I've been trying to figure out how to write about a situation in my life that has been very hard to experience and talk about. I wanted to write about it with grace and without bitterness and each time I sat down to do so in the last several months, I was never able to carry that out effectively. I had to sit on the subject for a long time until I was in the right frame of mind to write or talk about it.
I am going through a divorce from my wife of seven years. Like anything that is difficult, I don't talk about it often, let alone write about it. I want to share with those of you who are in all stages of relationships (single, married, separated, etc.), though, good things can happen out of bad, or even tragic, situations.
I have been an entrepreneur for about three years now. I created an application for children with autism (I have two boys on the autism scale) to help them communicate with their parents. In order to pay bills during my apps' development, I took two jobs -- one retail job during the day and another cleaning offices well into the wee hours of the morning. In addition to all of this work, I was also asked to consult on other projects, speak at conferences, and write about my company and other subjects as well. All of this -- while a lot of fun and a great honor to do -- was the beginning of the end.
All I did was work. Whether it was research or working at my jobs, I was constantly occupied. When I was needed at home or asked about finances or asked to go out of my way to do anything, I would snap or ignore the request. I was extremely stressed out, but I would not let go of my dream of becoming an entrepreneur or change my actions to balance my work and personal life.
There were many other contributing factors, but these are the major reasons my life has completely changed in the last year or so. I feel I should start with all of that, because that's the hard, sad part of divorce. Everyone messes up, everyone says mean things, and everyone suffers. That is not the end of divorce, however.
Divorce has made me face some big issues in my life, and has made me change them for the better. The one that stands out the most is that I cherish my children more, and that I am becoming a better parent.
Truth be told, I was a terrible father. When I was with my kids I would see them, but my mind wouldn't be on them; it would be on work, or the next thing that I would have to do. Anything that got in the way of work I set aside to do later, so playing with my kids and being a good daddy fell to the wayside.
Nothing should ever become more important to you than your kids. Ever. I became a horrible parent in that moment without even realizing it. I thought that working hard and working often made me a good parent. I was focusing so hard on one facet of being a parent that I didn't realize it takes a lot more to be a good one.
After we decided to end our marriage and I moved out, I had to take a step back from constantly focusing on my iPad app all the time. Thankfully, I was able to land one great day job, which allowed me to support my sons more effectively than working 18 hours a day. The divorce forced me to take the job for financial reasons, and though I didn't want to give up on being an entrepreneur, I realized that me giving up my dream of being a startup founder full time was a good thing.
Whenever I see my boys now --which is often, thankfully -- it's just me and them. My application is still running, and running well, without me having to constantly check on it. I have cut out the distractions that forced me to take my focus off of them.
When I don't see my sons, I miss them and think of them often, which makes our time together really great. And when I drop them off at their mom's house, I am hungry to see them again. I now realize that my sons are really funny, that they have beautiful, unique personalities, and that each have their own parenting needs from their dad whenever they see him. I should have been doing this all along, but at least I realize this now.
There is a saying in the startup community that goes "Fail hard, and fail often." The idea is to look at your failures in business, learn from them and move on. I failed hard and often at being a father, husband, and businessman and it cost me dearly. Thankfully, however, this event in my life has made me evaluate what it means to be all of those things, and to get my priorities right. I'm thankful that this painful experience has come to my life. It hurts, but my children have become dearer to me, and our relationship closer, so that makes everything worth it in my mind.
For those of you going through difficulty in your relationships, your experience will not necessarily be mine, but know that after all of this pain you are going through, there is hope. You can make this an experience that makes you stronger and better. Don't focus on the other person and how they have to change all the time; rather, try to change what you are doing for the good of everyone -- the other stuff will follow. Embrace your kids, and love them. They are the only things that matter. Everything else will follow.