I’m now at this stage in my adulthood where I’m watching my younger peers grow up. The twenty-somethings I partied with when I was a divorced thirty-something are now becoming divorced thirty-somethings themselves. The ones who stayed together seem to think their seven-year-old kids are sooooo blasé (I’d have the same, querulous look on my face if my parents had tried to impress me with a “Bohemian Rhapsody” sing-along in the minivan en route to soccer practice). I’m watching them trying to cling to cool or trying to act progressively in the wake of the shitstorm of resentment and confusion that awaits them once the papers are signed and their new normalcy begins to settle in. Marriage, kids, divorce. It’s the cycle of American life. These days, I just watch it. My court dates are over. My second marriage is solid. My stepkids are becoming independent young men. Last week, my husband voiced a retirement dream. When you start talking retirement, well, you’ve officially entered the realm of the observer.
My recently-divorced friend has decided to share the family house with the kids while she and her ex-husband take turns entering it once a week and being single parents. Somewhere outside of that house, they have dwellings that they occupy during their off weeks. They pay for a mortgage, and they pay for rent, all so the kids can grow up in one house. Seems a wholesome idea on paper until you consider the human element of such a compromise—the adults, the parents, in this scenario have denied everyone the right to move on. First, divorce has always been a financially-crippling institution, at least for one of the parties involved. Now, the parties have grown progressive enough to financially cripple everyone. Who’s saving for college when you got two rents to pay? Additionally, these kids will grow up in a far less idyllic environment than their parents think they will because they will have no idea what kind of lives their parents lead outside of the shared house. Traditionally, when parents divorce, the kids grow accustomed to two households—Dad’s and Mom’s. They might like one more than the other, or they might dislike the back-and-forth, or they might figure out the perks in each, but they will always know that their divorced parents lead different lives and that they are a witness and a part of each of those lives. How’s that work when the kids live in the “family” house and Mom and Dad live elsewhere? What’s the scenario? It could be one of total deprivation, or big mystery. Their parents’ “home” lives could become big secrets to them like the lives of headmistresses at boarding schools during weekends and vacations. And let’s not ignore the elephant in the room—thirty-somethings will marry AGAIN.
Yes. Divorcees tend to do that at any age, but especially in the wild thirties. I remarried when I was thirty-eight. I didn’t have any kids of my own, but my new husband had two. He never asked me to spend half of my time in his apartment and the other half at the family house. In fact, I only entered the house where he and his ex-wife had started their family twice. Why should I have lived there half the time? With her pictures on the wall, and their utensils in the kitchen, and their mattress in the bedroom? How else you gonna do it when you rotate shifts into the family house? My friend… is fucked. I wish she had been a closer friend now because I then I could have been there from the beginning. But she wasn’t. She’ll just have to figure this all out in the upcoming decade. Hats off to the new divorcees. Hats off to my friends who still have kids in car seats. I’m gonna sit back and watch and maybe say my piece (if I think it’ll make a difference), and the rest of the time I’ll keep my eye out for tricked-out travel vans that my husband and I can live in while we explore the highways, post-retirement.