What Being a Child of Divorce Taught Me About Raising My Own Family
When I was 5 years old, my parents divorced. Too young to realize what that meant, I mostly just accepted that my parents weren't going to be living in the same home anymore and that I would have two rooms of stuff to play with. I have no memories of them being together or fighting, so instead, when I look back on my childhood, I see two parents who loved me, even if they were living separate lives.
Now that I'm happily married and a parent to our kind-hearted 3-year-old, being a child of divorce has taught me a lot about raising my own family. Since my parents had to work extra hard to make our two families feel like home, the steps they took and the way they parented has helped me be a better parent to my own son.
Make Individual Time For One Another
I may not be perfect at it, but every member of our household should get quality, one-on-one time with each person. I loved being with my parents, and for many adventures, it was just my dad and me or my mom and me. Even something as simple as a trip to Home Depot to mindlessly stare at plumbing equipment meant an hour of uninterrupted dad time. It can be easy to forget to make individual space for one another within a larger family, but it's so important that everyone gets that experience. And of course, individual time is about more than interacting with our son — it's also necessary for my husband and me to get time together, too.
One of the things my parents did really well as a divorced couple is they maintained an open line of communication. As a parent now, I try to be clear about my feelings, what I expect of my son and husband, and they, in turn, are honest with me. It's better to be vocal about small frustrations early than to let them escalate later.
As a fairly Type A person, it's way too easy for me to fall into a scheduling trap, where every second needs to be accounted for. However, my parents taught me that it helps to be flexible. Some weeks follow a set path, others don't, and that's OK. By being willing to adapt my plans, my family has an opportunity to grow at its own pace.
Assume Best Intentions
I'm sure divorce wasn't easy for my parents, but as their child, I never felt like they had any issues. When I asked my mom about it later, she said it was easy to coparent with my dad because she knew he would always do what was best. By assuming best intentions, she was able to relax and let go. With my own family, I trust my husband to parent the way he wants because he and I both want what's best for our son.
Make the Most of the Time You Have
My parents' custody agreement dictated that I split my week between two houses. My time with each of my parents was special, and that's something I try to keep in mind with my son now. Between his classes, school, playdates, and grandparent dates, his time is special. When I'm running around and feeling stressed about all that I want to accomplish with him, this parenting tip helps me relax and appreciate the time I have.