My parents divorced after I moved out- here's how I'm navigating it so far

Updated: Nov 17, 2018

Ah, parents. We love them, we really do, but family can be tough.

There's so many instances in life where Dylan and I stop, sigh, and say "family man, its tough". Family has to be one of the most challenging relationships in life, the expectations, the love, the annoyance. Family has it all.

My parents got divorced when I was 19 and living on my own, a little different from the divorce stories I was used to hearing from friends I had growing up. I wasn't really sure what to expect or what my place would be.

I am the oldest of four children, my oldest brother (17 y/o) lives with my dad while my two younger siblings (12 and 9 y/o) switch between my mom's house and dad's house regularly. My father works a swing shift and my mother works from home unless she's teaching classes. Neither of my parents really have family in the area anymore, it was just the six of us.

When my parent's announced their divorce, it didn't come as a surprise to me as I've seen their dynamic first hand for my whole life. The surprise came in how difficult it would be to navigate such a thing.

When I lived at home I was basically the designated babysitter. Anytime someone had to work or run an errand I was babysitting. Once I moved out of the house it became a little more difficult and a little more of a nuisance because it wasn't my home anymore. Now that my parent's are living separately and neither have family in the area, I'm the only one they can call on for help.

Setting boundaries, in this sense especially, is super important to me. I want my parent's to be comfortable asking me for help when its necessary but I also want them to be aware that if there's another way to solve the issue (friends, teammates, etc) they should definitely look into that.

Both my parent's are respectful of these boundaries that I've set and recognize that I am busy and neither of them ask too much of me.

I have to admit, I do feel somewhat concerned and maybe a little guilty about moving away from my parent's (our RV trip) mainly because I am their last resort to call on if they need help.

Being the oldest of four, and most mature, I realistically feel like a third parent sometimes. I have the tough conversations, ask the necessary questions, listen to the complaints from both sides and somehow still manage to remain on everyone's good side? I'm not sure either.

My parents both have a degree of respect for me and my thoughts, and I say degree because how much will you parent really listen to all the advice you give them?

At the beginning of the divorce process it was really difficult for me to listen to one side complain or bash the other side, it was exhausting and I took in too much of the anger. Listening to one parent complain about the other was something I didn't want to be a part of.

I love both my parents and I'm well aware of their strengths and flaws, I mean, I've known them almost as long as they've known each other. Both my mom and my dad have things they could both do to improve as human beings, neither of them are perfect by any means. Neither of my parents have been good at communication for any part of their relationship, this means now, more than ever, there's issues that could've been avoided with some simple communication.

It's definitely an interesting spot to be in being able to hear both sides of stories from a position of love. I see the discrepancies and evaluate them in a way I wish they could.

I worry about my younger siblings quite a bit in these instances. I know my dad can talk pretty openly about the issues with my mom while my mom tends to keep the issues to herself and not talk about them while the kids are around.

Both my younger siblings look up to me in a way where they sometimes listen to things I have to say so I'm always sure to correct them when they make a very biased statement about either Mom or Dad.

I think it's so important for both my parents to speak the truth and nothing but the truth when it comes to speaking in front of the kids. Biased information from one party can skew their perspectives of either person or a given situation.

For me, its necessary to keep a neutral stance in these sort of things, my siblings deserve to observe the situations and draw their own conclusions and create their own feelings from everything that's going on. They should not be fed biased information from either side.

I have a great relationship with both my parents, making this somewhat easier for me than it may be for others dealing with similar situations. Because of these relationships I've built, it makes calling each parent out on their bullsh*t somewhat easier as they're more apt to hear me compared to shutting me down and becoming defensive.

Finances are a big part of my parent's quarrel, as I assume it is in most divorces. Trying to figure out my place from a financial standpoint has been a journey of its own. My parents haven't set a great example for how money should be communicated about so it's always been a little bit of a challenge for myself. Its quite tough deciphering what I should pay for, offer to pay for, or steer wayyy away from.

Navigating my parents divorce has been nothing less than emotional. I've cried, for sure, but all these things will become easier with time. All I can do is be true to myself, my observations, and my emotions. We'll be celebrating our first holiday as a separated family this Thanksgiving and that has been a process in its own.

Ava (12), Maddy, and Adam (9)

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© Madison Plyler and Dylan Vaughn, 2018. 

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