How to divorce new-millennium style (and I love Kate Gosselin)


The generation leading the revolution in divorce is, of course, Gen X. The biggest change is that there is a generation of people getting a divorce who were more or less equals in parenting and in work. Baby boomers talked about it, but when the women went to work, they did all the housework and childcare as well. Not as true with Gen X.

Don’t get me wrong – women still do more than their male counterparts — for example, even women who have stay-at-home husbands are more involved in parenting than men who have stay-at-home wives. But Gen X men have been more involved in parenting than any generation before. And Gen X women have done a better job of mixing high-powered careers and family than anyone else.

There is another trend here as well: Gen X is much more family-focused than previous generations. Baby boomers talk about putting kids before work, but Gen X actually does it. For example, even with full-time jobs outside the home, Gen X spends more time playing with their kids than housewives did in the 1950s. (I can’t remember where I read this. I think it’s from Sylvia Hewlett.)

The result is a new sort of divorce, especially in the case where the woman earns more than the man. The woman cannot stop working. We already know the laws require the breadwinner before the divorce to continue to be the breadwinner. But when the difference between breadwinner and caretaker are not as clear cut, it’s not so clear where the kids should live.

What is clear is that kids need a home. We know from decades of research that one of the most traumatic parts of a divorce for kids is that they have no home. The parents each have a home and the kids shuttle between homes. This undermines the child’s sense of security in irreparable ways.

We also know how to solve the problem: The kids stay in the house and the parents shuttle between two houses. This preserves a sense of the family home. Parents are raising kids in their home and parents have a consistent set of house rules. It’s much harder on the parents, much better for the kids.

When my ex-husband and I started doing this, people thought we were nuts. But I knew, deep down, it was good for the kids. The kids feel almost like both parents live in the house. We have family dinners. And my ex has an apartment outside the house. The kids never stay there. My ex sleeps over (in his own bedroom) when I go out on an overnight date, and when I travel away on business. But the kids feel like I live with them.

I am always trying to figure out what is the best way to make this work. I am always wishing I could meet other people doing this because it feels right to do, even if there are not a lot of people in my world doing it. (I think Alexis Martin Neely does this on some level with her ex. Her videos documenting their arrangement — on her blog sidebar — are fun.)

Then the Gosselins separated. And while it’s sad they are not staying together, I can’t help looking forward to seeing how they run their lives. They are a great example of a couple who both earn a living and they do equal amounts of parenting (as equal as any) and now they will try to continue that divorced. The kids will have the house and each parent will live part-time away from the house.

I wonder what it will be like.

People are so hard on Kate Gosselin, but I think she is an anthem to Gen X women. She has taken charge of her career, and she has a job that accommodates her doing what she’s good at, and her making time to take care of kids. She’s an homage to the fertility mess Gen X has found itself in. She an homage to the fact that Gen X — not Gen Y — is the first generation to manage their children’s online identities, and she’s handling the issues with flair. And Kate is the quintessential Gen X mom getting post-baby plastic surgery.

I love that she has a husband who is fun and cute and not a demon but yet, the marriage still isn’t working out, because that’s what life is like. It’s not good and bad. It’s messy, and Kate’s figuring things out. Gen X is great with messy.

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  1. eliz
    eliz says:

    Just because Kate Gosselin embodies so many elements of a Gen X working mom going through a divorce hardly makes her a role model. I think she lucked into a career instead of creating one for herself. And the fun, cute husband? Ugh. But yeah, I see what you’re saying. Any changes to the Boomer model of divorce is a very good thing. Children need one home. Why did it take so long for people to figure that one out?

  2. Monica O'Brien
    Monica O'Brien says:

    I love Kate Gosselin for basically the same reasons, and I think it’s great that you point out kids need a home. I thought the Gosselin’s housing arrangement was unusual and mostly because they had 8 kids, but now it’s clear to me that all divorced families should live this way.

    I also like Jon Gosselin, but his mid-life crisis keeps me up at night. I think because I worry that my own husband will turn 32 and decide that he missed out on having two earrings and a motorcycle too.

    • Erin
      Erin says:

      Kate’s “career” as you call it, consists of the following: exploiting her kids for money, accepting $25k per speaking engagement whereby she lies about how she and her husband maintain a strong marriage, and finally, having her former best friend write a book for her but taking credit as if it were her own writing.

      I take it you’ve never seen her show.

  3. Shefaly
    Shefaly says:

    I had to look up who Kate Gosselin is/ was. Pop-culture’s country-specificity aside, is that a generalisable situation? Don’t 8 children create more work and a totally different dynamic from what 1 child or 2 children might create? How many Gen-X people have 8 children, or for that matter, even 1 child? It is not for nothing that the generation is also called the Baby Bust generation!

    That aside, the model of letting children have a home and have the parents take turns is great, definitely. After all it is not the children who get divorced, it is the adults who do. It is also a step away – in a good direction – from the selfishness that defines my generation. Some day I hope to hear from you the upsides of parents that stay together, happy and pursuing careers. I am an optimist, buoyed by observing around me that it IS a model that many use too. I say this because this is a work and life blog, right? If divorce has an impact on the employer-employee interaction, how about also examining the impact of non-divorce and how employees/ employers can leverage it.

    • MDB
      MDB says:

      Love the second paragraph of this comment—-it says it all.

      I’m not a fan of either Gosselin (Kate did just luck into her “career”—not that there was anything wrong with her original career, nursing. And Jon is 32 YEARS OLD. Midlife crisis? Damn. That’s no midlife crisis—he’s too young. He’s just a really childish guy—what a dynamic between them). But when I heard that they were going to let the KIDS have the house and that THEY were going to get joint custody of kids and house, I thought that was nearly admirable.

      I’ve long believed, since hearing a story about a judge who ordered this kind of arrangement in a divorce settlement about 15 yrs ago, that this is how it should be.

      I especially like this part of your comment: “It is also a step away – €“ in a good direction – €“ from the selfishness that defines my generation.”

      • J
        J says:

        I agree MDB…32 is not mid-life crisis age.He just finished with his quarter life one!
        I don’t think he’s going through any type of rciss at all now actually, i think he’s just being more of who he always was the only difference is he is getting more agressive in his protests of how he’s been treated rather than passive.

