakes. Some big ones, some little ones. But mark my word, for people like me, people who fought for their marriages tooth and nail, who dragged their feet into that attorney's office...each mistake is like a tiny dagger in the heart. Things between the ex and I are quiet and civil now, but back when feelings were raw, self-doubt was rampant: "Did I just seal my daughter's fate as a spinster with daddy issues?" I'd ask myself if I slipped and said something derogatory about my ex. "Did one of my boys just become a misogynistic narcissist?" was the question du jour when it was revealed that their father had come up with a new, not-so-nice nickname for me at his house.

And what of those people who know, without a doubt, that their children would actually benefit from a divorce? What about the woman who is married to an abuser? Or the man struggling to keep his family together despite his wife's chronic substance abuse?

What about the couple who have tried, valiantly, to work on their marriage but both know it's not going to help? Are the children in these scenarios going to benefit from staying in a stressful, unhappy environment?

Or by making this choice, are these parents doing what Doogie says in the video: "At times you are risking my safety to fill a void in your heart."?

Thing is, those of us who worry about this kind of damage don't need anyone handing us more guilt. To quote Eddie Murphy in Trading Places, "There's plenty, you know."



And those parents who do go through the divorce process without considering their children's psyches and futures? They aren't watching videos like this. They aren't reading books about it, or consulting experts or even sitting at red lights, wondering, "Hey. My actions and choices may be harming my kids...should I check in with them and see if they're okay?"

This message is lost on them.

Like I said before, divorce isn't a fun thing. People don't torture themselves trying to decide if it's "divorce or DisneyWorld this year? Which one would the kids enjoy more?". But it is not the end of the world.

For some of us, it's the beginning of a new one. And pointing fingers isn't going to help us...or our kids.



INTERESTING TIDBIT: I was writing this on the porch, and my eldest child (20 years old) walked in. We were chatting a bit and I decided to bounce this post off him...you know, to get another "child of divorce" opinion.

He agreed with many points in the video, adding that as a child he would have preferred knowing nothing about the proceedings while the divorce was going down. He mentioned how awful it was having to go to school and listen while other kids talked about their moms and dads and families, while his world was being shaken up. Which gave me a lot to think about. And of course, some more guilt.

Sigh.










18 comments:

  1. No matter what, the "Doogie Howser of divorce" line cracked me up! Believe me, it's a damned if you do, damned if you don't situation.

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    1. I was trying to think of the smartest kid I know. And of course Doogie pops into my brain.

      And yes. No matter what we do, there will be someone saying we did the wrong thing.

      Thanks for reading!

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    2. I once had Doogie as an ER physician, during a miscarriage. I think his mom had to drive him to work. NIce guy, though...

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  2. I have to admit I only watched half of the video. I agree with you. This was not written by a child, and the points that are made, "It's more important to be right than to be loved." are so far out there I couldn't continue. I refuse to believe that anyone gets a divorce without much anxiety, fear, and doubt. This video angers me. Really? You're trying to make me feel more guilty? It assumes that we don't worry about the impact on our children. That we didn't agonize over the pros and cons and eventually do what we thought was best for everyone. It reminds me of the apology letter that was floating around the internet. Your post is spot on.

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    1. Thank you! Glad to hear it wasn't just me who felt angry while watching this. It was just so staged, the way the letter was written, the kid's big sad eyes...all set up to evoke sympathy. Which I think kids of divorce certainly deserve, to some extent. But to layer it on like this is just rubbing salt in the wounds. We already know that it harmed our kids, but like you said, we eventually have to do what it best for all.

      Thank you so much for reading!

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  3. This woman is obviously working out her issues of her mother putting her through four divorces and four step-fathers. I mean, what kid says "manifest?" This video is so phony it makes me nauseous.

    Though I will say, as a child of divorce, the one thing I can't stand is when I hear parents talk poorly about the other parent. It makes me cringe to this day, even if it's not my parents, not my kids … I still can't take it. My parents did not have a pleasant divorce. They haaaaated each other and let their kids know it.

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    1. Thanks Mandy. And yes, I was just telling someone else that when my parents were divorced, they hated each other. I remember my mom telling me that my dad was a "prick". I had no idea what the word even meant. It was awful. It taught me to watch my words around my own kids. I did slip a few times in the beginning, but make a sincere effort to remain very neutral when his name comes up.

      Thanks so much for reading!

      P.S. I think you are a wonderful role model as far as your co-parenting goes. You speak highly and warmly about your ex, and that is all kinds of wonderful. Especially for your son!

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  4. Is it better to be right? No, it's better to be safe from abuse, or infidelity, or addiction, or mental illness. It's better to model boundaries and consequences to your children, and resiliency. It sounds like Ms. Epperson has a one-size fits all idea about divorce. If her mother was that unstable, did it ever occur to her that the problem wasn't divorce -- the problem was her mother was a wing nut? And it probably wasn't healthy for ANYONE to be married to her? The guilt mongers drive me nuts.

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    1. YES. Thanks Tracy! I know my kids were hurt during the divorce, but I also know that years from now, when they are able to process what happened, they will realize that although it wasn't perfect, it was what needed to be.

