Daddy Guilt? Fatherhood’s Latest Hurdle or a Media Trick?

Daddy GuiltI got a crash course in Mommy Guilt 101 when my wife returned to work after the birth of our first son.

I was freelancing from home at the time, so it was hardly like we were leaving young Elijah unattended, or with that mysterious force at the heart of the new horror flick “Mama.”

My wife felt awful all the same.

She thought she should be home with her son, not crunching numbers at work. And no matter how many times I assured her we were just fine on the homestead, she couldn’t stop feeling guilty about missing precious parts of our son’s day.

The guilt factor receded with time, and with a little creative work juggling she now spends plenty of quality time with the kiddos.

But what about me?

A recent Redbook article, “The New Daddy Guilt,” chronicles dads who take a far more active role in their children’s lives than their fathers did with them. They cook. They clean. They make lunches. They (gasp!) change diapers. But if they miss their kid’s birthday or a concert recital they’re blinded by guilt.

Well, my sons haven’t had any concert events to speak of yet, and my current job allows me a modicum of time flexibility. Still, guilt rarely enters the day-to-day equation. It’s already a minor miracle to enjoy some time to myself each day, even if it’s listening to a snippet of Adam Carolla’s podcast while going on a supermarket run. Should I really feel guilty for not sharing my precious free minutes with my sons?

I’m sure I’ll feel lousy if I miss one of my sons’ birthdays or another pivotal event due to work obligations. I doubt the boys will be scarred by my absence, especially since I’m there for the vast majority of big events. Some things, however, simply can’t be helped.

I don’t doubt some fathers do feel guilty about not spending more time with their sons. I get it. When I leave the house for a nighttime assignment and my boys wave goodbye from the living room window, I want to turn around and bombard them with tickles. Would that make me a better parent?

So while I don’t doubt some fathers do feel guilt over not being able to do enough for their kids I take a different approach. I want to emulate the way my wife parents our children, but the mommy guilt component doesn’t serve any of us well. It would just make me a more frazzled, less focused family member.

And I promise that I’ll never feel guilty for missing some childhood events – like Disney on Ice.

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