  4. Anca
    Anca says:

    I like that you found things to admire about how Kate Gosselin lives her life, though I’m inclined to think that saying in the title that you love her was just to incite people to click and leave impassioned comments. If I was her husband/kid I would run far away and never look back.

  5. gudnuff
    gudnuff says:

    Sounds like there’s Gen X, and then there’s what “housewives did in the 1950s”. Wow. Guess that makes me Gen X. Go figure.

  6. BB
    BB says:

    This would be the same Kate Gosselin who refused the six cribs that her father’s church members donated, because they were used and not matching. And who then told her dad to take that junk back to the congregation and ask for cash instead. Dad refused, so Kate kicked her parents out of her life, explaining they “don’t know how to help us.”

    The only reason her 15 minutes of fame aren’t already up is that she is such an amazingly selfish and contemptible person.

    • Matt
      Matt says:

      “amazingly selfish and contemptible person.” pretty much says it all. I know she loves her kids, but she seems to be pretty horrible. I don’t buy another comment below that “Anytime a woman has a position of power? Immediately seen as a bitch.” Yes, John seems weak, too laid back. However, if their personalities were reversed, there would be a lot of women saying she needs to get out the the verbally and mentally abusive relationship. I hope the kids survive all of this media exposure better than the Jackson kids did.

  7. Vi | Maximizing Utility
    Vi | Maximizing Utility says:

    Although I follow your blog, I must have missed it when you blogged about the fact that your kids stay in the same house and it’s the parents who switch. I’ve actually never heard of this, and I think it’s brilliant! It really takes an amicable couple for this to work and I’m glad that you and your ex have been able to make it work.

  8. Stuart Foster
    Stuart Foster says:

    Gotta love how everyone is bashing the crap out of Kate Gosselin though. Anytime a woman has a position of power? Immediately seen as a bitch. John was kind of a weak douche, take that for what you will (aka it’s very likely Kate is fairly normal).

    • Erin
      Erin says:

      I’m kind of confused. Where does her “position of power” come from? Oh that’s right; by forcing her children to be circus freaks in exchange for money and fame and “power.” Yeah, that’s to be admired.

    • Robert Tosca
      Robert Tosca says:

      I have to say this to the “Anytime a woman has a position of power, she’s seen as a bitch” comment. I find that to be laughably wrong. Anyone who is in a position of power, but doesn’t abuse their position, is seen as an admirable leader. Any man that acts the same way as a “bitch” would be seen as a “dick”, and would be equally disliked. Leadership is a balancing act, and knowing to fight the right fights.

  9. Wendy
    Wendy says:

    While I agree that a family splitting from one home into three (the kids’ place, mom’s place, dad’s place) probably offers the children of divorce the most stability, it is expensive! and it is not very ecologically responsible.

    I wonder how many families will be able to afford this? Especially as the world and north america urbanizes and energy costs go sky high.

    Also, given the millennial generation is known for their concern about environmental sustainability, will this be their approach to divorce?

    • AG
      AG says:

      Maybe for those financially challenged (most of us) there can only be two homes: the kids’ place and the off-duty parent’s place. The ex’s can share this off-duty place because they won’t be living there at the same time.

  10. Liza
    Liza says:

    I think the idea of the kids staying in the house and parents sharing time is a good idea-but is it feasible. The cost of 1 house and two incomes to support now turn into 1 house, 2 apartments. Who can honestly afford to pay for all of those living arrangements AND still have a healthy budget? The Gosselin’s can because they make a lot of money-but the average american couldn’t do it.

    Its a great idea, but it doesn’t seem feasible. However, in your situation, you travel alot and you still live in the house with your kids…But if you didn’t travel, what would you do for the 3-4 days a week when you couldn’t go home?

  11. Sakoro
    Sakoro says:

    Penelope, I wonder if you’ve ever been a regular viewer of Jon and Kate + 8 show? The biggest concern people have about the show and theis the fact that the children are in front of the cameras pretty much 40+ hours a week, most of the year. They don’t have much privacy to go through ordinary developmental stuff (would you want your potty-training process to be on national TV?) The septuplets and their cute antics is the reason why TLC was paying $10,000/ $25,000/ $50,000 per episode [reports vary on what the amount is] multiplied by 40 episodes per year.

    I think it’s inaccurate to say that Kate is earning the money– it’s really the septuplets and the twins that are the breadwinners in the family. Kate goes out and does public appearances to promote her book and the show, but nobody would be interested in hearing her speak had she not had the septuplets and were they not cute and camera-worthy.

    Jon wanted to stop filming because he worried about the effects of continuous filming and fame on the kids and on him, but she wanted to keep the show going. I think this disagreement over the future of the show and its effects on the family is really the cause of the divorce and his acting out with the earrings and the 23 year old girlfriend is his way of acting out his grief. They had a really bad dynamic going for a long time where she would ignore him or be insulting to him and he would passively sit back and take it. Definitely not the sort of relationship I would ever want to be in.

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      I think you always need to look at alternatives. What are other ways that two parents can support eight young kids in a way that lets the parents be home with the kids and the kids have the benefits of childhood that most kids in the middle class get?

      Eight kids is very expensive. Six at the same time is almost infeasible. I know the TV show is a lucky gig. That said, I am having a hard time thinking of a more effective method of supporting those kids through childhood.

      Another thing: If both parents work 8am to 6pm outside the house. And the kids are in daycare all day. Why don’t we say those kids also are supporting the family? I mean, they are taking a personal hit to their childhood — missing their parents, not having any alone time, etc — so that parents can work.

      My point is that I think a lot of your argument is semantic.


      • prklypr
        prklypr says:

        You go, Penelope! Even though I would rather be set on fire than watch the sort of idiotic programming that is Jon & Kate plus 8, I love your argument here. You are definitely looking at it from a different perspective.

      • Sakoro
        Sakoro says:

        Hmm, there are two points in your reply that I don’t agree with.

        One, if Kate was truely interested in protecting her children’s privacy, they could scale down to, say, 4 TV specials per year. If these reports are true and they are getting paid $50,000 an episode, this would give them $200,000 per year in addition to Jon’s salary which would give them a comfortable lifestyle in semi-rural Pennsylvania. It’s a big cut from what they are probably currently making, but $200,000/year is enough to provide a middle class lifestyle without the kids growing up with TV cameras in their faces all the time. Incidentally, the six youngest kids have been promised free tuition to a public university in Pennsylvania, so they would only have to save for tuition for the twins.

