When you're slogging through a divorce sometimes it's hard to imagine what your future is going to look like. That uncertainty can breed anxiety -- and too much anxiety can hamper a healthy divorce recovery. To combat this uneasiness, I advise my clients to pick a divorce role model -- a friend who went through a divorce a while ago, handled herself well, protected her kids from the toxic fallout, and has since constructed a positive life for herself and her family. Having a divorce role model provides desperately needed reassurance that one's own life will eventually smooth out and a sense of normalcy will return.
If you don't know anyone personally who is qualified for this role (and even if you do) sometimes it's fun to cast a celebrity to play the part. But not just any celebrity will do. You have to pick someone who not only did all the things you aspire to do during your divorce (keep it together, take good care of yourself and your kids, keep putting one foot in front of the other, all during the worst time of your life), but also managed to do these things while under constant media scrutiny. That's a pretty high bar. Not surprisingly, celebrity divorce role models can be harder to find that non-famous divorce role models.
But if you're searching for a perfect actress to play that part for you, it's hard to do better than Katie Holmes.
Here's how Holmes nailed this role:
She created a tight circle of trust. In the months leading up to her split from Tom Cruise, Holmes wasn't out bellyaching to anyone who would listen about being unhappy or having a marriage that felt like a lonely hellscape prison. Holmes had a short list of people in whom she confided. She made her immediate family her circle of trust, leaning on her dad in particular for planning, advice, and support. Of course, it didn't hurt that her dad is a divorce lawyer. But even if you're not lucky enough to have someone in your immediate family who practices family law, it makes good sense to only confide in a few close loved ones while you figure out what you want to do, develop a plan, and get your ducks in a row.
She kept it together. Although the paparazzi was all over the story, Holmes did not provide any fuel for the fire. She didn't have any public meltdowns. She didn't pop into some random salon and shave her head. She didn't go out clubbing but forget her underwear at home. She didn't get trashed and then pass out in someone's car. She kept a low profile until her divorce was done and the media storm blew over.
She didn't put Suri in the middle of it. Holmes made Suri's wellbeing her top priority during the divorce. Although there was plenty she could have said -- and plenty of people who were more than willing to listen -- she didn't talk trash about Cruise. She didn't try to rewrite Suri's life story by either cutting Cruise out of the role of dad or recasting some new guy to play the part. She put her energy into getting them settled in Manhattan, enrolling Suri in a new school, and helping her adjust to the new family structure.
She wasn't in a hurry to date. If I had a dime for every time I've read an Us Weekly story at the nail salon (that's where I conduct all my hard research, by the way) about a divorcing celebrity who immediately takes up with her body guard, backup dancer, or the kids' "manny," I'd never have to pay for another pedicure again. But TomKat's better half had no interest in going out on the prowl. She was singularly focused on getting her den in order, not chasing down new tail.
She rebuilt her life. Once they were settled, Holmes set about rebuilding her life -- a life that includes a career of her own. She figured out a good balance between professional and personal commitments, taking care to take on neither too much nor too little. Rumor has it she is even considering following in her dad's footsteps and going to law school. Her motivation? She reportedly wants to be a good female role model for Suri. The result is Suri has a mom who is both there for her, but also modeling how to have an identity that includes more than being a mom. That's important for both Suri's and Holmes' emotional health now and in the future.
Holmes' powerful and inspiring performance in her real life drama earns her an Emotional Hardbody Award for Outstanding Divorced Mom. And when the final credits roll, that's way more important than an Oscar. This critic predicts Holmes' latest production will have a very long and successful run.