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Daddy Guilt Is Real, Too . . . I Should Know

Affiliate Disclosure | in Motherhood | by | with 10 Comments

Daddypotamus here. We hear a lot about mommy guilt these days, but not so much about dads. I hadn’t given much thought to it either until Katie was born and my two week “paternity leave” flew by so fast I barely blinked. The most amazing little girl I could have asked for had just come into my life. What now . . . just go back to business as usual?

For the record, I actually enjoy my job. But there’s something intimately painful about leaving my precious ones. Something to be said for time lost apart and never regained.

Glad I Missed the Emo-fest

Thankfully, Katie never made a huge deal over my leaving when she was little. I had anticipated a dramatic sobbing mess of a situation. Instead, I was more of a passing thought and an obstacle to be overcome so that she could move on to playing with her Gigi (Heather was still working from home so Gigi spent a few hours with her on weekday mornings).

Then there were a few late morning phone calls when Katie’s sense of separation became too much. My baby girl would babble and coo her own little daddy-come-home message, which felt like a dagger to the heart.

I know I’m pretty emotional for a guy. So be it. I came to terms with that more than a decade ago. I ache for my wife and children throughout the day (when I’m not so busy that my head’s spinning). But why does it have to feel like I’m missing the absolute best in life each time I walk out that front door?

There’s this distinct feeling that I’ve walked away from my emotional home. And while photos of my wife and kids do comfort me throughout the day, I still experience a lingering guilt and/or regret over not being with them.

How History Defines Us

My mind is filled with stories I’ve heard of generations past with fathers out on business or ministry so often that their children viewed them as visitors rather than parents. I’ve seen how it affects a growing child to not experience that father’s reaffirming touch and I’ve probably made some sort of internal vow to be different than those men. I want something better for my children. Something more complete.

I’m still not exactly sure how to do that.

I give as much of my free time as I can to my family. There’s never enough for everything. I still feel that ache of time lost when I walk out the door each morning. We’ve tried many things to stay connected throughout the day, including video chats over Skype during my lunch hour. Some have helped, some haven’t. But I come home ready to engage and snuggle and hold and play. And that’s the best approach I know.

How do you strengthen ties when you or your spouse returns home from a long day?

Photo Credit: Sias van Schalkwyk

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10 Responses to Daddy Guilt Is Real, Too . . . I Should Know

  1. Guest post from Daddypotamus. I certainly don’t know anything about daddy guilt ; -)

  2. I absolutely agree that there can be Daddy guilt too. I think the difference is that Daddy guilt is mostly self-imposed (i.e. the dads wish they could be there more, wish they weren’t missing so much), whereas with moms the guilt is both self-imposed and societally-imposed. People don’t say “I can’t believe you’re going back to work ALREADY” to a Dad who has to return to work not too long after his child’s birth, but they do say that to moms. People don’t ask dads who is “babysitting” when they are on an evening out, but they do ask moms (which brings up a whole different type of marginalization of dads…i.e. they could only be the “babysitter”).

    • Daniel says:

      @Annie, It’s true that no one says “I can’t believe you’re going back to work ALREADY”, but I wish they would. That’s how my heart felt. When I come to work and everyone looks at me with a blank stare at the mention of wishing I’d had more time with my family before returning to work, I just feel that much more isolated and alone.

      I feel very much at odds with our culture. Whether it’s co-sleeping, amount of time spent with family, or approach to parenting, I’m always at odds with the people closest to me. My two primary pools of acquaintances come from work and church – both of which look at me from afar as though I have a third eye on my forehead.

    • Heather says:

      Hi Anni- Thank you for commenting! I think your point about dad being seen as the “babysitter” is well made. I hear it all the time!

  3. Whittney says:

    I haven’t seen this documentary, but just read about it last night. Your post reminded me of it.

    http://www.entrustedwitharrows.com/home.html

    • Heather says:

      Interesting! One of the drawbacks of a post-industrial society is that most men need to be away from home to earn an income. Daniel and I would LOVE for him to have a work from home setup but that’s not practical at this point, as is the case for most families. However, thanks to the internet most fathers could do SOME of their tasks from home. I wish corporations would recognize the loyalty and other benefits they would receive by focusing on performance rather than physical presence.

  4. dianthe says:

    my husband hasn’t said it in so many words, but we’re going through this at our house right now – Sydney is in a MAJOR Daddy phase – he’s the first person she asks for when she wakes up – and she’s started asking why he has to go to work and if he can stay home and play instead – heartbreaking. :(

    and i hear ya on the paternity leave – Kelley’s company is awesome and has great paternity leave – he took 6 weeks with Sydney and the full 12 with Myles – everyone asked him why he took so MUCH time!!

    • Daniel says:

      @Dianthe The same thing happened to me. Katie would wake up wanting me, go to sleep wanting me, and rush to the door to give me a hug and kiss before I left for work. Then she started telling me she wanted me to play with her instead of going to work. Even this morning, she asked if I could put a puzzle together with her “for just ONE minute!” I was late getting to work, so I didn’t have time.

      The biggest concern I have is becoming a pattern of disappointment for her. That she will eventually stop asking because she seldom gets what she wants. Well, that’s not actually true. I play with her a lot. But speaking from childhood memory, I know what it’s like to think that the “Nos” are more frequent than the “Yes’s”. And I’m concerned that she’ll drift farther from me emotionally because she feels like she’s always being put on hold or being told “not right now.”

  5. Leah

    says:

    I think the key is being fully present when you are home. Even a young child can understand that Moms and Dads have responsibilities outside if them and I don’t think it is an all together bad thing for a child to learn to entertain themselves so that Mom and Dad can get other things done.
    A conversation that has often happened between DH and I is the idea of being home but not fully present. The body sitting on the sofa fully engaged in his lap-top might be considered in the house but not fully home. I think the key is to put the cell phone on mute, keep the lap-top closed, ignore the tweets and twitters and posts and tune your heart into that which is right in front of you.

  6. Tiffany

    says:

    Just a few minutes before I read this post I was talking to Ted about how surprised I am at the attachment Evie has to him. I expected her to have an attachment to me (since I am her only source for food) but she really lights up when he comes home from work. Being an elementary school teacher, Ted got to spend an entire month with her before he went back to work for this school year. I know it was really hard for him to leave us and he still asks me how his baby is every day when he calls. I can’t say he felt guilty but, sad maybe. Evie is the light that lit up a darkness that we had been living in for quite some time and leaving her was really tough for him but he comes home happier than he ever did before.

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