"It was the right decision to step off the stage to be a full-time father," a source tells PEOPLE

By Charlotte Triggs and Ashley Boucher
October 07, 2020 10:23 PM
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Richie Sambora has "no regrets" about putting his family first.

Sambora, who was the lead guitarist for Bon Jovi for 30 years before stepping away in 2013, was "happy" to take a break from the stage and touring life in order to spend more time with his daughter Ava, whom he shares with ex-wife Heather Locklear.

"Richie sacrificed a lot to be there for his daughter when she was still very young and needed him the most, and he's so proud to see how well she's doing now," a source tells PEOPLE of Sambora's relationship with his Ava, who turned 23 this week, who graduated with honors from Loyola Marymount University in May.

"She just had her birthday, and they had a family celebration," the insider says. "It was the right decision to step off the stage to be a full-time father. At the end, he was suffering being on the road so much. Richie has no regrets about leaving the band."

The source adds that the 61-year-old rocker loved being able to be with Ava throughout milestones in her teenage years.

Richie Sambora and daughter Ava
Matt Baron/BEI/REX/Shutterstock

"Richie was happy being there to drive with Ava to her first day of high school and to pool parties with her friends. These last seven years have been the most loving and rewarding in his life. They have traveled the world together and brought friends to truly share the fun. He wouldn’t trade it for anything."

Richie and Ava Sambora

Since graduating from LMU, Ava has been splitting her time at home between her mom and dad's house, and recently began graduate school.

"Especially now that Heather is doing so well and loving life again, they feel like they have a second lease on life," the source says. "Ava and her father spent her 23rd birthday hanging out at home. With Ava’s graduate school online school workload, Richie still enjoys every minute with her."

Heather Locklear and Richie Sambora

The source is speaking out after Jon Bon Jovi gave an interview to Rock Antie recently lamenting Sambora’s departure from the band back in 2013.

On Sunday, Locklear, 59, shared a sweet birthday tribute to Ava to celebrate her birthday.

"Happy birthday to my favorite person ever! You are so loved," the actress — who celebrated one year of sobriety in April — wrote on Instagram. "Thank you for choosing me as your mama."

Ava also marked the occasion on Instagram.

"Birthday kisses 💘 " the recent grad wrote, sharing a photo of herself and her boyfriend sharing a smooch. "thank you to everyone who made my 23rd so special."