I hired my editor seven years ago when he sent an email out of the blue saying that he loves my blog and he’d like to edit my posts. I needed an editor. I was used to having an editor for everything I wrote and I couldn’t imagine writing without an editor on my blog.

He did a trial edit and I liked his changes. That’s it. He was hired.

Soon after I discovered that he is Bible-Belt, ex-military, homeschooler.

I thought, “Oh my gosh, I’ve got a right-wing crazy person controlling my site.”

But then he reassured me that he’s an atheist and that he got kicked out of the military for misconduct. That was comforting. I just told myself to ignore how his family homeschools.

Now I trust him so much that I don’t even look to see what he cut. I figure that he’s one of my biggest fans, so if he didn’t think the sentence was interesting then no one else will either.

We don’t talk often because I have to be in a super patient mood to talk to him on the phone. His Southern drawl comes out like syrup, catching the words, slowing them down to a drip, and making some of them too sticky to be useful.

I say, “Are you there?”

He says, “Yeah. I’m thinking.”

That’s not Southern—that’s because he’s an INFP. That personality type has to think SO MUCH. I could do both sides of our conversation faster than he can figure out just his side of the conversation. But I force myself to listen because I learn so much from him.

Then one day he emailed to ask if we could talk about something personal. He never does that, so I called him right away. It turned out his marriage was falling apart.

I didn’t need to tell him that I think divorce is BS. He knows. And anyway, for all my complaining about how lame people are for getting a divorce, I got a divorce.

So I listened. I tried to help him hold the marriage together.

It didn’t work.

Then our conversations turned to the settlement. Almost every divorce settlement sends both parents back to work, and I know his wife would never be able to go back to work AND continue homeschooling the kids.

So here’s what he came up with: He pays his ex-wife to homeschool the kids. So there’s the money she’s entitled to because she’s entitled to half, and then there’s child support, and then there’s extra—her salary—that allows her to justify staying home with the kids instead of earning money outside the home.

I love that solution. I never see good news about divorce, but this made me happy: that the kids keep homeschooling, the settlement honors the importance of homeschooling, and my editor placed a financial value on the work his ex-wife is doing with the kids.

I’ve had that photo up top in my queue for a while. It’s from an art installation called Humus, by Giusette Licari. The exhibit is either really sad or really hopeful. Like, the trees are uprooted, but they look sort of beautiful that way, and like maybe they will just grow through the ceiling or something. The photo is disturbing and unnerving but also, somehow innovative and hopeful – not unlike my editor’s divorce.


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46 replies
  1. Catherine
    Catherine says:

    Do you know how rare it is for a divorcing spouse to be that… human and decent? I had to pick my jaw up off the floor. Your editor is willingly doing without, so his kids and his former wife will have a better life. I can hardly find words to respond. Please tell him he has given me new hope for mankind.

  2. Starr
    Starr says:

    What a great solution to an unfortunate situation. I’m trying to imagine my own parents coming to such an agreement…yeah, what happened was nothing close to that.

  3. mh
    mh says:

    Sad post. Good idea, but I don’t get why an editor … so … thoughtful would be getting divorced. Couldn’t he “thoughtful” himself a way to stay married?

    Also, queue?

    • karelys
      karelys says:

      I don’t know, people are able to see how good their partners are as parents but being in a happier than miserable relationship is something else.

      I love my husband but we clash so often and I find myself exhausted from all the pressures of life that I think sometimes “I can’t break up with him because I don’t want to lose such a good partner for parenting but I’m tired of being a wife. Is there a way to be roommates that parent together? ”

      And sometimes it’s not about being thoughtful or knowing the right things to do. When I’ve struggled with depression I knew the things I should do but I was so overwhelmed and tired. In my relationship right now I find the problem is less with us and more with outside pressures.

      And who knows, maybe his marriage didn’t fall apart because of his lack of effort.

      • Jay
        Jay says:

        When you write, “roommates that parent together,” I hear “two adults who should divorce.” You can still parent together well, but you will stop disappointing the other spouse as a spouse if you face that you aren’t good at marriage together.

        • YesMyKidsAreSocialized
          YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:

          Not necessarily pending divorce. Sometimes I feel like my spouse and I are roommates. But that’s because he works his ass off to provide for us and we only see him on the weekends. This doesn’t mean we are anywhere near divorce. My spouse and I have been together for awhile now, and we have made it through the tough-marriage-sucks- years. We are totally committed to eachother even when we piss eachother off. We have three children together and a beautiful life and I think that we would be able to weather anything, even the stuff that brings down other marriages. It helps staying open and honest and not holding grudges for years on end because that one time he said that one thing and it was just so horrible. Move on, love eachother, keep working at it. Sometimes sh!t happens and no matter how willing one partner is to forgive and forget, if the other partner has checked out and is in the “newness” phase of a new relationship nothing can compete with that.

