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Working Father Guilt

By Anvi Sharma

We’ve heard of working mum’s feeling guilty that they don’t get to spend as much time with their little ones that they’d like, and that’s a hardship that many mothers go through. But sometimes it’s easy to forget that many dad’s feel this way too. A child’s bond with their mother is a special one, and with a lot of fathers also having to divide their time between work and family, they may feel a little left out, guilty or stressed that they don’t have the same connection with their children.

In April 2015, the Journal of Marriage and Family conducted a study that showed more than half of working dads say they find it hard to balance responsibilities, and feel as if they’re not spending enough time with their children. In fact, fathers are often harder on themselves as parents, than mothers are. The delicate balancing scale between their career and family may have to tip in favour of work once in a while, but it’s important to remember that your career is also benefitting your family.

It’s essential firstly, to stop feeling guilty! Don’t spend your limited time at home feeling bad for yourself and your kids. Instead, think of how your time at work is beneficial for them as you are able to provide them with essentials and education, toys, activities and future endeavours. Just because you’re not spending every minute with your children, does not mean you are not providing or caring for them.

On the other hand, it’s also important to recognise that you are a full-time parent, and that family needs are a priority. If possible, try and take some time off work – you shouldn’t be afraid to ask for paternity leave. Communicate with your boss and ask them the important questions regarding your time off, such as, how much time you can take off and whether it will be paid. After all, fathers should be just as much of a parent as mothers, albeit in different ways. Take turns dropping and picking up kids from school, day care and other activities. Split the housework so that you can spend more time with the kids and less time cleaning the inevitable mess that comes with them.

Talking to other dads about how they juggle work and family life may also be beneficial to you. But keep in mind that as much as it’s natural to want to be a good parent, just because Steve across the street spends more time with his kids than you doesn’t mean he’s a better parent. Everyone has their own responsibilities and their own way of parenting. It’s the time-old saying, don’t compare yourselves to others. Go at your own pace, and focus on your family. Sharing stories, advice and general discussion is important, but not to the extent that this makes you feel even worse!

It’s also okay if you feel like you’re too overwhelmed. Take some time off to refresh and recharge. Don’t feel like you have to overcompensate when you get home from work and spend every second with your child. It’s alright if you’re tired, but make sure to make time later, perhaps on the weekends. Make a calendar of all family commitments so you’re on top of that and aren’t stressed at the last minute. Also, prepare in advance for manic mornings by making lunches and packing bags the night before, make meals ahead of time and make the most of your time by multi-tasking. This way, you’re always prepared and ready, and can spend some actual quality time with your family.

Last but certainly not the least, between all of this, don’t forget about your marriage. As exhausted as you are, your partner is probably going through the same thing. It’s important to push through together and help each other out when one of you is feeling stressed or overwhelmed. Take some time out. Ask friends or family to babysit, spend some quality alone time without the kids and most importantly, talk about things! If your partner is a stay-at-home parent, conversations need to be had about who does what. After all, they’re probably tired too looking after your little ones all day. If your partner is also working like you, share the responsibilities and try and spend as much time with your kids together. It’s important to realise that you are not a bad parent for focusing on your career, as long as you are there for your children when they need you and you are spending time with them when you can.

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