Michelle Obama’s ‘Divorced Dad’ Comment Speaks to Stereotypes About Divorce
Former First Lady Michelle Obama caught some flack recently when she compared what our country’s going through under Trump to living with “ divorced dad. “
“We come from a broken family. We are a teenager where, you know, we’re a little unsettled, you know, and having good parents, you know, is tough. Sometimes you spend weekends with divorced dad often that feels like it’s fun, but then you get sick. That’s what America is going through. We’re kind of living with divorced dad, right?”
Divorce is hard enough without resorting to stereotypes about divorce and divorced moms and dads. Because there a lot of us out there. While the divorce rate has been dropping slighty for those in their 20s through 40s (give them time!), it’s been rising for those 50 and older. And of the couples who tied the knot in 2013, 4 in 10 involved at least one partner who’d been married before.
In other words, divorce is everywhere. So why do we still diss divorced moms and dads, and talk of divorce as a “ failed” marriage?
While divorced moms have some pretty obnoxious stereotypes, dads have more — in part because there aren’t as many studies about divorced dads as there are about divorced moms, who traditionally have had sole or the bulk of the custody. We don’t really know how they’re doing.
And most fathers want to be more hands-on than having the kids every other weekend and a few weeknights a month. Divorced dads increasingly want more meaning and connection with their kids.
But here’s the thing — while women absolutely want Dad to be more hands-on with the kids while they’re married (although they don’t necessarily want them to have an equal say when it comes to parenting decisions, and that’s a topic for another day), they often don’t feel the same way once they split.
A few years ago, I questioned if dads are equal in marriage but not in divorce and asked in a poll if divorced men have it harder than divorced women. Perhaps not surprisingly, men said divorced men have it harder — but so did many women.
Making it better
Clearly, the discussion shouldn’t be about who has it harder, but about how can we make it be better so not only divorced moms and dads can thrive, but their kids can, too.
That’s what we really want, right — for the kids to be OK.
We’ve seen a number of divorce selfies in recent years and more high-profile divorced couples parting kindly, but it’s going to take more than that. We need to reframe the way we talk about divorced moms and dads and divorce in general. Which leads me to another thing Michelle Obama said, which no one seemed to pick up on — “We come from a broken family.”
No, Michelle. Families sometimes change form. They bend and add and subtract and shapeshift, and can even go through some crazy-ass contortions. But as long as the parents still love their kids and do whatever they can to keep them safe, sheltered, feed, nurtured and supported, then I really don’t care what the family form looks like.
It’s just not going to be broken.
Want to individualize your marriage? (Of course you do!) Then read The New I Do: Reshaping Marriage for Skeptics, Realists and Rebels (Seal Press). You can support your local indie bookstore or order it on Amazon.
Originally published at http://omgchronicles.vickilarson.com