          I do wish the editor the best of luck, and he sounds like a wonderful human being who I just formed an internet crush on :)

          PS I love a good southern drawl! :)

        • karelys
          karelys says:

          That’s what I think too in those horrible moments of “this we can’t make it work out goodness!!!”

          I guess it all depends what marriage means to everyone. I never wanted a marriage just for financial benefits, parenting, or just because I was afraid to be alone. I always wanted a marriage that was vibrant and made the people involved better.

          There is a lot of vulnerability in our relationship. And it can be very exhausting when things don’t go right for whatever million reasons. In those times I want to take a break and be roommates.

          At least that’s my idea of certain couples who share life together but not that secret super intimate and vulnerable part of their heart.

      • VegGal
        VegGal says:

        I understand what you are pondering. I think it all depends on what stage of life and marriage you are in that will determine the relationship. Before children my marriage wasn’t perfect, but I figured we’d grow old together because we were married.
        After 3 children in 2.5 years, loosing a home, having a serious health scare, loosing an income, loosing the job that provided the income, I have a better perspective of what it means to choose to stay together.
        There were certainly years that we were more like “roommates who parent” than an married couple. During those times we chose to stay together partly because if he were gone I would have needed a nanny to help me cope each day, and the cost of that would have been too much. During that time I was not sane enough to go to a job interview and actually get hired, I think I would have either just starting crying, fallen asleep, or both. We were also not making enough to afford one mortgage or rent payment, let alone two. There were many times where he did activities with the children same as a single dad would, while I stayed home and had a “weekend off” same as a single mom would if the kids were at dad’s for the weekend. In the end we could both see that because of our situation it was temporary maybe 3-4 years before everything settled down and life could feel different. Both of us decided it was worth hanging on to see.
        I applaud Jay for making a choice that fits right for his family, even if other people stare and wonder. I would say that in this economy there are also many who have chosen to “parent as roommates” who have made it work.

  4. jessica
    jessica says:

    Did he come up with that plan or did she come up with it?

    She- “I want a divorce, but then we’d need to send the kids to private school. Three kids, 60k per year tuition.”

    Him- “Stay home, I’ll give you a supplement.”

    I mean, it could have come about a number of ways really.

    • YesMyKidsAreSocialized
      YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:

      I’m also feeling that this post needs a follow-up Q&A with Mr. Editor. But it sounds like they got the situation worked out.

    • Jay
      Jay says:

      We sort of worked it out together as the only solution that kept HS going. The goal was to minimize the number of things that had to change because we were divorcing. So we cut what we had to cut (which did change a few things for the kids of course) and we are supporting both households on the same income as before the divorce, so obviously we had to cut. But we didn’t cut HS.

        • Penelope Trunk
          Penelope Trunk says:

          Yes. He’s Mr. Editor. That’s funny. He didn’t even tell me he was going to reply to comments.

          Also, if I had known he was going to respond as himself I would have told him he should let me edit him.



  5. karelys
    karelys says:

    This is the greatest online dating profile you could write for him.

    Maybe thats a new way of doing business. You know so much about personality type already.

      • Penelope Trunk
        Penelope Trunk says:

        I keep looking for a wife for Jay. I think he needs someone who is like 38 and doesn’t want kids and can work anywhere – because he lives in Tennessee and can’t leave. Of course. He is really smart and such a deep thinker. He is too deep a thinker for me. I would have to tell him to lighten up. But he is never ever ever boring to talk to. And he has absolutely incredible taste — in seven years I have only published one thing that he told me not to publish.


      • YesMyKidsAreSocialized
        YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:

        Don’t take it so personally, people get divorced all the time. The way he handled it is amazing. I am my husbands second wife, do you also judge us based only on the divorce?

  6. Jim Grey
    Jim Grey says:

    That you have an INFP editor cracks me up because this INFP so wanted to offer my editorial services to you until in some post years ago I discovered you already had an editor! :-)

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      Jim, it’s interesting to me that you wrote this. Because you send me great links along with quick, fun commentary. So now I’m thinking that I should always have a male INFP as an editor.

