Overcoming Dad Guilt: Yes, Working Fathers Too Feel Guilty
Recently my wife decided to pick up her career again after a two-year sabbatical, and I decided to shoulder more responsibilities at home to ease out some of the burdens. These responsibilities included serving a morning glass of milk to my daughter, helping out with cooking meals and sometimes picking up my daughter from her school – I did it all, willingly and happily. But while I was doing this, my inner circle, including my wife, started to praise me for being such a good companion – for doing something which my wife has done on her own for more than two decades and definitely not getting appreciated the way I was!
So while the socially accepted norm that ‘Dad has to do this’ and ‘Mom has to do this’ is flawed, it reminded me that I have been doing some of these chores ever since I became a father. There are many reasons why I did them, one of the main reasons being that I knew that I would be spending my day in the office and some days of a month on official tours and hence I must steal that time in the morning to serve hot cups of milk to my daughters and spend some time with them in the process. Another important reason was that I have witnessed my father doing the same when we were growing up and it created an impression on my young mind. But, as the years progressed and our daughters became teenagers, I used to enviously watch them engage in genuine and engaging conversations with their mother on friends, clothes, pop music, among other things with loads of laughter thrown in and I used to wonder… where did I miss out?
There are many reasons why I did them, one of the main reasons being that I knew that I would be spending my day in the office and some days of a month on official tours and hence I must steal that time in the morning to serve hot cups of milk to my daughters and spend some time with them in the process.
In the pursuit of being a perfect son, husband, brother and a father, and even after genuinely working on maintaining a “good” work-life balance, did the work finally take its toll?
But then I happily realised that it didn’t. I, like most of the modern-day fathers, have done (and are doing their bit) rather well and with gusto. While we may still not understand our children’s need to eat junk food, we know how to dry their hair with a dryer and comb them well. We know their favourite teacher and contribute to completing their school projects. We laugh with them about their favourite shows on Netflix, their favourite authors and most importantly, we have never missed any school meetings.
While we may still not understand our children’s need to eat junk food, we know how to dry their hair with a dryer and comb them well.
To me, the modern parents are wise enough to understand the pitfalls of not being a friend to their child and hence are able to carve out dedicated time with their kids. In a lot of cases, many of us take up the hobbies of our children and participate in the activities/games with them.
Few parents like me, who have this guilt of not being able to provide the wholesome childhood we got during our wonder years, we try and make up for the loss of it by introducing family time through cooking, painting, discussing novels, playing cards and even gardening (whatever the small balcony allows us to do).
I very fondly recall all the wonderful moments my father spent with me and my siblings while we were growing up. Being an educationist, he was lucky to have enough time for us which he religiously invested in teaching us gardening in our rather large garden, reading books, cooking, painting, basic carpentry work, teaching us to play chess, carom and other games. It was because of such a wholesome upbringing of my own did I understand that I must do the same with my children – if not the same, then at least as much as time allows me to. Guess a happy childhood does make you a better father or rather a guilt-free one!
Guess a happy childhood does make you a better father or rather a guilt-free one!
I remember reading somewhere that one out of every five modern-day fathers has this Dad’s guilt of not spending enough time with their children. I draw comfort from this fact and it reminds me that I’m not alone in feeling this way. No child needs their parents to engage in everything that they do.
All they want is their father to be present, and life does the rest.
So to all those fathers who are trying and sometimes failing, I would only say – hang on buddy, you are doing great. You might be a little harsh on yourself with the thought of not doing enough, but trust me, you are there and your efforts are appreciated and, most of all, you are loved.
Picture Credit: Arleen Weise-Unsplash
Rishi Gaekwad is an avid reader, a fitness freak, a self-proclaimed foodie and a person who loves to cook for his family and friends. He currently works as a Business Consultant as is based out of Gurgaon. The views expressed are the author’s own.