In defence of our broken home

It was a cold Sunday afternoon in January over two years ago when my ex and I first discussed separation.  Things were bad.  He taunted me.  “What about Cygnet? You don’t want Cygnet to come from a broken home.” 

My ex didn’t believe that I would have the courage to leave, and after googling “broken home” that night, I nearly didn’t.

Broken home children are ‘five times more likely to suffer mental troubles’  said the Daily Mail

Children from broken homes ‘nine times more likely to commit crimes’ said Conservative politician Iain Duncan Smith

I’ll spare you the rest of the depressing headlines, but suffice to say that children from broken homes: were more likely to be disruptive; were less likely to succeed at school; were less likely to be able to form loving and long-term relationships in later life; were more likely to lie; were more likely to develop addictions to drink and drugs.   The list goes on. 

I really didn’t want Cygnet to come from a broken home.   I still don’t want Cygnet to come from a broken home. 

According to the tatty Oxford English Dictionary on my bookshelf, a broken home is “a family in which the parents are divorced or separated”. 

Cygnet’s parents are separated.  Had we ever walked down the aisle to get married, we would have been divorced by now. Ours is, according to the dictionary definition, a broken home.

Looking around my home this evening, having just fed, bathed and read a story to Cygnet before putting him to bed, I cannot see how our home is broken.  I even battled to clean his teeth goddammit – not an easy task with a teething toddler!

broken home

In our home we play with cars, we plant broad-beens and watch them grow in pots on the window-sill, we bake muffins (okay, I admit we burn muffins), we read books, we eat together, we chat about our days and we play football near the garages.  We also go to the park, the theatre, the cinema, gym club, the local farm and London museums.  Cygnet is a really lucky child.

I know that activities don’t un-break a home.  Probably more importantly, in our home there are no arguments, there is no resentment, there is no jealousy, there is no fighting.  The atmosphere is calm and relaxed (except when Cygnet accidentally does a poo on the carpet and I have to take a deep breath). 

Cygnet stays overnight with his father twice a week.  He spends a full day with his dad every weekend.  They do fun stuff.  When there is tension between me and Cygnet’s father we do our utmost not to show it at handover.  It can be really tough sometimes, but at the moment, I think we are just about doing okay at this co-parenting thing.

Surely broken homes are the ones where parents are always fighting or where parents don’t talk for years.  Surely broken homes can also be found in places where everyone lives in the same home and under the same roof.     

I wonder whether the number of actually failed marriages (the ones in which the relationship just isn’t working) is significantly higher than the number of legally failed marriages (the ones which end in divorce).  I am sure that there are many couples that stay together “for the sake of the children”.

There is an emotional cost to divorce and separation, I know, I went through it, but I also believe that there is also a significant emotional cost to doing nothing.  I found my separation really tough.  It was really emotionally challenging. At times, I didn’t know who I was anymore.  At times, I didn’t think I could cope.

Looking back, I can see that the home that we left was the broken home.  Our home now is whole, strong and full of love. 

We may be single parents, but that doesn’t mean that our homes are broken.   

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Keep Calm and Carry On Linking Sunday


  1. April 28, 2017 / 9:31 am

    Pen, it sounds like you are doing an amazing job. Ignore the Daily Mail and the likes of IDS! There is so much damaging and unkind language out there. The fact the term ‘broken home’ is still being bandied around by the narrow-minded Tories and their staunch allies the (hate) Mail makes me really angry. It’s time we consigned that term to the archaic ‘not relevant in our times’ scrap-heap. Because it’s awful that parents like you, who are doing your very best to do what’s right, are made to feel like how you live is in any way ‘broken’ or stigmatised. I’d like to hope we live in more enlightened times, and I for one admire anyone who, like you have, does whatever it takes to create a better life for themselves and their kids. Power to you.
    Emma recently posted…How to promote your blog using Coschedule (the simple, stress-free way!)My Profile

    • thesingleswan
      April 28, 2017 / 6:43 pm


      thank you so much for such a lovely comment. I agree that ‘broken’ home should be consigned to the scrap heap. It is only used by narrow minded people. Loads of love Pen x

    • thesingleswan
      April 30, 2017 / 8:01 pm

      Thank you Emma. I appreciate your supportive comment. Broken home is definitely the term I hate most as a single parent. Hey ho. Pen x

  2. April 29, 2017 / 10:51 am

    Every home is different, every family is different, every situation different! Headlines like the ones you saw really frustrate me because how can we make such broad observations?! It sounds to me like you’re doing an amazing job, and co-parenting is much more accurate than ‘broken home’ #Blogstravaganza

    • thesingleswan
      April 30, 2017 / 7:59 pm

      Thanks Aleena. Pen x

  3. April 29, 2017 / 10:14 pm

    To be honest I wouldn’t even think about the daily mail and the other headlines. These are such broad assumptions. Everyone is different and just because you come from a broken home doesn’t make you any worse off. My husband has come from a broken home, he suffered depression. Worked hard to passed his degree and is now an engineering manager. You sound as if you’re doing an amazing job and smashing it at co-parenting. #kcacols

    • thesingleswan
      April 30, 2017 / 7:58 pm

      Thank you Kelly-Anne. Pen x

  4. April 29, 2017 / 10:44 pm

    Sounds like yours is an incredibly loving home and Cygnet is indeed very lucky. Ignore the headlines and the statistics and especially the Daily Mail! Thank you for linking up to #kcacols and sharing such an important post.

