Spoiled by divorce? You’ve got to be kidding.

by Carolyn on May 17, 2010

Look at that spoiled child of divorce! Another postcard from Splitsville.


The perception that children of divorce are spoiled simply as a result of being children of divorce amazes me. Do people really think that or is it just something they say without actually realizing what they are saying? Even one of my favorite bloggers, Avitable recently wrote in a post that children of divorce were spoiled. (Notice the clever comment from Mark about how he didn’t get any of those things when his parents divorced.) And although Avitable’s post is really about his dog and the tone is satirical, it demonstrates how pervasive the perception of us being spoiled is.  I assume that the sentiment is perpetuated by people who have never had to personally endure parental divorce in their childhoods. Because as a child of divorce, I can only say this: 

Calling a child of divorce ‘spoiled’ for having two homes is like calling an heir ‘lucky’ when their parents die. In both cases, they would prefer what they had to what they got. 

Honestly, I have to say that the ‘spoiled’ thing always confused me. Because from my perspective, I never once felt spoiled as a result of my parent’s divorce. Suddenly moving a handful of times didn’t seem like so much fun. Bouncing from home to home and seeing my dad only a couple of times a year wouldn’t have been my first choice. Having my parent’s focus and attention turn inward as they returned to school and dating, while moving on with their lives might have been really great for them but…. Seriously, if that’s what being a spoiled child is, I’d hate to see how all those kids from intact families are slumming it while growing up. 

While I was in College, I met a girl who had lost both of her parents and been left a large inheritance. And from where I stood, she seemed to have it all. She had a great car, great clothes and she lived life large. I couldn’t help but think that she was so lucky to have a boatload of money at her disposal along with no parents to be accountable to.  But one night after flippantly saying that I wasn’t as lucky as she was, I received a sombre look as she told me that she would gladly trade it all back for more time with her parents. Suddenly she didn’t seem so lucky. 

Maybe that’s the problem. Maybe for those who’ve never lived through divorce as a child, it all seems great. Maybe they don’t see the pain of it all because they can’t relate, so instead they focus on it’s most superficial aspect. But to a child, that’s exactly what it is.  Superficial stuff. Not what’s important. And nothing at all when compared with having your family torn apart.  I think that calling a child who had no say in their situation or aftermath ‘spoiled’ is cruel. Because the bottom line is that kids don’t choose divorce and they have absolutely no control over something that affects their lives so wholly.  Just like the child who loses a parent. 

And you know, some children of divorce are spoiled.  But are they spoiled by divorce? NO! They are spoiled by guilt ridden permissive parents, ego boosting competative gifting parents or they are acting out thanks to blind parents who bought into the misconception that co-parenting amicably will magically heal all their wounds. Notice the common denominator. The next time you feel the need to comment about a ‘spoiled’ child of divorce, try a new approach and point the finger of blame where it rightfully lies.  Direct your thoughts and comments towards the one who did and continues to make the choices instead of the one who is learning to navigate unbidden choppy waters. 

Of course, that’s coming from yet another of those ‘spoiled’ children of divorce.


{ 19 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Theta Mom May 17, 2010 at 11:02 am

Yes, yes and yes! Children have absolutely no control over something that has such an impact on their lives, just like a child who loses a parent – so the spoiled part of the equation, as you said, “They are spoiled by guilt ridden permissive parents, ego boosting competative gifting parents or they are acting out thanks to blind parents who bought into the misconception that co-parenting amicably heals all the wounds left from divorce.” Well stated!
.-= Theta Mom´s last blog ..Toile Tales Etsy Review and Giveaway =-.


2 britt May 17, 2010 at 3:21 pm

what a sad misconception.


3 Cheryl May 17, 2010 at 5:50 pm

Wow. It never occurred to me to consider children of divorced as spoiled. I’ve always thought it’s really sad, and, I’m sure, confusing.

Over from SITS
.-= Cheryl´s last blog ..In a Sun Hat =-.


4 Grace May 17, 2010 at 6:12 pm

What a load of crap. My kids mastered the fine art of manipulation during my horrific divorce, but spoiled? No way. They’d give their right arms for that to have never happened. Plus, daddy’s too busy with the new gal to spoil them.
.-= Grace´s last blog ..A Message in a Bottle Works Better =-.


5 Genevieve Le Bel May 17, 2010 at 6:48 pm

What an AWESOME post! I love your blog, you never disappoint! ;-)
.-= Genevieve Le Bel´s last blog ..Photo Booths… Hot Trend & Wild Fun! =-.


