It’s been said that the ideals of work-life balance are a myth. As much as we try to excel at everything we do, that simply is not possible. The very act of diverting our time and resources in one direction necessitates that the same time and resources cannot be utilized in a different direction. In trying simultaneously to be the perfect business owner, the perfect writer, the perfect husband and the perfect dad, I inevitably come up short everywhere.
Fully comprehending this fundamental truth delivers no comfort. Instead, all I feel is this constant sense of inadequacy. I feel like I’m not good enough. I feel like a terrible father and I can’t help but to dwell on the evidence that supports this claim.
I Don’t Remember
Ask me about some of the most basic of information and I’ll probably have the answer. I know my daughter’s birthday. I know that she loves mushrooms and is horrified by durian (just like her dad). But dig a little deeper and I might come up short. Exactly how old was she when she took her first steps? I have an idea, but I can’t pin it down.
Of course, it’s not fair to assume that all parents have the equivalent of a comprehensive Wikipedia entry on each of their children. I know all too well that my memory is flawed and shallow, which is why I’ve developed the habit of writing everything down (in digital, searchable form). This way, I can always reference back if I forget a date, or a name, or an important number.
But I didn’t write down the day of her first word, her first steps, her first tooth, or any number of other firsts. I was too focused on surviving this whole “fatherhood” thing.
Leave Me Alone
It breaks my heart. Every. Damn. Time.
I’ll be sitting in my home office, bashing away at the keyboard as I am prone to do. Adalynn will inevitably walk into the room, turn my chair around, reach for my hand, and ask that I come play with her in the living room. Sometimes, I give in. It’s an excuse not to work. Other times, I have to tell her to go away. I have to tell her to leave me alone. And she gets visibly upset.
Every time I have to turn my daughter away, I feel like I’m being a terrible father. Do I value my work and my business more than my own flesh and blood? Do I value the few dollars I’m earning by writing this article more than this time with my girl that I’ll never get back?
The Allure of the Glow
Most pediatric experts will assert that you should minimize — and ideally eliminate — any screen time for all children under the age of 2. There are all sorts of studies that link screen time among babies and toddlers with a number of potential complications, like delayed speech development.
But I let Addie “watch” football and hockey with me when she was barely a few weeks old. I let her binge on PAW Patrol on Netflix well before her second birthday. I let her “play” violent video games like Street Fighter on the computer; she has managed to mash out more than a few hadoukens and shoryukens. And we take countless selfies on my smartphone too.
That’s a lot of screen time. That’s parenting done wrong. I should know better than to let the TV play the role of virtual babysitter.
I Let Her Win
We’ve been told so many times before that we are not peers with our children. We shouldn’t try to be their friends, because we are their parents. As moms, dads and primary caregivers, we should reside higher up on the totem pole.
Why, then, do I consistently allow my daughter to crawl all over me? It’s not uncommon for her to climb on my back and demand a piggyback ride. She oftentimes straddles across my belly to bounce on me, much to her delight and to my discomfort. And I let her do it. I let her win. I allow her to get into a position of dominance. But that’s not what “good” moms and dads do, is it?
I’ve indulged her with McDonald’s french fries. I’ve snapped at her when I was weak and frustrated. I’ve let her fall, even when I saw it coming. I’m imperfect. And that’s okay.
I might not be the mommy I hoped I would be for you. But, thru my struggle I hope to teach you patience, compassion, and respect, not only for me, but for everyone. Always. I hope my journey shows you that you will fall sometimes, but you can get back up, over and over again. That life isn't always fair, but that's okay. Learn to adjust your sails and keep swimming anyway, no matter how hard the current tries to take you down. And if you need help, ask for it. No matter how old you are. Look for the helpers, and be one in return. I'll be there for you. You're my strength and my reason to keep fighting when I feel like giving up. I hope mommy shows you that life isn't about how much money you have, and what you own. That it's about love, and how you treat others. To live well and be wealthy in health, spirit, and happiness. I love you more than I could ever imagine loving anything, and I'll make sure you know that, every time you doubt yourself. Even if you fail at something, you haven't failed in my eyes, and you never will.
While I certainly cannot claim to have endured the same kinds of struggles as she has, the Instagram post from my friend Karli Bergen (above) really hit home. I am not the dad that I had hoped I would be, but I hope that through my imperfection, my daughter can learn patience. I hope she learns compassion and gratitude. It’s not about feeling bad for coming up short. It’s about getting up to fight another day.
I’m a terrible father, but through my baby girl, I hope to become a better man.