      Though male INFPs are less than 1% of the population. So maybe you and Jay are the only one’s I’ll ever know :)


      • Jim
        Jim says:

        I was the only male INFP I’ve ever met …until I had my oldest son (17) take the type sorter and it turns out he’s INFP too.

  7. lhamo
    lhamo says:

    I’m glad that you (and maybe others, if he has other clients) pay him enough that he can afford this arrangement. I hope that he and his ex can stay on good terms.

  8. Kay
    Kay says:

    This is a wonderful solution. It makes my heart happy.

    Okay, this is a side issue — something I have been thinking about and that perhaps PT could write about sometime:

    What about moms as role models? What is the value of having mom at home homeschooling vs. mom having an interesting career and demonstrating to her kids that women are valuable in the workplace. How does one even work out the value of one vs. the other?

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      You’re right. I should cover this topic. But it makes me so feisty that I couldn’t wait to write it in a post. I have to answer now.


      Why don’t we worry about men being bad role models because they work all day and never pick the kids up at school so the kids feel like success means putting family second?

      Why do we harp about women being great role models but not men?

      Why do we assume that someone who earns money is a good role model and someone who takes care of people is not a good role model.

      The whole idea of a role model is feminist BS leftover from women pressuring each other into having latchkey kids. Really. Since when does your vocation determine if you are a good role model? Where did this come from?



      • Gretchen
        Gretchen says:

        Well, in our family, with two working adults, my husband does pick up our kid and make her dinner 4 nights a week while I work. It seems more like the families that put the whole burden on one spouse being the breadwinner vs two adults having manageable jobs with some life balance are the ones that paint the weird picture for the kids. Our kid gets to see both parents go to jobs and both parents do childcare, homework help, engagement with different things the kid’s interested in, etc. I guess if one of us didn’t work, yeah, the other one would have to work a whole lot harder to make up for the non-worker’s lost wages and that poor parent would be forced to be less engaged with the kid.

        • Kay
          Kay says:


          Thanks for the challenge to MY values! I really appreciate it and need to do some thinking.

          In our house both parents do both (work and care). We are homeschooling one child, which is mostly my responsibility. My husband does all of the cooking. And we have some help here and there because both parents jobs are demanding.

  9. Lisa
    Lisa says:

    I don’t know very much about divorce settlements. I’ve never had one. But it sounds like she’s taking him for a ride, which wouldn’t surprise me because the INFP men I’ve known were doormats. I hope he will be more discerning with his mates the second time around.

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      That doesn’t make any sense to me: “taking him for a ride”. Who cares if it benefits the kids?

      My settlement is I have full custody. I get no child support. I let my ex come over whenever he wants. He sleeps over sometimes even though he pays no child support. I don’t care. I like that my ex and my husband and I get along so well. I like that he sees the kids and the kids don’t have two houses.

      I bet you’d say my ex took me for a ride. He gets everything and pays nothing. But I don’t care. I’m happy how it is. Once there are kids involved I don’t think it’s a competition to see who can get the best settlement. I think it’s about who can be the most gracious to benefit the kids.


      • Rachel
        Rachel says:

        Wow. My in-laws are going through a nasty divorce, and they have three young adult kids, and I want to email your comment to them right now. Considering “who can be the most gracious to benefit the kids” is truly the only way to manage a divorce without destroying the entire family. Even when the kids aren’t so little anymore.

  10. Amy Axelson
    Amy Axelson says:

    SAH, homeschooling, single-for-3-years mom here.

    How it works:
    -I am with the kids during the week.
    -He is with the kids on the weekends.
    -I work all weekend which pays for my apartment.
    -He pays the state-suggested child support amount.
    -On taxes, we each claim Head of Household and each can claim 1 kid (including the applicable kid’s medical and education expenses). My tax return is based on my income. Child spt. isn’t considered income; so the tax return $ is really helpful. (Alimony or spousal maintenance, which I don’t get, is taxed as income.)
    -I am still able to be under his medical & dental insurance which does not cost him any extra after his covering insurance for the kids.
    -We live only a few miles apart.
    -The kids love both homes.
    -We don’t introduce other adults (i.e. dating) into the kids’ lives.

    To me, the is the way to go unless you can remain in the same house without there being tension, and allow each other to go out with other people, or just going out alone–agreeing on the child-watching schedule for both of you.

    I stayed in the same home for 3 years, hell, before moving out until I came up with a plan so we could keep h.s. He and other professionals thought it was impossible. (He wanted the house which is why I moved and not him.)

