The divorce rates are incredibly high during the emptying of the nest. Couples who allowed the children to the be center of the universe find themselves in a whole new world when Johnny isn’t there to divert them from the fact that they haven’t maintained a shred of meaning in their marriage. The lack of intimacy and the lack of common ground is actually cultivated the moment Johnny is born.
From the birth of their first child, parents are trained that their worth as a parent is tied directly to the value they place on the baby. Society says that good mom’s are selfless and make their children their priority and the best way to nurture a child is to make certain it knows that it is the focal point in the family. While it is important that an infant receive massive amounts of attention, some families are unable to let go of the all-baby-all-the-time focus and the child/children become the constant focus throughout their childhood.
Along the way, the parents sacrifice the primary relationship- the one that started it all. In the name of great parenting, moms and dads neglect their intimacy, their friendships and their partnerships. The overwhelm of parenting creates rifts and causes growing pains that become chasms of unmet needs and underwhelmed lives. All along the bulk of the resources, both financial and emotional, go to the children.
One of the outcomes may be children who are ill fit to face a world where they must wait, earn their way or dare I say….. go without.
Some marriages crumble before the diapers come off. Husbands who expected more attention, wives who resented the lack of help. Other marriages hold on for the sake of the kids, their reputations or for financial reasons.
AND THEN THE KIDS GROW UP
I see it all the time. Families who start to lose it Sept of their kids’ Senior year in high school. The anticipation of the slow cutting of the cord. It worsens on the eve of graduation and is at it’s peak the day they leave for college. Weeping mothers fill the parking lots of university dorms everywhere.
Do not get me wrong, it is awful to transition form being a kid-at-home-mom to a woman with no reason to cook dinner and wash ten loads of laundry……. or is it?
When the kids have been the center of the universe and the marriage is an afterthought that clung to life by duct tape and a values system of “married for life”, things will get really hard when the nest is empty. The silence is deafening, The collapsed social activities, the displaced need to be needed….shall I go on?
One day you wake up and realize, I put all my eggs in my metaphorical kid-basket simultaneously when my egg hit my uterus.
The years of marriage neglect are heightened when you realize you have little to nothing in common with the person you married because you never fostered anything besides your kids. You failed to launch a successful marriage the moment the pregnancy test turned positive.
Here’s a great example of how American Parenting is Killing the American Marriage written by Dr. Danielle Teller, who, may I say is a metaphorical genius. She compares our kids-first parenting styles to religion and she is so right. Lookie Here:
In the 21st century, most Americans marry for love. We choose partners who we hope will be our soul mates for life. When children come along, we believe that we can press pause on the soul mate narrative, because parenthood has become our new priority and religion. We raise our children as best we can, and we know that we have succeeded if they leave us, going out into the world to find partners and have children of their own. Once our gods have left us, we try to pick up the pieces of our long neglected marriages and find new purpose.
Together with Dr. Astro Teller, she wrote an awesome book called Sacred Cows: The Truth About Divorce and Marriage.
You can avoid this fate. You can stop the trajectory. I have had enough experience with divorcing couples to share some easy tips to stop the child-focused insanity!
- From the moment your child is born, get a sitter- I don’t care if the sitter is your mom, your sister or a paid service. I don’t care if you can’t bear the thought of leaving your child in someone’s care. Do it. Date your spouse, go to the store with them. Go wash the car, buy underwear and nursing bras or get a pizza. Do things without our kids and make each other a priority.
- Learn to communicate effectively- sleep deprived parents can’t hear anything but a babies cry. Strung out parents don’t know how to ask for what they need without a hint of sarcasm attached. It may be impossible to share your inner most feelings and desires when you are up at 3:00 a.m for a feeding, but a lot of marriage break downs start when children are infants, parents aren’t that mature and they start chipping away at the foundations laid at the wedding alter. Hurt feelings and unmet needs can cause parents to drift and they oftentimes back fill their needs by putting kids front and center. kids grow up. Learn to communicate effectively without causing harm when your kids are young and your marriage will be more solid as the kids pull out of infancy.
- Love your spouse more than your kids! What??? Yes, I know, I am about to come under fire. Love is boundless people. The best thing you can do for your child is to massively love their parent. Love their parent so much that it becomes the measurement they use to choose their own spouse. If your child grows up knowing their parent was in second place, it is easy for them to put themselves in second place when their time comes. What a waste to spend all that time raising a child up only to watch them settle for less.
- have a sex drive- I said it. It’s ok to watch Veggie Tales AND be a freak with your spouse. Just because you wear a matching bow with your toddler doesn’t mean you can’t compartmentalize your roles in the home and express yourself naturally sexually. Many couples suffer greatly from lack of intimacy when kids are the forefront of the lifestyle.
- Keep yourself together- One of the massive indications that kids are the priority is the lack of self-care with mom and dad. Gaining excessive weight and becoming unhealthy are tied to letting the kids’ agenda be the primary tone. No gym, no healthy foods is often the wayside byproduct of a parent who says “I don’t have enough time.”
- Hire help- Parents who think that they have to do it all deny themselves the fruits of their labor. In the name of being Super Mom, women stay up too late doing never ending chores that nobody acknowledges and stir up HUGE resentments. These resentments bleed over into the marriage and spiral into withholding sex, communication and turning the focus on kids to avoid the pain. Hire help. Call your mom. Find a way to offset the overwhelm.
- Read about relationships- If you are a great parent, chances are you are taking in information about parenting. Talking to others about tips and such. Put as much effort into Googling phrases like “How to communicate with my spouse” or “date night tips for couples” as you do kid focused phrases and put the information into action.
- Talk to your elders- Even if your parents divorced, they have valuable information and hindsight that will save you from their brand of heart ache. Unless a divorce was due to violence or some other deviant issue, they will have invaluable information and empathy about any struggle you are having.
Empty nest divorce is avoidable. You can put as much effort into raising your marriage as you do your kids and when the kids leave, your life is brand new- just like theirs.