The Wall Street Journal published an article adapted from Susan Gregory Thomas’ “In Spite of Everything: A Memoir” titled The Divorce Generation. The article reads as a tragedy of a parent, who has been traumatised by the messy divorce of her own parents, and has vowed herself never to do such a thing to her children. Which, in a somewhat predictable twist of fate, she in the end does. And the parent is the whole generation.
She begins by laying down some statistical grundwerk. Thomas’ claims that for the generation X the defining question was not where you were when JFK was shot or men landed on the moon, but “where were you when your parents got divorced?”. And sure enough the National Marriage Project’s data backs her claim, showing a steep rise beginning in 1965 and peaking at 1980 (2.26 % of married women). Since then the trend has somewhat declined and solidly rested at ca.1.6%, which is similar to the rate in about 1973.
She gives an autobiographical example of how common divorce was in her neighbourhood, and how it gave the children a negative ripple effect of drug abuse and other sorts of problems.
What the children also got from this, was a obsessive need not ever to divorce. And so
According to U.S. Census data released this May, 77% of couples who married since 1990 have reached their 10-year anniversaries. We’re also marrying later in life, if at all. The average marrying age in 1950 was 23 for men and 20 for women; in 2009, it was 28 for men and 26 for women.
So to avoid divorces, we never get married in the first place. It looks good on paper.
In the same time out-of-wedlock births have risen from 330.000 in 1965-9 to 715.000 by the end of 84, while the rate of birth in general has stayed somewhat the same. In 2007 NCHS claims that nearly 4 in 10 births were to unmarried women.
So what is this? A matter of semantics? After all marriage and divorce, especially in our rather secular world, are only aged constructs?
So it might be safe to establish that the premise of avoiding divorces for the good of the children is false, in the sense that there are more children whose parents are not married (incl. divorce) than before.
I think this is a loop-hole. When the whole generation has established that divorce is bad, then you remain good when you avoid divorce. And what a better way to avoid it than to never generate the possibility. It’s about apperiances. About avoiding the stigma of a divorcee.
…it was the one-armed man!
But Thomas tried. She writes about gen X’s nearly martyrdom-parenting
Having grown up without stable homes, we pour everything that we have into giving our children just that, no matter how many sacrifices it involves. Indeed, Gen-X’s quest for perfect nests drove us to take out more home equity loans and to spend more on remodeling, per capita, than any generation before it, according to Harvard’s Joint Center for Housing Studies.
Which would appear an awful lot like swifting the blame by proxy to the children. We ballsed up the economy for you. In a move not dissimilar to building an a-bomb to uphold peace. This game goes to both temporal directions. Our parents did nothing for us, we did everything for you. It’s not our fault.
It’s always someone else, isn’t it?
What is also worth noting here is that when talking about being there for the children we suddenly end up in remodeling and home equity loans, which have nothing what so ever to do with good parenting.
We were doing everything differently, and the fundamental premise was simple: “Kids come first” meant that we would not divorce.
So “Kids come first” = “No divorce”. Who needs grayscales.
But then again, these Gen X parents can not turn to their parents for tips, so
Why would we take counsel from the very people who, in our view, flubbed it all up? Instead, says the research, we depend on the people who actually raised us, albeit wolf-pack style: our friends.
The same people who, you know, are just as clueless as you.
Me, Myself and I
So who or what are these generation X parents on display here?
It wasn’t until my daughter was a few months old that it dawned on me that when the pediatricians and child-care books referred to “separation anxiety,” they were referring to the baby’s psyche, not to mine.
The thought of placing her in someone else’s care sent waves of pure, white fear whipping up my spine. It occurred to me that perhaps my own origins had something to do with what a freak show I was. After hearing about my background for some time, my distinguished therapist made an announcement: “You,” she said, “are a war orphan.”
I rest my case.
Okay, okay, I’ll clarify. It’s always only by proxy about the baby. And the proxy is you.
Divorce 2.0: tres magnifique!
So when the ideal of never-divorcing parent finally falls (as external models often are to do), what is there to be done?
Enter The Good Divorce. Where parents keep in warm contact, even share a house or bi-weekly house the children. This is a nice good, new, inhabitable sign. Oh, and it is becoming “a trend”.
The Good Divorced Parent also has data to back this up, like:
A 2009 study published in the journal Child Development found, for example, that teenagers with involved fathers are less likely to engage in risky sexual activities.
Which, of course is probably true, but it only implies causation. Maybe there is a confounding reason between fathers who are able to, and want to, keep involved in their childrens lives and low sexual risk. Maybe their relationship was different to begin with, and these are both results from that? Maybe they were involved not because a research had told them it will be for the best, but because they were that sort of a parent?
Eppur Si Muove!
Relying on external cues, like out-of-context research data, WSJ, your friends etc. on parenting and leaving no space for your internal cues can lead to raising a generation of confused brand-oriented parentificated children.
And how will those parentificated children deal with marriage and divorce? When they both are accustomed to parents hovering above them constantly with their neurotical obsessiveness. How come even though I have all these toys my marriage is still miserable?!
Oh, and why was this on the WSJ? Because obviously the reader can rest peacefully. Your parenting is not your fault. Your divorce is not as bad as it appears. You can not screw them up like the previous generation. And if you did, it’s not your fault. Oh, and it’s completely fine to project your childhood traumas and needs to your child. It’ll be fine. Have an iPod.