My eldest child is from a previous relationship, and she lives between two homes. She spends three days a week with her dad, and four days a week with me. As a child of divorce myself, I’ve always been mindful that she might be going through life at a disadvantage. I remember the tension between my parents. I remember the stigma that came from being from a ‘broken home’, and I remember how awkward it was trying to live one life in two places.
But it’s occurred to me recently that we might be instilling a whole different set of challenges in children of divorce in this generation. Divorce is so common now that the stigma is no longer a problem. Every second kid in my daughter’s class at school lives between two homes.
And my daughter’s father and I get along incredibly well. There is no tension there whatsoever. Sometimes we go for a meal together, or attend an event – something that was unheard of when I was a child. When my father came to pick me up from my mother’s house, he would sit out the front with his engine running and toot his horn to let us know he was there. Then my brother and I would scurry outside to ensure our parents wouldn’t have to risk speaking to each other.
But is it possible to spend too much quality time together?
I know that sounds slightly loopy, so let me explain.
When my daughter is home with me, I want to spend as much quality time with her as I can. That means cooking together and sharing meals, going to the movies, going to festivals or the beach, playing board games, or just hanging out together. Of course, she also has to do her homework and sometimes she has friends over too.
But what she hardly ever sees is the mundanity of housework.
I’d much rather make the most of our time together when she’s here, so when she’s not here, I get the boring stuff out of the way. I do the grocery shopping, I clean the bathroom, I vacuum the floor. You get the drift.
And when I was talking to her father recently, he told me he does the same thing. He doesn’t want to waste time that he could be spending with our daughter cleaning his car or paying his bills for the week.
But the problem with this is that my daughter isn’t learning to do those things. Sure, she’s learning to seize the day, to be completely present and to spend time with people you love. And those are wonderful life lessons. But the poor girl has no idea how the floor goes from being messy to being clean.
It’s not a problem now, but it will be when she leaves home and tries to live either on her own or with other people. So it’s time to bring some mundanity back into her life. It’s time for her to learn that sometimes you have to forego fun for stuff that just needs to get done.
Because that’s life, and it’s my job to teach her.