A new study has revealed what many of us probably knew anyway: dad guilt really is a thing.
In fact, dad guilt is the gift that keeps on giving, the cross we increasingly bear. Dads feel guilty when they spend too long at work, at the expense of time with their children, and they feel guilty when they spend too much time at home, to the detriment of their roles as breadwinners.
This lose-lose has been confirmed by the new research, a US study of 1,200 dads for Today.com and Fatherly. It found that 63% of working dads envied their stay-at-home counterparts.
What’s more, around one in five said they felt guilty about not being ‘present’ enough with their children and spending too much time at work, while another 28% felt guilty about not making enough money to provide for their families in the way they’d like.
Guilty father syndrome
Like we say – it’s lose-lose (although a happy fifth of respondents reported feeling no dad guilt at all).
A quick straw poll of dad friends suggested a UK version would reveal roughly similar results. Dads are increasingly desperate to ‘do it all’, and feel guilty when they fall short of their own (sometimes unrealistic) expectations.
One dad friend of mine admitted:
“Oh yes, the guilt nags away. My eldest daughter is nine, so in what, three or four years, she probably won’t want to spend that much time with me. But she’s a proper daddy’s girl now, so should I be spending more time with her while I can, which would probably mean working and earning less? I just don’t know.”
The guilt has been exacerbated in recent years by a growing body of evidence showing just how important involved fatherhood is.
Hands-on fathers can have a positive effect on everything from their child’s weight to their performance at school. Dads who read to their children, play with them and are involved in their everyday lives give their children significant advantages.
Which is great, of course, but can only add to the sense of guilt many men now experience.
Time pressures lead to parental alienation
The latest study is not the first to measure dad guilt. Research published by the US-based Pew Research Centre in 2015 revealed that half of dads find it difficult to balance the competing responsibilities of work and family life. Dads were much more likely than mums to say the time they spend with children is never enough.
Kim Parker, director of Social Trends Research at Pew, commented: “When it comes to parenting, dads are harder on themselves than moms are, especially dads who say they don’t spend enough time with their children.”
Some commentators believe that dads are now feeling the kind of guilt that mums have experienced for decades. As modern dads become more involved in the day-to-day care of children, while at the same time feeling traditional pressures to provide financially for their families, dad guilt is a phenomenon that is only likely to grow.
Do you feel guilty trying to juggle the pressures of work and family life? Have you done anything about it? Let us know in the comments.