        Two, I can’t equate going to daycare with having your childhood turned into a TV show. I was a daycare kid myself and enjoyed the experience and don’t think it got in the way of having a strong bond with my parents. However, at daycare I wasn’t expected to act cute all the time, there weren’t cameras zooming in on me when I was upset or having a difficult time and I wasn’t recognized by millions of people who knew about me from TV. Furthermore, there aren’t DVDs available for purchase featuring my potty training trials and tribulations nor fights between my parents. And thank god, my co-workers/ neighbors/ other random acquaintances can’t go to YouTube to see videos of my childhood experiences either. My parents aren’t divorced, but if they did, I wouldn’t want them to announce it on national TV before they announced it to me. And I certainly wouldn’t want them to discuss my reaction to their divorce announcement with People Magazine.

        I notice that you discuss a lot of personal details about yourself, your dates and your ex-husband, but you rarely discuss personal things about your kids. For example, I don’t think you ever shared about your kids’ reaction to the divorce or other difficult things that might have happened to them. I’m sure you have reasons for this, namely, they are still developing emotionally and are too young to consent.

        In short, I don’t think Kate is much of a role model for GenX/GenY women and I don’t think the particular situation she finds herself in is analogous to most women going through divorces. (If she wants a great career without the TV show, she has an RN–why not become a hospital administrator? Or if she wants to remain in the public eye, why not become a talk show expert on multiples and pregnancy generally without over-exposing her children so much?)

      • Dan
        Dan says:

        Penelope, what is expensive? I went to Catholic grade school in WI and I knew many families this size or larger who were far more modest than Kate’s lifestyle who had very well adjusted kids and never sold out their families in order to “get rich.”

        Give me a break, kids are expensive as you make them to be and even having one has taught me that people will bend over backwards to help you support them through presents.

      • WorkingMomof3
        WorkingMomof3 says:

        Well said.

        Additionally, I support Kate’s decision to be the adult in the household. Jon may be more “laid back” but he is immature. They are trying to run a household of 8 kids, 9 if you add Jon. He does need to step up and support Kate in leading the charge to manage the household. There needs to be structure in order to avoid chaos and he does not seem able to handle this responsibility.

      • naomi
        naomi says:

        The TV show wasn’t a lucky gig. There are reports that Kate Gosselin was casting around different networks for a tv gig basically as soon as she found out that she was pregnant.

        And they had money. Kate herself admitted that even while they were asking friends and relatives for help to pay their bills and were receiving assistance from the state. Don’t even bring up the college card, everyone seems to forget that the State of PA opened TAP accounts for all eight kids. Considering the amount of money and gifts that still continue to pour into their greedy outstreched hands, can you doubt that those accounts are bursting? (Unless, of course, the Gosselin parents have withdrawn money from the accounts…)

  12. Sakoro
    Sakoro says:

    I wanted to add that I think the “kids house” is a great idea if the parents are friendly enough to do it. From a logistical perspective, I can’t imagine packing up eight kids twice a week and shuttling them between houses! However, the stability of having one home could benefit even two or three kid families.

  13. Professional Resume Writer
    Professional Resume Writer says:

    One thing I found interesting with the Jon & Kate thing (even though I don’t watch the show!) happened while watching ‘Larry King Live’.

    They had a psychologist on there who said exactly what I had been thinking… Jon quit his job to do the show full time. Kate took it to the road– promoting books, doing tours, speaking engagements, etc. Her career soared and his tanked. Suddenly his identity was gone. I get that.

    I remember reading that somewhere about them a while ago and thought, ‘he will end up leaving’ because men seem to have a harder time dealing with not having “a job” then women do. Women are OK with staying home with kids, or accept it better than men because it’s what we’ve been doing for centuries.

    BTW, love the idea of a shared house. Hard on the parents–a sacrifice–but amazing for the kids.

    Interesting post, Penelope! :)

    Erin Kennedy

  14. Mark W.
    Mark W. says:

    While I think it’s interesting to occasionally read or view about the latest happenings in a celebrity’s life, I think I get a more ‘grounded and realistic’ perspective from a blog and its reader’s comments.
    Kate Gosselin has her own unique set of problems and hurdles to overcome. Kate’s life appears to be an open book right now so maybe some of her experiences may be transferable to other people on some level.
    What comes to mind are the lyrics in Mariah Carey’s song Hero where she essentially says the answer and the truth for us lies in each one of us. It’s just a matter of searching and hopefully finding it.

  15. KateNonymous
    KateNonymous says:

    Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson continued to share a house for eight years after their divorce. Their house was bigger than most of ours, of course. It’s worth pointing out, though, that neither of them is Gen X.

    As for Kate Gosselin, I think you’re playing with semantics yourself. Do you “love” her for the reasons you state, or “appreciate” or “identify with” or in some cases “admire” her? Or is it more a sense of “there, but for the grace of God”? I think your word choice is based on your desire to get traffic, not your desire to use words appropriately–which truly “poetic” writing does.

  16. JR
    JR says:

    Kate is admirable only in the sense that she parlayed virtually no talent or accomplishments (other than squeezing out 8 kids) into fame and fortune. That’s the new American dream. Moral superiority doesn’t pay much.

  17. LPC
    LPC says:

    The show’s producers really ought to keep the show running now. Think about it. We had a long-running reality show about a couple with two sets of multiples, including sextuplets. How many people in America share that problem and could learn from the show? Approaching zero. But a divorce, well, lots and lots of people share that problem. I have often thought that people should have to get a divorce BEFORE they get married so they can really understand the scenario. Can’t you see it? Counseling sessions? The mounting frustration and anger as they attempt to divide assets? Compelling TV. Useful information for America. What more could you want?

  18. Aaron
    Aaron says:

    I enjoy your perspective on this, but I have to say the kids need a Home, not a house. Kids are smart enough to know that their stuff might stay in the same place, but mom an dad’s doesn’t. There is not enough room in a home for mom and dad’s new loves and that is the most disturbing part of a divorce for kids, not the multiple rooms, Christmas dinners and birthday parties. This has the same inherent problems as a good old fashion divorce with two homes. We can’t kid ourselves, this still a disservice to our children even if it is version 2.0, different, but not better.

