The following is a portion of a post written by a divorced father to other fathers who are on the verge of walking out on their children because of a bad marriage:
Over the past twelve years I’ve learned being a part-time dad is not enough. Our children always need more. That is why I want to address a specific, narrow audience with the rest of this post. I want to address those fathers who are on the verge of leaving their families.
I want to start with a basic premise: When your first child is born, your life stops being about what you want and starts being about what they need. If you disagree, then you can stop reading now. The rest of what I say will only make sense to those who understand that this is the foundation of fatherhood.
The problem, of course, is not with your kids but with your wife. You may be having a tough time in your marriage. You may be thinking that you no longer love or can live with your wife. You may believe that divorce is the only remaining option. I don’t know your situation. I won’t pretend to be able to understand what you are going through. I only know this: you’re children need you at home. Your sons and your daughters need your presence. Real fathers don’t leave their children
I’m fully aware of how unpopular such a claim will be. Our society tells us that you shouldn’t "stay together just for the kids." Our culture tells us that progress has made fatherhood a vestigial artifact. Our hearts tell us that we deserve to pursue our own bliss.
Such an unpopular sentiment bears repeating: When your first child is born, you’re life stops being about what you want and starts being about what they need. They need you at home. If you’re a man and aspire to being a dad, that is all you need to know.
If your wife is physically abusive to you and the children then you need to get out — and take them with you. Otherwise you stick it out. If you have to stay in your marriage for one year or for eighteen, you stick it out.
What do you do if you’re wife wants a divorce? You beg her to stay. You change what you have to change. You use guilt if necessary to get her to "think about what is best for the kids." If nothing else works, then you ask her to commit to six months of marital counseling before she files for divorce. If at the end of the six months she’s still resolved to end the marriage you ask for another six months. You keep asking for as long as it takes. You may lose the fight eventually but if you’re a man you will not give up on your family until you are bloodied and broken.
Don’t kid yourself that your divorce will be different because you have a good relationship with your children’s mother. My ex-wife has become a dear friend and a superb partner in parenting. Despite the peculiar circumstance which ended our marriage, I couldn’t ask for a more thoughtful, accommodating woman to be my former spouse. But as hard as we work to make it easier on our daughter, everything we can do is not enough. At the end of the day, my child lives in a house where one of her parents is missing. Divorce doesn’t just end a marriage, it ends a family.
By now I’ve lost almost everyone who has followed me this far. Most people will roll their eyes at my naiveté or skulk off to write about my idiocy. So be it. My hope is that there is at least one father left–just one–who will seriously consider what I’m saying. I hope that he will go into his child’s room tonight and watch them while they sleep. I hope that he will think about what it means to his babies that he is there for them when they go to bed and that he is there for them when they wake up. Finally, I hope he’ll realize he has the power to retain a precious gift that we visiting fathers have lost and that we can never get back. He still has the the opportunity to be a good father.