The Worst Part of Being Divorced

Paul Schneider misses his kids.

I went to pick up my 11-year daughter last Friday afternoon after school. It was my weekend to be with them.

“Daddy, come in,” she said. I get an uneasy feeling in my gut every time I go back into my old house. I was married 17 years, the last 10 of which was spent in this early 20th century Victorian-style farmhouse. But if Natalie wanted me to come in to listen to her piano recital piece, then odd feeling be damned.

I hadn’t heard her play since her last recital during late spring; I don’t have a piano in my third-floor walk-up. It was a complex piece, a snippet of a piece called “Spanish Caballero,” and she played beautifully, her technique and confidence so greatly improved since that early June day.

Suddenly, a different sort of odd feeling washed over me from head to toe. It made me realize what the worst part of divorce is. Not being married to my ex-wife anymore is fine. In fact, it’s liberating and I’ve thrived since being kicked out of what amounted to a parent-child relationship (me as the kid). I’ve realized what an amazing support group I have thanks to the men who let me emotionally cut myself open and bleed in front of them, and I am very much in love with a woman who possesses the biggest heart in the universe.

The worst part is not seeing my kids every day. It took months for me to realize that, even though I don’t live with them anymore, I’m not abandoning Natalie and her 15-year old sister Ruby in the same way my parents abandoned me emotionally.

When my older daughter was still in single digits, in fact even after she turned ten, I loved nothing more than helping her with her homework whenever she asked, or at least checking it every day. And while it was stressful at times driving one kid to one activity, then coming home and taking the other kid to another activity, there was nothing else in the world I would rather have been doing.

These days, I check my younger daughter’s homework only on the days I see her as mandated by the Illinois courts. I try to talk to them every day, but not physically living with them full time, I’ve come to realize that I’m missing out on their day-to-day development, the subtle evolution of child growth into adolescence and all the adventure and drama that goes with it.

Instead, I get updated reports, like turning on The Weather Channel or listening for the traffic report on the 1s or the 8s or whatever it is.

Just writing that last paragraph saddens me. I’ve learned to savor every moment I can spend with my girls, and for that I am grateful. I take very little for granted with them. I listen closely to every story and enjoy every joke, corny as it might be. And my sadness lessens a little bit each time I have to drop them back off at their mother’s house after my court-ordered time with them is finished. But I still get sad.

And it’s OK that I get sad. I’m a divorced dad. My kids are eternal blessings for me, and everyone they come in contact with is impressed by how well-mannered, polite and intelligent they are (good parenting at an early age!)

I only wish I could find a way to be with them every day.


Read more on #RealFatherhood.

Image credit: martinhoward/Flickr

About Paul Schneider

Paul Schneider is an Evanston, Ill.-based free-lance writer whose pieces have been published in newspapers and magazines around the country, including the L.A. Times, Inside Sports, Basketball Digest,and Hockey Digest. He's presently working on being a daily hero to his two daughters, Ruby, 14, and Natalie, 10.


  1. daddyoffour says:

    Hey Paul,
    I feel ya brother…Very well spoken. You’re not alone..

  2. ihavewanna says:

    Glad you’re liberated, glad your ‘in love’ glad your wounds are exposed but you’re a man and if you wanted to stay wtih your kids then you should have made it work at all costs. That’s what a man does.

  3. Paul, like many divorced fathers I feel your pain. But I’d ask you to consider this. The absence and longing that you feel has undoubtedly made you a better father, I can tell you with certainty it has done so in my story. I often look at married fathers with children who they see more often as a burden than a blessing because they have that consistent visibility and I feel good knowing that I’m not nor will I ever be that type of dad.

    It’s proper to feel saddened by that distance, but as you seem to be doing with your own children, use it as motivation to be the father that you likely would never have been otherwise.

  4. Paul, thanks for a piece from the heart that resonates so strongly. I hope you find a way to see them more this year.

    • Paul,

      I’m touched by your words. I especially like the fact that you have been present in your children’s life from the beginning. That means a lot to them. I admire you greatly. Keep up the good work.

  5. Paul,
    I enjoyed your words, and my heart feels everything you wrote; except that I’m hoping to work up to the stage you’re at now. I’ve been out of my kids’ lives for nearly two years — they are angry with me and, at 21 and 17, don’t have to follow any court-appointed custody calendar, so contact with them is sparse.

    To even write that last sentence opens me up to a lot of hurt, especially at this time of year. My daughter and I communicate the most, but she chooses to do it by text. She is at a wonderful threshold, with college choices and boyfriends and growing into maturity right there in front of her, and I don’t get to experience any of it with her. My son has fought through a number of challenges to get where he is now, and I don’t get to share his victories or even his struggles. They are expressing their displeasure, anger, hurt, shock, and all the other requisite emotions that come from a child’s helpless role in their parents’ divorce in an all-or-nothing policy: I’m either in the house with all of them (including my ex-wife) or I’ve left them (not just a bad marriage).

    I have built that wonderful support group like you have mentioned, and counseling has helped me maintain my resolve to be there when the walls come down, and continue to be patient and let them know they are loved until that time comes. But the getting there, even in the hope to make that stride to where you are and see your children even part of the time, is long, arduous, tiring, frustrating, draining, and lonely. I wish you Godspeed on your journey, and I ask you to hug your kids a little tighter for those of us who are still on the outside, hoping to get a foot in the door.

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