You don’t have to be a parent to know that the job comes with a whole bag of emotions.
Joy? You know it.
Happiness? By the bucket load.
Anxiety? For sure.
Confusion? I don’t really understand the question.
Different stories have different amounts of each of these, but the one emotion that any parent worth their salt has is an over-supply of guilt.
Ah, that sweet, delicious, completely useless and mostly unnecessary, guilt.
Why do we do this to ourselves?
I’m sure each parent has his or her own wonderfully complex concoction of reasons – but no matter what we think, it’s clear that the system is set up where we have no choice.
I can only speak from my experience as a father from this point on, but I want to make it clear that this isn’t a “how much worse dads have it than moms” rant. From what I’ve seen, mothers have it rough in the guilt department. I don’t envy them and I certainly wouldn’t want to switch positions with my wife in this regard.
That being said – it seems that we are doomed to fail, and it starts well before the baby arrives. It starts with every example of fatherhood in film and TV. If we’re not buffoons, we’re mean-spirited. If we’re not too focused on our careers, we’re lay-abouts.
You have a baby on the way? Great! Your career is in a position where you only have to work a few hours a day, while still being able to afford that wonderful suburban home, right? You’re going to need the extra time to put the baby’s room together.
What…you not good at carpentry? Tsk tsk.
Hopefully your low-time, high-paying job isn’t too stressful, because you are about to have a tired, scared and emotional pregnant woman in your life so you better have the mental and emotional energy to care for her. She needs you at your best for the next 9 months.
Of course, you need to remember to read to your baby in utero or she’ll struggle at academics for the rest of her life.
When you’re done with that, you better make sure that you tackle that growing pile of baby and parenting books. Don’t worry that most of them contradict each other. The important thing is that you took the time from less important things – like sleep – to read all of them. That’s what the real good dads do.
As the pregnancy reaches the end point, you have to remember to be able to drop whatever you are doing at a moment’s notice. I recommend not being out of line of site from your partner from week 38.
Oh, good, you managed to be there in the hospital room when your baby was born. Are you completely overcome with this moment? Seems reasonable…but wait – you have to be at the TOP of your game for at least the next two weeks if you want to be known as the supportive husband. So swallow all of that, don’t be overwhelmed, and make sure you get your partner through this.
Miss any of those points and you are heading for a wonderful trip to Guilt Town.
And that, my friend, is just the start.
My eldest son is only three, so I can only tell you of other guilty highlights that you have to look forward to up to that point:
- Wanting to scream when your infant child won’t stop crying
- Not giving your partner enough attention because you are exhausted
- Staying too late at work
- Going out and leaving your partner by herself with the kids for the first time in forever
- Freaking out at the idea of being left alone with the kids for the first time
- Making the wrong bottle/meal
- Sleeping like a drugged man while your kid screams
- Leaving for work just after your toddler cries out, “Please don’t go to work, Daddy!”
- Realising that you’ve forgotten your best friend’s/mother’s/sibling’s birthday
- Realising that you’re not as romantic as you used to be
- Realising that you’ve let your health slip
- Not working hard enough to earn enough to give your kids everything
- Working too hard – to give your kids everything
- Spoiling your child
- Not spoiling your child
- Not disciplining your kid
- Disciplining your kid
- Not having a school plan from the day he was born
- Being too proud of your kid
- Not being proud enough when your kid manages to make a splotch of paint hit the paper for once
- Never, ever, ever doing enough
So you see what I mean when I say that we are doomed to a life of guilt. The system has been designed to make us fail.
The irony of all of this? I know parents who feel guilty because they know they shouldn’t feel guilty.
So…you’re not going to win in your fight against this scourge. Good luck.
This post was first published on the parenting blog Caffeine and Fairydust.
This article first appeared on KFM : Parenting and Guilt