Is “Dad Guilt” Even a Thing?

by ParentCo. September 28, 2017

Over the last few years, mom blogs have sprung up like mushrooms in Italy. They’ve been interesting and meaty, sometimes delicate, sometimes audacious, sometimes indelible. We hear about mommy friendships forged on the crucible of potty training. We read about the crumb trails that moms investigate and the mountains of laundry they clamber over. We nod along to stories of feeling judged or feeling empowered. And, of course, there are reams written about the ubiquitous syndrome of “mom guilt.” It happens when you work too much, or too little. It happens when you yell at your progeny, or miss an opportunity to disciple and mold them. It happens when you’re the hovering, helicopter type, or the hands-off, free-range type. It seems like every mom has some measure of it. But is “dad guilt” a thing? Do fathers experience some degree of remorse for not investing more in their kids? Or for working too much? Or for taking the wrong discipline tack? In my home, “guilty” is a verdict that my husband of 12 years and the father of our two kids sometimes imposes on himself. He takes his work-life balance very seriously. Thankfully, the “life” part of that equation doesn’t mean sitting, bleary-eyed, in front of the television every weekend. It means spending time with the kids. When he doesn’t get to do that, I’ve been witness to dad guilt. I’ve often heard the hubbers comment, “I really want to spend time with the kids in the evenings,” or be quick to offer to take our son to soccer practice, especially after consecutive evenings away on work. Guilt, it turns out, is not a mom prerogative. In a recent online survey of 1,200 men from Fatherly and, about one in five (19 percent) dads said they feel guilty about not being “present” enough with their children, and 17 percent said they suffer from “dad guilt” about working too much. One in five? Maybe that’s not a huge number of dads riding the train to Guiltville. But it’s a decent enough number to realize that dads are trying, too. In fact, dads today are more involved than ever in parenting. Over the past half-century, fathers in America nearly tripled their child care time from two and-a-half hours per week in 1965 to seven hours per week in 2011. (Interestingly, women’s parenting also increased to 14 hours in that same period.) Yet, the survey points to the fact that these feelings extend to career as well. About one in four (28 percent) reported they feel guilty about not making enough money to provide for their family the way they’d like to. Maybe that’s an old-school, “dad brings home the bacon” mindset, but it remains a pretty heavy burden to carry. Maybe dads need a few blog posts encouraging them. Maybe dads need a word of acknowledgment every now and then. Maybe dads need to know that it’s okay to hang up the cape, that we all make mistakes, that perfection and parenting don’t go hand in hand. To all those dads who are trying – and sometimes failing – we say, you’re doing awesome. We see you and we appreciate you. It’s okay if you don’t have it all figured out. We don’t either. Speaking of things moms and dads have in common, the study also unveils an interesting piece of information: 26 percent of dads pull the hide-in-the-bathroom trick to shirk parental responsibility. Just every now and then. When the shrieking gets too loud. When the man caves are overrun by toys. We get it. And we’ll let you in on a little secret: The pantry works pretty well, too.



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