Fatherhood,  Life

Dad’s Guilt

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This is a post that was written as a guest post for the lovely Jemma and her blog. She has very kindly allowed me to post it on my own blog too.

Guilt is something that every single parent will go through at some stage. Nobody warns you beforehand how difficult parenting is going to be, and the reality of the challenge can hit parents hard. As a Dad I have experienced many of these situations where I’ve felt guilty and have doubted myself, but it’s completely natural. Men generally find it difficult to open up about their feelings but I want every Dad out there to know that feeling guilty is okay and nothing to be ashamed of.

Here are the some of the things that I’ve felt guilty about:

  • Going to work every day and missing out on quality time with my son
  • Leaving my girlfriend to deal with quite a challenging little boy all week
  • Raising my voice at my son when he’s woken me up for the tenth time in the night
  • Not knowing how to calm my son down when he’s having a meltdown
  • Becoming angry and irritated when my son cries for long periods of time

There are so many things that I’ve felt guilty about in the short time that I have been a father. It makes you feel like you are a failure and that you aren’t doing enough to be a good father.

Work Commitments

My job in a nursery requires me to work long hours over a four day period, and so I often find that time with my son becomes very limited during this time. The guilt kicks in when I think about how much time that I am missing out on whilst I’m at work. When my girlfriend sends me a video of my boy rolling over for the first time, all I can think about is that I wish I was there seeing it for myself. With our next child we are hoping to share the maternity meaning I will be able to spend a good few months off work.

Our little boy has had a rough start to life, suffering with silent reflux and an intolerance to cow’s milk, and so every day has been a struggle. Trying different solutions, one after the other, with nothing seeming to work. I managed to get 6 weeks off work when he was born, using up a years worth of holidays. This was something that I really enjoyed doing, however once I’d gone back to work, everything became ten times harder for my partner, and there have been times when she has slipped into the dark pit that is post natal depression. Going to work everyday and leaving her at home to look after our son, knowing what struggles she would have that day was really challenging.

Sleep Deprived

Now I’m not afraid to admit that I have raised my voice and swore at my 6 month old baby when he’s had me up all night. It’s not something that I am proud of but it’s happened on more than one occasion. There’s no excuse for it, and as soon as I’ve done it, the guilt kicks in and I wish that I could turn back the clock and take it back. There’s only one reason that it happens… a lack of sleep. Sleep deprivation can turn you into somebody that you’re not, and can make you do things that you would never normally do. I’ve been brought up by my parents not to swear and it’s something that happens very rarely. When your mental state is at a low, little things can send you over the edge. For me, a lack of sleep makes me irritated and short tempered, and so when my boy has had me up every hour of the night, it’s difficult not to become exhausted and a little bit snappy.

During the first few months of being a father, I really struggled. Another confession that I want to make is that during the early days, I couldn’t deal with the sound of my baby crying. Now this isn’t right. As a parent, when you hear your baby cry it should make you feel sympathy and a natural impulse should take over where you instantly comfort your child and soothe them. I couldn’t quite grasp it. I didn’t know how to calm my baby down and had no idea why his crying was making me feel that way. This is something that I have improved with massively, and these days I can usually calm him down with ease. It’s all about practice and knowing what your baby wants. It all comes with experience.

I imagine if you are a parent reading this that you have experienced similar moments with your baby. I want to outline that feeling guilty is completely natural and should be something that you can openly talk about. Having a baby brings out sides to people that they never knew existed, and it can send people to the edges of their sanity. It’s okay to do things wrong, and it’s okay to have a breakdown from time to time. What’s important is how you bounce back from these setbacks. Give yourself some credit and remember that you are doing everything that you can for your child, and that’s all that matters.

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