Saturday, August 11, 2012

What Should Happen When Parents Split?

The topic of parents separating doesn't pertain directly to me. My brother and I are old enough at this point that it really wouldn't pertain to us even if our parents did divorce; our only issues would be finances and the logistics of holidays and vacations. It does pertain to many people, though, and, in particular, it affects the children of Aunt Becky of Band Back Together and fame. (Mommy doesn't really want vodka on a regular basis; the blog title is tongue-in-cheek.)

Becky Sherrick Harks (or Becky Harks Sherrick; I can never keep it straight) has made much of her life an open book on her website. Hence, when she announced her divorce, many readers felt free to comment on her childcare and custody arrangements. Aunt Becky and her soon-to-be ex are making what I would consider to be a fairly major sacrifice in that their children will remain in their home. Their parents will come and go as logistics dictate. At least one reader has decided that it will be detrimental to the psychological well-being of the children to see their parents come and go while they, the children, remain in one place. I could not disagree more strongly.

The only instability I've ever experienced in my home life life occurred when my mother was critically ill and my father needed to be with her. My brother and I endured various childcare arrangements during these times. We were mostly under the care of relatives, and usually in their homes. The quality of care, depending upon which relative provided it, ranged for the most part from mediocre to excellent, but still, it mostly occurred in their homes. This was, at least to me, majorly disruptive.

In one particular instance, we were cared for, if you could call it that, by the relative of a relative in our own house. The quality of care probably wouldn't have been a hell of a lot worse if we had been under the guardianship of Charles Manson himself. The "care provider" talked on the phone, watched TV, and slept almost all the time she should have been supervising us. She didn't prepare meals for us. In an infamous incident about which I've already blogged, I chose this time of lax supervision to test my hypothesis that a body can sustain itself in more or less good health on candy alone for an indefinite interval. (My hypothesis did not hold up to testing, and I was eventually transported to a hospital by ambulance.) We had a cleaning lady who came  in twice a week and did, among other things,  our laundry, or we would have been wearing the same dirty clothes for the entire four months or so that the person was responsible for us. We were five most of the time this took place, and turned six shortly before the "care giver's" employment with our family was discontinued. The only thing that kept me remotely functioning during this time was that I was in my own house, with my very own bed and familiar surroundings.

I grew up among children whose parents were divorced, with a variety of custody arrangements. The arrangements that seemed the most pejorative to the kids were those in which the kids spent half their time in the homes of each of their parents. All of such kids that I happened to know spent half their times with their moms and the remainder of their time with their dads, but neither house was actually theirs. It was a sad arrangement. Those who lived primarily with one parent and visited with the other parent fared better. There was still the disruption of going off to the noncustodial parent, usually without all their stuff, but those kids did at least have a place they called home.  One of my friends had a situation where she and her brother stayed in their original home. The parents shared rent on an apartment, and the parent who didn't have custody at a given time stayed at the apartment. Once one parent remarried, the parents then maintained separate residences for their noncustodial times, but the kids still stayed in the house all the time. This must have been a major inconvenience for the parents, but they did it anyway for the good of their kids. Years after the fact, I suspect any added expense they incurred in maintaining the house for their kids will be offset by therapists' bills for their kids that they won't have to pay.

I think Aunt Becky and her prospective ex are doing a very noble thing for their children. Even though I've never lived through a divorce, my own life experiences have taught me that a child can withstand much more if he or she has the stability of familiar surroundings on his or her side.


  1. I 100% agree, and told Aunt Becky as well. I am SO impressed when parents can be mature enough to put their children FIRST (as they should) and think out of the box to find an arrangement that will be as least traumatic as possible. Aunt Becky totally ROCKS!

  2. Aunt Maria here - yet again so rarely visiting...I think of you now and again, but this actually visiting? Not so good of me.

  3. Hi Aunt Maria!
    I'm always happy to see you.

  4. Right fucking on! So glad you wrote this. There are so many answers, so many life configurations to be worked out after separation. The kids having a stable home life is one of the great ways to help them through this. It'd be nice if more people could see that there isn't one right answer for every family.

  5. I love the expression "right fucking on'" and am co-opting it. I can't use it out loud, or at least not around the house, but I can ad will use it elsewhere and in my writing.

  6. I so appreciate Aunt Becky's childcare living arrangements. My parents divorced when my brother and I were children and so we packed every weekend to see Dad. Although my parents' divorce was relatively amicable, it was awful leaving your stable home every weekend. To this day, I LOATHE packing--even for a pleasure trip. God bless Aunt Becky!