Child of divorce

image courtesy of

Yesterday at Billy Coffey’s site was a post called The luckiest boy in the world.

It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of Mr. Coffey’s writing, but that particular post struck a nerve with me. If you haven’t read it, you should. It’s the sad and all too real story of how children are often made to suffer for the poor choices their parents make. And while I’m sure it wasn’t Billy’s intention to paint all children of divorce as irrevocably damaged, as a child of divorce myself, I took it very personally. In the comments I wrote the following:

I was one of those lucky kids, too. Fortunately not lucky enough to have 3 bedrooms. I had one room, at my mom’s house. The divorce was difficult for everyone but in my case, I think I’m a better person for having been raised by a mother who showed me how to choose to live with honor and dignity, to do the right thing even when others around you choose not to.

I spent the day with my mother on Thursday. This woman of small stature and enormous strength. By today’s standards she might be considered old fashioned. Her marriage did not end because of “irreconcilable differences” or some other fancy term that means two people don’t love each other anymore. My father left her.

If a single mother of four who had spent the previous 17 years raising children and being a housewife doesn’t paint a grim enough picture, consider that 18 years earlier, when she announced to her family her plans to marry an American serviceman, they completely disowned her. She has had no contact with any of them since. With the exception of the four of us kids, she was completely and utterly alone, with no job and no hope for the future.

As a woman from a very proud family richly steeped in Japanese tradition, honor and dignity are written into her DNA. She would never remarry. By her way of thinking, you marry once. She had been dishonored by one failed marriage, she would not dishonor her family and herself by choosing badly again.

This is the woman that is my mother. A woman who worked first as a waitress in a high end Japanese restaurant and later as a deli manager at two major grocery chains. She never took food stamps or any kind of government aid, even though I’m quite sure she qualified for it. I never remember being in want. She worked long hours on her feet all day then sewed and altered clothing to make ends meet. She’s suffered heart break that she didn’t share with us so as to not speak poorly of our father.

So when she tells me (as she did today) that she’s proud of who I’ve become, it is the ultimate compliment. I am who I am because of who she is. And I pray I can be the kind of mother she was and is to me to my own children.

Not all children of divorce live their lives as victims. Some of us are stronger for it, because we had a parent who didn’t allow their circumstances to dictate whether or not they did the right thing. They did right thing despite their circumstances.

« « Previous Post: The katdish ultimate guide to successful blogging | Next Post: Winter rye » »

23 Responses to “Child of divorce”

  1. kelybreez March 31, 2011 at 10:41 pm #

    Hear! Hear!

    I, too, grew up in a broken home that made me whole.

    And I thank God for it.

    I also thank God my children will grow up in a home with both parents, by His grace.

    • katdish March 31, 2011 at 10:42 pm #

      Amen. To all of the above.

  2. Candy March 31, 2011 at 10:54 pm #

    Wonderful post. Tell your mother “thank you” for me, from a friend.

  3. James Williams March 31, 2011 at 10:58 pm #

    Your story is similar to mine. I recently saw a movie that’s derided by a lot of people, called A Knight’s Tale, starring heath Ledger, and it spoke to me about my situation. Ledger’s character, when he’s a young boy, gets taken by his father to go live with, and be an apprentice to, someone else in another country. This boy misses out on getting raised by his father, but in the end, it provided a much better life for him. It resonated with me because my father was…funnily enough, I don’t think it would be right to slam him, despite his lack of involvement in my life. So I’ll just say that I would likely have been worse off had I been raised by him and leave it at that.

    That said, I think it’s possible for Billy and you to be right. Kids are better off with fathers than without, in most cases. The fact that there are plenty of kids for whom that last sentence doesn’t apply doesn’t change that principle.

    I don’t know why God protects some of us, you and me included from victimhood when a father leaves. I wish He would do the same for all. It’s on my list of things to ask Him when I see Him in person. But while I am better off not having my particular father in my life growing up, I am *not* better off not having a father, generally speaking.

    • katdish April 1, 2011 at 6:44 am #

      James – The point of my post was not to disagree with Billy’s, only to share my experience. The ideal situation for any child is to be raised by two, loving parents, and I agree completely with your last statement.

  4. karenzach April 1, 2011 at 12:15 am #

    Girl, give your sweet mama a hug from me and tell her I said she ought to be proud. She raised you up rightly, with dignity and grace.

  5. Glynn April 1, 2011 at 6:41 am #

    Both of my parents had been previously married — my mother once, and my father twice. Over the years, they worked hard to make their marriage work. They managed to make a go of it, but there were many times, even when I was a young adult, when they decided to call it quits. But they never took they final step.

    All three of us boys are still married to our one and only wives — my older brother for 46 years, me for 37, and my younger brother for 27. And I think how my parents worked at it has something to do with that.

  6. Jim H April 1, 2011 at 7:27 am #

    Excellent post, Kathy! What a great story and example. I’ll be sharing this one.

  7. A Simple Country Girl April 1, 2011 at 7:34 am #

    I am not surprised to find yet another parallel in our stories. My mom raised my sister and me and our dad’s older kids while he was on tour in Vietnam. Those “kids” were just about my mom’s age. No doubt it was hard beyond measure.

    Also, I am ever so thankful for the tenacity and strength and love of my mother. My dad died and my mom and stepfather divorced when I was nine because he was not a nice man. It pains me deep though when she says things like, “I never even thought to get on the floor and play with you kids. I was just too busy making ends meet to play.” Frankly, I never knew I missed out because she filled the gaps with so many other things.

