Why Dad Guilt Is Good


Why Dad Guilt Is Good

The Dad's of today’s dad are more hands on than any other generations and yet, many of us still feel guilty they we're not spending enough time with their kids. 

When I found out I was going to be a father, I was consumed with fear. And by the time Thing 1 arrived, I was terrified. What was  less expected, and quite unwelcome,  was the guilt that also followed.

Thoughts of "what do I do?” followed by "was that right?" followed by “could I have done that better?” followed me around like puppies that keep crapping on the new carpet.

Obviously I knew perfectly well that nobody’s perfect, but when it came to my child, my failures drove me crazy.

It turns out that I'm not alone.

A survey by Today.com and Fatherly.com found that guilt is common among dads. They feel guilty about working too much and not being with the kids, or not enough to make the money they think they should or that they're not “present” enough with their kids when they are around.

You see, the guilt gets you coming and going. If you’re not guilty about not spending enough time with your kids, you’re guilty about not earning enough to give your kids everything you want to give them. And in all likelihood, you’re guilty about both. I know I am.

When I worked in corporate, I earned plenty - but I barely saw my new son - so I felt guilty. When we started Hugs for Kids so I could spend more time with the kids, I then felt guilty about pushing us onto the poverty line for my own selfish feelings.

Poor Bek copped it the other way - she went from being a stay at home mum who spent every moment being the kids world to barely seeing them in comparison - just so I could be around more (which made me feel even worse).

But this is about me - she can write her own article.

So for me, I should be pretty happy that I'm with my kids more. And I am, but working for yourself then means you never really stop working - it's always in the back of your mind.

So I’m at home, but I'm distracted. It's like my brain doesn't even care about quality time.

What I've noticed is that when you’re a father, guilt is the easiest emotion to self-generate. I mean, I hated school but here I am sending my kids there every day (guilt). But if I took them out, I wouldn't give them a very good education and they'd never socialise (guilt).

Personally, I don't think it’s possible to be guilt-free when you have kids: every minute away from them feels like a betrayal, and everything you don’t provide for them feels like a deprivation.

I theorise that there's an evolutionary explanation for fatherly guilt. I'm sure that prehistoric Dads who had a tendency towards guilt probably worked extra hard to keep that guilt at bay by working extra hard to bring home a mammoth or keeping an especially sharp eye out for sabre-tooths.

So the children of guilt-laden dads were probably more likely to survive than the kids of dads who weren’t as fussed over what happened to them.

But I'm hoping that dad guilt might be reaching a peak because of the changes in fathering that we’ve seen over the last generation.

Where traditionally the father was the provider and the mother the carer, it’s now pretty well accepted that both providing and caring can (and should) be done by both.

This is an excellent development because it opens up so many more possibilities for parents, and makes for a far better attitude towards family life in general.

But more possibilities mean more guilt. In the "old days" when a father was expected to do little but provide for the family, he didn't need to feel guilty about much else. But now every area of parental guilt is open to the self-doubting father.

Welcome to Motherhood I can hear you all exclaim.

And you're right.

This shift has done nothing but even the emotional playing field.

Guilt over lack of quality time, guilt over missing a school concert, guilt over not having the washing done, guilt over dinner not being delicious, guilt over missing a first word or a first step - the lost goes on.

Oh, and the guilt over not being a good enough provider? That’s still there.

But this shift doesn't mean mums get less guilt not that dad's get more. No, life doesn't work like that.

But I guess for me, the dad guilt feels more acute because being aware of the shift in traditional parenting roles, makes every perceived failure seems like a lapse into outdated patterns.

But dad guilt is not insurmountable. Nor is it entirely useless.

For one thing, it’s a pretty big motivator to be the best dad you possibly can be.

It’s also gives you practical experience in what our parents went through.

Most of all however, what dad guilt tells you is that you’re doing something right.

Because that guilt is a manifestation of the fierce love you have for your kids.

So you need to remember that so long as you love your kids, you will never be free of dad guilt, because you’ll never be satisfied with what you’ve done for them. Because they deserve perfection.

And no-body's perfect.

I think I mentioned that.


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