    Life is messy indeed, but I cringe each time John and Kate religiously invoke “what best for our kids”. Then in the next breath invoke personal privilege when what’s best for the kids interferes with their personal motivations. I am not in their shoes, but if I were making 75K per episode plus speaking fees and book royalties and my marriage was slipping, I would stop traveling (or raise my fees and travel less but with the whole family), consolidate my expenditures and focus on my marriage if I really valued my kid’s best interest. Of all the things that they could do for their kids, being husband and wife is paramount. Of all of the free services, tummy tucks and vacations, not once did they use their notoriety to do some family / marriage counseling. You want to see something revolutionary from Gen X, make it work. Invest time in your marriage. I’m not impressed by the new flavor of divorce. Kate Gosselin, hero?? No. Celebrity, yes. There are thousands who are on her and John’s path, J&K just get paid for us to watch them with double the number of kids at stake, sadly. Further, I think honoring their efforts is a disservice to husbands and wives who really do “manage” (i.e. make sacrifices on both sides) career and family. Money and fame always give good excuses.
    Interesting post as usual! Thanks.

  19. Maggie
    Maggie says:

    Unfortunately, “nesting” (the living situ where the kids stay in the house and parents go back and forth) isn’t as rosy as it sounds, and, from what I understand, rarely works as a long-term solution. I’m divorced (now remarried) and when I first separated, I, too, thought nesting was the best choice and would be most stable for kids. Unfortunately, in my case it didn’t work for several reasons; the main one being that my ex-husband refused to leave the house when it wasn’t his “turn” to be there. Kind of threw a wrench in the whole thing.

    Here’s the thing: in a perfect world, when a couple decides to separate, both parties are ok with it and can agree that the most important thing is the health and comfort of the kids. Sure, in a situation like that–like you describe–where everyone gets along great, eats dinner together, cooperates like adults, etc–then it’s a great situation. But how many divorcing couples get along like that? Even though everyone says that the most important thing is the kids, in real life, how many divorcing couples do you know who have no acrimony between them, no legal battles, no money battles, etc? After all, if everyone got along that well, there wouldn’t be so much divorce!

    The other thing about nesting is that, unless both parents are ok with not getting married again until the kids are grown, it can’t work over a long period of time. I know when we tried it, aside from the fact that my now-ex husband basically refused to leave the house except to sleep on the nights he wasn’t supposed to be there, it meant that I still had to clean up after him, do all the housework, etc. At least you (Penelope)–and of course, I’m sure, Kate, too–have a cleaning lady. Nesting, to me, means that everyone is caught in a sort of hellish holding pattern–kids always holding out hope you’ll get back together again, no personal space because you don’t really have a home, etc. I think that, as hard as divorce is, at least when there are 2 homes, kids are able to deal with the reality that the marriage is over and work through their grief. With the nesting, my kids were forever asking “whose night is it tonight?” and getting confused.

    The bottom line is that divorce sucks and there is no universal right answer–if nesting works for a family, then that’s great. But the chances of it working in the long-term are, in my opinion, pretty much nil. I think during a separation it makes sense, but once the divorce is final, it probably won’t work for most families.

  20. Crystal
    Crystal says:

    I really enjoyed this post! I’m glad to see someone stick up for Kate for once. Most of the people who put her down have only ever seen preview clips or tabloid articles, neither of which puts her in the best light. I mean, come on, she’s demonized for getting blonde highlights in one article for crist’s sake.

    Plus, I always say, that any of us would be a hyerversion of ourselves if we were raising 8 kids.

    Furthermore, everyone insists that’s Kate is ruining her kids’ lives because she wants to continue the show. I don’t think that’s true in a age where all of us put our most personal stuff online and such activity will seem normal to these kids’ generation. Also, nobody ever points the finger at TLC, which is no doubt praying every night that their ratings darling will continue.

    Also, I point to the situation as an example of how society views cheating – it’s always the woman’s fault. If a woman cheats, she’s a slut. If a man cheats, it’s because the woman was too much of a b*tch. Jon knew who Kate was when he married her, it’s not like he was blackmailed into the situation. He also was there when they decided to have 8 kids, which he had to know wasn’t going to be easy. This whole mess is equal parts his fault.

  21. Moneymonk
    Moneymonk says:

    “My ex sleeps over (in his own bedroom) when I go out on an overnight date, and when I travel away on business. But the kids feel like I live with them…”

    Ohhh I’m sooooo jealous

  22. Alexandra Levit
    Alexandra Levit says:

    Hey P,

    I started watching Jon and Kate Plus 8 when Jonah was born and I was doing middle of the night feedings. It made me feel better about my situation to watch a family that objectively had a lot more on their plate.

    But after a few episodes, it became clear to me that Kate was a total shrew and that Jon was being emotionally abused. She was also pretty cruel to her kids at times, and I wondered, if this was her on-camera behavior, what must her off-camera behavior be like?

    What we’re seeing now is not the Kate of the majority of the shows. That’s the reason people Kate-bash. Given what you probably know of her, I can see why you’d view her as a Gen X role model, but given what I’ve seen of her, I can’t agree.

  23. Chris
    Chris says:

    Hallelujah! I too am going through a divorce in this new Gen X sort of way. My husband and I make the same amount of money, we are best friends..but we are not lovers…at all. We too are getting a divorce and will continue to live in the same house.. opposite ends of course. But when I tell people this they are complete shocked. To me, it just makes sense. Why would I shuffle my kids between two less than average homes, when we have a perfectly fine home now and we can eat dinner as a family, and dad and mom get to tuck them in at night? Thank you for writing this P, and I, too, want to hear from more families who are doing this same thing.

    As for Kate Gosselin, I think she is doing what she has to do to support her family..and I don’t fault her for that. Being in the media spotlight is never easy…never. The fact that she perseveres despite the negative backlash..says a lot about her.

  24. Anne
    Anne says:

    I am also glad someone is saying something positive about Kate Gosselin. I think the press picks her apart. She should be able to go get her coffee, hair done (any way she sees fit, thank you very much), and go on vacation without the constant press scrutiny. I don’t think anyone on TV deserves paparazzi hounding their every move to make a buck. Then again there are alot of angry people out there who just like to tear others down. Time to get a life people and start thinking about why YOU are so caught up in the negative.

