DIVORCE
07/29/2015 02:21 pm ET

My Parents Divorced When I Was 5. This Is How It Affected Me

How one writer learned her parents were only human.
Meriel Jane Waissman

"When My Parents Split Up" is a HuffPost series that explores what it's like to have your parents divorce at all ages, from infancy to adulthood. Want to share your experience as a child of divorce? Email us at divorce@huffingtonpost.com.

Today, Mary B. is a freelance essayist who writes about the messy but wonderful work of motherhood. When she's not writing, the happily married author is busy raising her little boy with her husband by her side. 

Her own childhood, however, was quite different. From age five onward, Mary -- who asked to be referred to by first name only out of consideration for her parents -- was raised by a tired but incredibly loving single mom. Below, the 31-year-old writer shares her experience and offers her best advice for divorced parents struggling to keep the peace for their kids' sake. 

Breaking The News: 

"My father was rarely around so his absence at the dinner table that night wasn't particularly new. I do remember my mother trying to explain and then breaking down crying. I have two siblings and my sister was older. She immediately understood what was going on. She screamed with anger and then with heartbreak and I held my 2-year-old brother in my lap and ate an ice cream sandwich. There is a picture from that day and we look like that happiest children. It was before our world changed so I guess we kind of were." 

The Custody Arrangement: 

"My mom had primary custody. My dad had visitation rights every other weekend and a month over the summer. When we moved a few hours away, we didn't see him much except for on holidays or summer." 
 

The First Few Years:
"The first few years were the easiest on me and my siblings because my mother still lived in the same neighborhood as my father. I think those times may have been harder on my parents. Because I had more access to my dad, I didn't notice much of a change. Part of the ease of transition was due to my age. I was too young to fully comprehend the changes I was facing and didn't really struggle with the impact of divorce until I was older." 

The Impact: 

"I think I sought some affirmation and love from men. The absence of my father meant I didn't see a healthy marriage to learn and model my relationships after. I struggled through the teenage years, until my faith set a better course for my heart in college." 

Her Relationship With Her Parents Today:

"There has been so much healing and forgiveness. I am now a mother and wife and I understand that adults are just as human as children, but with more responsibility. I think they made mistakes that they regret and lived their lives as well as they could given the circumstances. I love both of my parents equally and have strong relationships with them today."
 

The Takeaway:
"My advice to divorced parents is this: Get your kids therapy. And no matter how angry and hurt you are, compartmentalize those emotions away from your children. Unless your spouse was abusive, there is no need for demonizing your ex. Children suffer when their confidence in their parents is fractured. Co-parenting can make for very happy children, even in the middle of a nasty divorce." 

 More from HuffPost: 

PHOTO GALLERY
Celebrities Talk About Their Parents Divorce

 

Keep in touch! Check out HuffPost Divorce on Facebook.

CONVERSATIONS