    • thesingleswan
      April 30, 2017 / 7:57 pm

      Thank you Kate. Pen x

  5. April 30, 2017 / 11:03 am

    You home definitely does not sound broken to me. Ridiculous headlines like that are not a true representative of single parent families, you’re working damn hard and it already sounds like it’s paying off! Thanks so much for sharing with #Blogstravaganza xx
    The Tale of Mummyhood recently posted…#Blogstravaganza #17My Profile

    • thesingleswan
      April 30, 2017 / 7:56 pm

      thank you for such a lovely comment. Pen x

  6. April 30, 2017 / 3:19 pm

    A broken home, to me, is more than parents being separated. A broken home often comes with a relationship that doesn’t work…even if two parents stay together for the sake of their children, it is still broken. So many people say that children pick up on more than we realise, and I firmly stand by that. A child is going to suffer more if they are living with people who can’t get on. There will be tension and so much negativity. Much better to have two happy homes with parents who are no longer together, than one unhappy home which truly is broken.

    Rachel recently posted…Rediscovering an Old LoveMy Profile

    • thesingleswan
      April 30, 2017 / 7:56 pm

      Hi Rachel,

      Thank you for your comment. It won’t surprise you to hear that I absolutely agree with you. Pen x

    • thesingleswan
      May 1, 2017 / 8:44 pm

      Thank you Rachel. I appreciate your kind words. Pen x

  7. May 1, 2017 / 1:38 pm

    your last line made the point that I was planning on commenting while reading this post. I know of many people who have come from “broken homes” and a good deal of them were situations where the parents were still together. I think its an inaccurate term. You had the courage to do what you thought was best, don’t ever second guess that #KCACOLS
    jeremy@thirstydaddy recently posted…T Shirts and TattoosMy Profile

    • thesingleswan
      May 1, 2017 / 8:44 pm

      Thank you Jeremy. This was a really nice comment to read. I appreciate it. Pen x

  8. May 1, 2017 / 9:07 pm

    I definitely do not like the term broken home! It sounds like you’re doing a fab job at co parenting. My parents divorced at an early age, I wish they had your consideration not to argue in front of us! I definitely don’t see my childhood as broken though, and know your child won’t either. #kcacols
    That Mummy Blog recently posted…From Baby to ToddlerMy Profile

    • thesingleswan
      May 3, 2017 / 9:56 pm

      Thank you. That’s really nice of you to say. Pen x

  9. May 6, 2017 / 1:17 pm

    It doesn’t sound like you have a broken home at all and I hate this term! No one really ever knows what godson behind closed doors and it doesn’t matter who is behind those doors to make it a happy home. Having one parent at home doesn’t mean it’s broken. x #KCACOLS
    Laura – Dear Bear and Beany recently posted…A Simple Daffodil Craft…My Profile

    • thesingleswan
      May 6, 2017 / 9:41 pm

      Thank you Laura. Pen x

  10. May 8, 2017 / 6:40 am

    You’re very brave, I don’t believe in staying in an unhappy relationship for the children. Sounds like you’re doing a brilliant job as a single parent and it’s not for anybody else to judge what is a ‘broken home’ except your Son 🙂 #KCACOLS
    Amie recently posted…Stay At Home vs. Working MumMy Profile

    • thesingleswan
      May 8, 2017 / 8:13 pm

      Thank you Amie. Pen x

  11. May 9, 2017 / 11:31 pm

    This was BRILLIANT.
    Such a great post, such an important message.

    • thesingleswan
      May 10, 2017 / 8:33 pm

      thanks. pen x

  12. May 10, 2017 / 11:17 am

    Behind closed doors there are probably a lot of people living in a “broken home”. I think this term is a bit outdated now. No matter what the family set up, if you are happy things are not broken.
    Ali Duke recently posted…April Review & May GoalsMy Profile

    • thesingleswan
      May 10, 2017 / 8:32 pm

      I agree. thanks. Pen x

  13. July 28, 2017 / 9:52 am

    I am impressed Pen by your definition of a broken home! Being a family law attorney I could not explain this to my clients in such a simple way, to whom I try to drive home the point to separate amicably for the sake of their kids. Your case is a precedent of sorts for me and I will use this blog to convince them more effectively.
    Dan Winster recently posted…Grounds for Divorce in TexasMy Profile

    • thesingleswan
      July 29, 2017 / 7:32 pm

      Thank you Dan, feel free to recommend my blog to your clients. Pen x

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