I suspect that a lot of people don’t relate to the kids of divorce because they have a wrong formula in their heads. This formula might seem to make sense:
1/2 + 1/2 = 1
After all, the parenting was cut into two halves. Since two halves make one whole, then what’s the big deal? One-half of a parent plus one-half of a parent should equal one parent. One-half of a family plus one-half of a family should equal one family. It’s just simple arithmetic.
I was about twelve or so when I consciously understood that my two half-time dads did not equal one dad. I had
1) my dad
2) my step-dad
If we use math to understand the dynamic, it seems like being with each of them for half-time would be the same as having one whole dad. But it was not. I am not 100% sure how I came to this realization. It may be due to the fact that I was an eye witness to what a full-time dad looked like. My step-dad was a full-time dad to my half-sister. I could see quite clearly that what she had and what I had were two different things. And I learned decades later that she understood this difference as well, but she was about four years old when she figured it out (she’s ten years younger than me).
An apple that is cut into two pieces is no longer an apple. It is two halves of an apple. The apple lost its wholeness, and it is hard to quantify that loss because the math still adds up: 1/2 + 1/2 = 1. But there is a qualitative difference between an apple and two halves of an apple, and simple arithmetic does not capture this difference. This qualitative difference is lost in the discussion.
It does not work to use a simple math equation to quantify the reality for a child of divorce. For the child of divorce, 1/2 + 1/2 < 1.
Image credit: Frank C. Müller