Monday, March 12, 2012

What Stability Really Means

This post sat in my drafts forgotten for a while, but was originally inspired by the thoughtful discussion at Since My Divorce on the decision to rent or own post-divorce. Divorce attorney Brian E. Arnold's comment was something that took me a few years to learn:

You...think that the kids will care, when all they really care about is going to the same schools and having the same friends. It is a hard road, but you can do it.
One of the things we're told over and over as we're going through the separation/divorce process is how critical it is to maintain stability for the children. Unfortunately, like the phrase "parental involvement" in education, no one really tells us what that means.

Stability does not mean you spend more than you can afford to keep a house or a child's extra-curricular activity. Our kids are far better off having financially stable parents that are secure in their ability to provide food and shelter.

Stability does not mean you force everyone to spend a holiday together while Mom and Dad are tense and uncomfortable, and the children just wait for the fight to ensue. Stability means that the children can relax and enjoy the company of Mom or Dad. (If you are amicable, by all means, enjoy, but don't force something if you or your ex is not ready yet.)

Stability does not mean you hold yourself back from trying something new now that you're "free," like a new job or going back to school. If you're feeling confident and proud of yourself, your kids will feel confident and proud, too. Even if it means a change in the schedule.

While very few people look forward to divorce, we do it because we truly believe it's the best thing for ourselves and our children. We want to do right by them, and because of our best intentions, we take on sacrifices eagerly. Sometimes, too eagerly. Sometimes, our children would be happy for change that creates real stability.


BigLittleWolf said...

This is such a huge discussion, April. And a very rich one (no pun intended).

We are indeed all told how much stability matters, but over the years what I've found, for my children, is that it mattered more for one (in the traditional sense of same home, schools, friends, etc.) than for the other.

Or at least - it appeared that way.

As to financial security, I hear what you're saying, but I will disagree somewhat - not that financial security isn't desirable, but that sometimes trading off financial security for education or other opportunities is a choice we make among the "lesser of evils" in hoping that some good comes out of our impossible financial predicament.

In other words, if you're facing financial disaster anyway, and it's a matter of degree, some of us choose to do whatever we must to enable our kids to have a shot.

It isn't what we want; it may be a decision forced upon us. We take on the burden as a matter of individual choice, because the other parent will not and we don't want our kids to pay that price.

Is it right? Is it fair? Would a different path be better? We each answer those questions differently, I suspect. And in part, because our kids are all so different.

No "one size fits all."

April said...

BLW, yes, we do indeed sacrifice some financial security to provide better education for our children, and I'm no different. Not only am I sacrificing in time, but certainly gas $$ when it comes to commuting 3 hours a day to take my daughters to better schools.
Having said that, I'm not willing to go into hundreds of thousands of dollars of debt to put them in private schools.
As always, it's finding that right balance :)