Staying Together for the Kids: 11 Women Defend Their Decision

Wendy Robinson | Aug 28, 2017 Love & Sex

 parents fighting in front of the kids

I was having coffee with a friend, let's call her "M.," when she shared that she and her husband had hit a rough patch. She revealed that she was unhappy but that she didn't think divorce was a possibility -- largely because they have two small children. 

The idea of staying together for the kids sounds like something from the 1950s. But after talking to 11 women who considered divorce and decided to put the kids first, I've come to realize that more women than I'd expect prioritize keeping their family intact over leaving an unhappy marriage. 

Read on for the candid, and anonymous, truth about how having kids makes the divorce decision more complicated. I guarantee you'll find yourself thinking about when or if you'd ever make the decision to walk away. 

  • Trapped


    "If I could afford it, I would prefer to separate from my husband. But I'm a stay-at-home mom and money is already so tight. I can't imagine how we'd afford two houses and all that. If we didn't have kids, I could make it on my own. But right now I feel kind of trapped." 

  • Better for It


    "We had a rough patch about eight or nine years ago. If we didn't have kids, I could totally see having thrown in the towel. Having kids makes it a lot harder to walk away from a relationship. But we persevered and are better for it." 

  • Ebb and Flow


    "We've had some gut check 'do you want to stay married' moments along the way, for sure. Marriage has ebbs and flows. I do think that having the kids has brought us back from the brink a few times. It slows you down. Like when you are pissed off and want to bail, you then have to think about how you'd split custody and stuff like that. That is a dash of reality. 

    "Without my girls, I'm sure I would have stormed out of the house several times. But they keep me in the house so it forces us to keep talking." 

  • Worth It


    "After I found out my husband had cheated, I was sure we'd get divorced. I was so angry and hurt. I actually made him move out for several weeks but let him come back every day to spend time with the kids. Seeing how our girls love him and need him made me want to work as hard as I could to save our marriage. 

    "It was hard. SO hard. But we've worked our way through the hard stuff and I think it was worth it." 

    More from CafeMom: 6 Ridiculous Divorce Stats That Will Scare Any Sane Woman

  • Good Dad


    "My husband is a pretty crappy husband but a really great dad. It's hard to reconcile those things but right now I feel like the kids need their dad more than I need to be single again. 

    "Ugh. That sounds kind of awful when I say it like that." 

  • Wait It Out


    "My wife and I just had a baby last year and I can already see how it makes marriage feel more permanent. Having a baby is also really, really hard on a marriage -- even with two moms! We've had some tough moments this past year. Sleep deprivation is a bitch. But I feel more able to wait out the bad moments than I might have in the past. I realize that we are bound together forever now, even if we get divorced someday."

  • College Drop-Off


    "My parents stayed together for us and then my dad filed for divorce the day after they dropped me off for college. I was the last kid and I think they had agreed years before that once I was out of the house, they'd break up.

    "I'm really conflicted about it. On the one hand, it was great having both my parents at all of my school events and stuff. On the other hand, I think we all knew they were unhappy and I feel guilty that they stayed in a bad marriage for my sake.

    "Now I have kids and I don't know what I would do if I was ever that unhappy. I think we'd try to make it work but I don't think I'd agree to be miserable for a decade."

  • Being an Example


    "I certainly wasn't one to stay for the kids. In fact, they were a prime reason I LEFT. I couldn't let that be their example. Kids can tell when things are bad between their parents. We wouldn't have been doing them any favors to stay together." 

    More from CafeMom: 11 Texts That Reveal the Messy Truth About Life After Divorce

  • Grateful


    "I 100 percent stayed in my marriage because we had three kids under the age of 5. I'm grateful I did. We had a rough few years when we were drowning in babies but now that the kids are more self-sufficient, we are reconnected in a more stable and mature way. Walking away would have been easy when we didn't have kids. It's way harder with them." 

  • Unhappy Together


    "My husband and I stopped being 'in love' when our kids were younger but we're Catholic and we don't believe in divorce. Our kids are a big part of that. We live more like roommates these days. I don't expect romance but I do like stability."

  • Better Parents


    "We tried to stay together for the kids. We tried for like two years. But we eventually realized that we would be better co-parents if we weren't together. I don't judge people who try to make that work but I also think kids can absorb all the stress that happens in an unhappy marriage. I don't want them to ever feel like they were the reason we were unhappy."

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