The Effect On The Kids.....

Just a different view on why staying together may not be the best thing for the kids.

Carly Simon:

My father sits at night with no lights on
His cigarette glows in the dark.
The living room is still;
I walk by, no remark.
I tiptoe past the master bedroom where
My mother reads her magazines.
I hear her call sweet dreams,
But I forgot how to dream.

But you say it's time we moved in together
And raised a family of our own, you and me -
Well, that's the way I've always heard it should be:
You want to marry me, we'll marry.

My friends from college they're all married now;
They have their houses and their lawns.
They have their silent noons,
Tearful nights, angry dawns.
Their children hate them for the things they're not;
They hate themselves for what they are-
And yet they drink, they laugh,
Close the wound, hide the scar.

But you say it's time we moved in together
And raised a family of our own, you and me -
Well, that's the way I've always heard it should be:
You want to marry me, we'll marry.

You say we can keep our love alive
Babe - all I know is what I see -
The couples cling and claw
And drown in love's debris.
You say we'll soar like two birds through the clouds,
But soon you'll cage me on your shelf -
I'll never learn to be just me first
By myself.

Well O.K., it's time we moved in together
And raised a family of our own, you and me -
Well, that's the way I've always heard it should be,
You want to marry me, we'll marry,
We'll marry.

RandDannesk RandDannesk 46-50, M 7 Responses Dec 14, 2012

Your Response


There is a BIG difference between staying together WITH the kids and staying together FOR the kids.

Staying together WITH the kids is what each one of us (married with kids) hopes, plans and expects to happen. It implies a loving and secure relationship between the two spouses, which extends to their children. It is the way families ought to be.

Staying together FOR the kids is what happens when the relationship between the spouses has soured. The marriage is effectively hostage to the kids. Ironically, the kids are not the ones enforcing this hostage situation - the parents are! Parents do this for the best of intentions - but the children are generally NOT the beneficiaries IMO.

Happy children come from happy homes. Happy homes can be made up of all sorts of combinations - but one combination is NOT going to be happy. That is where two people stay together "for the kids".

There are a number of likely scenarios where this staying together "for the kids" happens.

In the first, the parents are obviously miserable together. The kids learn that marriage makes you unhappy. It might make one spouse unhappy whilst the other seems fine - a common scenario in SM. So kids learn that it is fine for Daddies to be happy but mothers must be miserable - or vice versa.

Kids in these situations feel very pressured because they "know" everything is not all right - and, being children and therefore ego-centric, they think it must be THEIR fault that Mummy and/or Daddy are unhappy.

Older teenage children feel resentment that their parents have hostaged themselves on their children's behalf - when the children did not get any say in the matter.

In the second scenario, the parents do everything possible to prevent the children knowing there is conflict and disagreement. These children may grow up unaware of the true situation in their parents' marriage. Imagine their shock when, after they graduate (or move out of home, or marry, etc.) their parents split up! Everything they believed to be true about their lives is found to be false. This is a terrible thing for ANYONE to discover.

Consider this: it is for this same reason that adoptive parents are strongly encouraged to TELL their child s/he is adopted. The effect of discovering at a future stage of life that what you believed to be true about yourself and your family is actually NOT true can cause life long psychological damage.

Many couples endeavouring to achieve this second scenario cannot truly pull it off. They may not have knock-down, drag it out fights - but there is coolness (even coldness) in their interactions. They may be scrupulously polite to each other but there is no spontaneous affection or light hearted banter. Their children grow up thinking marriage is overly serious and not very happy for either spouse . . . .

These children may actually be relieved to discover later in life that their parents stayed together "for the children" - because it explains much about their family that is different from other, happier families. But they certainly will not be grateful for this!!

The best families for children are those where both spouses are happy and make their marriage work. It doesn't have to be perfect! It will have all the normal strains of everyday living. But at its core is a loving bond between the parents, which extends to their children.

If this loving bond is seriously damaged (cannot be truly repaired) or has ceased to exist, the cornerstone of the "happy family" is missing. You cannot build a "happy family" on something that is NOT there. Pretending that you can do so is lying to yourself, your spouse AND your children.

Children ARE affected by divorce - in many cases, in negative ways. And it is this thought that keeps couples together "for the children". The tragic irony is that this action is NO better for the children than divorce! The outcomes might be different - but there will still be negative fallout.

