Motherguilt – A Dad’s Perspective

I was doing the daily school pick up last week and found myself chatting to one of the alpha dads. He’d finished work at the steel mill early that day so that he could “babysit” his kids for the afternoon. The conversation turned towards the upcoming Mothers Day and our respective plans. Knowing that I am a SAHD, this pinhead asked whether my kids would be doing anything special for me on Mothers Day.

I spent a moment visualising this muppet’s slow and painful death at my own hands, and then waited for the red mist to subside.  I then explained to him, very slowly, carefully and with more than a hint of sarcasm, that although I’m responsible for the domestic aspects of our family, I am still in fact, a father and not a mother. Therefore, Mothers Day doesn’t apply to me or other SAHDs. I was proud of my restraint. Not always my strong suit.

I am not a mother. Clearly. I don’t have the physical or maternal attributes. I don’t have the intuition that tells me that something is wrong with one of my offspring. Nor do I have the in-built ability to find ‘lost’ toys that no one else can find. What I do have however, is a slightly different perspective, based on my own experiences as a SAHD and husband, on what defines a mother.

For me, what defines a mother and sets her apart from dads (other than the obvious of course) isn’t the tasks that she performs, which I believe most dads can do just as well if they apply themselves.  It is the sacrifices that she makes.

When you think about it, mothers sacrifice constantly. When they first fall pregnant they sacrifice their bodies and hand them over to this little alien inside of them. Once the baby is born a lot of them sacrifice careers (and often their sanity) to be at home with the baby. The ones that don’t stay home with child are also sacrificing. Sacrificing time with their offspring to maintain their careers. This is often through absolute financial necessity and for no other reason. As the children get older the sacrifices change, but are still there. Mums either sacrifice making a financial contribution to ensure a presence at home during the school years, or they sacrifice being involved in their children’s schooling to build or maintain a career. There are of course many that manage to juggle the domestic role and the job / career. I suspect that even though they’re actually doing an amazing job, they feel like they’re struggling to juggle both a lot of the time. And that leads to my next observation. With sacrifice comes an element of guilt, and it’s unavoidable.

Guilt is a mother’s burden. It’s the lasting residue of the initial sacrifice. Dads don’t seem to carry the same guilt, irrespective of their role within the family.  I think it’s because we don’t sacrifice as much to begin with.

Mrs Dadding Every Day, my beautiful, amazing and exceptionally talented wife, is the first to admit that she carries her guilt around with her every single day. She has done ever since our first little focker was born 5 years ago.

To begin with, it was the guilt of feeling inadequate as a mother because our son was a challenging baby, coupled with the regret of not having achieved everything she had wanted to in her career before the baby arrived. As time went by and Mrs D-E-D went back to work part time, the guilt manifested. She felt like she was a sub-standard mother for being away from her child (and later – children) some days, and she felt like she wasn’t able to give her job her full and undivided attention either. Of course it was totally unwarranted. Her career thrived, and so did our children, because she doesn’t know how to fail. That’s just the type of person that she is.

As her career continued to build momentum and work became more demanding, we made the decision for her to go back to work full time, which, incidentally is how I came to be a SAHD, and where we find ourselves now. The guilt is still there for her, but it has morphed again. The work associated guilt has reduced (but not disappeared) and now there is guilt around the very limited amount of time she has to spend with our children due to the many demands of her career.  The guilt is always there.

Irrespective of the constant burden of her guilt, she is a truly exceptional mother. No matter how torrid her day has been, she exhibits patience and tolerance with our little fockers that always leaves me wishing I had tried harder myself. Despite pulling 60+ hours of work most weeks, she still finds time to talk to the kids individually and take a genuine interest in what they’ve been up to every day. She is the one that they want to read them their books at bedtime. She is the one that they call out for when they wake in the night. She is the one that they choose to cuddle up to on the couch when they’re not feeling their best. She is a lesson in compassion, patience, dignity and wholeheartedness, and I can already see these same traits blossoming in our children.

So to Mrs D-E-D.  You’ve probably figured by now that this piece, in a slightly off-beat kind of way, is really a tribute to you.  I want to let you know that you can lower that burden of guilt that you carry. Set it down on the ground and leave it behind once and for all. Your sacrifice and the emotion that goes with it is deeply appreciated, and you’re doing a f*cking amazing job as a mother, as a career woman, and as a human being. Most importantly, you’re raising lovely little children that will most likely grow up to be people of the highest quality, just like you.  Why on earth would you feel guilty about that?

And to the alpha dad in the school yard.  Next time try and engage your tiny little brain before you make any mum jokes around me, lest we have to step behind the bike sheds and settle this the old fashioned way.

