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. ivanwaardenburg
    ivanwaardenburg says:

    Bravo for truly putting your children first by allowing them to get the house and for you and your husband to be the ones who have to “shuttle around”. What an innovative solution, I hope you can enlighten more divorced couples with children.

  2. ejpnwkp@sbcglobal.net
    ejpnwkp@sbcglobal.net says:

    PT,
    …and that’s why 4 out of 10 students drop out of high school–good Gen X parenting? Do you really beleive that things are improving?
    Ernie

  3. Dana, LOA Success & Love Coach
    Dana, LOA Success & Love Coach says:

    I agree with the CA Supreme Court Justice today who said that the time for no-fault divorce, casual divorce and the damage it does to both parties and the children needs to be put to rest. No-fault divorce began during a time when divorces were hard to get, when women were the ones who got the raw end of the stick (now it’s debatable who gets what end depending on the judge), and when people were being forced to stay in abusive relationships because they couldn’t “prove” it or they didn’t want to humiliate their whole family to get out of a marriage.

    Don’t you all think it’s time we take our marriage vows as vows (something sacred that we truly commit to for life…commitment being doing whatever it takes v. interest being doing what’s convenient) and hold up our end of the bargain to our spouses and our families? Don’t you think it’s time to stop divorcing for sport, like we’re trading up? Don’t you think it’s time to get back to basic values? And finally, don’t you think that judges are savvy enough and educated enough by now to know when a divorce is for cause and when it is a matter of safety that a couple split up? Why not go back to cause? Cheating, bigamy, failure to disclose life altering information prior to marriage, mental or physical abuse…maybe I’ve forgotten something.

    The rest of the reasons we get divorced today have more to do with inconvenience, boredom, and lack of self-control. Is that what we really want to tell our kids? I divorced your mom/dad because I was bored of them, I wanted some other man/woman, I got frustrated that he/she and I had this issue to work out and I didn’t want to do the work it takes to work it out, etc? Or do you want to be able to tell your kids how you worked it out with their other parent, controlled your urges and were faithful their mom/dad, worked to keep the love alive, and serve as an example and model for them? More importantly, do you think they don’t get the arrangement?

    Kids aren’t stupid little people. They’re just little people.

    Of course there are many varying opinions on this, but I think it’s time to take marriage seriously and consider the vows you took, or just date and don’t have kids. I am a lawyer and I am also a Gen Xer, and I agree we care more about family than ever.

  4. Mitch
    Mitch says:

    @Dana: You essentially are arguing to make it more difficult to get a divorce. Perhaps the right answer is to make it more difficult to get married? I see little reason to make it more difficult to dissolve a union between two people than there was to create it.

    Put in a slightly different light… imagine if a person signed a contract that said they would work in a particular job for the remainder of their life. No guarantee of pay, quality of life, and so forth. I think most people would think the person was naive or simply an idiot. Everyone would counsel them with the “are you sure?” and probably do their best to dissuade them from entering into such an agreement. If they followed through and later decided they wanted to get out of it you’d probably find overwhelming support to “set them free”.

    I’m not saying people can’t make such huge decisions, but little effort is made much less required for people — and in particular young poeople — from jumping into such things. At a minimum I think couples should have to attend some basic relationship counseling with someone that will make sure all the “tough questions” have been asked and answered. This thing we call “love” is a drug which seriously impairs our judgment, yet it is perfectly normal for people to make life altering decisions while under its influence. Now, at 42, I find the notion crazy — despite having done the same myself over 20 years ago. :-/

  5. Susan
    Susan says:

    Penelope,

    I’m nearing 50 and when I was getting my divorce, there was no question about where the kids would live. But I did read An American Mom by Mary Kay Blakely. In the book (from the 90’s) she describes her financial and psychic troubles with moving her kids back and forth between households, so she proposed to her ex that they create an arrangement where the kids stayed in one home and the parents did the shuttling. Sometimes it’s the most humane way to make the best of a situation where the most affected parties have absolutely no voice in the discussion.

    Susan

  6. Shaun Fisher
    Shaun Fisher says:

    I dunno. I guess there’s a part of me that thinks if you can share a house, and you can share the dinner table and you can agree on and enforce house rules and do all of this amicably and in the name of putting kids first… then couldn’t you probably stay married? I don’t mean Penelope specifically, I just mean in general, it seems if you could pull off this living arrangement then you probably possess the skills to remain married, if you really wanted.

    • Shefaly
      Shefaly says:

      I think sex complicates things. It could be used as a bargaining chip or a negotiation tool (not very different from how some couples use children or access to/ control over decision regarding children).

      Also the c-word. Commitment. It seems self-sacrificial to some to commit whereas a living arrangement is convenient and gives a sense, however false, of freedom, that we can up and go whenever we do not like the arrangement any more.

