Tim is a good friend of mine. I've known him for nearly 18 years, since college. He's very entrepreneurial, and has never had a regular job in his life. At his peak he earned about $500K per year, but now is down to about $200K, working out of his basement, taking care of very speciailized IT work for a couple of Fortune 500 clients. For as long as I've known him, he has been a very focused, hard working guy. He works hard and plays hard.
He was married about ten years ago, and things haven't gone very well. He and his wife Claire have a history of loud fights with one another. Tim explained it away as stress related to their inabilty to have children. He said both he and Claire desperately wanted kids. For years, they had undergone IVF treatments, but the process always ended in failure. After nearly $40,000, they decided to have one last try.
Claire and Tim are aethiests. I've been a Christian by birth, then by choice, and have always been willing to talk with anyone about what I believe. When he told me they were going to give IVF one last try, I offerred to put his need into some prayer chains. He said, "What the hell. We've tried everything else." So I did. I cut and pasted a prayer request into about a dozen chains that I found on the internet. The procedure occurred, and a week went by. Then another. Then another. Pretty soon Claire and Tim were becoming "cautiously optimistic." More weeks went by, and she was pronounced "safely pregnant." Healthy twins were born to them last December, and there was an outpouring of joy. There was no acknowledgement by Tim of the "prayer" contribution, as I expected. But I gave thanks for the outcome, just the same.
Now my story takes a turn for the worse. And let me just say for the record, I don't have all the facts -- just Tim's perspective delivered over the phone.
Four months later, Claire is completly stressed out. Tim hired a nanny to help, and a house cleaner. Claire gets every Friday off, and a couple hours a day to take care of family business. But her resentment to Tim's work habits have turned into vicious verbal attacks. Last February, Tim recorded one of the 30 minute outbursts while he was sitting at his PC trying to work. He sent it to me to ask my thoughts. I was really blown away by the vicousness of it, and the meanness her threats. She talked of running away with the kids, and he would never see them again because he was a terrible father.
Last week, the stress came to a head. Tim was working late and fell asleep in the basement. Claire had to feed the babies twice during the night, on her own. In the morning she ran downstairs screaming and yelling, telling him to get his ass up stairs and change the diapers. He did this, but put one of the diapers on backwards. She shoved him out of the way, hard. He shoved her back.
She called 911. He was arrested fifteen minutes later. Six squard cars responded. He cuffed and taken out in front of all the neighbors. Tim is charged with domestic abuse, and now has a restraining order against him and a court date. He's living in a hotel.
Somehow, he was able to convince the judge to let him keep working out of the basement, otherwise his income would have dried up. He is very angry and bitter and wants a divorce. I told him to take a little time to calm down.
Thankfully, Jane and I have never, ever fought like this. We've never screamed at each other. Our kids have been a complete blessing to us (so far).
I went home yesterday and gave my wife a big hug and a kiss, remembering what Tim told me after I was complaining to him about my personal income: "You've got a nice house, a wife who loves you, and great kids. You've got everything. Quit your bitching." That set me straight.
I would have like to have ended this story after the birth of the twins. What awonderful story it would have been, having the kids in a sort of "miraculous conception" and living happily everafter as a family.
So if there's any lesson to this story, it would probably be this: Having kids doesn't make domestic problems better. If your marriage isn't together, I won't be putting your name on a prayer chain to ask for kids (instead I'll ask people to pray for your marriage, which is what I'm doing today for Tim and Claire).