Missing your child or feeling guilty for leaving them when you finally return to work is a familiar topic, but nobody has ever paid much attention to how fathers may feel as they wave goodbye from the front door just days after the birth of their child. So lets take a moment to consider ‘daddy guilt’.
The worst-case scenario for daddy guilt, is that dads realize their guilt when it’s simply too late to do anything about it. The children are grown up and you’ve missed the opportunity. Let’s try to avoid that late-developing guilt as far as possible.
There are two parents
Having children is not an exclusively female domain – and yet up to now we’ve expected fathers to return to work without a thought of their emotions towards it. Regardless of gender, a parent wants to be with their child. We talk about maternal guilt…but what about paternal guilt? It’s natural, and it shouldn’t be labelled as gender specific.
Why is it though that dads don’t often openly express this guilt?
Does it feel that it should be a purely feminine confession, do they feel out of place wading in on what is presumed to be the mother’s domain? Whatever the reason, it’s essential that fathers learn to express their emotions surrounding paternal guilt – perhaps if they did we might have arrived at this parental leave change sooner. More importantly however, it’s critical for a child to know that fathers aren’t simply work focused.
This image of a father waving goodbye, all smiles, from the end of the garden is all too familiar. So are we just settling in with a ‘this is how it is’ attitude, or will fathers share or at the very least, talk about any guilt they might be feeling? By them not doing so, we’re sustaining stereotypical gender specific roles to our children, with the father, in extreme cases, playing the disengaged workaholic.
Feeling guilty yet?
It shouldn’t be a ‘guilty secret’ that a father wants to take time out of work to spend with their new child. But then they are not at fault for hiding it, in most cases society has conditioned them to do so. How do the partners of these new dads feel? We’ve touched on having children being a shared experience. Perhaps if dads spoke about feeling concerned or guilty about their work/life balance, then mums might not feel so isolated when experiencing the guilt of returning to work.
By not acknowledging all of this are we simply just sustaining the current status quo? Is it time for these undercover dads to speak out and share what’s on their mind without fear of the judgements of others?