Thursday, March 3, 2011

Children of Divorce

My grandchildren spent 5 days with me recently, as their parents had to work and one night was spent in the hospital with our grandson for some testing. By the end of their stay, Hannah was asking for her Mommy and saying how she didn't ever want to leave her Mommy, "ever again". I knew she didn't say this because she had not enjoyed her visit with me, but because she had a real need for her "Mommy". When I asked her what she would do if she got married, she just smiled and said," I'll take Mommy with me."

I know they love me, as they express this often, but their hearts belong to their parents. and so it should be. What happens to such hearts when they face a loss "they can't imagine". Would it be the nightmare of their lifetime? And how would it affect the rest of their life?

I know of a case where the parents were divorced because of the husband's infidelity. The little girl was only 6, but was affected so deeply, a psychologist suggested regular counselling. But, how was a single mother to afford such an "extravagance"? This little girl had three other siblings; an older sister, a younger brother, and one yet to be born. This was the time when divorce was not looked upon lightly. It was a great stigma.

 The children and mother moved to a house beside their maternal grandparents, so the mother could work and the grandparents be ready made babysitters. The grandparents weren't too easy-going with the children's newfound anxieties. And with the newborn, it was almost too much.

Several years later, the mother and children moved to a small house near the hospital, where the mother held down a job. They were dirt poor, and had to make ends meet by sharing clothes and eating the bare minimum.

These experiences left deep scars on the children. All of them grew up with an unusual need for material security, and the "finer things in life", which I suppose was due to the shame they suffered from being so poor.

The good news is the mother got re-married when the children had become young adults. The oldest daughter marrying a year later and the next eloping a few months after that. A child was born to the eloping couple 9 months after their marriage. The mother was only 17.

How did that 17 year old mother think? Was she able to be equipped to parent her little girl? Wasn't she even in the best of circumstances at a grave disadvantage? And didn't her background make it even harder for her to "care and nurture"? What about her need for counselling that had not been met? Was this need exasperated by such stress as a teen marriage and teen motherhood?

I can't imagine how hard it would've been to be in her shoes. But, I do know the little girl could not have gotten good mothering. She couldn't have. And how did that affect her?

Children of divorce are more likely to get divorced themselves. I have wondered the reasons. Is it because they haven't the example of commitment? are they emotionally immature? or is it that they sabatoge their own happiness? or do they fear intimacy? do they expect and perhaps, force abandonment? Do they mis-read and mis-communicate due to their anxieties? Do they manipulate for fear their needs won't be met? do they feel unworthy and have a low self-esteem? are they low achievers or driven persons?

I think all of these apply in indivdual cases. And even divorces that happen after children are grown still has a grave affect. I had a friend in her 30's suffer after her parent's divorce. She was disoriented. Her identity was traumatized. She didn't see it coming. And she worried for her own children's sake!

I have several other friends who live in the house with their husbands, but have no intimacy. Which is worse? What is the answer?

I have seen in my own family my grandmother, and three of her four children suffer divorces. And the dynamics that are normally difficult are doubly compounded. Divorce should never be taken lightly. It affects everyone.

1 comment:

gregmerchant said...

very sobering to think about.