As you may recall from several earlier blog posts, I am a woman who divorced after 37 years of marriage. I worked hard after my divorce to build a fulfilling new life. Except for limitations that I know will come with advancing age, I have had no need to consider (potential) problems down the road. ……Then I read an article in the New York Times that revealed a relatively recent set of circumstances that now commonly befall senior divorced men and women and their adult children.
The article refers to a woman who tries her best to visit her divorced aged parents, living in different assisted living facilities. “I make the circuit,” she said. She visits her mother, in a facility in Rhode Island, then she visits her father in his apartment about a half-hour away in Massachusetts, then his second wife, (the woman’s stepmother), in a nearby nursing home. Finally, she stops to see the man who was her mother’s second husband for nearly 20 years. “Four stops,” the woman said. “I don’t get as much time with each of them as I’d like.”
This is the aftermath of a spike in the divorce rate that struck in the 1970s. States liberalized their divorce laws, working women became less inclined to remain in unsatisfying marriages, the cultural stigma of divorce faded — and 30 years later, the grown children of these broken marriages are dealing with the unanticipated consequences.
“It adds another layer of complexity to an already complex and emotional situation,” said Suzanne Mintz, president of the National Family Caregivers Association. Years after parents split, their children may wind up helping to sustain two households instead of one, and those households can be across town or across the country.
With remarriages, moreover, the cast of characters increases. Children may find themselves caring for three or four older people instead of one or two, dealing with several sets of doctors, social workers, accountants and attorneys. And with stepsiblings, sometimes a squadron of them.
“There are more people to share some of the burden, but also more people to negotiate with,” said Xenia Montenegro, author of an AARP report on midlife divorce (PDF). “You may have more sources of support, or more sources of conflict.”
|This is a guest post by Judy Smith. Judy specializes in helping women create a new life after divorce. She uses experience and skills acquired over a lifetime to help divorced people transform their lives. Get the personalized help you need by joining her Divorce Coaching Club.
“It’s never too late to live happily ever after.”