  25. thorn
    thorn says:

    i knew someone back in the early 80’s who had a similar arrangement to your own. he, wife & kids had lived in a rural area just outside madison, wi; they decided, “why should this be a hardship for our kids? this is *our* problem, not theirs.” so the kids got the house, and the parents shared an apartment in madison proper. the parents then took turns shuttling between the apartment & the house. in the end they hated living with each other’s stuff and had to each have their own madison apartment; but after they made that final change, all went quite swimmingly. guess it was worth the $ for that second apartment. (oh. and the kids *never* ended up with the scenario, “my homework/mittens/clean underwear/project/lunchbox is at mom’s/dads.”)

  26. Erin
    Erin says:

    I read an interview with Cynthia Nixon, who said she and her former partner do this with their two kids. They call the kids’ home “The Nest,” which I thought was sweet.

  27. ejly
    ejly says:

    “We already know the laws require the breadwinner before the divorce to continue to be the breadwinner.”

    We do? Which laws?

    I cannot find any example of a law, or more interestingly, enforcement of such a law. I would be very curious to know where this might be the case.

    • Maus
      Maus says:

      California is such a case. Probably any “community property” state as well. Alimony and child support to the non-earning or lesser earning spouse is predicated on the income pre-divorce. You cannot downshift from being a doctor to being a grocery checkout clerk just to decrease your income and elimate your support award. Spousal and child support orders are enforceable by prosecution for contempt of court and by criminal prosecution for failure to provide support.

  28. ms
    ms says:

    Penelope, in response to this comment:
    “I think you always need to look at alternatives. What are other ways that two parents can support eight young kids in a way that lets the parents be home with the kids and the kids have the benefits of childhood that most kids in the middle class get?”

    I think this is the part about the Jon/Kate family that irks me. This family didn’t magically ended up with 8 kids. If they couldn’t afford a middle-class/normal way of life, why did they choose to pursue having them? If they hadn’t been offered a TV deal, what would they have done to support them??

    They used fertility treatments to have twins, but that wasn’t enough for them. They chose to continue with fertility treatments, and surprise(!) gave birth to multiples (6). People have this crazy obsession about having children (of their own blood) and science has created this fertility treatments, where a common outcome is multiple births.

  29. Shelley
    Shelley says:

    I am so pleased just to see something positive written about GenX parents! Forget about Kate and Jon – people get over it – how is this helping your situation?! No one ever knows what really goes on no matter how much they show. How about using Penelope’s comments for your own introspection and not speculation of others. We juggle so much these days and honestly there is just no time for B.S. anymore. Grandparents aren’t around, practically pay more than you make for extra childcare to be able to work full time and the cost of living is just crazy – oh and better be able to donate to all the worthy causes. I think GenX is doing a great job at juggling it all in our own little realms. There is a way to have it all and be happy – true flexibility in the workplace gets more out of the worker with families and their children benefiting.

  30. Dan
    Dan says:

    Ahh yes, another example of this writer’s obsession of one generation over another. Fact is, raising children has never been easy nor has having a successful marriage. This was even more so during the great depression when my immigrant grandparents with a very strong faith in God, were raising young children (trust me, they needed every bit of that faith as it was tested often I am sure).

    Anyone who divorces a spouse is setting an awful example for their children.

    1. If you experience severe, albeit normal, relationship problems, it’s time to split.
    2. It’s not possible to work through problems with someone you love.
    3. Your children aren’t important enough to make things work.
    4. Recidivism is high if your children have been shown this example as that is how children learn.
    5. No self help book or overpriced shrink lessons are going to make up for the poor example you have given your children.

    Kate is very unpleasant to be around and John clearly had eyes for other women. The fact that she was so resentful towards him just gave him an “excuse” to walk out on his marriage with a very attractive younger girl who was actually respectful towards him.

    From what I have seen, and no one can judge unless they are in their shoes for certain, is Kate had NO respect for John as an “equal.” She was condescending and arrogant and treated him like a “servant” instead of the head of household and father of their children.

    All this said, John is scum and might have cheated on her anyways.

    Oh well, makes for a good Springer show though. I’d much rather watch “18 and counting,” though they are crazy Christians who are committed in their relationship.

    Penelope, can we call the Duggars “gen x” or whatever? Why is it your examples are always the whack jobs and never the “normal” God fearing, committed folks I grew up with in stable homes where disagreements and problems are a part of married life that need to be worked through?

    Sorry, your disaster of a marriage does not make it “normal” by any means to someone who has been raised by “normal” people.

    • Anthony
      Anthony says:

      Please, in a country that still identifies itself as 80% + Christian, I’m tired of both the implicit complaints of being an actively suppressed ‘minority’ and the smugness that simultaneously come from many of your faith. Honestly, if you truly look at history, neither your religion or it’s values are under any more assault than they have been at any other time.

      Also, on the topic of ‘family values’ with regards to Christianity, take an actual look at the history of your religion. Your religion didn’t invent the idea, and it certainly wasn’t a prominent feature of the the religion originally. In the beginning of Christianity, it was largely an ascetic religion. Marriage, and the consequent sex and children that resulted, were believed to be inferior to celibacy. The reason for this was that it was believed that sex and family were earthly and distractions from devoting yourself to God. There were even movements early on by women to deny their husbands sex, and some even espoused leaving their husbands to join convents. The monastic form of life was considered superior. (Also, as a somewhat of off topic aside, under this rubric, homosexuality was a sin because it wasn’t reproductive, not because God had an issue with homosexuality itself. Sex for it’s own sake was considered unGodly even for married couples). This belief was held right up until the Protestant Reformation.

      As an agnostic, let me tell you the harsh truth. Neither I nor most non Christians I know have any problem with Christianity itself. I also don’t have a problem with most of your religion’s values, and actually hold many of them myself. It’s Christians, not Christianity, that most of us have an issue with. For a religion that preaches humility, it would appear that most vocal among you have forgotten this key virtue (God must truly love irony, is suppose). The most vocal among you tend to some how believe that your belief in a deity makes you superior in some manner to everyone else, including Christians from prior eras. Somehow, your Christianity tends to be more pure than even what was practiced in the time of Jesus (see family values example). There is this further belief that we are somehow in this troubling time where heathenism is running rampant, and everyone before us were good, God fearing folk, in spite of the fact that even most Christians throughout most time periods had the same flaws and committed the same sins and moral infractions that we all do today.

