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.