      The main c-word we are looking for is cognitive dissonance. That shapes many a human decision.

  7. MartinT
    MartinT says:

    I think there is no doubt that family set-ups in general are very different today to those even 5 or 10 years ago. I guess this is bound to lead to new ways to attempt to cope with divorce and minimize it’s effect on children – always the saddest part of any divorce. I think the idea of the children remaining in the house is a good one, though new to me. My neighbors recently separated and at the moment are in a very odd situation where the mother lives with the children on one side of the road and the father lives with new partner plus her children on the opposite side of the road. Very awkward and bound to effect the children.

  8. real_personn
    real_personn says:

    Great article. Well placed thoughts on paper(screen) is always an enjoyment to read.
    Note on parents changing homes- is an excellent idea, unfortunately it will only work for a select population of (ex)couples who have moved on in their relationship and the vindictive presence has left the seen. More power to you. Your children will be most able to understand human relationships with such mature and diligent parents.

  9. Erin
    Erin says:

    “She’s an homage to the fertility mess Gen X has found itself in”

    Just a comment on this – Kate’s fertility problems presumably had nothing to do with age, because she was only about 25 when she had her twins and about 29 when she had the sextuplets.

    I think she is selfish to insist on keeping the show going. If they had planned properly they should have more than enough money to be able to stop by now.

  10. Matt
    Matt says:

    I’m not so sure women still do more than men. That just might be a tiny generalization/simplification/confusion… anyway, after that I could not read the rest of this.

  11. Lorraine
    Lorraine says:

    Hi, I’ve got nothing on Jon & Kate, but wondered if you could point me to any sources of inspiration on the kids “keeping the house” – would love to have it available for my brother and his soon-to-be-ex.

    Thanks in advance!

  12. Dunk Sb shoes
    Dunk Sb shoes says:

    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.

  13. Natalie
    Natalie says:

    Hi Penelope. Nothing to add to the reams of comments re Kat & 8. However, from the “average” American’s perspective (or any other western culture, for that matter), how will the “kid’s keep the house” scenario work out financially? 1 House, 2 Apartments? If we had the money for that, I could see it working.

    However, what about when the parents meet and marry someone else? And when more children are born into these new sub-families (for want of a better word)? Where do the new wives/husbands live? How will the new sub-family not be split at least some of the time?

  14. Tom
    Tom says:

    Regardless of the intent of the post, BOTH of the Gosselins are jerks. Kate is the type of woman who has fallen into the belief that it’s cool, fun, and not only acceptable but encouraged to bash men (including her three little boys,) and Jon is a passive-aggressive tool. Maybe their solution to their divorce is admirable, but NOTHING else about this situation is, and I find it rather disgusting and disturbing that anyone is speaking about either of them as if they are to be considered role models. Neither of them is a person anyone should be looking up to. They are both messes. At the moment, I am finding Kate to be the less horrible of the two, for she seems to be the one approaching the divorce with the most dignity while Jon shows off his gross girlfriend, but the whole thing is pretty awful.

  15. Amy
    Amy says:

    I love your blog – so honest! And yours is the first writing on 9/11 where I feel that I am learning what really happened and how bad it really was on the ground there – everyone else seems to just gloss things over.

    The thing about the Gosselins is this – in the intro to an early show Kate shares that after they had the twins, they had the opportunity to adopt a little boy from Korea and that this is what John really wanted to do. But Kate wanted to have another biological kid, and then they ended up with 6. I think that this was the beginning of the end for them – I am not implying that John does not love the 6 kids, but that they as a couple were just fundamentally on different pages and wanted to go in different directions from the start.

    Also, Kate was a nurse prior to having 6 kids at once – I have worked in Nursing and I can tell that if she had still been able to work (like maybe if they had adopted one kid instead of having 6) she would probably been able to express most of her controlling, organizing, intense energy at work, where it would have been an asset, and not had to take all that aggressiveness out on her hapless husband.

    I agree he acts like a baby, but she has been downright mean and verbally abusive to him in public (although if he were more proactive, she may have been calmer, who knows?)

    All in all, a fascinating sociological study masquerading as a tv show!

  16. Amy
    Amy says:

    I guess what I am trying to say (previous comment) is that maybe, if Kate had been truly grateful for the 2 bio daughters she already had and if they had given a home to an orphaned little boy, and if Kate had been able to keep on working as a nurse, which she is probably very good at…well, who knows…but maybe they would still be together and their 3 kids might still have both parents at home at the same time…but that is just my imagination, of another world…just a speculation game.

  17. Bob Boomer
    Bob Boomer says:

    Something strikes me as wrong when you say your ex-husband stays with your kids when you go out on overnight dates. That only seems fair to me if he calls you up to let you know each time he is going out on a overnight date, too, just to keep you informed.

