Sometimes it feels lonely out there. Becoming a parent along with juggling a full-time job seems to really take its toll, often leaving us parents on the verge of exhaustion and no doubt, at times, flirting with burnout. I often wonder whether I am doing too much as a father and as a husband; attending to the needs of my daughter and also assisting in the day-to-day running of our home. Cooking, cleaning, running the finances, doing the shopping, etc. all seem to slowly chip away at one's energy levels. It wasn't until very recently that I decided to stop and reflect on what I was doing and how long I would be able to sustain this level of involvement. The answer is, quite simply, “not long at all”.
How much is too much for the modern man? In the generation of my parents, the fathers had little involvement in the upkeep of the home and little involvement beyond doing all the fun stuff with their children like playing in the park or watching school sport fixtures. So why do I feel this guilty urge to always be doing something? I have this really annoying inner conscience which won’t allow me to just sit and relax if I know that my wife is slaving away. Working full days almost seems enough, yet I cannot convince myself that it is okay to put my feet up; not until our little one is tucked up in bed dreaming of fun times with daddy (or at least I hope that is what she dreams of). My father was an awesome father, no doubt about it, but if I reflect on my level of involvement around the house versus his, I win hands down. He was an excellent husband too, thirty-nine years of a committed marriage confirms that. I have to ask myself if my level of involvement as a husband is too much as far as my health is concerned?
Christina Maslash, wife of Philip Zimbardo (famous social psychologist), coined the phrase “burnout”, and in doing so, discovered a new phenomenon beyond that of day-to-day stress. The demands of today’s world, plus the fact that there are so many young, married couples out there who live on a different continent to their parents, makes it even more difficult to cope it seems. I don’t even want to think about how single-parents do it – believe me when I say that becoming a parent has brought along with it a new-found admiration for single parents; seriously impressive! Am I having an unnecessary hard-done-by moment or is there some truth in my there-is-so-much-to-juggle whine (and yes, I would like some cheese with that whine)? I am by no means ungrateful for the life that I have, in fact I am massively blessed, but through mere observation and reflecting on my own lifestyle, I cannot help but wonder if there are very many cases where fathers feel genuinely knackered from burning the candle at both ends?