    As ours was not a Christian home, indeed it was a miracle that she persevered and us kids didn’t go completely wild. Recently I asked her how she did it apart from God and she told me, “Even though we didn’t go to church I knew God from when I was a kid. I spent a good deal of time praying. I knew He was there with us.” For me, Kathy, the only regret of my childhood is that I didn’t know about her prayers. But, then again, God’s timing is perfect and the way & when & how I met Him literally saved my own marriage and my soul.


    • A Simple Country Girl April 1, 2011 at 7:37 am #

      … and yes, ma’am, thank you for sharing your heart and for being the very woman God (and your mamma) created you to be.

  8. Richard Perry April 1, 2011 at 8:46 am #

    My Mom & Dad met while he was stationed in Okinawa. After his tour in Vietnam was done, they married and she followed him back to the States. Almost a year after I was born, he left.

    My mother regularly worked two to three jobs at a time to make ends meet. Like your mother, going back to her family in Japan was not an option. I suppose we were poor by some standards, but I never thought of us in that way. I had food, clothing, shelter & Star Wars action figures, so what more was there to want?

    My mother is amazing. Looking back on it, I can’t imagine being a single Japanese mother raising an American Kid in the US. The cultural differences are staggering. I can’t even begin to understand the determination & strength it must have taken.

    My father was absent from our life as he moved from place to place & job to job. He battled the memories that woke him up in terror at night. Mostly, he tried to fight them with alcohol and eventually that got the best of him as well.

    There are a lot of things I missed out on without a father. I can’t fix anything around the house for jack, I have no team sports gene, and Lord help us if the car breaks down b/c it’s straight to the mechanic.

    I am not the same person I would have been had my father been around. He ran with a rough crowd at times and I imagine a lot of the choices I’ve made in my life would be a lot different had he been the one I went to for advice. It’s not that I don’t love him, but that is the reality of the situation.

    I’ve got a son of my own now and because of how I grew up I’ve tried to make sure that he know that I’m here & I love him.

    Everyone has a story, and there is hardship & pain in everyone’s life. The cool thing is that God specializes in taking that which is broken and making it into something beautiful.

    • katdish April 1, 2011 at 9:17 am #

      Thanks so much for sharing part of your story, Richard. I had to smile when you mentioned missing out on stuff your father could have taught you, because my dad can’t do any of the things you mentioned, and my mom is a bigger sports fan than my dad is.

  9. Annie k April 1, 2011 at 10:01 am #

    I am the product of growing up in a loving two-parent home, however my children are not. There is a lot of guilt that comes with divorce and while children are resilient, they are greatly affected by divorce even if it’s amicable. My divorce was amicable but the aftermath has not been. Knowing that choices I’ve made has hurt my kids greatly and will affect them the rest of their lives has been a big burden to carry. I don’t choose to live under a cloud of guilt and instead pray that my children will learn from my mistakes and grow up to be extremely blessed in their marriages.

    Your mom sounds like an awesome woman and she should be proud of you.

  10. jasonS April 1, 2011 at 12:44 pm #

    What a testimony to endurance and God’s hand. A great tribute to your mom too. Thank you, Kat.

  11. Berniece Richards April 1, 2011 at 8:38 pm #

    In many ways we have great admiration for your mom, but especially because she has been the ultimate example and influence in forming you to be the wonderful mate for our son and mother of our grandchildren. We love you, Kathy. P & B

  12. Jake April 2, 2011 at 12:01 am #

    Kathy, way to honor your mother. Not even kidding, I love it so much when people give their parents the respect they deserve. You seem to be like your mom (so far as I can tell from reading your writing and our conversations).

    She sounds like an amazing lady.

  13. Helen April 2, 2011 at 6:33 am #

    Kathy, you are a blessing! Your mom has every reason to be proud of you, and you her!

  14. David Rupert April 2, 2011 at 8:05 am #

    Your honorable regard for your mother is beautiful. And yes, we need fewer victims in this world. You make her proud

  15. Kathleen April 2, 2011 at 10:08 am #

    I saw her, your mother. You honor her. Blessings.

  16. Jen May 26, 2011 at 6:01 am #

    Thank you. I am so glad to know that someone has walked this road before. I am sitting partly where your mom was all those years ago. My kids are younger, and I have my family, so I have some help, but I am trying daily to show my girls what is right and choose to do this with honor despite my husband’s choice to leave. Thank you for encouraging my heart today.

    • katdish May 26, 2011 at 7:52 am #

      Hi Jen. Thanks for visiting. Please know that you and your family are in my prayers. I think you’re on the right track, as painful as it may be. I wrote a post awhile back that has a poem at the end. It has helped me through some difficult times, and I hope you don’t mind if I share it with you:

  17. Jack Ng September 1, 2011 at 4:33 pm #

    being a child of divorce blows. my mom had custody of me and she didnt get much out of the divorce, so i grew up very poor.


  1. The clarity of light | - July 18, 2012

    […] to a post my friend Billy Coffey wrote entitled The luckiest boy in the world, I wrote a post about my own personal experience with the aftermath of divorced parents. My parents’ divorce was extremely painful for everyone involved, but I still maintain that […]

Leave a Reply:

Gravatar Image

XHTML: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>