 

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Author: Daddingeveryday

I'm a full time Stay at Home Dad based in Perth Western Australia. I'm taking a sabbatical out of the rat race to join the human race for a little while. Daddingeveryday documents some of my experiences, observations, highs and lows as I embark on this new adventure of dadding every day.

14 thoughts on “Motherguilt – A Dad’s Perspective”

  1. I nearly cried.

    Brilliant tribute.

    Wish I had myself someone in my corner like that. Noice work you two. I sniff a wonderful, generous love xx

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  2. Really inspired by your blog, man. You’re someone I look up to more than any footballer/cricketer/swimmer. My wife and I are aiming for kids next year and this blog is perfect to read in advance. If I ever see you around I’ll buy you a beer (or boost, or coffee)

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Although your post was not bad, I am not sure I agree with some points.
    Both mothers and fathers feel guilt and both of them make many sacrifices.
    It’s great that you two work together well as parents.

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  4. Good on you. Beautifully written. My husband and I very much share the care responsibility of our kids and juggle it with work. They are both at school so it makes being at work a little easier, although we’d be lost without lots of help from grandparents after school. Totally agree with the guilt – it’s a constant companion. But we seem to be raising two pretty decent humans so far.

    Parents need to stop being so judging of one another and be supportive and understanding that everybody does it differently, there is no wrong or right. As long as our children are raised in a loving environment, it makes absolutely no difference who stays home or whatever other care arrangement you have. My husband hates it when he is asked if he is babysitting our kids……his response is ‘No, i’m not babysitting them, i’m their parent, i’m being a Dad’.

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  5. I enjoyed the article – you’re insights aren’t bad at all. Bit self-absorbed, like all personal blogs are, but the issues you raise are real ones. Just one downer: the smash-the-alpha-male gag coupled with your comment about your occasional lack of restraint suggests a bit of ugly aggression deep down. The better-bloke thing to do in this case would be to let it ride: you can be (minorly – it wasn’t a big deal) upset, but to get as upset you did suggests either insecurity about what others think, or an inbuilt aggressive nature that I’d definitely not want to pass on to my kids. Having a laugh at the guy for his silly views – and not even thinking of punching him – now that’s the kind of thing a good man would do. To be angry about it is a sort of territorial behaviour a lot of men have, and this attitudes’s full expression is invariably ugly in life.

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    1. Thanks Pete, I appreciate the fact that you’ve taken the time to get in touch and welcome your comments. You can rest assured that I don’t carry any deep seated anger or aggression around with me, and that the whole story (about the alpha dad) was written very much tongue in cheek. Apologies if it didn’t come across that way to you. I’m still pretty new to this writing gig and still learning as I go.

      Thanks again for getting in touch.

      Cheers

      Liked by 1 person

  6. “Guilt is a mother’s burden. It’s the lasting residue of the initial sacrifice. Dads don’t seem to carry the same guilt, irrespective of their role within the family. I think it’s because we don’t sacrifice as much to begin with.”

    I don’t think the difference in guilt that mothers and fathers feel is due to the difference in sacrifice upfront in making the child. It’s because of social conditioning.

    Society expects women to be primary child carers, so the guilt stems from the working woman not meeting this expectation that she has been conditioned all her life to fulfil.

    Men are not expected to carry out child care duties, and so when a man does he gets all sorts of praise for going beyond the call of duty. Women can be judged to be bad mothers, even when they do take on the primary care giving role. Men are never judged to be bad fathers, whether they take on the primary care giving role or not, because men who are willing to have anything at all to do with a child are considered exceptional. As a man, even if you accidentally drop your kid on its head, no-one will judge you as a bad father. It’s likely that the mother, out working to pay the bills, would be judged as a bad mother for allowing the father to be primary care giver which led to the head-bashing accident.

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    1. Some really valid points you raise there Neil. Society definitely has a lot to answer for, and we’ve still got a long way to go before we can really break down these expectations.

      Thanks very much for taking the time to read and to comment. Your feedback is always welcome.

      Cheers

      D-E-D.

      Like

  7. This is a really great post, I loved it. This is the type of thing that needs to go viral. The comment made by one particular person about your ‘aggression’ is so unwarranted – projection anyone? Great site 🙂

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    1. Thank you so much smikg :). This piece was picked up by Fairfax and was published by Essential Baby amongst others so it has done the rounds. Having said that, feel free to share via your own channels too if you like. Interestingly, all of the feedback from females has been extremely positive. The fellas – not so much….

      Thanks again for reading and for taking the time to comment. Cheers.

      Liked by 1 person

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