Written by: Rich Bracken, Motivational Speaker, www.EnRichYourSoul.org
I like to think of myself as a very calm, cool and collected dad. With boys at three-years and two-months old, I love my life and I love the role that I play in their lives. Always present when I'm present, engaging, active and involved.
One of my favorite traditions is "Boy's Night." As my wife has an amazing network of friends, including her amazing mom group at church (shout out to BBM!), we get to have these every so often when they have an organized group night out. It's usually filled with fun food, a movie, play time and tons of energy.
This was when it was one-on-one with our eldest. Last night was the first one-on-two night.
I pause here to say one thing and make it abundantly clear: Moms, you're amazing.
You read all the time about the relationship differences between moms and dads with their kids. Dads are the risk taking fun ones, while moms are the caretakers, the healers, the soothers. I've heard the term "Mom Guilt" before, which describes the internal struggle when you want to show equal attention and love to your children, but there isn't enough of you to go around at times. If both children are crying, how do you show equal devoted attention to healing the problem? If one is needing something (usually the younger one) how do you engage the older who just wants you to play with them?
As a family who is blessed to have the ability to live off of one salary, I often see the pictures and videos of fun times, park trips, laughter and adorable moments of cuteness. What I have never seen, until I was immersed in it last night, is "Mom Guilt" in action.
As my wife left to join her mom-posse, I was feeding our two-month-old and corralling our three-year old. "I've got this! Go! Have fun! Tell the girls I said hello!" was the last thing I said as a virgin to "Dad Guilt"
Thus ensued a night that I only wish could have been caught on camera to share with other dads educationally and with other moms to say "I get it now."
To whittle down the course of the evening, I had a two-month-old who was tired, hungry and gassy at the same time, while trying to set forth a path of fun and entertainment for our three-year-old. I think I said, "Just one more minute buddy, I'm sorry." 100 times in the first hour. I saw the two faces that I love more than anything in this world in various states of discomfort while I wished for additional arms to comfort and play at the same time.
As we eventually marched upstairs to bed, I had to look disheveled: spit up on the shoulder, cookie on the leg, a shell-shocked and defeated look on my face and a sigh of "what the hell just happened?" exuding from my mouth.
Bedtime was a comedy of timing. I laid Taylor, our two-month-old, in his crib on the verge of sleep. As I helped Beau brush his teeth, the peeping started. From this point forward, I went back and forth between rooms, with and without Beau, to comfort, read, bounce, cuddle, rock and talk to both boys. Had I had my Fitbit on, I would've knocked my steps out in one hour between two rooms.
The dagger in the heart came when I was reading with Beau, Taylor sound asleep in his crib, and he said "Dad, tonight wasn't a good Boy's Night at all." It was at that point that three tears snuck out on their own and rolled down my face.
Not that moms like it at all, but dads hate failing. I felt like a failure at that point. The icing on the cake was the baby starting to peep again as if on cue. I know we all have our opinions about sleeping habits, and parents... bash me all you want with the next move. But, I grabbed Beau, took him into our bedroom, put the baby in a rocker next to the bed, cuddled Beau on my chest and all of us passed out.
Only three hours after my wife had left for her relaxing night out did she return to find her boys asleep, her husband flat on his back, cuddling their three-year-old's head on his chest with one arm and holding a pacifier in the mouth of a snoring two-month-old with the other. A survivor of the maiden voyage of the U.S.S. Dad Guilt.
Now, the reason I share all of this is because... I never saw it coming. I have never experienced 1-on-2 defense like that, I have never seen multiple faces of sadness and I absolutely have never been walloped with "Dad Guilt" before.
There is just something that you all can do that, as hard as we try, dads can't duplicate. Whether you're a stay-at-home, working or single mom, I say 'thank you' for being you. For loving your children and being able to show love, compassion and poise all of the time, even though you may be exhausted and breaking inside. For those moms out there who haven't or won't ever hear it... thank you.