At first glance, the article seems hopeful. Divorce has "lost its groove," the New York Times headline proclaims, or at least it has among the hipster-Brooklyn crowd.
“What happened?” asks the writer Claire Dederer in her memoir, “Poser,” which examines life as a new mother in Seattle. In the 1970s, “the feminists, the hippies, the protesters, the cultural elite all said, It’s O.K. to drop out.” In contrast, “We made up our minds, my brother and I and so many of the grown children of the runaway moms, that we would put our families first and ourselves second. We would be good, all the time. We would stay married, no matter what, and drink organic milk.”
“The notion of divorce has become one of failure again,” said 42-year-old Stacy Morrison of Park Slope, an author of another divorce memoir. “It used to be, ‘You’re free, rock on!’ Now it’s, ‘You couldn’t make it work, you failed.’ ”
The article continued on by declaring, "Among a certain demographic, marriage is viewed as something that, like work-life balance, yoga and locavore cuisine, needs to be continually worked at and improved upon."
Bizarre comparisons aside, the piece does a good job discussing last year's study by the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia, which revealed a trend of college-educated Americans divorcing at significantly lower rates than the rest of the population. For instance:
Now that the children of a divorce generation have grown up and have children of their own, it is inevitable some will divorce, despite their worst fears and best intentions. Most marriages that end in divorce fall apart in the first 10 years. But according to the widely cited Marriage Project study last year, among college-educated couples who married in the mid-1990s, the likelihood of divorcing in the first 10 years of marriage fell 27 percent compared with college-educated couples who married in the 1970s.
In a 2008 survey, only 17 percent of college-educated Americans agreed with the statement, “Marriage has not worked out for most people I know,” compared with 58 percent among the less educated.
So that's the good news. What I find unsettling is the article's conclusion.
Because these "children of divorce" -- the latchkey kids of the '70s and '80s -- suffered profoundly the effects of their parents' split, they will go to great lengths to ensure their own children's happiness after they undergo a divorce, themselves. At what point, though, does this just because a band-aid solution for the parents' own wounds -- assuaging their guilt for putting their children through a similar situation to what they faced in their youth?
Dr. Monet, of Mount Holyoke, and her ex-husband eat dinner together on Fridays with their 9-year-old son and 6-year-old daughter. Birthdays and holidays are spent in each other’s company.
“Once I realized that we could raise the kids together and still be a family,” said Dr. Monet, who started a blog called Postcards From a Peaceful Divorce last year, “I realized it wasn’t divorce that’s devastating, it’s the way divorce is handled.”
When Nina Collins, 41, a former literary agent, divorced her husband, she said both her lawyer and therapist emphasized: “Divorce is completely different from when your parents split up. If your kids feel loved and they don’t see hideous behavior, they’ll be fine.”
“Of course, there’s still trauma,” Ms. Collins said. “But I think it’s gotten a lot more humane for everyone.”
A common belief is that if the divorce is done properly, the children benefit more from the separation than from living in a family with a compromised marriage. Ms. Gilman, echoing the sentiments of many divorced mothers, said, “In the end, I actually think it was a very positive thing we did for the kids.”
I'll be clear -- if it's a matter of kids living in an abusive environment, then their safety is absolutely a priority. But, "humane" or not, let's not glamorize the fact that even modern-day children of divorce still lack the stability and security of a two-parent home, as well as the love of their mother and father for each other that serves as a foundation for that home.
-- Elizabeth Hansen