The Divorce and Second Marriage
The decision about whether to have children is moot in many instances among contemporary men and women. They are either now single parents—having never been married or having gotten a divorce— or have joined together with another person who produced children from a previous relationship. The issue of Generativity One now carries over to responsibilities faced by the single parent or a new couple relationship. Thus the question becomes not whether to have children in their lives but, rather, the extent to which they choose to continue assuming responsibility for parenting these children. At the same time, the question might also concern the extent to which both parties of a new couple relationship are actively involved in rearing children who are already present, and whether the couple will have children of their own to raise along with those already present. As we all know, things can get quite complex.
We now briefly consider the generativity issues associated with being a single parent. In directing our attention to this Generativity One challenge, we turn to things learned from our community Sage Leadership Project in Western Nevada County, CA, and, in particular, to the second of our four Featured Players. We call this gentleman Dale. At age 78, Dale now lives with his second wife in Nevada City, CA. Dale served for many years as a senior telecommunications executive — working initially in New Jersey and then later in Chicago and San Francisco. He had two children by his first wife and was divorced while working in Chicago. Both of his children remained living with his first wife, and Dale saw them infrequently while living and working in Chicago:
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My son is 50 and my daughter is 49. During their first nine years we lived in New Jersey. I was mostly home and enjoyed being a fully engaged parent; we played together, went to church, fished and camped, and enjoyed month-long vacations in Ocean City, MD. When my children were nine and ten, respectively, their mother and I divorced after 15 years of marriage. In those days there was no requirement for joint custody, so my ex-wife simply took our children back to her hometown of Columbus, Ohio, to live. I was devastated and greatly missed my children. Because I traveled a lot with my new job in Chicago, however, I was able to see them for a long weekend every two months or so; we always stayed in a Columbus motel, ate at a local Pizza Hut, and bowled. During their growing-up years I also telephoned often and wrote lots of letters to my son and daughter. I especially remember writing a letter about “lessons learned from my own life” when each of them turned 21. During their college years I visited to see my son play football and my daughter star in plays. Since the time that my son and daughter each married and had their own child, my current wife and I visit with them each year during Christmas and summer vacations.