Giving Dads Like Me a Bad Name

Working dads face a new kind of pressure. One I never thought I would face. It’s the pressure from the new generation of Stay-at-Home Dads. This new generation is raising awareness for the new norm of manliness, taking care of your children. They are making themselves heard on Twitter, in blogs, in Newspaper articles and media spotlights. Don’t get me wrong, I love tweeting with these guys and reading their blogs. They inspire me by their stories, encourage me by their shared experiences, and teach me by their alternative approaches to parenting. I’m better prepared to face the challenges that lie ahead thanks to these guys.

Thanks @SaskaDad for showing me this post by @DaddysInCharge called “I Am Not The New Normal” a take on being a SAHD

BUT, what they don’t know is that they also make me feel like a failure at times. I see these stay-at-home dads writing about all the stuff they do around the house while simultaneously creating wonderful experiences for their kids that involve elaborate costumes and treasure maps, teaching them valuable life lessons and elective courses of Latin or advanced math in the summer. And I’m reading all of this on the train home after an exhausting day of teaching.

More proof that being considered a ‘good dad’ involves being either a SAHD or flextime.

http://twitter.com/AnOrdinaryDad/status/238841907684454400

It makes me wonder what kind of father I am, anyways. I’ll never measure up. I’ll never be able to be like that?! Maybe it’s Daddy Guilt. Maybe I’m just jealous at the relationships they seem to have with their kids. It makes me wish I could quit my job and be home with my kids to work on cool science experiments or artsy video projects or building something out of wood. But no, I’m in my backyard sitting in my lawn chair munching on pretzels while I watch them throw sticks in the air. [true story]

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I wonder if there are other guys who feel this way, too. I don’t feel like I’m being any kind of influence on them at all and that makes me scared for how fast they will be all grown up and out on their own. I feel like I’m emotionally drained at times and lament the fact that they get to see me at the end of the day when I’m most tired. Not that seeing them in the morning would make much of a difference. I’m pretty much a zombie until ten o’clock in the morning. But Saturdays and Sundays don’t seem like enough. What is real fatherhood? What is it to be a working dad and an involved dad? I can’t measure myself against these guys (and it really has little to do with them and more to do with how I feel), but I also don’t want to set the bar so low that I feel like I’m doing better than I really am.

Gimme your thoughts, please!

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23 Replies to “Giving Dads Like Me a Bad Name”

  1. Well Dad, first I am going to say thank-you for honesty and openness. Not too many people are willing to admit to experiencing such thoughts and feelings. Second, no you are not a failure. You’re just someone who has complete awareness of what your inner self is communicating to you. I am a stay at home mom (your experience is not unique to Dads alone, we Moms travel the same path at some point during our Parenthood journey) and I experienced the same thing during the pregancy and the year after that of my second child. I felt as if I was failing my first child because I saw myself as neither putting in quantity nor quality time. I had guilt because during my eldest’s first 3 years, I was going through a turbulent time and wasn’t bonding with her at all. Then along comes another one pushing aside opportunity for us to begin our bonding process. Once I forgave myself for harboring these thoughts and emotions, I asked my baby girl for her forgivness for me not parenting her as I agreed to do before she was born. Once that process completed itself (it does take time because a whole lot of other stuff came to the surface in order for me to be completely cleansed), I sought awareness regarding ways in which I could help myself to be what was needed for both my children. I became aware of what was making me so larthargic and disinterested. I changed my diet, my sleeping habits, how I absorbed information, and how I experienced my experiences. What choices was I making to contribute to me not being the parent I knew I could be. I had to be completely honest with myself and learn how to listen to my intuition regarding my thoughts, feelings, and actions. I had to shut everyone else out except those who I knew to be balanced within themselves to be able to assist me during my process. It took a lot of hard work and persistence. I still get thrown off balance every once in a while, but I quickly bounce back when I take a step back from being so close to the situation to see what the bigger picture is. Sometimes keeping a microscope on the details blurs the vision of the greater purpose. I hope this helped. Keep pushing past the wall of insecurity and keep questioning your perceptions (objectively not subjectively – you don’t want to create self doubt – that’s no fun) until you learn who the real you is without all the outside influence.

