Mental Ward Dad
There is no doubt in my mind about my children loving me. My wife thinks I am a wonderful father even though I am not a financial provider. My daughter has perfect attendance and understands common core math. Our family doctor told me that my son’s diabetes is managed better than any of her patients. Everyone tells me I do a great job with my children! How the hell did I end up in a mental ward?
I rolled through 5 years of staying at home with my children thinking I was doing an excellent job as a father and husband. I took pride in cooking meals from scratch and teaching my children about nutrition. I did my wife’s laundry, kept the house clean, and always made my family good dinners. We had our ups and downs but always managed to love each other. Why is the nurse taking the strings from my sweat pants?
Having a wife in graduate school and raising children is super stressful. Being a caregiver for my son caused anxiety I was not familiar with. How did I cope with the stress of raising my family? Self pity, blame, and Isolation. I believed that stay-at-home moms had it easier than dads and wrote blogs about the Meninist movement and proclaimed “She never buys me flowers”. Fathers were not allowed to display emotions and my wife didn’t acknowledge my feelings. Society was discriminating stay-at-home dads and did not respect fathers. Anxiety, Anger, Depression, Blame, Oh my! Why am I sleeping next to a guy in a straight jacket?
I lost control of my ability to express myself in a positive manner. I justified anger when I felt ignored. My anger grew deeper along with my depression. I was calm with my children but lost focus on being a good husband. I made my wife responsible for my happiness and wouldn’t let anyone help me. The walls came tumbling down and soon followed my marriage. How did I get his bad? Where did it go wrong? Why am I strapped down in an ambulance on my way to the hospital?
I have been searching for answers to my demise and realized some dads may be missing an important element necessary for dealing with the stress of raising a family. There is a big difference on how men and women deal with stress. Men who stay at home with children need to be aware of coping skills for anxiety. I recalled a nasty fight with my father-in-law where we were screaming in each others face over a disagreement over how to handle my 10 month old daughter. 10 minutes after screaming at each other, we gave each other a hug and said “No hard feelings”. That’s how we handled our emotions. This type of behavior might work for men, but is not appropriate for addressing family issues. Do new stay-at-home parents need a course in coping skills? Were men conditioned to take on the role of raising children? Does this patient really believe the FBI is out to get him?
I was thinking how much easier going to work is compared to staying at home with children. An occasional stressful moment at work is nothing compared to the 24 hour/day emotional roller coaster ride of raising children. When your boss treats you bad at work, there are not as many emotions attached compared to experiencing a disagreement with your spouse. When work is over you can get in the car, turn on the radio, and decompress on the way home. If you have a really bad day, you can swear at your make believe boss on the ride home. I had no idea on how to decompress on the weeks my wife was overwhelmed from working on school work 7 days a week. I underestimated the need to talk with someone and didn’t find time for my wife and friends. I bottled up my emotions until someone shook the bottle enough for me to explode. At work I would have been fired. At home I was hurting my family. What can stay-at-home parents do to keep their emotions stable? How can parents decompress when their spouse is working long hours? What did the mental ward teach me about raising a family?
I have a new appreciation for stay-at-home mom’s and women. I no longer believe that stay-at-home moms have it easier than dads. My wife accepted my role of staying at home with the children and that is all that matters. The stigma that men should work while women raise children is still evident in society but no longer has any relevance with my family. Men need to make changes in the way we deal with stress if we want to be respected in the stay-at-home work force. Women have had generations upon generations to learn how to manage families while new dads are unaware of our shortcomings. Talk to someone. Find time to decompress. Ask your fellow stay-at-home dad to join you in the bathroom if you have to. The stress of raising children will never go away. The stress your spouse feels from work or school will never go away. Stay-at-home dads are on the rise and it is important to be aware of the coping skills necessary to raise a happy family.
I wrote this blog because I screwed up and became someone I am not proud of. I did not know how to cope with my anxiety and blamed everyone around me for my problems. I have faith that fathers can do an excellent job raising children and hope that parents can learn from my experience. Being sad is not a sign of weakness. Fathers can learn from all the strong moms out there that have managed to juggle the stress of keeping a family together. Isolation, blame, and self pity are not the answers. Talk to someone, understand the stress of your spouse, and love your family.
Peace out, gotta bounce! Some dude is running around naked and they just put the ward on lock down.