Monday, March 10, 2014

Parenthood: Week 41: Guilt

My parents didn’t instill in me a strong sense of guilt. I do have a strong conscience and my brain is filled with questions of morality all of the time. However, guilt is not an overriding feeling that I possess and it doesn’t really sway me in my everyday choices.

This all changed when Ollie was born.

On the second day after Ollie entered our lives, Diana suggested that I go home, take a shower and maybe grab a quick nap. We needed some stuff from home and I had been at the hospital with Diana the whole time it made sense that I take a break.

When I got home, I took care of some things around the house and then as I sat down to watch some television, I felt really guilty. I decided give that up and after a not very restful fifteen-minute nap I was in my car driving back to the hospital.

Diana has never said or done anything to make me feel guilty as a father. There are times like when she was in the hospital when she would tell me directly to take a break.

Diana and I both believe that one of the most important things we can do to take care of Ollie is to take care of ourselves. If we are a mess physically or emotionally, we can’t really do what’s best for Ollie.

While this is logical reasoning, it doesn’t always line up with the emotional part of being a parent. I feel guilty when I’m at work, away from Ollie, I feel guilty that I’m not doing more when Diana is breastfeeding and sometimes I even feel guilty when I’m with Ollie and not playing with him in the most creative way possible.

You want so much to do not only what is best for your child, but you want to do everything. I do trust Diana and the people in our support network to care for Ollie but he’s my son. I can’t drop the feeling that I should be the one doing all of this stuff for him.

My guilt related to Ollie has simmered and I’ve learned to move past my feeling of guilt. I have found that if I put Ollie in his play pen and fix myself dinner, I will be a better dad overall, even if during those ten minutes Ollie is crying. Those are the toughest moments, but Ollie needs more than just me, he needs me to be in a good working order.

I still struggle with the work thing. I love my work more than ever but those days when I leave before he wakes up and I get home and have only an hour with him before he goes to sleep, I feel like somehow I let him down. So I do laundry, do some dishes and try to make myself feel better by doing something for him indirectly.

I wonder if I was a stay-at-home dad if I would feel different about any of this. Part of me thinks my guilt being away from Ollie would be replaced with a feeling of emptiness from not having my job.

I know that I'll never be everything for Ollie.  That makes me a little sad, but I know it's for the best.  He never means to make me feel guilty, that's on me.  I'll eventually get through this but until then I'll enjoy the feeling of love and warmth that washes away the guilt when he leans in close and looks at me with his bright eyes. 

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