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Parents divorcing (again)

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I’ve been reading several posts on this board about the effect divorce has on children, and none have answered my question. My question does not come from the perspective of an adult, but from one of the children. I’m 19 years old and my step-mother has decided that she wants a divorce from my father. They’ve been married 15 years. Now, I don’t really believe this decision has much effect on me; I understand my happiness is not intrinsically correlated with that of my parents. Nonetheless, I do feel pity for both parties.

My concern is for my sisters (ages 8 and 11). I have read in other posts that a child’s best interests are the same as a parent’s self-interest, and many people assert that a woman to be unhappy in a marriage is doing more harm than good to her children. However, that is not the case. My step-mother is not REALLY pursuing her own self-interest but instead what will make her happy. I know, this sounds a bit contradictory so let me explain. My step-mother is 35 and has decided she does not wish to be a working (rational), disciplinary (when necessary), responsible mother, but LITERALLY a model and “friend to her children”. She wants partial custody of the children and has devoted 3 hours of her day that she used to spend running her own business to now working out at the gym.

Her business has fallen apart, her marriage is unhappy (it didn’t used to be), yet she continues to assert she is happier. My step-mother has gone from Dagny Taggert to some kind of mid-life crisis train-wreck(that’s what all her shrinks call it, the term “mid-life crisis” to me is dubious). The Objectivist in me screams that she should do what she wants, no matter how disgusting, but also I believe her children’s misery should effect her in some ways. Her interests seem more like hedonism than self-interest to me, but is it fair of me to say to her that she should stay in the relationship if not for her children’s sake, but at least for her own happiness because it impossible for her to be happy in the long run when she realizes in the future what kind of influence she had on her children? My parents are not Objectivists, though they have read Atlas. I can see a counter argument placing my step mother in the role of Rearden being miserable with his wife (my dad) just because he made a commitment (marriage) but then again, no children were involved. Please help!

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So, what is your question, exactly? Is your mother acting in her long-term self interest? Well, no one on this forum knows your mother well enough to answer that question for you.

The thing is that your mother has the right to act as she wishes regardless of whether it is *actually* in her long-term self-interest or not *because* she has to learn what is in her self interest and how to be moral just like everyone else. Yes, she may ruin her relationship with her children in the process, but that's her decision to make.

Since you're personally concerned in this issue, your best bet is to focus on the actions of the person you can control: yourself. Tell your mother that you're concerned with the way she's been behaving and then distance yourself from her (in order to minimize her impact on you) until and unless she shapes up. You may offer some assistance to your siblings in the form of emotional (or physical, if it happens) support, but make it clear that you are offering it on YOUR terms for THEIR sake, not as any kind of favor to your mother. If she starts unraveling to the point that she's using your affection for your younger siblings as a lever to gain concessions from you, drop her like a diseased carcass.

It *probably* won't go that far--even very emotionally disturbed people generally aren't completely consistent in their bad behavior, but it can help to be intellectually prepared for the possibility so you aren't freaking out when it happens. But otherwise, don't worry about it.

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