How My Parents’ Divorce Affected Me Over the Years

This is a true and personal story written for anyone who is a child of divorce or a parent thinking about or has gone through divorce. I hope telling my experience would shed more light on the subject matter and help with your personal journey. Feel free to leave a comment. :-)

I am 26 years old, and my parents got divorced when I was 7. Given it was a taboo in China back then, there was never an official announcement from my parents. My mom and I were living with her younger sister at the time, and they never said a word about it. The first time I heard about it was from my childhood best friend Mengmeng, who just dropped it on me casually while we were playing house and drinking “afternoon tea”. She leaned over closely and whispered in my ears, “my mom and dad said that your mom and dad are separated.” I remember that I was very angry at her evil lies and walked out on her (I would have yelled at her if I knew the B-word back then. Oh well.) I blacklisted her for a whole week, even though she came by our apartment everyday begging me to come out to play with her. (You might call me a stubborn child, but I am still a woman of principles today.) The next time I learned about it was some time later, when I was going through my mom’s drawer and found a piece of document that confirmed it. At that moment, I quickly closed her drawer and left her room. I didn’t want to ask her about it. I didn’t want to tell anyone about this. I felt broken and helpless.

7 years later, I moved to the States with my mom and started high school in South Austin. There, a lot of my peers were being raised by single parents. The perception on divorce was still quite negative back then, but I felt like at least I was in an environment where I could openly talk about it. A typical conversation would go like this.

Person A: “So…your dad, like, he is still in China? Like how does that work?”(Note to reader: keep in mind that back in high school you couldn’t complete a sentence without “like”.)

Me: “Yeah..they are divorced.”

Person A: “Oh. Oh my god. I am so sorry I didn’t know..”

Me: “Oh no, no worries, it is cool. They are pretty cool right now. I see my dad a lot…”

In high school, I always kept up with my cool demeanor, partially because I was really cool with my parents’ divorce. I had a highly intellectual and independent mother who came to America on a visitor scholarship and paved the way to my “American dream” (or at least that was what I wrote in my college admission essays.) And my dad spoiled the hell out of me whenever I went back to Wuhan. He would buy me ANYTHING I want in the world, including going to the fanciest department store SOGO and buy me British preppy cloth designed by Chinese. Photo of the brand label below.

Implicitly, dad and I both justified spending his hard earned money making me look pretty because I was a child of a divorced parents. Yes, I was a selfish, immature and spoiled kid. I viewed my dad’s money as not a part of the family’s money. I am shameful of how I acted.

Something changed when I got to college. I became extremely emotional and vulnerable when it came to the topic of dad and fatherhood. For instance, I had watched some Chinese TV documentary about the Cultural Revolution in my dorm and could not stop crying at the part where the daughter finally met her dad for the first time. Damn, what had happened to the logical and rational Annie? Who is this sad and crying b****? I need to contain and control this situation. I need to figure out exactly what I was feeling and how I should deal with these emotions. So it turned out, I was going through a phase of grief and pity for myself. I felt less of a daughter because I lacked a father in my life. Not a father that I would only see two weeks every summer, but one that could be there when I had a tough essay assignment (because my dad was such a terrific writer), one that could tell me to finish my plate and do the dishes after dinner, and one that could take care of my mother when she was sick and weak. All these years of him missing out on me growing up, and me of him being the role model that I needed, it finally hit me at the time of college that I wasn’t too cool to not need a dad. I came to acknowledge that my life was not as perfect as I made it out to be, and that their divorce had an impact on my life.

Fast forward to today, I have moved half way across the world to live and work in Hong Kong, in an environment far far away from both my mom and dad. Being at the age approaching marriage and parenthood, I often think about my childhood, my parents and inevitably what kind of parent I would like to be. I am definitely excited to become a parent — I admit, it is partially due to my desire to live the family life that I felt I never had — I want the best environment for my kid(s). I think my childhood taught me valuable lessons because at an early age, I learned that my parents are just normal people (and watching them date helped me to handle awkwardness in my life :-P). Knowing that they have done their best and sacrifice so much to raise me properly, I need to take responsibility for any insecurity that I have. I also understand that you can date anyone in the world without much hesitation, but you need to take marriage seriously because the long term implication it would have on your life. Lastly, I learned that love and marriage take tremendous work on both individuals. If you are not willing to love and care for your to-be husband / wife unconditionally, please don’t get married.

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