31/08/2012 13:26 BST | Updated 31/10/2012 05:12 GMT

The Happy Family Balance


Today I want to talk about the difficulties many parents face in balancing their children's best interests with achieving their own happiness. Quite a serious topic but one that I think has affected many parents to some extent when trying to raise their kids and remain in a happy relationship with their partner.

This subject has come to my attention through people interacting with me on Facebook, something I enjoy doing and think helps to raise discussion on some really interesting issues. A few years ago I started two Facebook groups, Single Parents Club and Dads In Difficulty. The purpose of both was to encourage everyone to advise and support those in a similar situation and the groups thrived until I didn't have the time to maintain them any more. I miss the forums so on my personal Facebook group I have taken to making it a regular feature that every Friday I respond to one question to the best of my ability. So here's the question that got me thinking this week:

Dear Jeff, should two people stay together for the sake of the kids, even if it is to keep the kids in the lifestyle they have now? If there was a split I'm worried the kids would suffer financially.

In the current economic climate, this is a situation that many families find themselves in, so I thought my answer could help a lot of people out. I think it's important to realise there are others out there with similar problems who can and will help you - even if it's just talking things through. Bottling things up does no good in my opinion. This is the answer I gave:

I wonder how many of us have questioned our relationships at some point? I'm guessing many, I know I have on countless occasions in the past. We all have our limits but with our children's happiness at stake big decisions like these can't be made lightly.

I have come to the understanding that to be effective as a parent, or certainly anywhere near your best, you need to find a good balance in your life. Stress, anxiety and the other effects of domestic complications weaken us as people, and I believe this transfers on to our children.

But, that's not to say that at the first sign of trouble we should get out and move on, life doesn't work like that. I think what we're talking about is an unhealthy relationship that is making one or both individuals clearly very unhappy or worse.

As parents we have an instinct to prioritise what's best for our kids, but by trying to achieve this we can create the opposite type of environment we wish our children to be raised in. Two parents are always preferable, but at what cost? Your health? Your self-esteem? Only you know just how close to your limit you are.

It's no secret Jade and I remained together through countless arguments, and very few resolutions. We did this for the love of our children and to ensure they didn't have to experience a broken home like we both, and many others these days, have had to endure. We dug In long after it was obvious that we should have given up and I'm proud that we could both look ourselves in the mirror and say, I gave it my all. This for me is key.

If you give up on your relationship and the old fashioned ideal of the 'solid family unit', you need only ask yourself one question: have I done as much as I can? If the answer is 'yes' then you can begin the transition into a new family set up without a guilty conscience - I believe people that leave all too hastily experience a lot of this. People that run off with their lovers or are absent fathers often consign themselves to many years of self-inflicted psychological torment, that even the forgiveness of those affected in later years cannot undo.

With a clean conscience you can move on and start a happier life. It's a brave thing to do given that you might have to cope with very little financial help until you get on your feet, but as per your initial question, financial security shouldn't really be used as the glue that's keeping you there at the moment. I'd hope it firstly depends on love and whether or not it exists.

When my mum plucked up the courage to gather our things, herself, my brother and I ran away from my step-dad. We went to live at first in a women's Institute and then in a tiny bedsit until we were finally rehoused elsewhere. We were living on pennies but even at the age of 12 I could only feel happy and excited for my mum because I could see how harmful that relationship had been - the fact we didn't have a pot to pee in really didn't matter.

This might be a slightly more extreme case than most, but the issue is always one that should be considered very carefully and not thrown around without respect. In most cases, two individually happy parents, whilst to be avoided unless totally necessary, are still better than two collectively unhappy ones.

This is true of my childhood and experiences as a parent - if you are to leave your partner for all the right reasons, it's your duty to ensure this speaks for you too.

What do you think of my answer? I think this is an issue that's close to all parents' hearts. I know I continue to strive to make sure my boys' best interests are met but like any single parent have found this difficult to always achieve and balance with my own happiness.

Have you been in a similar situation yourself? Let me know what you think!