“I think we should get a divorce,” I said, as I thought about what it would be like to sit for more than 30 seconds without listening to a mini-tyrant shouting demands.
“What?” my husband replied, while wrestling a shirt onto our son. Confusion, possibly laced with irritation, settled in the wrinkles near the middle of his forehead.
“A divorce. It would guarantee a break for both of us at least every other weekend. Or more. Think about it.”
Maybe, but I wasn’t entirely joking. My divorced friends have more time to themselves now than they ever did while married. They have a contractual, court-ordered decree that guarantees them four days (or more) every month without children … or a spouse. It sounds like some sort of Tahitian getaway. Where do I sign up?
I love my kids, but raising two spirited children under the age of 5 leaves very little downtime. I’m on my feet the second they open their eyes and for the 15 hours that follow. Grappling matches over everything from who owns a broken Dory toy to who gets the sliver of crust from my turkey sandwich are hourly occurrences.
Divorce would give me at least a day or two to sleep in, clear my head and recover from the parenting marathon I run most days. There would no objections or surprises, because I’d have an official paper that states: “It’s your turn. I’m off this weekend.”
Even when my husband and I are both home, it’s exhausting. They say it takes a village, but at our house, it takes a tag team jacked up on Red Bull and 12 shots of espresso. Even those wear off before the kids wear down, and at 7 p.m. — the period we call “the storm before the calm” — both kids catch a second wind and turn the marathon into a sprint. We put on happy faces, but at that point, we’re both running on fumes.
My husband doesn’t work a typical 40-hour schedule. It’s not unusual for him to leave at 7:30 a.m. and arrive home well after the kids have gone to bed. In many ways, I’m like a single parent. On the days he is home, there’s life to catch up on: yard work, bills, grocery shopping, excursions with the kids. We don’t have time for ourselves, together or alone.
We also don’t have family nearby who can bail us out or fill in on the occasional date night. Given that our kids are a handful, we don’t trust a random babysitter. If they push us to the brink of throwing on some sneakers and taking off like Forrest Gump, imagine someone who is not bonded by blood, or love, watching them for a few hours. The risk is not worth the reward.
Our options are limited, and divorce seems to have some benefits. And I’m not being silly or selfish.
According to a study published in the journal Demography, happiness has a scientific correlation with being a parent. The study revealed that before having kids and during pregnancy, people were pretty darn happy. After? Not so much. Parenthood surpassed other major life events, such as divorce and unemployment, in causing drops on the happiness scale. Maybe if more parents had a chance to catch their breath, the real smiles would return. I can vouch for that.
Research also shows that divorce is not all that devastating for most children. Sure, it comes with some consequences and a huge adjustment period, but overall, kids bounce back. A 20-year study conducted by psychologist Constance Ahrons, and published in her book “We’re Still Family,” showed that about 80 percent of children of divorce adapt well and have no lasting negative effects on their grades, social lives or mental health.
Child-development expert and Cambridge University professor Michael Lamb analyzed thousands of studies conducted over the past four decades. He concluded that children do well when their parents or caregivers get along. But those parents don’t need to be married or living in the same house.
So where does that leave parents, like me, who are in desperate need of a break? Ending the marriage could be the answer. Debunking the long-standing belief that divorce does not make people happier, a recent study suggests that while it can be difficult, it’s well worth it for some individuals.
While I’m desperate for a little me time, I don’t think I’m one of those people. Despite feeling somewhat envious of happy divorcées, I’m committed to my husband and children. I don’t need a divorce; I need a break. And there are better ways to get some time alone. (If only the bedroom closet offered room service.)
A few days ago, my husband asked, “Were you serious about getting a divorce?” I smiled and shrugged my shoulders as the kids spun around my feet.
While I’ve toyed with the idea of the every-other-weekend divorce vacation, I’m married for the long haul. I owe it to myself, my husband and the kids. But on the off chance that I decide to don sneakers and long, rogue chin hairs, I won’t be trekking across the country. If I run away, I’m heading for Tahiti.