One factor many parents overlook in making this decision is that their children are actually only children for about one fifth of their lives. And the remaining four fifths are just as much our parental responsibility as their childhoods. Children who grow up in an unhappy home have no basis for developing an understanding of what constitutes a genuine happy home. As such, they are very likely to repeat the problems of their parents' marriage in their own.

These problems may vary in nature, but they have one common ingredient - they are UNhappy.

Children who grow up in divorced households DO have to cope with a range of issues that are avoided by those living in a single family unit. But these are not necessarily all "bad". One GREAT advantage IMO is that they see their parents doing the following:

* taking personal responsibility

* resolving a difficult problem

* actively seeking a better life for themselves AND their children

* modelling these behaviours to their children.

In the "worst case scenario" one parent in a diivorced family will seek to downgrade and denigrate the other parent. However, such people will probably do the same within the marriage too! Even in the least successful of divorces, the children will have a chance to see one parent making a new and better life for her/himself - even if the other parent choses to wallow in misery forever more!

The greatest responsibility in a divorce is to the CHILDREN. Some divorced parents seem to think they can walk away from their children as they did from their spouses. But such parents are very unlikely to be good parents in ANY Scenario. So a happy single parent family where one parent is terminally missing may be no worse than having one disengaged unhappy parent living in the family home.

Thank you for writing this. I've been feeling guilty about my divorce... feeling like I chose my own happiness over my children's. I needed to remember that I had their best interests at heart as well and hear that someone else agrees.

ragnard, yes.....this is a big part of my decision process. I've heard lots of people say "but breaking up the family?!" as if that's the worst thing in the world.

the life we live isn't any ideal or less than ideal family life. I'd like to give my child an ideal home life on a day to day basis. with happy, well adjusted parents who love their lives rather than spend the better amount of their waking time in each other's company if not outright arguing, making subtle and less than subtle digs, snide comments, and snarky not quite under their breath crap. (not so much me, mostly my husband: and lately he's taken to trying to bring her in to our arguments as his defense.)

so yeah in most cases personally I think it's better to split and show our children a much better way to live. I came from a single mom who married the wrong man when I was 10--she should've left many yrs ago. and I think we can say a lot of us here, or our spouses, or both, had similar childhood experiences.

time to break that chain.

I like these lyrics as well.....

It's hard to wake up, when the shades have been pulled shut
This house is haunted, it's so pathetic, it makes no sense at all
I'm ripe with things to say, the words rot and fall away
What stupid poem could fix this home, I'd read it every day

So here's your holiday,
hope you enjoy it this time, you gave it all away.
It was mine, so when you're dead and gone,
will you remember this night? twenty years now lost.
It's not right.

Their anger hurts my ears, been running strong for seven years
Rather than fix the problems, they never solve them, it makes no sense at all
I see them everyday, we get along so why can't they?
If this is what he wants, and it's what she wants, then why is there so much pain?

So here's your holiday,
hope you enjoy it this time, you gave it all away.
It was mine, so when you're dead and gone,
will you remember this night? twenty years now lost
It's not right.

So here's your holiday,
hope you enjoy it this time, you gave it all away.
It was mine, so when you're dead and gone,
will you remember this night? twenty years now lost.
It's not right
It's not right
It's not right
It's not right

Coincidentally, my wife told me today that, while she will not hold me back if I go away, she still thinks having me around (implied, even if unhappy) is better for the kid overall than not having a father at all. I told her the experts do not agree with that, but that she is responsible for the kid's welfare and should use her best but informed judgment. More in a separate story soon.

Staying may well be better than not having a father at all....but that doesn't have to be the case. You can still be a good parent apart. In fact, it's vital.

Yes, Elk.

Oh God that song has always depressed the hell out of me. Probably because its so real.

Oh I've never heard this one but I love it, thank you

It's sad.. but makes you feel. If you haven't yet, listen to the song itself. She has such a beautiful voice.

I heard this on the radio this morning, all I could think about is how kids of unloving parents grow up to view what love and marriage are supposed to be. Many have made comments on how sticking it out would not help the kids in the end. This song just seemed to hit that mark.

The song's irony is that many couples want it played at their wedding. I don't think they've actually listened to the verses; rather, they are entranced by Carole King's voice and the refrain.