In most interviews, Kate Winslet usually attempts to appear down-to-earth — like one of us with her feet firmly planted in the ground. I’ve always liked that about her. I’ve warmed to her cheery, honest manner and her refusal to diet herself into a size zero dress. And in her latest interview with Harper’s Bazaar UK, I loved how she said she has no regrets about her life. Bravo, Kate — I think it’s a rule to live by. Regrets are futile; we can never go back and rectify them.
In discussing her two divorces, she went on to explain: “I think it’s very important to teach your children to struggle on some level. I would honestly say that I wouldn’t change a thing. Even all the bad bits. It doesn’t matter how ***** times have been, they all matter, because those things shape who you are.”
Now Kate, that is where you lose me I’m afraid. Of course it is admirable to want to make the best of every situation, no matter how badly things turn out. But saying that it is a good thing that your kids have had to learn to struggle because of your divorces? I don’t think so. The 39-year-old actress is mother to Mia, 14 (from her marriage to Jim Threapleton); Joe, 11 (from her second marriage to Sam Mendes); and Bear, 1 (from her current marriage to Ned Rocknroll). I’d warrant these kids have already had to “struggle” enough with dealing with a famous parent. Being stalked by paparazzi or wondering why an entire restaurant is pointing and staring at your mom must be hard to get your head around. But struggling because of a divorce is something I think most kids could do without.
Why? Because I’m a product of divorced parents. I’ve gone through the struggle. I’ve watched them break up and get back together, innocently thinking at the age of 7 that I would be a bridesmaid at their “next” wedding only to find out that it wasn’t happening at all. I’ve dealt with them meeting new partners and marrying them. I’ve had to befriend these new partners’ children, all the while wondering if my parents would still have time for me now that they each had “new” families. I’ve laid in bed at night worrying about where we would live if their new relationships broke down and ended up living out of three homes with a permanent backpack on my back and a large set of house keys. Apart from giving me expert skills at packing, I’m not sure any of this was beneficial to me. Sure, it made me independent and mature beyond my years as a kid, but it also made me anxious, fretful, and deeply insecure.
Of course not every marriage works out, and in the case of my parents — with hindsight, I am very grateful that they divorced, as my life would have been a whole lot worse if they had stayed together and relentlessly fought. So yes, divorce can be a really good thing. It’s infinitely the better option than two unhappy people staying together and making the entire family miserable. But kids have enough to struggle with in life, particularly in their teenage years, so I wouldn’t wish them having to deal with divorce on top of everything else. Kids have to negotiate the social hierarchy in school, discover who they are as people and what they like, and live their lives on social media platforms. There is the minefield of being secure online, the rush of hormones that come with developing bodies, the pressure to do well in school and maybe not being as successful at certain things as they want to be. The angst and joy of a first love. Life is complicated enough without having their parents’ struggles on their shoulders.
My aunt often tells me I’m more “worldly” and wiser for all I went through as I kid, but often I mourn the kid that I was never really allowed to be. I was caught up in my parents’ wars, manipulating situations because they asked me to or spying for the both of them. I had no siblings to offload onto, so I had to deal with it all myself. Often times, it was messy and lonely and hard. I turned to my friends, my diaries, and movies for comfort. I became the great peace maker. So yes, I learned things that have held me in great stead later in life. But do I want my kids to ever have to deal with a fraction of what I did? Never. I don’t want them to “struggle” with anything other than discovering who they are and want to be.
Maybe Kate Winslet tells herself this to make herself feel better, and for that, I can’t blame her. Life doesn’t always work out as we plan it and yes, she is right to make the best of it. I also on some levels agree that the most interesting, well-rounded, and creative people I have ever met are usually those who have gone through traumas, dramas, or difficult periods in life. But kids have enough on their plates in today’s fast-paced society filled with social media pressure, online bullying, and body image issues. Who needs the struggle that comes with divorce on top of that?
What do you think? Is Winslet right? Is divorce a “good thing” in teaching kids about struggle?
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