What it’s like when your parents divorce in your 20s.
I grew up believing my family was perfect.
Despite my school friends having more family problems than I could comprehend, I breezed through my teenaged years and early adulthood without family drama. I’d hear stories of dads buying motorbikes and mums running away with butchers, knowing the extent of my family tension was bickering with my little sister.
Compared to my friends I had a Suburban Dream Family that belonged in a Steve Martin movie. The kind of annoying close-knit clan who played Scrabble on weeknights and would perfectly slot into an advert for Caesar Salad Dressing.
With four sporty, blonde-haired-blue-eyed kids, two proud-as-punch parents and a couple of small fluffy dogs, we were too ‘Disney’ to handle.
We ate together at the dinner table every single night, we owned far too many Boogie Boards, and we were each nicknamed ‘Possum’ because Mum entered cardiac arrest every time she tried to remember our individual names.
“Claire I mean Evelyn I mean Honey I mean Tom I mean MICHELLE ELIZABETH ANDREWS put your plate IN the dishwasher NOT on the bench above it *blahblahblah this is a pigsty blahblah do I LOOK LIKE A SLAVE TO YOU blahblahblah what would you like for dinner*.”
If we weren’t eating chicken casserole at 6:30pm (on the dot), it was chicken schnitzels from Coles with a side of potato gems. And if it wasn’t potato gems it was a side of these:
We were that family, and nothing really ever changed with us. As years passed, my siblings and I grew up, and the driveway slowly filled with P-Plated cars. My older sister graduated from Uni as my little sister and I trudged through it. My little brother’s voice dropped. My parents celebrated their 50th birthdays and their 25th wedding anniversary. They started going on holidays together, leaving us kids at home as they explored hidden corners of the country.
Mine was the last family on my mum’s side to not be split by divorce. My parents never shouted, they never argued in front of us. We were the Andrews family, and our friends often referred to us as ‘perfect’.
After leaving high school, not once did I imagine that my parents would split. I just didn’t. Parents divorcing only happens when you’re still in school… right?
Well, soz mate but no.
Because that so called ‘perfection’ all ended a few weeks after my 21st birthday, when dad sat the family down and announced he was leaving. I guess that’s when maybe, just maaaybe, it dawned on me that the Andrews clan wasn’t as Potato-Gem-Frisbie-Happy as I once thought.
Undeniably these last six months have been a learning curve, so here are just some of the things I’ve learned from my parents’ separation as an adult:
1.You’re gonna be repeating conversations. A lot.
Gone are the days where you can tell stories once. If something unpleasant happens, or you have a bad day, you’re gonna be reliving it twice for both mum and dad.
And if something good happens, or you have big important life news? You’re definitely going to forget to tell one of your parents. You’ll probably go eleven months before remembering to tell your Dad you’re now married to an Accountant named Stephan with whom you have two kids and a pet guinea pig, Celeste.
2. You’re not just their child anymore.
Remember being a kid and wanting to know what your parents were whispering about by the kettle? Yeah, well, those days are well and truly over, because now they’re gonna tell you EVERY LITTLE THING regardless of whether you want to know about it or not. So prepare yourself for oversharing. Seriously.
Oh, I should also mention that overnight you become a counsellor and confidant, also. And while you want to support your mum and dad as much as you can, them asking for relationship advice is possibly THE MOST UNWISE THING EVER considering my longest relationship lasted months and ended via the text message “mmmm I dunno what I want tho”.
“Mum, I love you, but it’s kinda hard to give you a fresh perspective on your 25-year-long marriage considering that I have the relationship wisdom of a sock.”
3. Your parents will try to compensate by spoiling you, but it won’t last long.
It seems that even as an adult, your parents will try to soften the blow of their divorce by paying you with sweet dosh.
Considering my parents are the High King and Queen of Tough Love, it was definitely unusual for them to cover my rent and petrol for a few months.
Ah, I miss that.
Sadly, they’re both well and truly back to their normal We’re-Gonna-Teach-You-About-Responsible-Spending-And-Fiscal-Maturity-Because-You’re-Effing-Awful-With-It selves now, and if I owe one of them $10 you can bet your sweet bippy that they will be hunting it down like a Bounty Hunter chasing meth money.
4. It’s not going to be smooth sailing, or easy. Because it actually sucks.
I don’t care if you’re seven-years-old or 21 when your parents split up, it’s painfully difficult regardless. I would love to say that my parents’ divorce has been easy because I’m an adult and I do mature things like eat cheese platters and sometimes floss now, but I’d be lying if I told you that the whole process didn’t really upset me. Because it really did. Even as an adult.
I don’t think being older has made it easier. My parents’ divorce has still impacted me hugely. I grew comfortable with my life over the 21 years, and now it has been flipped upside down.
Did someone die? No. Is it the end of the world? No. But has it been a bit shit? Yes. 100%.
I know in the grand scheme of things my parents separating is hardly something to complain about.
I just really miss eating dinner at the table as a family. I miss coming home to see both of my parents’ faces. I miss the family holidays. I really, really miss it.
Have your parents separated while you’re in your 20s?