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    1. I almost wrote about how I wondered if this is the same thing some women experience but since I’m not one… I just left it at “dads” :). Your comments did help. I too am seeking an awareness of what I can do to become the parent I want to be and finding that balance between working full time and being an involved and influential dad is difficult at times. I need to get the voices out of my head that compare me to other dads in different situations and at the same time define what a working dads role should look like. Thanks for your insight. I hope to hear from you again!

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      1. Happy to help 🙂 Just had a thought: why not try visualizing/focusing on what you want to do when you get home during your commute home. Even if it’s the smallest gesture, focus on what feels good to you. This helps to create a new experience for yourself one day at a time. Also, not sure as to how systematic you are (organized), but this has helped me to train my brain: create a weekly Aim for yourself regarding spending time with the little ones. It doesn’t have to be a grand gesture, it could be as simple as speaking with them regarding how their day went or reading them a story. Think of what steps you would have to take to make that goal happen and work towards that. You can plan goals for the weekend in the same fashion if proven to be successful. Don’t be afraid to experiment and don’t be afraid to involve the children. I’m sure they would be thrilled to help you out escpecially if it means they get to do what they love best with you. I’m a huge advicator for open communication with our children. It builds trust and close bonding relationships. Let them know what’s happening and you’d be surprised at how resourseful they are!

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      2. I’ll give this some thought. When I am home in the evenings I do spend most o my time with them but when I compare it to the stay t home dads sometimes it makes me feel like its not good enough. I should plan better for the weekends though, you’re right!

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  2. I like the time I have away from my kids when I go to work. I have the fortune of being a teacher so my hours aren’t too taxing and my days-off allow me to do a ton of connecting.

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    1. I enjoy my job and it is easier many times to be at work than to take care of two little ones. I’ve written before about my conflicting feelings about being away so much and missing them but then being relieved when I get time at home to myself. then I wonder if an extended vacation is just what I need?

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  3. I have so much more to say about this topic that I will probably blog about it instead of writing a small essay in your comments.

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  4. I hadn’t really thought of it that way, but I see what you mean. I guess it’s because I haven’t been reading a lot of other blogs lately. Perhaps that’s a good thing. Really though, I know I am a good dad, doing the best he can. Could I be better? Sure, we all can. I just won’t get into the habit of comparing myself to other dads.

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    1. I should probably do the same and stop comparing myself to dads in different situations.

      I guess I’m trying to answer what being an involved dad looks like for working dads like you and me. What’s good enough?

      And I will probably always feel like I could do better.

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  5. I feel the exact same way. There are times I get home from work and barely have enough energy to eat dinner. The truth is, I’m jealous. I would love to post more often. I would love to spend more time with my kids.

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  6. Listen… if they have enough time to post about all the amazing things they are doing with their kids, chances are they aren’t. I stay at home with the kids and it is draining. Sometimes I feel I would be a better parent if I did work out of the house in an actual job.

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  7. First off, you’re a great father. I know you are because I’ve witnessed it, but I understand what you are saying and often times feel the same way. I tend to feel the pull on weekends when the grass needs to be cut (again) or the bushes need to be trimmed (again) or I need to finish that project I started 2 years ago. I just do my best to balance it all. It’s not easy, but I’m doing my best and I KNOW for a fact that you’re doing your best (and a darn good job).

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    1. Kurt, I really appreciate you. You are a great dad yourself. You’re right. This balance thing is hard. The amount of time seems out of whack sometimes. I’m a dad afterall and that’s my greatest responsiblity. But then I spend so much more time at work it seems like I just get visitation with my kids on evenings and weekends! And next time we come visit I’ll help you finish up that project and you can help me replace that outlet under my sink 🙂

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  8. I’m right there with you on this. I just recently went under a change in my career and get to spend less time with my son but over the course of a week get to spend more time with him and wife together.

