I started reading “Dad is Fat” by Jim Gaffigan over the weekend. Jim and I seem to have a lot in common. We are both men, both dads and we are both Catholic. Well maybe that is where the similarities end, but the book really hits home for me, and I think every modern day dad could relate and get a good laugh from the book.
One of the things Jim talks about is Catholic guilt and Dad guilt. As a fellow Catholic, I am always feeling guilty about something. I feel guilty if I’m happy, because there are people in the world who are sad. If I feel sad, I feel guilty feeling sad about petty things in my life, when there is far more suffering and pain in the world. I feel guilt when I have sex, I feel guilt when I don’t. It never ends, and is especially bad when it comes to being a dad.
I feel guilty if I don’t spend every waking minute with Max when I am home. But then I am mad at myself for not exploring my own interests and passions in life. And I feel guilty for not having enough alone time with Rachel. When I do spend a lot of time with Max, I feel guilty about not spending enough time devoted to doing something constructive and bettering his intellectual development. When I do make him sit down to practice writing his letters, or to do something for school, I feel guilty for not letting him play. I feel guilty if I take Max to McDonalds, because even though I know he loves McDonalds food, it’s not healthy and I feel guilty and lazy for taking a short cut and not preparing a healthier meal. And I can feel just as guilty when I make Max eat something healthy that he doesn’t enjoy eating. There is no end.
But some days, I’m just so exhausted. Both mentally and physically. Some days, I’ll go to work and I’ll get a ton accomplished, and every decision I make seems to pan out. I come home, and I feel great. But then there are days, which seem much more common, where servers crash, I make no progress and seem to take two steps back at work. Those days, I am completely spent. But I know when I get home, I have to get something on the table for dinner. And chances are, Max will want to go outside and play, or go swimming, or go to the park. So even though I feel like I just want to curl up in the fetal position on the couch, eat a bag of Cheetos and watch Sports Center, I have to keep going. Then when he finally goes to bed, I feel guilty about not spending enough time with Rachel. So I try to find time to talk with her, maybe catch up on something we DVR’d. And before I know it, it’s time for bed, and the process starts all over.
And all week, I look forward to the weekend. 2 days, where I have nothing but free time. Free time? What’s that? Oh yeah, that’s the time left over after I’m done mowing the grass, paying bills, grocery shopping, doing repairs around the house, getting Max to t-ball practice and birthday parties, and getting Max to bed. Usually when Max falls asleep, I’m not far behind. My list of movies that I want to watch, the list of unwatched TV shows on my DVR, and that list of books I want to read continue to grow, along with my every growing list of things to feel guilty about…