Forget About Mother’s Guilt, What About Father’s Guilt?

guilt trip
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The Internet is rife with stories about “Mother’s Guilt” with Mum Bloggers making up the bulk of the articles. Parenting magazines have articles every few moths about the same topic. Then there are those news and other media sites republishing the blogs or having new articles written for them about mothers returning to the workforce and why they are feeling guilty about doing so.

What about father’s guilt? What about the guilt that dads might feel because they get up at 6am, out the door by 7am and not home until after 6pm?

What about those fathers that miss the first day of school? The school carnival? The parent/teacher night because it clashes with a work conference that is out of town?

What about the guilt that some dads feel when they are forced to go overseas for work for a week, a few weeks, or longer?

What about the guilt that some dads surely feel when struggling to decide between taking on the overtime because God knows, the family could do with the money, even if it at the expense of spending time with the kids?

I know I would love to be a Stay-At-Home-Dad so I could teach my kids more, play with them more, and get more jobs done around the house that don’t rob time from me spending time with the kids.

But I am one of the lucky ones, for the most part. I am a Work-From-Home-Dad with a home office that is four steps from the kitchen, seven steps to the dining room, and 14 steps to the lounge room. These three rooms are where I can bump into the boys on the days that they are at home and not at school or preschool.

So I get to see them more often than dads who work away from home do, but it doesn’t make it any easier sometimes. Both of our boys have on many occasions freaked out when I have yelled out “I’m off, going to see a client…” You see, I spend a bit of time on the road and often it can be in the middle of the day that I leave and I can tell you that right now, our 2-and-a-half-year-old hates it when I leave.

“No Daddy. Noooooooooo…”

The tears come thick and fast.  And I am left starting my engine with a heavy heart. I feel like a prick. Okay, so I wasn’t even playing with him for the last three or four hours when it’s time to go drop off a product to my customer, but knowing that he could have at any time sneaked a peek at the back of my head in my office was all the comfort he needed. But once I am sitting in my car driving halfway across the city and will be away for a few hours, he can’t do that any more.

And then there’s those times, like this very morning when on the first or second Tuesday of the month we have the company’s monthly sales meeting. I sit at my PC with my headphones on joining in the conversation via Skype, but he can no longer see me since I installed the doors on my formerly open planned office. I love my family like nothing else, but my colleagues and clients don’t have to deal with two young boys screaming at the top of their lungs while I am trying to have a conversation on the phone or VoiP.

Twice I have gone overseas for work; 10 days back in 2010 and two weeks back in 2011. Later this year I am away for a further 19 days overseas; partly for work, and this time I am taking some personal time on my own, after all, my wife did go overseas by herself late last year as I mentioned in this article so I don’t feel so guilty about that.

I also spend anywhere from a night to a full week intrastate and interstate travelling to trade shows, industry meetings and conferences and occasionally to carry out sales calls and preventative maintenance on systems we have in regional areas.

All of these days and nights away provide me with a little time out from being a proactive father, but they are shrouded closely with a feeling of guilt. Even back in the days when we only had one child (who didn’t sleep through the night until her was 3-and-a-half) I would feel guilty when driving an hour away to see clients as my wife would often need some time out to catch up on some sleep she missed the night before. Really though, I was working, and even if I was at home I really needed to be calling clients about generating business and quoting others along the way.

But. Guilt. It gets to me and I am sure it gets to other dads too.

Now I am not trying to take away from Mother’s Guilt. It is a very big deal and a real issue. But so is the guilt that many dads must feel. A recent article in The Guardian stated that;

“Mothers going back to work are twice as likely as fathers to feel guilty, according to a new survey: 80% of women worry about leaving their child in the care of others, while just 39% of men feel the same way.”

You can click on that quote to read the full article. And in another article on their sister site, The Telegraph, they also quote that statistic but add;

“But almost as many working fathers secretly wish they could give up their job to stay at home with their children as working mothers, it found.”

Again you can click on that quote to read that article too. And as I wrote earlier, that is me. I wish I could be staying at home full time without having to worry about taking calls, sending emails and having Skype meetings. I wish that I could put on a few more loads of washing, then take the boys to the park when the older one gets home from school. But I can’t. I have to work.

The guilt that a father can have is much broader than just not being there for his kids. When the father is the sole bread winner he needs to make sure he is always on his game, bringing in the big dollars, or in hard times (you know, the GFC and other periods of financial woes), that he is bringing in money period. I covered that briefly in my last post; these feelings of guilt can lead to suicide, relationship breakdowns, and heartache all round.

Parent’s Guilt. How can we deal with it? I don’t know. We just need to be there for our children as much as we can when we ARE at home. That’s what I try to do. (Emphasis on try…)

Suicide prevention links and resources:
Lifeline – 13 11 14 (24-hour help line)
SANE Australia on 1800 18 SANE (7263)
Beyondblue Info Line 1300 22 4636

In the US, for support on suicide matters call the National Suicide Prevention Help Line on 1-800-273-82551-800-273-8255 or go to http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org.

In the UK, please contact The Samaritans at 08457 90 90 9008457 90 90 90 or via email to jo@samaritans.org.

8 thoughts on “Forget About Mother’s Guilt, What About Father’s Guilt?

  1. An exceptionally honest look at the guilt we all feel, Darrell. It makes me feel better about my own guilt as a SaHD – which is how defeatingly difficult it is show boys especially what success looks like, and its importance – knowing that others suffer guilt just as specifically. Perhaps it is that specificity which invalidates out guilt. Maybe feeling so guilty is a sign of our greater, and ultimate, success. This is why I hang here, you’ve given me a lot to think about and perhaps address from my own heart. Truly, thanks.

    1. Thanks Bill. I know many of us do have those same emotions, same feelings, same joys and pains as any mother would. It’s not fun feeling guilt when it comes to parenting, but it IS something that more and more fathers will experience thanks to our changing (evolving) roles in a family.

  2. After heading back to work after our first child yesterday, I’ve shed a few tears and the guilt…the guilt! But you are totally right, my husband has worked this whole time while I have had quality time with our daughter. He says he goes onto the site I created with photos of her often during the day as often he gets home after she is in bed. I find that so sad. Fathers guilt is real and yes, I believe it that most men would stay home if they could. Thanks for the post Darrell. Honest and insightful.

  3. As much as I enjoyed your article, I didn’t quite get the wisdom I was hoping for. I’m a Design Engineer on a salary, which means I work as long as I need to whenever I’m needed. 45 hours is a standard week, sometimes as much as 60. I get precious little time with my two young girls, ages 3 and 18 months, and by the time we’re done and they’re off to bed, I have very little time for chores, projects, and last but not least my dear “SaHM” wife. I feel so guilty about spending so little time with my girls and wife, and the whole time thinking “I need to balance the checkbook, change oil in the car, be nice to get the bike fixed and save some gas, garage needs a good cleaning so I can actually work in there…” How do I justify/balance getting those things done while fulfilling my duties as a father and husband?

    1. Thanks for your comment Justin. I am in the process of writing quite a detailed post about this very thing especially since starting on the 1st September I’m adding a part time university degree to my list of things to do each week. So I’ll need to fit in 10-12 hours of study on top of the 40 hours of work I do plus the hands on approach to parenting that’s required in my household having my wife work Saturdays (plus 2 week days) and a few nights a week every other week. Add to that the nightly chore of dinner and then cleaning up, I really need to fit so much in and spend quality time with the kids. I will keep you posted on that. I promise we’ll work something out and I can offer that wisdom you were after.

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