The Guilt of Fatherhood

3:45 AM I am woken by the beeping of my wife’s cellphone alarm. She is already in the nursery with the babies and her cellphone is on the nightstand on the other side of the bed. At this point I am faced with two choices. I can roll across the bed and silence the alarm or I can get up and walk around the bed to silence it. I choose the latter.

As I slide my finger across the screen to dismiss the alarm I am greeted by the smiling faces of my baby boys. I am filled with guilt at not doing more to help. The last few nights I haven’t done one feeding in the middle of the night and they have become ravenous demons eating every two hours. They must be going through a growth spurt my wife told me the other day but then she also tells me she has been losing track of time and isn’t certain of when they are eating. We are both exhausted from lack of sleep, but mine is from attempting to sleep as much as I can through the noise of crying babies and hers is from getting up to take care of crying babies.

Standing there, looking at the faces of my children as the home screen on my wife’s cellphone, and feeling guilt at not trudging down the hallway to help feed I look at the clock and see the read numbers indicating it is 3:45 AM. I have to be awake and ready to go to work in 45 minutes. I desperately want and need those 45 minutes of sleep. Even with coffee I am going to be barely functional and people count on me to keep their animals safe and satisfied while they are out of town for the long weekend, but my wife counts on me to be a parent to my children.

There are other thoughts swirling through my mind. Is the role of the father obsolete in modern society? If I wasn’t around my wife might not be able to stay home with the children but that is our case and our case alone. We decided that she would work from home, helping to run the bossiness, while I ran it from the field. If I wasn’t around the circumstances would certainly be different. She could hire people to take my place and without me the household expenses would be a lot less. I’m the one buying $5.99 blocks of paneer to slice up with chicken and cover with $3.99 jars of curry. She is eating turkey sandwiches and frozen pizzas. She has always been a far more practical person and better at financial navigating the world. When it comes to household finances I am more of a burden than an asset buying books, video games, and luxury food items.

Men view themselves as providers. Heading out in the world and hunting and tracking money to bring home and support a family that is not in need of support. The majority of jobs in contemporary society are non-existential. They are jobs made up to give people something to do as the necessary functions of society become more and more automated and we refuse to un-tether ourselves from the notion that a person only has value if they are earning a living. We mention how many hours we work a day or how many roles we fill like a badge of honor when instead or focus should be on how can we work less and fill our time with more rewarding endeavors.

I have to get those 45 minutes of sleep because I have to be functional to work. To fill this archaic notion of providing for my family when my family should already be provided for. It is like the world forgot that the role of he current generation is to leave the world better than they found it for the next generation. Instead we selfishly fight and try and cling to whatever scraps we can find. Just because no working class has had more forms of technology and entertainment make us better than working class. Our lives might appear to be better than a medieval serf’s on the surface but we are working longer hours during the day and taking less holidays. Sure, we are healthier, have more forms of entertainment, and don’t owe fealty to a minor lord but we have less time at home, less days off, less time with our family, and owe fealty to whatever bank is in possession of our debts.

I want to break free of the notion as man as provider. We are not living on the plains following the elk. I feel guilty at not being able to help my wife. She is up and down every night running to the nursery. Feeding the babies and holding them until they fall back asleep while I toss and turn in bed attempting to get whatever rest I can. I look at the clock one last time. Register what it means that it is 3:45 AM and slink around, back to my side of the bed, to try for those 45 more minutes of rest. It’s going to be a long day tomorrow. Work starts at 5:30 and doesn’t end until 8:00 at night an I’m going to need whatever energy I can muster, but I can’t stop feeling my energy would be better spent helping to raise my children instead of fulfilling an archaic role that is unnecessary in a post-hunter gatherer world.

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