      When I was discussing this with my 20 year old, he said, "Life would have been so much easier if you and dad had stayed together." I said to him, "Really? Your dad didn't love me anymore. Do you think living with two parents who didn't love each other would have been better?" He was quiet, and then said, "I guess I hadn't thought about it that way."

      I hate that my kids had to go through the divorce. I hate that I had to go through the divorce! But I was stuck. And now it's over, and we're alive and healthy and life goes on.

      And yes...that many marriages and divorces doesn't happen unless someone has a stack of issues. I feel badly for the daughter but she has zero right to judge everyone else based on her mom's actions.

      Thanks for reading, and commenting!

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  5. Recently went through a divorce where he decided he wanted to be single and free without family. Since he used to be in the military, we the family, were used to long separations. He filed, found a girlfriend and I have the kids. I don't need any more guilt than I have. It's bad enough that I'm the first in either family to be divorced and his side makes sure to remind our kids about it. Sucks when things like this make it harder.

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  6. Another insightful, excellent, well-written post. Pot meet kettle on this one. I didn't bother watching the video.

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  7. Food for thought, homie! I also did not watch the video; I could smell the phoniness a mile away.
    My mom has told me many, many times over how she should've left my dad early on in their marriage. He drank a lot, he chased women, and he had a temper. What terrified her about leaving was that she was young, it was the late '50's, she had three small kids, was very shy, and had an eighth grade education. She was stuck in the middle of Montana. Where would she go? Even so, she still considered it, because she knew she wasn't happy. My dad could be a real shit back in the day. The one thing that made her stay: he was such a great dad that she couldn't bear to take us away from him. She stuck it out, and things got better as he matured. It took him a long time to get there, though. And they did always love each other. She says the last 15 years of their 50 year marriage before he died were the best years of their lives.
    I am always so sad for her when I hear her tell stories about my dad and his shenanigans. He liked to party, he liked to talk to pretty women. He lived a very Don Draper/Roger Sterling existence in the 50's, 60's, and 70's, three-martini business lunches and all. I would never have stood for that. Not in a million years.
    And yet I selfishly thank God every day that they stayed together.

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    1. Wow Danielle, I had no idea. This is quite an interesting story. Thanks for sharing it with the masses.

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    2. Sometimes I wish I had the strength to
      "Stick it out" for years until my previous husband matured.

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  8. I am a child of divorce, and my parents made it as messy and painful as possible. I hate what my kids are going to deal with now, but I also know I won't let it be as bad as what I went through.

    I have been avoiding that video, but I watched it now. I didn't cry. Sometimes divorce is the only option. Their dad probably did not watch it. He doesn't like guilt. But who does?

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  9. Isn't it that the children of divorce suffer not only from the divorce itself, but also from the way the divorce was handled? Yes, I think so. The nastier the divorce, the worse for the children. However, is that something that only 1 parent can help or resolve? No! So where does that leave the involved parent. The one doing all in his/her power to build a life and to make it the best possible situation for the children, while the other parent just goes and leaves his old life be? It leaves the parent who stays with a heavy load, a shit sandwich. Supporting the kids, dealing with the changed finances and a divorce (which in the case of an affair usually comes with shock and surprise) and on top of that we have to get more guilt for not being able to build a friendly relationship with the one who left? Who may not be paying child support, who is so involved in the new life they build, that they can't be bothered with what they left behind. This makes me sooo angry. So hugely unjust. What we need are ways to support the ones who are left behind to deal with the mess. If it's just the divorce, that's hard, but manageable for kids In some ways. Its the aftermath: a parent that does not see you anymore or can't make time for you, a parent not paying child support thereby bringing poverty on the family, a parent taking on the new partners children en forgetting his/her own. That is hard and that is what scars the children more than anything.

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  10. I think we need be very cautious and not allow shame or regret dominate the conversation regarding children of divorce. It's not the way God intended families to work, but intact first-families also create cycles of negative behavior, dysfunctional relationships and false realities. It is easy to blame all woes on the divorce, but we know God overcomes evil and will do so in our families. The trials we face may be the ways He reveals our dependence on Himself, whether children of original families or not. Knowing these specific fears, hurts and relationship challenges allows me to focus my energy on the needs my children will have. Every child will face issues in their life - we have a head start and know some of what ours will need to deal with. That makes a good starting point for a healthy emotional life. I don't want the divorce to be what defines my family and I do believe God heals fully and will fill in the gaps where we have fallen short. This is not a rant - I genuinely think we need to shift the conversation regarding children of divorce. Sometimes they are treated as if they are plagued, doomed and destined for failure. I don't believe it.

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  11. i feel like this video leaves me in a weird, confused spot. i am a child of divorce as well. my parents split up when i was six and i have spent most of my life since then "Cleaning up the mess" it created. my mom couldn't handle it. all my parents ever did was fight in front of us and tell us how bad the other parent was. there's no way a kid wrote this letter. but i can't say that i don't relate to the emotion of it. i've felt most of those things for most of my life. however, one of us would probably be dead, or in a mental institution by now, had the divorce in our family not happened. hey, its never an easy thing to do. its never going to be easy. but you know what, i thank God they did divorce, my childhood would have been ten times worse and probably a lot angrier than it already was had they stayed together and did nothing but bicker and fight and call the cops on each other.. sigh..

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