Recently I shared a wonderful blog written by Tatum of Ain't No Roller Coaster about the reality of Mom Guilt. It's something a lot of moms can relate to. Guilt is an understandable feeling that moms feel about their preemie children. Could I have done something differently? In so many ways, though, it also forced me to look into the mirror and accept a reality that a lot of dads need to accept and work through as well: Dad guilt is a very real, very raw, and very concerning issue most dads wouldn't dare speak of. It's too taboo to talk about it. Well I hope to end that misguided mindset.
My name is Joel Brens, the father of a happy, healthy, active, and growing 4 year old, and I struggle with dad guilt on a daily basis.
I spent a majority of Jayden's 25 day stay in the NICU as a glass-half-full positive thinker. While I was scared, I was thrilled about being a dad. The fact that Jayden didn't have any major obstacles or setbacks made it a lot more manageable than I had prepared for.
My guilt stems from the journey beyond the NICU. Becoming the dad I had hoped to be when we first found out we were expecting has proven to be much more difficult than I first thought. Perhaps an explanation is warranted.
A perfect example would be the choice to be a stay at home dad instead of keeping Jayden in a daycare over the last couple of years. After two failed attempts at daycare providers, we decided to keep Jayden home with me during the days to ensure he was being watched after properly. There are some benefits of having him stay at home, but I often wonder if he had had spent more time with his peers before starting preschool if he would be farther along with his progress in relation to his speech and communication development. Where do we draw the line between what's best for us as a family and what's best for Jayden? I feel guilty that we robbed him of crucial peer interaction at a valuable time in his life. Perhaps it wouldn't make much difference, but I am left to constantly question whether we made the right choice.
Guilt manifests itself in other ways as well. Jayden is making noticeable progress in his development, but he still has a ways to go. Most days when I look in the mirror the thought crosses my mind, "Am I doing enough?" I know that Jayden is not wanting in regards to affection, he knows his daddy loves him to the moon and back, but I constantly wonder if I am doing enough. Am I doing enough exercises with him to practice his reading and communicating skills? Every day we work to get closer, to make progress, and the progress is tangible. But the guilt I feel about the dad I am and the dad I want to be is real. People say "Oh you are doing a great job with Jayden" Am I? Sometimes my patience is paper thin, sometimes I don't have the energy to give him the attention he deserves. But we keep forging ahead. Surviving day by day.
It's difficult to explain to others that I'm carrying dads guilt around with me every day Jayden is working to catch up to his peers. I know that his progress stems from my efforts as much as his team at preschool. But I still struggle with guilt because I so desperately want Jayden to get over this hurdle, as it will benefit all of us.
Fellow dads- dad guilt is real, don't be to proud to acknowledge it. Perhaps understanding what you are dealing with will help you manage the journey of parenthood better.