    I guess one has to swallow his or her self respect in the name of children being raised more “normally.” I wonder what impact that has on children.

  18. wj
    wj says:

    Penelope,
    In one of your responses to your original post, you liken 2 working parents with kids in daycare to the Gosselin situation, i.e. the kids are supporting the family and losing out on childhood. That does not make sense. The Gosselin children are earning money because their cute antics make the show (no one would follow the Gosselins if they had twins). They have zero privacy etc.. If 2 working parents put their children in daycare, the child does not ‘lose’ out on childhood. It may be a different childhood than your ideal of a Stay at home parent but it’s not losing your entire childhood for the sake of a reality show!

    I have issues with the idea of needing a SAH-parent because everyone gives this lip service but really expect the woman to stay home or else she’s a bad mom.

  19. Becky H
    Becky H says:

    Although I am not at all in favor of infidelity or divorce, I must admit that my first reaction to the News(?)that Jon had a girlfriend was “Way to go, Jon! It’s about time you developed a spine/balls, and went out to find someone who would treat you with some respect!”
    Kate has always treated her husband with such scorn and contempt on camera…one wonders how badly she might treat him off camera. She has ridiculed his language skills in so many of their joint interviews, but I notice that her linguistic lapses, when she does notice them, are covered with a giggle and a coy “is that even a word?”
    Kate is such a controlling…(she calls it perfectionist) bitch, that I really worry how this will affect the kids. It is really hard to live up to the expectations of such a controlling parent.
    I really hope that Jon will finally put his foot down and insist that the cameras go away from his kids. I saw the post where someone suggested the possibility of quarterly episodes. That sounds about right, so that Kate can keep up her lavish lifestyle and continue to get all of those perks she seems to enjoy. But all of these kids can talk now…how about asking them if they would like the cameras to go away.
    Stop treating your kids like circus freaks! Let them be kids!

  20. stella
    stella says:

    How ironic that you would pick Jon and Kate Gosselin to use in your rant. Almost as dysfunctional as your own family “unit.”

    This couple is hardly a role model for shared parenting, married or divorced.

    To be clear, I’m not a fan of either, and I do get how tough it is for both of them, regardless of help, to take care of 8 kids. And they did get married very young (22) with very little life experience. (Doesn’t excuse Jon’s behavior while still married, if the rumors are to be believed. But given how he’s treated in his marriage–only good for caretaking and not much else in Kate’s opinion. Maybe not even that. Also, doesn’t excuse Kate’s behavior and constant rants at Jon.)

    But it’s clear that it isn’t the number of kids that is the problem (yes, it exacerbates things). It’s how they view marriage and treat each other.

    For those who have not seen the show from the beginning, they may have missed how Kate basically forced Jon into a “third” child when she “unexpectedly” ended up with multiple embryos, and not one. (Really? Given the nature of fertility treatments today? Kate’s a nurse, for heavens sake. She had to know better and the high odds of additional multiple births.)

    Jon had been clear that he was content with the twins, Maddy and Cara.

    And who knows who really wanted that TV deal. I’m fairly certain, given the need for money, that Jon felt he had to go along. I don’t think he ever wanted to be a stay at home dad and that is fine. But Kate always acted as if she wanted to stay home, if she could. She liked running the house and the kids and Jon. Emphasis on “running.”

    Meanwhile, each parent does bring something to the kids (Jon’s sense of playfulness and unstructured fun; Kate planning special events and stuff for the kids, but the woman is so controlling of everything. She makes Martha Stewart look like a slacker.)

    But the reality is that this marriage was in trouble for a lot of other reasons, other than who is working, whether in the home or out. (And gee, isn’t it funny that Kate is now OK with traveling and leaving the kids, when she didn’t want to work locally as a nurse and leave them? Ah. Methinks when you are the center of attention and get money, it does change things.)

    kate is a shrew. Period. She treats Jon like crap and with no respect as a spouse/mate and co-parent. She screams, she yells, she whines, she bullies. She embarasses me as a woman. Women like her who treat men like she does just make me sick. This is a terrible example for your children, who see this daily, than Jon maybe hanging out with other women, something the kids do not see.

    Why would anyone want to live with her under any circumstances? Meanwhile, I’m glad they are apart because those kids already had five years of listening to their mother berate/belittle their father. They’ve already witnessed too much ill will and will need therapy later on, for sure.

    Kate has “taken charge of her career”? Oh, brother is that what you call it?

    Let’s see how well that career goes when you basically tout yourself as an example of marriage/motherhood and you are neither.

  21. roofing atlanta
    roofing atlanta says:

    I wouldn’t say Kate herself is figuring out anything. Her kids get kicked out of school, she is always on the news mouthing off about something, and her ex husband is a waste of space. Kate’s handlers are the ones figuring things out for her. Her PR people, her nannies, her aides… THEY are the ones making it happen!

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