Daddy Guilt Looks A lot Like Mommy Guilt

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Mommy guilt has been around for decades, but when was the last time you heard someone say the words “Daddy Guilt?” Daddies have guilt too and while we may not show it quite as often, we can still feel the pang of a guilty conscience every time we do something that might not make our little ones perfectly happy.

Maybe it’s because men haven’t traditionally been the primary caregivers in most households for the past few centuries and that we’re just now staking our place at the head of the changing table. But the guilt that mommies feel from yelling, not wanting to play more, working long hours, and using the TV as a babysitter resides deep within our masculine, hair-covered chests as well. Not to be outdone, we also hate the feeling we get from giving in with the dreaded pacifier, letting our kids sleep in the crib too long before transitioning them to a bed, and not getting our little ones potty-trained early enough. Yup, we get those very same feelings you get. Sorry to burst your bubble.

What may come as a surprise to all the mommies out there, however, is that we also have our very own unique brand of guilt that comes as a result of the ever-changing structures of home and work and the fast-moving technology world. You see, a lot of dads love their gadgets. I have, in my possession at all times at least two of the following items: an iPhone, an iPad, a Kindle, a laptop, a professional DSLR, and a recording device. I’m tied to technology like a sleepless child to their binky. While these devices are all fantastic, fun, and great for business, they’re not as conducive to quality time with your children. The guilt I feel when I’m using them while at home with my daughter is immense (but clearly not strong enough to make me put them down). The prevalence of technology in the household these days is a major struggle for dads and I’m sure many moms as well. There are even times when I feel guilty for letting my daughter play games and watch videos on my iPad (it’s essentially her iPad at this point).

Dad guilt doesn’t just start and stop with technology either. Here is a brief list of things I’ve felt guilty about as a father over the past week (mind you, these could easily repeat every week). As a work-from-home dad who also has his child most of the time for most days of the week, this list could potentially go on for pages.

  • Working too much.
  • Working not enough (and spending more time with my daughter).
  • Not having dinner ready when my wife gets home.
  • Not feeding my daughter the healthiest food.
  • Handing my daughter the iPad and saying “play games for a while” as I continue to work, write, read, or clean.
  • Forgetting to brush my daughter’s teeth every day.
  • Mismatching my daughter’s clothes before we go out. (This is one stereotype that I think actually rings quite true. I’ve yet to find a dad that can consistently dress their child in matching clothes.)
  • Going for a walk, the gym, or watching any sporting event for more than thirty minutes.
  • Not being creative and giving my daughter and wife the same types of food for dinner too frequently.
  • Wanting (and sometimes, shamefully, expecting) to be intimate with my exhausted wife when she arrives home late from work and my daughter is fast asleep in her crib.

How much time do you have because I could easily keep going? You may have cornered the market on guilt for centuries, but times have changed.

Take last week for example, as my wife had four glorious weekdays off in a row and really wanted to go down to the Jersey Shore (the real Jersey Shore – you know, the nice, relaxing one that makes up ninety-nine percent of the actual Jersey Shore. Not garbage you see on MTV every week). When she asked if we could go, I had to tell her that there was no way I could do it that week. It was an insanely busy work week with lots of deadlines and conference calls and other things that had to get done. I just couldn’t do it. That doesn’t mean, however, that I didn’t want to go. I would have loved to join them, but work was calling and I had to answer.

So she decided to go anyway with our daughter and her mother. She, of course, had my blessing to have a fun trip, but by no means did that reduce the amount of guilt I felt when I was kissing my daughter goodbye and she said “Come in the car, Daddy! We’re going to the beach!” Nope. I felt that pain for two days while they were gone. I may have even shed a little tear or two. Do me a favor though and let’s make that our little secret. I don’t want to lose my “man card” for showing too many emotions.

(photo: Shutterstock)