6 Betsy B. Honest May 18, 2010 at 11:52 am

Spoiled isn’t the first thing I think of when I think kids of divorce. But yes, I think there is a somewhat common stereotype of kids of divorce as “spoiled” but as in “bought-off with gifts and indulgences by crappy parents who are trying to out-do the other one for their kid’s affections or by a guilty parent who is overcompensating because he feels bad about traumatizing his kids for the rest of their lives so that he can live with his new wife, sorry Hon, here’s that new pair of jeans that your mom wouldn’t buy you,” not spoiled as in “lucky” or “well-parented” or “untraumatized.”
.-= Betsy B. Honest´s last blog ..Dudes! =-.


7 Angelia May 18, 2010 at 10:39 pm

Well the only thing I was spoiled by was having two Fathers that loved me completely, but I didn’t appreciate the step until I was grown. And he went to heaven far, far too soon. I still struggle with trust. I still wait for something bad to happen when things are going too good.

It’s not a life I’d wish on anyone and yet I did the same thing to my child. Cue the guilt, which lasts forever.

They need to wake up. This post tells it like it is. Carolyn, I love your voice. By the way I have a little Radiohead story on my blog you might enjoy. :-)
.-= Angelia´s last blog ..I’m a Creep. I’m a Weirdo. =-.


8 Urchin May 19, 2010 at 12:35 am

Spoiled? Really? I wish I had some snarky, witty thing to say to this, but I’m left shaking my head and wishing people would just open their eyes and look beyond the material.


9 Kela May 19, 2010 at 9:58 am

Ditto to what Betsy said!!! I couldn’t have said it better myself.


10 stef May 20, 2010 at 10:33 pm

A few months ago The BF hosted a birthday bash for The Child. The mother of two school friends, who has missed the birthday party Mother of the Child held, commented that at least in the current situation the Child got two birthday parties.

I was gobsmacked.

Firstly because two birthday parties was not what the child really wanted (she would much have preferred her parents to host one together) and secondly because I don’t think she spends the rest of her time grieving about divorce (though I know it’s there).

It’s weird that the bits that people from non-blended imagine might be the positives (two birthday parties) are not especially significant in the scheme of things compared to the companionship, the guidance, the day-to-day care The Child receives from me as her (sort of) stepmother. I know it will likely be in adulthood, if at all, that she might realize that I am a pretty cool chick to have in her life. But that’s because she’d easily trade me in a heartbeat for her parents to be back together.


11 WhiteSockGirl aka The Fabulous Bitch May 24, 2010 at 4:42 am

Enlightening, as usual. Can’t add to the conversation because I can’t relate. Parents did not divorce. And I made a rule about not dating men with children; I have no business being anyone’s Mom.
However, I do know that the misconception existed.
.-= WhiteSockGirl aka The Fabulous Bitch´s last blog ..Guest Post: Bloggy Bitch Fab Friend (BBFF) in Bitchville house! =-.


12 Mayhem & Moxie May 24, 2010 at 12:46 pm

Integrating the point about the girl you knew back in college was very powerful, Carolyn. And I couldn’t agree more. From the outside, things may look great. But take a closer look, and life is not always so rosy, especially for children of divorce or those who have lost a parent.

Excellent post!

.-= Mayhem & Moxie´s last blog ..Wanted: Summer Internship with a Blogger. Together, We Can Be Happy. =-.


13 Sal June 18, 2010 at 5:59 pm

It’s a funny word, “spoiled”, isn’t it? The literal definition means “to do harm to” which should incite sympathy (eg “it rained all week and my holiday was spoiled”), but it’s usually perceived, when thinking about children, as implying they are behaving like brats, showing selfish behaviour as a result of being over-indulged.
I find the whole issue of valuing material possessions and the preception of material “wealth” over relationships and genuine quality of life fascinating. Your story about the schoolfriend who had the inheritance is really great in showing how people in general perceive happiness. I can really see how “guilt-parenting” can lead to over-indulgence so a child of divorce might end up getting more “stuff” than one from an intact family.

Anyone who then claims a child of divorce is spoiled (in the negative sense) as a result of this and/or is lucky to have extra gifts etc, is actually telling us something about themselves rather than the child. In particular, they are showing themselves up to be someone who values material possessions over the truly important things in life. You could understand that reaction in another child, but an adult with more experience of life really should know better.

Thanks for a thought-provoking read!


14 KarinaCutie July 7, 2010 at 10:59 pm

Ok, I gotta say… this is partly true. Lots of kids today whose parents are divorced say that they feel spoiled. They have two homes, both parents buy stuff for them… etc…

First of all, I know. I’m going through it right now. My parents are in the process of a divorce. (And despite the stereotypes….) I live with my DAD… (Yes, dad!) and I’m actually kind of enjoying it. (It sounds horrible, i know…NOT!) I never really liked my mom. She was always the “Dictator-type” parent. Anytime I went somewhere, she always had to go with me. Anytime I did something, she was there watching me. Anytime my friends came over, (which was rarely, because of this) she always had to INTERVIEW the parents!!! (Totally creeper, right?)

