It was a bright summer morning, and I rushed to get ready for my 45-minute commute to the office. With the kids out of school, only one of my sons was awake. “Dad, I’m so excited we get to go to the theme park today,” he said. His mom was taking the boys to the local thrill-ride park while I spent the day away at work. With his innocent words of excitement, dad guilt washed over me. Because I derive so much joy from experiencing life’s great moments with my kids, fear of missing out on some left me feeling guilty and sad.
I struggle with dad guilt all the time and used to be very hard on myself about it. What kind of father was I, missing out on all these precious and important moments in my kids’ lives? We might have to work long hours, or we might have to travel for business or attend to other matters that keep us from these experiences. Like for so many other fathers, that leads to a sense of dad guilt. Rather than fight to eliminate dad guilt completely, there are ways to grow from it and make it more manageable. Here are 4 ways to deal with dad guilt.
1. Accept it as a natural feeling for modern fathers.
Unlike 50 years ago when the world saw men as providers and women as caregivers, modern dads are both. The natural evolution of fatherhood toward men taking a more active role means a better family life but also more guilt if you miss out. Dad guilt is a natural result.
2. Give yourself a break and forgive.
With men taking a more active role with our kids, we still can’t be everywhere all the time. Yet societal pressure for the “new” dad to be involved in everything sets us up for failure in our own eyes. Remember, because of your hard work and efforts, you can afford to send your kids to the theme park in the first place. It’s good to want to experience every moment of our kids’ lives, but that’s not possible. Instead, focus on being present when you are there.
3. Recognize what the dad guilt is telling you.
If you’re feeling guilty about missing out on something with your kids, that tells you that you must be doing something right. Your sense of guilt means you have your values aligned with raising your kids in a caring environment with a strong male role model.No dad does everything perfectly. We’re all works in progress.
4. Remember fatherhood is a lifelong commitment.
No dad does everything perfectly. We’re all works in progress. Remember, it’s a long game and you won’t always be able to be there for the little moments because you’re working hard to provide a great life for your family. While we’d love to be there for every moment of every day, we’re doing other important work our kids benefit from and see as an example for their own lives. Move past the guilt to understanding, and reach your full potential as a dad.
Sound off: What are some other ways to deal with dad guilt?
Huddle Up Question
Huddle up with your kids and ask, “What do you do when you’re feeling guilty?”