Pitiful waif from a broken home? I think not!

2011-04-09 12:51

My parents divorced when I was 18 months old. I have no recollection of home and hearth, and Mum and Dad. I do, however, have
oodles of memories of home, hearth and happiness with either Mum or Dad.

I have always resented the notion of “a broken home” and for a long time it was a bone of contention between my mum and I. She, like many divorced women, felt immense guilt at the stigma of a failed marriage that landed us in “a broken home”.

My mum was the first feminist I knew. Not having a husband around the home and living in some rough neighbourhoods meant my brother had to grow up quickly. Until he did, Mum had to hold the fort against the many township bullies and ­blowhards who thought a single woman was a pushover.

In many ways my mum was tougher on me than she was on my brother.

She instilled in me a sense of independence and the conviction that when something needed doing, I had to get up and do it, and not sit around and wait for a man to oblige.

Contrary to the notion that single-parent households were “broken” and dysfunctional, ours was a happy home even though we often went without the trinkets and furbelows of modernity enjoyed in homes made up of Mum, Dad and 2.4 kids.

I particularly hated the pitying glances directed at my brother and I as “children from a single-parent home” and the glib assumptions that we had been abandoned by a deadbeat dad.

A school friend once began a conversation with: “Your dad’s dead, right?” I took immense pleasure in informing her that not only was my dad hale, hearty and very alive, he was in fact an active, loving, supportive parent who just happened to live in another house.

A gentle giant, my father disciplined through reason and never through fear or unquestioned patriarchal authority that ruled the roost in “normal” homes.

My parents, whatever their animus towards each other as ­­­exes, were always of one mind when it came to the wellbeing of their children.

Like many parents they often didn’t get along, and our family was definitely not the Brady Bunch, but we had everything children needed: love, attention, structure, discipline, boundaries, good food, holidays, good education and, most importantly, fun.

My parents’ divorce undoubtedly made me cynical about the necessity of marriage.

I remain single through choice – not because I am bitter or twisted or irrevocably damaged, but because I have yet to be convinced that marriage is not an institution dedicated to conformity.

I believe in love and commitment; I simply can’t stomach the role-playing and gender orthodoxies that marriage hungers for.

My parents’ marriage didn’t work out so they accepted defeat and threw in the towel even though it was, by all accounts, traumatic for all involved.

I have never had any reason to regret their decision, despite my irritation at offensive and misguided assumptions about what it meant to be raised by “a single parent”.

I thank my parents for having our best interests at heart and for recognising that it is better to come from “a broken home” than spend one’s childhood wallowing in one.

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