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1 in 4 Fathers Experience “Dad Guilt” on a Regular Basis, Says New Survey

father looking down at son leaning on his lap in a park
Image Source: Thinkstock

Mom guilt — it’s practically my most beloved companion at this point, that sidekick that just won’t quit, that BFF that can’t quite get the hint that I’m just not that into her anymore.

We hear a lot about “mom guilt” these days, but what about dad guilt?

Do dads ever feel that near-constant, always nagging, looming presence of guilt over their shoulders like moms do? You know, the one that tells them they are either working too much or not working enough, ignoring their kids too much or coddling them too much, feeding them too much sugar and indulging in too much screen time?

As it turns out, they totally do.

An online survey of over 1,200 dads conducted by Fatherly.com and Today.com found that “dad guilt” is actually a real thing — and it affects way more fathers than you might think. Like a lot of modern-day moms, the dads in the survey found that their idea of what they think a good dad should do often conflicts with the reality of today’s world of parenting.

For example, the survey found that many dads still feel pressured to fulfill that traditional breadwinner role, and about 1 in 4 dads reported feeling “dad guilt” because they did not provide enough money to take care of their families in the way they would like to.

Another large percentage of dads, 19 percent, reported feeling guilty about not being present enough with their kids (hello, smartphones!), while 17 percent discussed feeling dad guilt as a result of working too many hours.

“Nothing worse in the world when balancing work, grad school, and family,” says Tim LaGassee, 34, of Lapeer, Michigan, an RN who works full time while studying to be a nurse practitioner. “My 9-year-old likes to say, ‘Dad when are you going to be done working so we can go for a bike ride?’ Or when she calls me at work and says, ‘I just called to hear you. Love you bye!’ It is painful to think about what this does to my daughter although trying to better the situation in the long run.”

I have to admit that I hadn’t really thought about how much dads feel guilty. Probably because I’m guilty of assuming that most heterogeneous dads fall under the “helpmate” category, so what on earth do they have to feel guilty about? Anything that truly goes wrong is mom’s fault anyways, right? Wrong.

It’s that harmful and negative thought process that has caused the complex feelings of fathers to get largely overlooked in the first place.

More and more dads are contributing to all aspects of parenting and family life, which is probably why dads are experiencing more guilt these days. If you think about it, it kind of seems like there is a direct correlation to fathers taking on more of the juggling act of managing the domestic front while working, and a rise in their reported levels of guilt.

The survey also revealed that dads are split down the middle when it comes to childcare, with 50 percent of dads reporting that their partner does more childcare than they do, which I’m assuming means the other half does an equal or greater share. In other words, dads are just catching up to what women have been facing for a really long time and realizing that holy crap, this is really hard. 

However, there’s one clear area where dads don’t really feel much guilt at all. And parental partners, get ready, because this one may cause some strong emotions:

An underwhelming 10 percent of dads said they don’t feel any guilt for not contributing to more housework at home. Ouch.

Despite the fact that “dad guilt” is real, “mom guilt” still tends to be more prevalent, and the source behind much of our guilt as moms may just be the fact that mothers and fathers are treated a little differently in society.

The fathers in the survey reported that they weren’t really that worried about what others thought of them or their parenting skills, while the majority of dads — 56 percent — said they never feel judged by other parents about their parenting choices.

And those instances when they do feel judged? They said they were judged by other moms, not dads.

So overall, we are getting a picture here of the fact that dads totally feel guilty about working too much, too, they really don’t care what anyone else thinks, nor do they care what other dads are doing, and they are absolutely content to either skip the cleaning or let someone else handle it.

Hmmm … no wonder they have less guilt than moms do.

In all of our differences as moms and dads and in all of the ways we experience the magic of parenting and the guilt of the ever-elusive balance, however, the study did reveal one key bond that brings us all together: we all pull out the ol’ “hiding in the bathroom” trick to escape our kids (or partner) every now and then.

“I don’t care if you’re a mom or a dad, we’ve all done the ‘hide in the bathroom trick,'” Doyin Richards of Today.com said. “Many parents try to act as if they’re above this sort of thing, but most of us aren’t (myself included). Just own it and understand that it’s part of parenting.”

Nothing to feel guilty about there, folks.

h/t: Today.com

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