By Daddy Nickell
Parenting is all about balance, and it can be quite difficult to feel as if you’re giving your children enough attention while also trying to balance work, life and good relationships. It’s all about finding the right balance and eliminating the dreaded feeling of guilt in relation to parenting. Remember: If you’re doing your very best, you’re doing it right.
Daddy guilt exists as much as mommy guilt does just in different ways. I believe most dads think that they do not spend enough time with their kids. However, as with most guilt it is really an internal process, and the kids themselves are likely quite content with the level of attention they are receiving.
I’ve put together my top tips for alleviating the feelings of daddy guilt and being more engaged, involved and connected – even if you don’t get as much time as you’d like with your kids.
When in Doubt, Play: After having 7 kids of my own and experiencing 50 plus years of life, I find I am a little less concerned about my guilt nowadays. If I feel even slightly remorseful, I push those feelings aside and simply sit down on the floor and start playing with my kids. Together, we like activities such as: reading, building train track set ups, and just walking outside together to explore our surroundings. Building memories together, bonding and establishing a relationship is an important part of being a dad, and engaging in activities with your children whenever you have time will eliminate some of the daddy guilt you might be feeling from working too much or traveling.
Give Your Undivided Attention: For a working dad or mom, the key to avoiding guilt and building relationships is undivided attention. When you have the time to be with your kids, do so, without the smart phone nearby and without any other distractions. Even fifteen minutes of undivided attention a day is better than an hour of being in the same room while distracted by a television, a computer or a phone. Quality time is well spent sitting quietly, asking questions, and listening to your children. Your kids will show you what they need from you; they’ll lead you to their understanding of quality time, and you need to be ready to jump on that bandwagon. Engage your children, make eye contact, and listen to what they’re saying. That is ten times stronger and more effective than force feeding activities or trying to simply entertain them.
Make the Phone Call: When your kids are grown and out of the house it’s important to connect with them, and that generally means logging onto Facebook, setting up a Skype call, sending them an email or making that phone call. Your goal is simple: check in, ensure they know you are thinking of them and give them your love. If you have little ones at home and your work demands you travel and are away from you family for long periods of time you’ll need to do the same types of things to stay involved and engaged. In our house we love Skype and FaceTime; it allows us to see each other face-to-face, check in, smile, and even play with toys or read a story together. Engaging in this type of activity – even when you’re far apart – will alleviate the feelings of guilt that might come with being away from your family for work.
Be Consistent: Be the man your family relies on and follow through – every time. If you work long days and are only home at night in time for baths and story time then be present, every single night, for those activities. If you work nights and only get to spend time with your children when they wake up in the morning then be present and make that time count. If weekends are the only time you get to connect with your children then be consistent during those times and be involved and engaged. Your kids will look forward to the time they get to spend with you, and when you consistently engage them you’ll be making memories and building relationships that will last a lifetime.
So my advice is really this: if Dad is feeling guilty, he should just jump in and spend time with his kids, whenever and however possible – it will benefit everyone involved.
Robert Nickell, aka Daddy Nickell, father of 7, offers his “5 cents” worth of advice to expectant and new parents. Daddy Nickell is the founder of Daddyscrubs.com, delivery room duds and daddy gifts and apparel, and the DaddyScrubs blog where he covers topics about parenting all from a Dad’s perspective.