      My grandfather was Native American. He was raised in a white community but he was raised by his Native parents. He wasn’t raised with any spiritual beliefs, but many of his people’s moral attitudes could clearly be found. His tribe tended to be pacifists (similar to early Christians); they believed in generosity, and they believed in improving the world whenever they could. My grandfather was a kind man who would gladly give you anything he had. He’d never lock his doors because he believed that if someone stole something, they probably needed more than he did anyway. He never cheated on his wife, and he’d rarely ever argue with anyone. He did all this, and yet he was not a Christian.

      Please, do me a favor, as your religion’s founder famously said, before you go pulling the splinters out of mine and everyone else’s eyes, pull the plank out of yours.

  31. Mitch
    Mitch says:

    I’ve recently come across your web log and look forward to more of your writing. I find it quite personable.

    I didn’t intend to comment so soon; however, some of the comments just make my inner voice scream. First to Dan who said “Anyone who divorces a spouse is setting an awful example for their children.” There are fewer things I’ve heard recently that sound so ridiculous. Sir, there are times where getting a divorce is the best example you can give your children. You have the opportunity to show them that things in the real world do change, and how to navigate them as responsible adults by hopefully turning a failed marriage into as best a co-parenting situation as you can.

    To all those that seem to know so much about Kate and Jon — please consider the fact that you see/hear less than 1% of their daily lives and have less knowledge of their past leading up to where they are today. In addition, that one half of one percent you do see is heavily edited. I’m not saying you can’t have an opinion, but I am saying that it is just that… your view of what they (and the producers/editors) cared to share. Knowing a couple that was on the show “Wife Swap”, I can tell you that these people are very good at manipulating reality.

    Regardless of my opinion about Jon and Kate, I do commend them for trying a non-traditional approach to minimize the impact on their children’s lives — even if they are missing the proverbial forest because of the trees. With things like “Collaborative Divorce” becoming options, I hope those that do seek divorce can find their way without the traditional adversarial approach.

  32. Darren
    Darren says:

    The fact that you love Kate Gosselin should tell anyone who reads this all they need to know about you.

  33. Tiffany Monhollon
    Tiffany Monhollon says:

    I think that more and more, people are seeing this as a model for what they can do – not looking to others, because like you said, there aren’t a lot to look to right now, but just really asking, what’s best for the kids? I ran into a college friend this weekend, and she just mentioned in passing that her marriage isn’t working out, but they’re planning on a similar situation because it’s best for their son. And I thought, oh my gosh, that would be so impossible, to function as a normal human in that situation, but I can’t help but admire it because, like you said, it’s harder on the parents but easier on the kids, and I the parents should be dealing with the hard, right?

  34. Arlene Myers
    Arlene Myers says:

    “women still do more than their male counterparts”

    Yes, woman can do more than male counterparts. As we know that after the office work, the woman will still to work at home in order to serve her children and husband.

    • Anthony
      Anthony says:

      You can’t generalize like that anymore. My uncle works less hours than my aunt, and takes care of most of the housework. The situation was similar in my house growing up. Whoever did more work usually correlated with whoever had less hours at work. Gender was not an issue.

  35. le
    le says:

    hello P

    Before we had the babes we discussed what would happen with a divorce – this is my second time in the marriage pit so best to have that chat. No kids from the first time round.

    We had two choices …. one of us must die as that seemed like an easier road to hoe for the remaining spouse and kids or, and more likely, we would build a rather large extension with seperate entry on the current house we have for a private residence for one of us. There would be communal living areas and kids space then ‘muumy’s end’ and ‘daddy’s end’.

    I like what Helena Bonham Carter and her man Tim Burton have going. Happily together they have side by side English homes with a joining common areas for the family. Seems like domestic bliss to me …. cheers le

    PS I am not sure we have the same breadwinner must still win bread post divorce rules that you have – that is something I have worried about given I am the disposable bread maker with the stay at home husband.

    PSS we don’t have kate and her eight down under – are we lucky or missing an icon of our times ….

    psss I have a new job – ceo small as in teeny tiney remote local council – bring on the fun – looks like the lads will be home schooled via school of the air by MIC

  36. tripletmom
    tripletmom says:

    This definately is an interesting post. Although, I’m not an avid watcher of the show, the episodes I have seen do not even come close to showing the “reality” of having multiples.

    As the parent of multiples (in southeatern Pennsylvania, as well), we have not been given free vacations to Disney World or Hawaii, or been able to take one child away to go skiing with professional snowboarders, and neither my spouse of us have a custom chopper or scooter that we can use to motor around on. I have not had a (also free) tummy tuck.

    My guess is the children are staying in the house, because it is large enough for them, it was built with the kids in mind, and they are not going to get sponsors to build another house that will be big enough with the custom playroom, other features (and apparently also now 8 new playhouses out back).

    The one thing I will agree with the family on, is that having multiples does change the family dynamics. Just having children changes the family dynamics, but having multiples adds an exponential layer of stress on the parents, and sometimes it is more than couples can bear. This new dynamic coupled with being part of a reality TV show also contributed to this, and I am sad for the family. I hope that the children can grow up in this world with their celebrity, and will be able to move past this to live peaceful happy lives.

  37. stephanie
    stephanie says:

    PT–Am glad you did a post on this. Starting in June, my ex and I more or less have the same arrangement you have, except we share the apartment as well. It takes awhile for people to understand that the kids stay at the “main” house, and the parents switch off. I find most people think we are nutty, but the ones who work with kids–teachers, therapists, etc.–while they’ve still not heard of anyone else doing this arrangement, think it is brilliant. That opinion was just seconded by our family therapist yesterday, who thought they were incredibly secure and adjusting extremely well, and able to articulate the fears that they do have. {My daughter, who is five, stated that she was scared of us dying in a war. She’d just overheard my father speak of my grandfather’s service in WWII. Rather unrelated to the divorce, but still.}
    And I agree: Gen X is great with messy. Messy is not always bad. Just different.
    The separate place to go–the shared apartment, aka “the Oasis” is also allowing the ex and I to work through the transition issues with some space and ease. Since we share the apartment, it has also brought up new issues, i.e., his idea of clean is not my idea of clean, and he’s learning that if I shop for food there, and he eats it all and fails to replace it, he’s going to get an irate phone call. {Yes, I am still raising the ex. It will end soon. There is a light at the end of that tunnel.} The only thing (aside from the missing ice cream) I’m freaky about is the bed and bedding. Mattress must be flipped, and we each have individual sets of mattress pads, sheets, duvets, pillows.
    Anyhoo–I don’t watch the Kate8 show, but any alternative arrangement that puts the kids first is worth exploring. Great post–thank you! Cheers, Stephanie

  38. Mickey Van Roo
    Mickey Van Roo says:

    Jeez, will every body quit making excuses. Toughen up America, times are tough but we’re tougher.

