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!
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.