No Such Thing as a Good Divorce? Research Studies v. Divorce for Dummies

divorceWhile roaming the bookstore with my 9-year-old son, we found a section labeled transportation. I’m still not sure why, but How to Repair Your Car and Divorce for Dummies were facing forward, side by side. I am surprised we didn’t hear “Hit the Road Jack” playing in the background.

No worries–for those who like your bossy blueprints for life seasoned with a heavier dose of intellectual salt, there are piles of studies and how to articles on divorce to choose from. They typically aren’t found in the planes, trains and automobiles section, but multiple experts are happy to argue that divorce condemns your children to a life sentence in dysfunction junction.

Most studies about children of divorce really fry my rice. Yep, that’s a scholarly term used by irritated, divorced moms who find themselves derailed on the perimenopausal train of life.

The evidence in a recent study seems to prove kids are more likely to fall apart even if the divorce is amicable  How can I dismiss that? As an Evaluation Specialist in the Criminal Justice field, data is my life.

In fact, I recently helped facilitate a focus group on becoming an evidence based organization. For the icebreaker question, I was asked, “What is your dream job?” I opted for my usual sarcastic response and quipped, “This one of course.” For the previous session, the question was, “What is the best gift you ever received?” My answer–a divorce (insert sounds of uneasy laughter in the room here).

What? I can’t joke about amicable annulment? Be snarky in Splitsville? Ridicule rapture rupture? Nullify NicholasSparkless nuptials? I have been thinking of these since I first heard the words conscious uncoupling.

One person quickly made it known he had little respect for those PhD types who have no real world experience trying to tell him how to interact with troubled kids. After assuring him I am title free, I started thinking hmm; maybe I do have a PhD in something: D-I-V-O-R-C-E. Whenever I hear that word, Tammy Wynette starts singing in my head warning that if I don’t stand by my man, it will be H-E-double L for me. In spite of that, here I am:  Mommy, PhD (peacefully, happily divorced).

I am always preaching about decisions based on research—evidence, trends, indicators, performance measures, logic models. When I read these studies however I am convinced that individual human experience, wisdom and plain old common sense are too often dismissed as trivial.

Let me break it down listicle style and offer my own checklist of ways I think dummy divorced parents like us work together to raise well-adjusted, happy children:

  • There isn’t a nonresident parent nor are we cooperative coparents. We are Mommy and Daddy. We were when we had one house and we are now that we have two. Everyone shows up, everyone contributes and no one gets a medal for doing their job. .
  • We don’t pay each other child support; we just support our children. We live 3 blocks apart and our children spend equal time with both of us. No separate birthday parties; we sit together at sporting events; and holiday traditions are honored that were in place before we created two addresses. It’s a Dutch Date Divorce. Unlike our marriage, most days it is truly 50/50.
  • We are not cooperatively involved, moderately engaged or infrequent but conflictual. Instead, we are no holds barred, fully engaged, suck it up cupcake, get over yourself, 110% committed to making sure our kids are happy.  Daddy makes a killer lemon cookie, braids hair way better than I do and handles all scouting adventures. I’m in charge of holiday outfits (no camo at concerts), on time event arrivals and fabulous birthday party themes. We both do love, cuddling, praise and discipline.
  • Our divorce was not amicable. Nope. We embrace platonic love sustained by a passionate, spiritual focus on our children. Divorce in the friend zone.
  • It takes happy parents to raise happy children. Granted, everything isn’t rainbows and unicorns, but I don’t care what the research says–your kids are not faring better in a two parent household if you can’t stand living together. Period.
  • Memories matter. I still hang the personalized family ornaments on the Christmas tree that show the 4 of us as sleigh riding penguins or happy little elves.
  • Laughter is the key ingredient for a happy divorce. We continue to laugh together about our children and at ourselves. My ex helped my 8-year-old daughter choose photos for a project about Brazil. As I flipped through the prints for her poster, I saw rain forest, soccer, Christ the Redeemer statue, Victoria’s Secret supermodel Adriana Lima (insert sound of mental screeching brakes here). I invoked the Mommy override privilege for most influential Brazilian woman and we went with President Dilma Rousseff instead. Roaring laughter, conflict solved.
  • Family is forever. My children have pictures of us in their rooms that remind them they were created out of love. We are always going to be a family till death do us part; we just define it differently now.
  • Research studies are for journals, not blueprints for your life. I hope my children never read a single study about how to live their lives and instead remain scholars of their own experience.

My 9-year-old son concluded, “They really should have asked a happy kid with divorced parents. I’m guessing they only talked to kids who already had some problems and see one parent more than the other.” He also pointed out that is true for lots of married people. Yes. Yes it is my scholarly son.


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