    It sickens me that there are working parents who fight the SAH parent and kids, and fight them legally to be put in school (and SAH parent in a pd job). If I was the working parent in a divorce situation, I work my tail off during the week to make sure they could stay home. My kids are my number one priority.

    So, good on ya, Jay.

      • jessica
        jessica says:

        Same house as people not wanting to be married for three years?

        Well, My parents did that, and it was hell. One lived on one side of the house, the other on the other side. Finally, a therapist found out about it and said that type of delayed divorce only serves the parents and not the kids as the kids have to emotionally go through the three years of uncomfortable, obvious, and emotionally draining separation. It’s not healthy.

        How did you manage for three years? Getting divorced was too inconvenient (moving house) and expensive (even though they could afford it) so the wait continued and continued and continued. It wasn’t for the kids.

  11. Gretchen
    Gretchen says:

    Other than abuse or some sort of addiction that would debilitate the family, can anyone who is divorced or knows of a divorce say why it happened? I am always curious. I can’t understand why a couple with children would divorce except in the cases I mentioned. I know it’s none of my business, but it seems incredibly selfish and immature. And I saw this as someone who has at times been utterly frustrated with my partner… Enlighten me…

    • YesMyKidsAreSocialized
      YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:

      Gretchen, it sounds like Jay did whatever he could to keep from divorcing. People have been divorcing for as long as there has been marriage. It may not make sense that a perfectly normal couple with wonderful kids can’t find a way to work it out, but that doesn’t mean that their feelings are invalid or make them selfish. Obviously if they were a happy couple and they both wanted to stay married they would have.

    • Amy Axelson
      Amy Axelson says:

      I know a couple where the husband talks to the wife like she’s a piece-of-crap and they constantly bicker (making it really annoying for anyone around them); but they proudly talk about how they’ve been married for over 60 years.

      I’ve talked with a married successfully-professional man who would do anything for his kids, does a lot of the at-home stuff (a male Martha Stewart), does almost anything for his wife, and is well-respected in the local theatre and his church. But he has secret one-night flings with women he meets online all the time.

      I know women who get pissed at their (very easy-going) husbands for not being their personal servants after they (husbands) get home from work.

      I know a couple of wives who were in love with their long-time husbands, and who were willing to do anything for their husbands. The wives were totally blindsided by their husbands who divorced them in order to have a new, hotter, more fun wife (and/0r play-the-field and date around as a bachelor).

      If you want to be enlightened about why people divorce, your best bet is to get in communication directly with divorced people, vulnerably share about *your* marriage and *your* frustrations within your marriage, and then learn about their situations (as someone who cares, not just to have anything proven to you).

      • Gretchen
        Gretchen says:

        I don’t know many divorced people and it feels like it would be rude to ask people IRL. I figured online people might share details they wouldn’t in person.

        • YesMyKidsAreSocialized
          YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:

          My husband and I are friends with a divorcee who has a 12 year old son. When he was a contractor in Afghanistan the wife shacked up with another guy and stole 80k from their joint checking and then divorced him when he returned to the U.S. Super attractive hard working high-earner who even after the betrayal wanted to work things out for the kids sake. We had to talk him out of marrying some girl he recently met who told him”God” said they were supposed to be together…he is too trusting with the wrong people.

        • YesMyKidsAreSocialized
          YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:

          Yes, I thought the same thing as well.

          Gretchen you always make me nervous to discuss things with you. Because sometimes you seem so level headed and easy to converse with, and then in other topics you are absolutely horrible to talk to and usually insulting so I’m typically prone to ignore your comments just because I don’t want my olive branch to be shredded to bits. I’m glad this time it was a nice conversation.

    • VegGal
      VegGal says:

      Children don’t make people happy. It’s more selfish to burden the child with the role of making a person happy. Children, however wonderful to each person also change your views on life, this sometimes causes for divorce because the partners find themselves viewing life different. For example, it seems wonderful to be married to a husband who makes $$, it doesn’t matter that you live 2,000 miles from your family because you have $$ to fly home. It doesn’t matter that your husband is always out of town because you have $$ to travel with him or to wherever you want…then you have children and realize that flying 2,000 miles to see family is not your ideal, and flying off on adventures no longer matter, and your husband being busy with bushiness is not what you wanted either. You talk to your husband and he says but I love my job, our house, and the way things are. Suddenly you’re divorcing him to move back to family, and realizing that he has the $$ to visit his kids and will see them just as often as if you were 2,000 miles away from your family all alone.

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