Welcome to the Divorced Parents Club

Oh, hello, you’ve come to the right place. We’re hosting a special meeting for non-members of The Divorced Parents Club. Please, come in.

My name is Victoria and I’m a child of divorce. I didn’t grow up in a cookie-cutter American household. Instead, I grew up in a small yet loving one-parent immigrant family. It made me independent, appreciative and resourceful—and gave me exclusive membership to The Divorced Parents Club. It isn’t exactly the luckiest club in the world, but it does have one perk: you’re tight with the other members. 

Growing up, the other kids were always curious. When they didn’t see my dad at graduations or chaperoning school trips, they wanted to know why. The conversation usually went like this:

 “Where’s your dad?” 

“…Oh, my parents got divorced,” I would say, cueing a briefly horrified expression.

“When did they get divorced?”

“When I was four.” At this point, the expression transformed into a furrowed brow depicting sympathy and a mouth, desperate for an appropriate response.

“I’m sorry, that sucks,” The standard yet unhelpful response. Not bad, awkward question-asker. 

“So, where does he live?” Oh, god, please stop. 

“Um, I don’t really feel comfortable discussing this with you.” 

That earned a weird look, but the question-asker would finally give up. 

As I grew up, the conversations marginally became more tactful, but still, I never understood why near-strangers felt they were entitled to information that some of my closest friends didn’t know. It wasn’t that it was a huge secret or anything, but it was private. I had a right to keep it to myself. 

Luckily, the conversation doesn’t always go that dreadfully. In fact, when I’m speaking with a member of The Divorced Parents Club, the entire interaction is cringe-free.  A short, “mine are divorced too,” dissolves all the tension with relief for both participants. 

In this case, I’m always more open to sharing my story with them because I know it will be met with less judgment and accusation. 

According to the American Psychological Association, the divorce rate in America is 40-50%. So, I’m sure you’ve had one of the two conversations I’ve mentioned.  If you’d like to avoid awkward interaction in the future, I’ve provided a quick guide on having a difficult conversation. 

  1. 1. Don’t ask if they don’t tell you.

    In most cases, if they feel comfortable enough to open up about their family's past, they will when the time is right. I prefer to tell my story when someone else is sharing something personal, as well. 

  2. 2. Don’t offer sympathy.

    Divorce isn’t a tragedy. In most cases, it was the best decision for everyone. Instead, you can say, “thanks for sharing that with me.” 

  3. 3. Don’t assume.

    Not everyone’s parents live together. I’ve always felt cornered when someone asks me where my parents live. Look for conversational cues in which they only mention their dad or their mom.

  4. 4. Stop being awkward.

    Even if your parents are together, life can be messy. I’m sure we’d all get hired at the airport for all the baggage we carry around. And it’s OK.

It wasn’t easy, but I had the best childhood possible. I’m closer to my mom than most people my age because she’s the only parent I’ve got, and I can’t take her for granted. I’m lucky enough to have one good parent. 

That’s it for now, thanks for coming to the meeting. Please feel free to grab some misshaped cookies on the way out. 

P.S. I know you’re still curious. He lives in Russia.