  39. Melissa
    Melissa says:

    Ahh, we finally disagree on something … I can’t stand Kate.
    I admire some of her qualities, but at the end of the day, she’s still a controlling bitch.

  40. Jennifer A.
    Jennifer A. says:

    My ex and I divorced three years ago after 17 years of marriage and, both by my standards and by those of the many who call to ask our advice, we have a pretty “good” divorce. My ex and I own homes a few blocks from each other. Our son (now 16) has a dedicated room in each home and duplicates of nearly everything (the high school even provides an extra set of books for his “other” house). He is a straight-A honors student, an Eagle scout and a genuinely nice, well-adjusted teenager.

    You say, “The parents each have a home and the kids shuttle between homes. This undermines the child's sense of security in irreparable ways.” On what do you base the last statement? Because to me, a house that is clearly “yours” where your husband has only a “guest room” ultimately serves to undermine your husband’s worth in your child’s eyes. Am also curious as to how you plan to continue managing this arrangement if one of you remarries/finds a long-term significant other, particularly if the new spouse has his/her own children.

    Anyone who has been through — or is contemplating — divorce knows all too well the mind-numbing, gut-wrenching decisions we have to weigh, agonizing over every possible consequence of every possible choice. My point (and I do have one!) is not to say “Penelope, you’re wrong, do it my way” but instead to say, “good for you; glad the ‘one house’ thing is working out for you right now” but also to caution that there are many ways to do divorce right so that the children suffer as little as possible, and this has everything to do with your you and your ex treat each other, how you speak of each other in front of the children, including each other in significant life events (my new husband and I saved a seat for my ex at my son’s last concert since he was running late), etc. and much less to do with living arrangements.

    Wish you — and you children — the absolute best.

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      I really like this comment, Jennifer. Even though it’s sort of hard to hear.

      What I’m thinking about now is that I’m pretty judgmental about the whole how-to-do-a-divorce thing. And this is something I’ve learned in my life: The stuff I’m most insecure about is the stuff I’m most judgmental about because that’s what I want so desperately to have the right answer to.

      So I bet when I’ve done the divorce thing for a while, I’ll be more open to hearing that there are lots of ways that might be best.

      Sidenote: It’s not my hunch about kids shuttling between houses being bad – it’s the link to the Judith Wallerstein study of divoced kids over a 25 year period.


      • KateNonymous
        KateNonymous says:

        It would be interesting to see if Wallerstein’s conclusions hold up when a broader demographic is studied, and if anything has changed over the near-decade since her book was published.

    • Ajaye
      Ajaye says:

      As a divorced parent now going on three years and a mother of two children( ages 4 and 7) , this post is the first one I have come across that indicates not nesting as being acceptable. Thank you! My ex and I have semi nested for three years, after our divorce we both moved out of they family home,, I am the breadwinner and could afford a new home , he has been between apartments and staying at a friends , etc. our arrangement is that twice a week he spends the evening with our kids , does dinner, homework , and puts them to bed at my house ( and kids home)and has them at his place over night every other weekend. Our kids are young and we thought we were doing what was best for them , and at the time I think that was the right choice. but as time wears on my patience with his disrespect for my place I am not sure I can do it anymore. I also think that the kids are seeing it more as daddy the babysitter when he is at my home because he doesn’t live here. He eats my food, and leaves my house messier than when I left. I have been feeling guilty about not wanting to share my home with him anymore given concern I have for the kids with a change but it’s nice to hear that for some peeps nesting is temporary and that is ok not to do this for the next 14 years! I wish he hadn’t moved an hour away. But it was cheaper for him to live there. Now I have to figure out the next best step. I want him in their lives for sure but I’m ready for him to really be out if mine.

  41. Annie
    Annie says:

    I’m a divorced 50ish mother of 3 kids, the latter two twins (IVF) when I was 41. One has special needs. My ex (boomer)assumed I would do all the parenting, and he couldn’t cope with the extra work just two multiples brought. He paid for nannies, I worked a flexible job (I have advanced degrees and a great resume) so I could do so (actually I had the more prestigious career). Resentment built up, and our kids were, like all kids, demanding. My ex still wanted to be the center of all attention and priorities. So I do relate to your situation, PT, and also to Kate G. (By the way folks, I’m a regular viewer – see below – Jon hasn’t worked an outside job in a couple of years. Also they only film a couple of days per week, and around the kids schedule.) Unfortunately, there are men (and women) who cannot handle the personal responsibility, discipline and selflessness it takes to raise multiple/special/really any/children. It gets left to the more responsible and competent parent to lead the family. The other parent feels more and more marginalized and acts out (my ex asked for the minimum visitation so the house share was not an issue). From my observation, this explains both J&K and my situation as it unfolded. You too, PT?
    My kids and I have watched the show together for several years, relating to the craziness and enjoying the cute kids. We watched the night the separation was announced and one of my 12 yr olds said “They sound just like our family”. Kate may have many flaws, like us all, but I think she has really tried her best in this situation and should not be faulted for worrying about the cost of raising eight kids and paying for college etc.. Jon wasn’t going to be able to!

  42. Jennifer A.
    Jennifer A. says:

    Ah, yes, the Wallerstein study (sorry, the link didn’t work when I first read your post). Read that many times while contemplating my separation; it’s interesting to me in hindsight how much I felt forced to pick and choose from the research I read, based on what I wanted/needed to support my decision(s).

    I apologize if what I said was hard to hear. I think you’re both brilliant and authentic, and am a huge fan of your writing. I also honestly believe that anyyone who has been through the trauma of divorce should be as supportive as possible for anyone else going through it, starting with sharing what has worked for us and, as you mentioned, withholding judgment.

