When I tell someone my parents are separated I often get a
response such as “Oh I’m sorry”. And what can I say to that?
“Uh – it’s not your fault,” – which is, well, obvious. But
the really annoying thing is, when people say they’re
“sorry”, they often mean they’re sorry for what I’ve
What no one ever thinks of is what you’re going through
now, the practical everyday difficulties, and the stress, of living
in two homes.
It’s the little things. For example, filling in forms.
They often demand your address and home phone number, but with a
meagre one line to print your details, there’s always a
dilemma: what if they call at mum’s while I’m at
Or even worse, if one parent sees the form and finds that the
other parent’s address has been put down. (“I’m not
angry! I just want to know why you don’t feel this is your
And of course there’s the packing. Imagine spending half
your life thinking about what you will need for the next few days,
and trying to cram it all into a suitcase. And if you do forget
something, it is usually preferable to struggle on without it for a
few days than to go and retrieve it. Because that would mean seeing
your parent’s delighted smile at the sight of you, then
watching their face fall to hear that you’ve “just popped
round to pick something up” and no, you’re not staying.
Finally there’s the whole experience of settling down in
one house, with one atmosphere, one set of rules, and one parent
just to be ripped up and deposited somewhere else a few days
So next time you hear that someone’s parents are separated
and you feel you want to say something more than “Oh” (which would
probably suffice from their point of view) I would suggest
“Gee, bet forms are a real hassle for you, huh?” or “All that
packing you have to do must really suck”.
Because, believe me it’ll probably go down a lot better
than “I’m sorry”.