My Divorce Helped Me Become a More Present Father, Because I Had to Learn Balance

In his book, Now What? A Divorced Dad's Guide to Parenting Excellenceavailable for purchase on Amazon now — Steve Adams explores how fathers can remain active in their kids' lives after divorce, as he learned first-hand. Adams revised his priorities, focused on parenting, and established a set of principles that worked for him, one of which is balance. In the excerpt below, Adams writes about how learning to balance his career and family life changed his relationship with his children.

You can become a great dad. Or you can keep growing your career. Or — surprise! — you can do both.

The perfect work-life balance. There are very few business seminars that won't talk about it. You know why? Because everyone struggles with it.

I've already told you that my life as a husband and father had revolved much more around growing my business than around making sure things were cool at home. Time was critical to me, but I was trading it all in for the next dollar.

Then suddenly I was staring into the sad eyes of two young children who were hurt, afraid, and worried about what was coming next. What new building was about to fall on their heads?

I knew one thing: As they say, a door had slammed shut behind me and another was opening up. If I wanted to be the father I knew I should be, I couldn't keep doing what I'd been doing, certainly not at the level I'd been accustomed to doing it. Did I want to be an effective father? Yes. Then I had to make some changes and find some balance in my life.

Okay, not such a hard thing to do. Right? Wrong!

If you think the responsibilities you have in your career are big, they're nothing compared to raising children. I don't care if you're the chairman of a million-dollar company. If you're not instilling responsibility, values, and morals in your children, you're not doing your job. If you're not making these little human beings feel loved and secure, and helping them grow into confident and accomplished people, you're a failure.

By the way, the joy of successful accomplishment is worth it all. Not just those isolated moments of seeing my son sink a free throw or my daughter ace an exam. It's the cumulative total of seeing them turn into worthwhile adults, admirable human beings, able to make good decisions and think for themselves. That's the reward of it all.

It's true, that seems a long way off when you're sitting on the front steps, the marriage door closing behind you. They may be just little children then. Their needs and wants are much simpler or so it seems to you at the time. College, caps and gowns, professions and careers — those are way off in the future. But you better start preparing for that, starting now.

I had joint custody. I'd fought for it, but maybe I never thought about exactly what having joint custody would mean to me, to my life.

Okay, big shot. You fought for 'em. You got 'em. What now?

The first thing I thought was, I can't bring any more negativity into their lives. They've had enough. If this is a new chapter, a fresh start, then they have to know that everything will be okay. That I'm their number-one fan. That I'll be there. That I'll follow through.

Well, what does that mean? It means that if I'm going to be their number-one fan, if I'm going to be there for them, I've got to be there for them.

You can't be there for them if you're not there all the time. You can't take them to the movies and text the whole time. You can't be sitting in a restaurant with them and keep answering your damn phone.

You fought for joint custody. Well, it's not joint custody if you're dropping them off every other day at their mother's because "something else came up."

It's a full-time commitment. You know what? It's more than a full-time commitment. It's a new lifestyle for you. It's not part-time. You have some decisions to make. Some adjusting to do.

I know some people pride themselves on their perfect attendance record at work. But how's their attendance record at home? Are they always present in their kids' lives? How well do they complete that set of goals every day?

So, do you quit your job, stay at home, and become a full-time parent? Of course not. Nobody expects that of you. For one thing, you've all got to eat. I'm guessing you have those monthly child support payments to make. Maybe alimony, too. (They call that "maintenance" now.)

No, you have to go on making a living, just as you did before, but now it becomes a balancing act.

She put dinner on the table. Now you do.

She made sure they got to their parties, lessons, games, etc. Now you do.

She put their clothes in the washer and took them to the store when they needed something new. Now you do.

And you still go out on sales calls, serve your clients, punch your time clock, show up for meetings, and meet your commitments.

You're going to be balancing, whether you like it or not. The trick is to find the right balance. When you do, you know what? You're going to like it a lot.


From Now What? A Divorced Dad's Guide to Parenting Excellence by Steve Adams. Copyright © 2019 by the author and reprinted with permission of Butler Books.