The First Year Experience: Broken Homes

 
 

While some students may think growing up means leaving family worries behind, Lucy Montague Moffat talks about dealing with divorce as a grown-up child

My Dad and Step-Mum are getting a divorce. I am finding this all very strange for a number of reasons. Divorce is such an everyday occurrence these days, everyone seems to be on their second or third wedding and single parents are slowly becoming the norm. This would lead you to believe that when faced with divorce in your own family, it would all be very casual and light hearted. Divorces are so common that they seem like something you pick up with the Sunday newspapers and eggs. MTV constantly shows Quickest Hollywood Marriages programmes where minor celebrities point and laugh about how short lived couples love affairs were. They chuckle at how these two rich people promised to love each other forever and then, a few hours later, decided to call it a day.

I wish it were like that in reality. But it’s not. It’s horrible. It hurts and makes your world turn upside down and makes you wonder how long it will take for anything to feel normal again. And makes you wonder why you are wondering that because you know that it is going to take ages, possibly years, for anything to feel even slightly ordinary again. And even then it won’t be the same as it was before, and never will be.

The really odd thing for me is that I have to face this aged 23. You’re not supposed to have to deal with divorced parents after the age of 14; I thought that was the rule. It puts me in a really uncomfortable position, which is the part of all this I am struggling the most with: the fact that it is my responsibility to look after my Dad, make sure he is okay and listen to all his feeling about all the horribleness.

I read in the Sunday Times last week that people are more likely to care about their children more than their parents, that they would die for their own kids but not for their parents, because that’s not what their parents would want. So when faced with the job of minding your parent it feels wrong because we are not programmed to naturally take on this reversed role. It may sound insensitive but I find it so hard to watch my Dad struggle through these emotions because I want him to be the strong parental figure he always was for me growing up. You rarely see your parents getting upset, and if you do it’s scary. It means there is something really wrong, something they can’t fix, which completely rules out the possibility that you can fix it. It leaves me with a sense of despair and helplessness spinning around my stomach like bad Chinese food.

I also found it so odd giving my Dad relationship advice. I am his only child, so I’m the main person around who can say things like “It’ll just take time” and “Something positive will come out of this, you just have to wait” and the classic “There’s plenty more fish in the sea” which sounds to me so inappropriate when I think of my Step-Mum. I was so muddled I even started comparing the situation to past break-ups in my life. How ridiculous is that; trying to contrast his 15 year marriage with a two month fling I had last year? But I suppose in these situations all you can do is head straight into the ridiculousness headfirst, otherwise you just get depressed.

I am now from two broken homes, my parents never married but split up shortly after I was born. They both remarried when I was six so I grew up with two houses and knowing a life with four families as normality from then on. When I was younger my Christmases were great. Now, since I will definitely still be in contact with my Step-Mum, I’ll suddenly have three of everything, three segments of family. Now that sounds pretty ridiculous. How many times can a family split apart before it’s all just a big mess? I can never get married, my wedding would be too huge, it would cost a fortune.

The best thing is that my Dad has assured me there is no bad blood between him and my Step-Mum, that they aren’t arguing nor do they hate each other, which is something to be happy about. I would hate to be faced with a Rachel from Friends situation where she runs back and forth between her two birthday parties not knowing where her loyalty lies. And maybe that’s the best thing about being faced with a divorce at my age, if I can find any positivity in this at all. It’s that I can be spoken to like an adult and told exactly what is going on. I can make the informed decision that I want to see my Step-Mum as much as possible, she was there for me my whole life and brought me up as much as any of my many other parents.

But I do kind of crave the naivety of being a child, being faced with faked smiles and hidden suitcases, although I know deep down that would be much harder to deal with.

I think this reversal of roles between parent and child slowly starts to happen once you go to college. You start to have an independent life away from the permission slips of your parent, their role in your life changes from guardian to friend. They start to lean on you nearly the same amount as you lean on them. It’s unnerving and daunting and hard but I suppose that you have to remember everything they have done for you in your life, and how you are their main priority, and do your best to help them in any way you can.

I have no idea how I can help, but I am going to have to try because I want to be a daughter from multiple happy broken homes. And hopefully I will be, in time.

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