Baumhower: The extinction of the ‘Happily Ever Afters’Written by Jeremy Baumhower | | firstname.lastname@example.org
My heart was recently broken when I learned that another of my “couple” friends are in the process of getting a divorce. Our children go to school and play sports together, their kids are a part of my extended family, my “Jackies.” My kids broke the news to me, as the announcement filled their school’s hallways, and it hit me like a ton of bricks. It felt as if my divorce was happening again.
Are “Happily Ever Afters” going extinct in the suburbs?
It’s been more than two years since my divorce was finalized. I fought for the last year to save my marriage, when I should have been working on it the previous 10. I am an excellent father, but I was a horrible husband. My battle to stop the divorce was ultimately for our three children. I could just see their future lives and I wanted to save them from it. Why fill their lives with heartache, when daddy simply needed to manage his ADD better?
My ex-wife and I had somehow fallen out of love. I was too blind to see it, she was too resentful to forget it. The busyness of a suburban schedule somehow hid the ongoing true feelings that were filling our SUV as we drove to baseball, soccer or dance. Our not-so-obvious previous attempts at fixing a failing marriage with children, both planned and unplanned, confused our hearts with the love of our babies, but not each other.
The words “single parent” carry a certain stigma, a cliché, something that may be completely outdated. “Single parent” used to clearly mean … the father was not present, there was no man in the house, often indicating some type of a mother’s financial struggle. Somewhere in the evolution of technology and relationships, the words “single parent” began to be used as a description by divorcées with joint custody of their children. One failed marriage with children creates two single parents because half of the time we are, in fact, a single parent.
An epidemic is happening in the suburbs, and no one seems to be noticing. Couples with slightly grown children (age 5 and older) seem to be fleeing from each other with nothing but self-interest at heart. Facebook and technology have made it so easy to see how green the grass really is, that people are forgetting about the roots they have planted.
Any child of the 1970s or 1980s can agree that there was maybe one kid in your entire grade with divorced parents. Now many times there are only one or two children in a classroom with a single family home. Can you imagine how teachers have to manage the new co-parenting schedules, the pick-ups, drop-offs, the communicating with two houses? The school’s copy machine used to be filled with copied tests or upcoming lessons, now it’s filled with copied parental communications and waivers.
If you are one of those parents currently dreaming of finalizing your divorce, or just filing for it, allow me the privilege of describing to you what life is like once you’re a “Suburb Single Parent.”
In most cases today the children’s visitation schedule is almost equally split, meaning you will miss up to half of your children’s lives. They become dual citizens of multiple homes, our new-age lil’ nomads, living out of the transition bag filled with previously worn clothes, bills, iPods and Nintendo 3DSs. Often when you do have a shared schedule, your time with your children is booked so full with sports to grandparent visits, you just end up driving your minivan or SUV the entire time. And let me not forget to describe the constant feeling of “competing” with your ex’s time spent, the whole “Mommy took us to see a movie,” and “What special things are we going to do this weekend, Daddy?”
Your kids’ lives become a seven-day-a-week promotional tour with appearances at the mall, grandma’s and the local soccer field. The chaos rarely stops.
Then the chaos quickly turns to silence and, for myself, the “you” time is often the hardest. The once deafening constant commotion becomes your catch-up time for cleaning, laundry, grocery shopping and of course dating.
A common cause of divorces today is the desire to date someone new, find your heart or fall in love again. Imagine trying to sort out and sift through the douchery or potential psychos, to date them in your down kid-free time, all while trying to protect your most loved ones. It is nearly impossible. When simultaneous “kid-free” weekends are a plus to your new relationship, then we as a society are doomed.
My advice for those considering trying the greener grass is to not. If there is even 1 percent of you that believes you still love or could possibly fall back in love with your current spouse, than it should become your mission to explore every avenue on how to make your marriage work.
Your children deserve the effort. Our babies will never know the strength of love in a single-family home if we continue to quit the marriage the second we’re bored, or when our high school crush “pokes” us on Facebook.
The only lessons these quick divorces are teaching our children are how to properly organize a social calendar and how not to offend mom or dad.
They have been told they were made with love, but mommy and daddy no longer love each other. As if love somehow has an expiration date.
If you do not want to repeat the same mistakes I’ve made, simply learn how to love someone other than yourself. Use Facebook as a medium to show how much you love each other and this will ultimately discourage the random “pokings” from past lives. Instead of texting each other all day while working, have a no communication order, like they did before the cellphone.
Grandma and grandpa have been married for 50 years because grandpa didn’t drive grandma crazy all day with texts. This communication freeze will allow you to have an actual conversation at the dinner table.
My last words of advice are: Do not cheat. Physical or emotional affairs only screw your children. Although the orgasm or attention fills a recently created void, it simultaneously put an even bigger void on your children’s perception of love. And no matter how many times you tell them you love them, your actions have told them more.
I am sorry, Kelli.
Email columnist Jeremy Baumhower at email@example.com.