I Love Lucy star Lucille Ball was married to Desi Arnaz for 20 years, from 1940 to 1960. She once described what it was like to co-parent with her ex-husband.
Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz’s divorce
Ball tried to divorce Arnaz on more than one occasion, but she had quite a few false starts. Arnaz was the one who eventually asked Ball for a divorce. They reached a point where they were no longer speaking. In her book, Love, Lucy, Ball said Arnaz made the request shortly after they filmed her famous episode where she played a geisha girl.
Whenever I looked at Desi, I could feel my expression hardening. Cold, implacable hate oozed through every pore, for Desi, and for myself, too. I loathed my new self, but I couldn’t bring myself to ask Desi for a divorce. He had to be the one to make the break.
Soon after this episode was shot, Desi asked me for a divorce. I had a lawyer in his office in twenty minutes. The day I filed for the divorce, on grounds of “extreme mental cruelty”—March 3, 1960—we were filming an hour show with Ernie Kovacs and his wife, Edie Adams.
Lucille Ball on co-parenting with Desi Arnaz
Co-parenting went well for Ball and Arnaz. The actor said she and Arnaz kept in close contact after their divorce. She even said Arnaz got along well with her new husband, Gary Morton.
“Desi and I keep in close touch about the children in a way we never could when we were married,” wrote Ball. “I’m grateful for the amicable feeling now between Desi and me and Gary and the children. Desi phones me often to discuss the children or the show, and he plays golf with Gary.”
Lucille Ball said she saw a difference in her children
Ball was happy to see her family getting alone. She said she noticed her children seemed happier after she and Arnaz divorced.
“I’m grateful for the amicable feeling now between Desi and me and Gary and the children,” wrote Ball. “Desi phones me often to discuss the children or the show, and he plays golf with Gary. Since our lives have been straightened out, the children have improved in their schoolwork and they laugh more. Children internalize their parents’ unhappiness. Fortunately, they absorb our contentment just as readily.”
Lucie Arnaz says her mom didn’t actively raise her
Ball’s daughter, Lucie Arnaz, says her mother had “very little” to do with raising her. Rather, her grandmother and nurses had a large part in her day-to-day care.
“I think it hurt my mother a lot that she had to make a choice between this career thing and this child thing,” said Lucie in the book Desilu: The Story of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz. “She was trying very hard to make her life happier, so she had a baby, finally… Who knew 20 seconds later she was going to have a hit TV series? And there goes that. Deal with the baby later.”
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