Jenna Lyons divorce

Who Comes First: You or Your Kid?

Mom Jeanine
October 26, 2011


Good Question, hot topic, Jeanine Edwards

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It’s a tough question, right? I feel like most moms would initially be inclined to say their child, but I’m not so sure that’s honest.

Take J. Crew exec Jenna Lyons who’s back in the news because she’s divorcing her husband of 9 years. They have a kid together–need I remind you of the whole pink toenails fiasco–but to make matters more complicated, Jenna has allegedly moved on with another woman.

Now this isn’t a judgment on Jenna’s decision to get involved in a lesbian relationship–to each her own. But what effect do you think all of this will have on Jenna’s son? Having your parents separate is hard enough, but to introduce another partner so quickly? It seems clear to me, in this case, that Jenna is thinking more about herself and less about her son.

But I’m just as guilty. When I wasn’t happy in the relationship with my daughter’s dad, I tried to make it work for like a month. Some people would say that isn’t enough–I should have stuck it out for my daughter’s sake. But you know what? If I’m not happy, there’s a good chance she will be able to sense that and as a result, she won’t be happy. So instead of dragging it out, I ripped the band-aid off and I think everyone is happier as a result.

All of this to say, I don’t think it’s necessarily the best idea to always put your kid first. Call me a bad mom (although I’d beg to differ), but I think it’s important to make some decision that are in your best interest even if the consequences could potentially be less than ideal for your kid. If mom is happy, there’s a greater chance she’s going to do whatever she can to ensure her kids are, well. Can’t say the same for a mom who stays in a relationship just for the kids, or continues to work at good paying job just because her kids are accustomed to a certain lifestyle. We’ve all heard the saying, “happy wife, happy life” but maybe the mom version should be “happy mom, happy home.”

What do you think? Should moms always put their kids first or is it better to make decisions that make mom happy like Jenna Lyons’ divorce? Weigh in in the comments.

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  • Jill L
    October 26, 2011

  • Actually I believe marriage is for life. You make the best of it and you deal with whatever life throws your way. Sometimes life is just going to stink, but if you and your partner are committed to getting through those hard times, all the better. I think that would be a fantastic thing to show our kids.

  • Helen Williams Chaffins
    October 26, 2011

  • I think for her being a lesbian obviously her relationship isn’t going to work. That said and since you brought it up the relationship you were in probably had things that could have been changed and were not so fundamental as hers. I think that in a situation like that couples counseling should always be the first step before you decide to throw it away.

  • Emma
    October 26, 2011

  • I agree that when you go into marriage, it should be with the idea that divorce is not an option.


    I have learned that the blanket statement regarding all marriages that “marriage is for life” is completely narrow minded and highly judgmental. There are far too many things that go on behind closed doors for us to look at another couple and say that couples counseling or “sticking it out” would work for them.

    As the saying goes, we do the best we can at the time and when we know better, we do better. My husband is happy that his parents did not stick it out as a couple because he knew, even as a child, that they got along better while divorced.

    My parents stuck it out, and while that was good for my mother, now she is still sticking it out but is the sole brunt of my father’s fear and insecurity-based abuses where once he had us kids to focus that on. We love them both in their own way but the only example they were, marriage-wise, was of what would be absolute red-flags to drop a partner before marriage. If that stuff showed up after marriage and the partner was resistant to counseling (as my father was), we would leave.

    You know in your heart if you made the best decision, and so does Jenna. We all live with our parental decisions as we see their effects, for better or worse, on the generations that follow. My goal is always to strengthen my family and my children. Anything after that is superfluous.

  • Melissa Misenheimer
    October 26, 2011

  • When I was single I had always said “Happiness will rub off onto my kids…if divorce is what makes me happy then that is what it will come to”

    Now I am not so sure.

    I think one thing we can all agree on is majority of parents will do what they can to make sure that their family is happy. But that is different for each family. I don’t necessarily think that either is in the wrong. Plus…how do you know your even in the wrong until you experience that mistake?

    All I know right this very moment is my husband and I are happy in our marriage and it shows. My kids are also happy. All this is what matters to me.

