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Daddy, please stay

I don’t know why, but just now I wanted to re-read Joe Carter’s powerful, moving essay from last year urging fathers to do whatever it takes to keep their families together. Joe wrote it reflecting on the end of his marriage — in 1995, his wife told him she was gay — and the agonies of trying to be a part-time father to their daughter. From that experience, Joe writes:

I want to directly address the specific, narrow audience who can do more than anyone else to change this destructive cycle. I want to make a policy proposal to the fathers who are on the verge of leaving their families.

As with all policy proposals, certain assumptions must be shared before agreement can be reached. My proposal is based on a simple argument: When your first child is born, your life stops being about what you want and starts being about what they need. If you disagree, you can stop reading now.

Here is the only way to fix the problem of fatherlessness: You must find a way to stay with your children. You may be having a tough time in your marriage. You may be thinking that you no longer love or can live with your spouse. You may believe that divorce is the only remaining option.

I don’t know your situation. I don’t know what you are going through. I only know that your children need you at home. Your sons and your daughters need your presence. They need you around, all the time, and not just for regularly scheduled visits. If you want to be a good father, don’t leave your children.

I’m fully aware that such a suggestion will be unpopular and that it will be deemed impractical. Our society tells us that you shouldn’t “stay together just for the kids.” Some social scientists will tell us that staying in an unhappy marriage will hurt 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. Even our churches can tell us that marriage is about being happy and that we deserve to be happy no matter what.

But again: When your first child is born, your life stops being about what you want and starts being about what they need. They need you at home. If you’re a good man and aspire to be a good father, that is all you need to know.

Read the whole thing. It’ll tear at your heart, but if you are a man tempted to leave his family, and you haven’t exhausted all the possibilities of keeping your family together, I hope it will stiffen your spine. Maybe, too, if you’re a mom so tempted.

about the author

Rod Dreher is a senior editor at The American Conservative. He has written and edited for the New York Post, The Dallas Morning News, National Review, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, the Washington Times, and the Baton Rouge Advocate. Rod’s commentary has been published in The Wall Street Journal, Commentary, the Weekly Standard, Beliefnet, and Real Simple, among other publications, and he has appeared on NPR, ABC News, CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, and the BBC. He lives in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, with his wife Julie and their three children. He has also written four books, The Little Way of Ruthie Leming, Crunchy Cons, How Dante Can Save Your Life, and The Benedict Option.

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