    In support of your choice: when my ex and I first separated five years ago, we had a “communal house” situation similar to yours and it worked really well for a couple years. We had dinner together as a “family” a couple nights a week and would occasionally go to movies and ball games together. After our divorce became final and we started dating again (and later remarried), we had a greater need for separate spaces. We involved our son in my husband’s home-buying decision and allowed him to choose and decorate his new room.

    My son came into this world wired to be a great kid and a positive thinker. I’m lucky in that regard. But we’re also proof that with effort (and biting of tongues), all involved can make it through and find happiness (dare I say joy even?) on the other side.

    (Btw, I highly recommend The Good Divorce by Constance Ahrons. I have no ties to the book — in fact just had to check Amazon to make sure it’s still in print — but the info really helped guide my former husband and me as we structured what we hoped would be the best situation for our son.)

  43. The Lawyer Mom
    The Lawyer Mom says:

    Just found your blog today — linked by Althouse. And I only heard of these “Kate and eight plus hate” people a few weeks ago.

    But — “We already know the laws require the breadwinner before the divorce to continue to be the breadwinner.”??

    Umm, what state do you live in?

  44. sweet16
    sweet16 says:

    I would prefer a post like “How to keep a relationship new-millenium style”. Nobody neither needs nor wants a divorce. So I admit that I haven’t read this post.

    • Mark W.
      Mark W. says:

      Maybe the post ‘New agenda for workplace activism: Keep marriages together’ which is a link included above in this sentence – “And Gen X women have done a better job of mixing high-powered careers and family than anyone else.” is what you’re looking for. It was written by Penelope two years ago while she was still married.

  45. class factotum
    class factotum says:

    “Don't get me wrong – women still do more than their male counterparts – €“ for example, even women who have stay-at-home husbands are more involved in parenting than men who have stay-at-home wives.”

    Really? When the toilet backs up and overflows, does the mom rush in to fix it? Does she repair the car? Mow the grass? Pull the hair out of the shower drain? Change the oil?

    Men do a lot of stuff that doesn’t get counted.

    • Editormum
      Editormum says:

      Well, THIS mom fixes the toilet and mows the grass and clears the shower drain. She takes the car to a qualified mechanic for oil changes and repairs. And I did that stuff BEFORE I divorced my husband, too.
      I agree that men do a lot of stuff that gets overlooked, but so do moms. I think that’s the real issue. ALL PEOPLE need to have their accomplishments recognized. The big and the small.

      That said, Pen wasn’t talking about “chores”; she was talking about “parenting.” And while it’s true that women do more by way of parenting, it’s not necessarily true that men don’t parent.

      What women need to GET is that men (in general) are not WIRED for the nurturing aspects of parenting, and no amount of nagging is going to change that. Women are wired to keep track of the myriad minutiae that attend child care and development. The weight and height and nutrition and developmental milestones. Where women obsess and worry about these things, men don’t care unless something is obviously wrong.

      Men are wired for aspects of parenting that too many women disregard as either unimportant or overbearing. If you won’t let your husband take the kid rock-climbing or teach him sparring because someone might get hurt, you are standing in the way of the kind of parenting that men do best. Where women are relationship-oriented, thinking and talking, men are more hands-on, activity-oriented, mentoring.

      All of us need to back off the other genders and generations and races and whatever else, and accept that different people do things different ways. Different people break down household responsibilities differently. There should be an equitable division of work, but that may not necessarily be an “equal” or “fair” breakdown. The key is not checklists; the key is communication, negotiation, and agreement.

    • Shefaly
      Shefaly says:

      Women do not have to be “moms” to do it. Oh by the way – Yes to all of your questions.

      And also:
      1. ensuring that toilets do not back up and overflow at all by making sure of good quality toiletpaper that doesn’t have the half-life or uranium, as well as letting people know that certain things belong in the bin not the loo bowl.
      2. not having a car at all because it is more sensible not to have one, where I live
      3. mowing aside, weeding, tending to tomatoes/ beans/ chillis/ peppers/ herbs as well as making sure the flowers that bloom get into the vase (and cooking those plants I grow)
      4. knowing that if you clean hair after every shower, it won’t clog the plughole


  46. Commspro
    Commspro says:

    @Mark — I’m a twice-married mother of a teenage son. I totally get your point — that we have to be careful when we make sweeping statements because there are always going to be exceptions to the rule. In your case, it sounds like you bring a lot to the service-related aspects of your union. However, in answer to your questions:
    When the toilet backs up and overflows, does the mom rush in to fix it? YES! And only me.
    Mow the grass? YES! (And trim the trees and bushes, plant and weed the garden, etc.)
    Pull the hair out of the shower drain? YES! (It IS mostly mine, after all.)
    Does she repair the car / Change the oil? YES! At least to the extent that either my former or current husband does, which means I research the problem, ask for referrals and take the car in to have it serviced. I’ve never dated or married a man who fixed a car.

    In short, women do a lot of stuff that doesn’t get counted, too. A good reminder that *both* sexes need to appreciate and express gratitude for everything their significant other brings to the table.

  47. kim
    kim says:

    I’m not that big a fan of Kate or John anymore. I admire that they have 8 kids and manage the kids well enough ~ but they are no different than other messed up celebrities. both have sold off their family and marriage for money and now all they do is whine about it… they act like victims.. we do this to make money for our kids… many large families just fine without millions… they, her and John, have a lifestyle they are accustomed to and they want to keep it and enhance it…

    its the farce they keep trying to pull on their audiance… hopefully it won’t fuck up their kids lives too much…I think that most people respect the model of kids live in one home and parents move between… it makes sense if it can work… but alot of divorcing and seperating parents do not get along enough to be able to do that.. generation x,y or z … I don’t think they are any better at fixing, solving, saving or etc the mess than anyone else… in 20 years we’ll have enough written to know that…

  48. c
    c says:

    This really has nothing to do with your post, so I apologize now, but I am so sick and tired of men judging women on their appearance. Just today I spoke with two of my male friends and one said that he can’t stand fat women and the other one said he wasn’t interested in someone because she “hadn’t aged well”. Give me a break. So those of us who are not perfect tend to get overlooked by male counterparts – who, by the way, aren’t exactly perfect themselves.

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