When my son was born he didn’t come with an instruction manual, DVD, or QR code on how to use. One moment he wasn’t here and the next he was. At the time I was amazed not only at having him in our lives of course, but how my wife and I entered the hospital as a couple and then came out as a family of three. Pretty wild if you really think about it.
Over the years I’d like to say I’ve done the best I could under the circumstances. Aside from the normal responsibilities of fatherhood like providing, teaching, and loving I’ve also tried to be there for everything. Soccer games, school programs and picnics, outings, and even tiny things like going for a walk. My philosophy is that I know I can’t be perfect, but I can be there for him as much as possible.
Two things recently struck me as weirdly unique things to consider and keep at the forefront when it comes to my son.
- He doesn’t owe me anything. I’m the one who helped bring him into this world. I’m the one that made that initial decision. I’m the one who decided to raise him a certain way. If anything I owe him everything. It’s tough to remember this in the hustle and bustle of life, but I’m doing my best to keep it in front of me.
- When he tells me to play I can’t say no. It’s too easy to forget this one. It’s almost second nature to tell anyone, just a minute or in a little bit. My time with him is limited no matter how busy I am. The minutes are counting down no matter if I like it or not. He doesn’t know my schedule, workload, stresses, or obligations. All he knows is that he wants daddy to play with him.
How does guilt play into this?
First, I must define my use of the word guilt. I’m not referring to the debilitating guilt that will haunt you for a lifetime requiring countless hours of therapy and pharmaceuticals. These are just little pangs of reminders to do my best to adhere to the two points listed above.
When I want him to act, think, or speak in a certain way I have to remind myself that he doesn’t owe me that. I have to do my homework and teach him the correct ways. When he wants to play I can’t say no since he isn’t me. He doesn’t care about if I have time or not.
It’s easy to get caught up with deadlines, workload, and other obligations outside of family, but if I think of those things when my brain wants to find an excuse, a small sting of guilt will rear its head and put me back in line with those points. It’s almost like shaming myself just a little. Something to snap me out of my stupid little “important” world and realign with what is truly important.
What about you? Are there things you fall to for keeping your priorities in line with your kids?
4 thoughts on “The Relationship Between Fatherhood and Guilt”
It’s a hard balance to strike sometimes but 100% agree that my daughter doesn’t owe me anything and if she wants to play with me it’s genuinely a privilege. But sometimes life does get in the way and it’s so easy to lose sight of what’s really important. I always try and make time for her, but sometimes it still feels inadequate and that little nagging guilt is always there…
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Hi James. You are not alone. I really do think the guilt would still be there if we had more free time. When you pause and think about the bigger picture the time with them seems so finite, doesn’t it?
Thanks for the comment!
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