    I struggled when I moved into my job with this exact same thing. Was I really being a good parent because all I did was sit in my chair and watch TV. There was this moment, in fact I wrote about this moment I believe when it hit me that I am being a dad who is distancing myself from my family. I did not want that to happen. I made it on the top of my list once I get home even before kissing my wife (she understands) to get down and hug and kiss my son, kiss my wife, change, and then play with the son.

    Daddy’s in Charge is right. I feel like I am a much better parent now that I am at work all day and get to see them at night. While I maybe emotionally drained from the day, it is still a priority for me to play with my son.

    It is tough but somehow we all make it through it. The dads you are meeting through the Daddy’s Bloggersphere are great shoulders to lean on if you feel like it is getting to difficult. We are all in the same situation, being a dad.

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    1. Good point. And I like your perspective having gone through a career change. Thanks for the encouragement! Like you, I try to play with them in the evenings as much as I can before they go to bed. I just never entertained the idea of being a stay at home dad. That concept didn’t seem to be around when I was growing up. Now though it is more popular and so it makes a dad with a career outside of the home feel somewhat guilty for how little they see their kids. Being a parent is tough and you second guess everything!

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  9. From what I’ve read in your blog and your posts on Twitter, you sound like an amazing dad to your kids. Don’t feel inadequate because you are comparing yourself to others. Everyone’s situation is different and if you’re making an effort to be the best dad you can be for your kids then I think that’s pretty admirable. Being a parent is hard work. I absolutely adore my daughter, but I know that I could never be a stay-at-home dad. I sometimes feel guilty when I tell people that I get the summers off, but our daughter continues to go to daycare – they must think that I’m an awful father who doesn’t want to spend time with his daughter which is not true at all. We send her because it’s what works best for us. Her daycare is amazing and I know that if she stayed home for an extended period of time she wouldn’t get that same level of interaction and stimulation. For two weeks the daycare closes and she gets to stay home with me. I love the time we have together but by the end of it, I’m drained! That’s why I have so much respect for stay-at-home parents and childcare workers. To me, they are amazing.

    I think it’s great that there are so many awesome dads out there. I love reading about their experiences and, like you, I use them to help me become a better dad to my daughter. I try not to compare myself too much though. Besides, while they may write about all the great things they do with their kids, they are going to have bad days too which they may not always blog about.

    It sounds like you’re doing a great job with your kids.

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    1. Thanks Ken, it’s the blessing and curse of social media isn’t it. Everyone writes about the good but not everyone writes about the bad and that makes it a breeding ground for comparisons and discontent. I try to take only the good from my interactions, its just as the role of fatherhood is changing and more men are staying at home with their kids I think that makes me wonder what a “good” father looks like who works. You know, trying your best is important, but I’m trying to envision and evaluate what being the best (and I just mean that not like ‘better than you’ but ‘best I can be’) father means. Years ago dads related to their kids differently and in some ways they were trying their best, but it may not have been effective. I want to write more about this but I’m not sure what I’d say at this point.

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  10. One day your kids are going to look back at the life you provided AND the time you spent with them and say “thank you”.

    I’m just beginning to come to terms with the stay-at-home-dad idea. I was raised in a very traditional home and I know that I could never stay home (unless we won the lottery). My wife currently works as a teacher, but our goal is to get to a place financially where her working is an option. I support wherever she wants to be (at work or home), but I just can’t be the stay-at-home parent.

    That being said I’ve struggled a little bit w/ respecting dads who stay do stay home (emphasis on past tense). I don’t think it’s right one way or the other, but I do feel jealous sometimes that I don’t get to spend as much fun, leisure, quality time with my kids. This is especially hard when my wife gets to be home for the summer as a teacher.

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  11. I’m a stay at home dad and have to admit that I never thought of the situation you describe. This is the opposite of what i experience since I spend my days feeling guilty for not being at work. And then I feel guilty for not enjoying this time with my son to the fullest since I’m so preoccupied with my not having a job! Seems as if the “have to provide for the family” drive is some kind of male gene.

    Anyway, I do thank you for giving me a different perspective. After all, I’m sure I’d feel the same way as you do if I were at work right now instead of qriring this with my iphone as i’m trapped on the bed as my son takes a nap on top of me.

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