Now that they are divorced, I stay with my dad. (The divorce is uncontested, I’m staying with my dad. PERIOD. My mom moved out of state, anyway.) The crazy thing, though, is that my dad hasn’t changed a bit. (Thats good, though.) On the other hand, though… my mom is trying to buy my love back. LITERALLY. In the past month or so, I’ve gotten gift cards, money, clothes, cd’s, and a CAMERA. (This is the spoiling part.) All from my mom. Yeah, it’s nice to get stuff like this, but the point is, if she actually loves me, she needs to tell me, and not try to buy her way in, right?

So, I know I kinda strayed from the topic, but I felt that I had to share this. (Ha ha, a teenager sharing feelings!)

KarinaCutie (Not my real name)
Age 14


15 Sal July 27, 2010 at 7:13 am

Hey KarinaCutie (love the name, even if it’s not really yours!). Sorry to hear you are going through this. Though my situation isn’t the same as you (parents live together hundreds of miles away now, I’ve got nearly 30 years on you and have my own family now) I can relate to your comments about having a difficult relationship with your mother. I can’t claim to give any advice here – yes you’re a teenager and typically teenagers have tough times with their parents, often tougher with one than the other (I certainly did) but if you’re not happy about something you need to rant about it to someone and there’s lots of people who read these blogs who understand.
Carolyn’s blog is brilliant – I love it as there’s loads of really good articles on all aspects of having divorced parents and the way you feel about them. Just remember that you have a say in what goes on and your wishes and views are just as important as (if not more important than) the adults’. It’s OK to feel the way you do and the title of this site is, after all, “Practical guides and a place to rant”!!
Good luck with everything – hope you’re OK


16 No Fault Divorce VA February 2, 2011 at 12:30 am

It seems that when parents are divorced and single they are very, very aware of how open they must be to all types of living and ways of life. Divorced parents see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil. They are extremely sensitive to how it feels to be judged.Once parents are married, however, they return to that closed-minded, self satisfied attitude of superiority over those who are living different lifestyles.Nice information.


17 Coupons May 16, 2011 at 12:03 am

I admit to being jealous of kids with divorced parents when I was younger at times. But now that I’m a parent, I realize how hard it would be on my child if her father and I were to separate.
Coupons´s last blog post ..Big Savings from Aeropostale


18 Jack Ng September 1, 2011 at 5:24 pm

children of divorce are spoiled because both parents wants to win the heart of their children. it’s a never ending competetion


19 An actual child of divorce. January 15, 2014 at 12:16 pm

I am just discovering this blog and it’s amazing! I’m a little late to the blog but as I read the last commenter above me, I got emotional. I am a child of divorce and I was the only child, so spoiled is a word that automatically gets tied to me for both reasons. And very few words irritate me to the very core.

Jack, you mustn’t be an actual child of divorce to make a statement like that. To think that because as a child of divorce, you are spoiled because the parents are trying to win your heart is completely ignorant. As a child, especially the only one to two divorced parents…do you have the slightest idea how many times it was inferred to me that I was the sole source of happiness for both parents? Do you have any clue what a gigantic burden that has been my whole life to this day? From the time I was 4, I was the equvilant of a grown adult trying to take care of my parents…who were supposed to be taking care of ME.

Of course, the two of the felt everything was a competition and to this day still sometimes do, and I have been forced play both sides of the fence. Making sure both parents see that I love them both the same, reassuring them they are good parents, I could never show favoritism to one over the other despite the current situations at hand because I knew that would crush them. SURE, I was showered with tons of toys and two homes. But if you asked me any day since the divorce happened if I would give you all my gifts in order to get my family back, I would tell you, yes in a heartbeat.

Do you know what I used to ask for on my Christmas lists every year? I used to ask for an older brother. Not toys, not stuff for my 2 bedrooms, but a sibling; an older brother so that I would have someone to protect me, and someone else to be going through exactly what I was; a companion in the struggle. Not a laundry list of barbies, not the newest dollhouse. I never wanted to be an only child or “spoiled”. All I wanted was my family.

For as long as I can remember my goal in life was to find a good husband and have 3 or 4 kids and a happy family. I used to tell people as long as I had a happy family, I’d live in a shack. It’s never been about money, or career, or pretty, materialistic things. And most children of divorce that I know feel exactly the same. We were broken by the loss of a true family, and no money can ever fill that void. So think about that the next time you say we’re “spoiled”. And that “neverending competition” only adds insult to our injury, it doesn’t help us. It actually only perpetuates the feeling of being fraying rope in a terrible tug of war.


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