  • Helen Williams Chaffins
    October 26, 2011

  • I’m not saying you have to stay I’m just saying not putting in the modicum of effort that a couple of trips to therapy would entail is a failure for both you and your children. I’m also not saying it works for every situation for example if your husband (or wife) is abusive then obviously don’t wait around trying to fix it but I have seen many relationships that have failed because one or both partners are unwilling to accept small differences and irritations that over time eat away at the foundation of the relationship and if you think for one moment that these kinds of differences are not the largest reason for separation in this country something is wrong with you.

  • Lorie-Bill Shewbridge
    October 26, 2011

  • To say a blanket statement that marriage is for life is naive… Yes, we all intend for that to happen, but things happen. My first husband turned out to be emotionally and mentally abusive and then started to become physically abusive. A woman NEVER should stay with a man who is abusive. I tried to make things better for a long time because of the children and I became lost in myself and lost all confidence In myself. I ended up in therapy and finally got the strength to get out of that marriage and eventually found a real man who knows what it is to be married and how to treat a wife and woman and children.
    I am a better woman and a much better mother because of leaving my children’s father.

  • Carolyn
    October 26, 2011

  • I think it’s sad any time a couple with children breaks up. It is always going to be very tough on the child. However, I think it’s ridiculous if anyone passes judgment on her for being involved with another woman. Maybe it simply took her longer to discover the sexual preference that was determined before she was born — it’s none of my business — but I don’t think that part of the story should even be part of the discussion.

  • Emma
    October 27, 2011

  • @Helen, I didn’t specifically mean your comment so I apologize if you felt I was referencing it. You said “first step” as a clarification, and I agree that it should certainly be tried if it is a viable option.
    When you say that too often marriages fail because partners are unwilling to accept (or overlook) small differences or imperfections in each other, I understand what you mean, which is why I think that people should go into marriage with the idea that divorce is not an option.
    I think you do see, as do I and the others who have expressed it, that there can be extenuating circumstances that don’t meet that criteria. My main point was that the only people to really judge which situation applies are those within the marriage. Even as I wrote that there are many who just give up, I also thought I may be judging a few of those situations as well. :)
    But I understood your point and was not referring to your specific comment. Thanks.

  • Marieke
    March 23, 2012

  • I think that it’s very much situation dependent.

    Divorce is never the ideal option, but sometimes it is the necessary one, and sometimes I think the positives outweigh the drawbacks.

    I don’t think anybody enters into a marriage with the idea that it will end, I certainly did not, and we all dream of the situation where we can raise our kids in a happy home until they’re old enough to leave the nest. However, especially in these times where the world changes much more rapidly than it did before, you cannot always foresee how you, your partner and your life will be years down the track. Some people’s traits and certain situations don’t arise until you’re well into it.

    I called it quits in my relationship after being together a decade and married for about 8 years (with 2 kids, 1 with special needs). The relationship had become intolerable in a number of different ways, and I felt like I was dying inside. I spent many, many, months trying to make it work and to work through the issues, with no effect. By the time my ex finally decided he wanted to initiate some changes, it was well past the point of return for me and I decided I wanted a divorce. It was never a decision lightly made, and yes, I guess I thought of myself first.

    One deciding factor for me was also knowing that of my friends who had parents with unhappy relationships who stayed together or stayed together too long, they said that even as kids, they knew. They could sense the issues, the resentments, the lack of love, respect, affection and such things (to say nothing of the worse issues that can exist). Don’t ever think that sticking it out for the kids is really going to mask all the unhappiness between the couple, it doesn’t. I felt that I owed it to my kids for them to have a happy and fulfilled mother, not someone trapped in a relationship she no longer wanted and that was dragging her down and making her miserable. I was certainly aware of the difficulties that would come along with the decision and it was never made lightly.

    As for my kids, there was a period of adjustment, of having to get used to a shared custody arrangement and the growing pains from that. My eldest has special needs and in a way is lucky that he is/was oblivious. My youngest was just 2 when I moved out, and so she was young enough that she now doesn’t even recall her parents having lived together. In a way that certainly makes me sad, but I am now much happier, and also now in a much healthier, happier and affectionate relationship, and I think that that’s much better for her to see growing up. In the end, my being happy is also putting my kids first, to me at least.

    Even if Jenna is now seeing someone else, I imagine that she’ll introduce her partner to her son in a sensible way, and not just drop it on the kid like some huge bomb. Kids are also very adaptable and resilient.