Let me be frank: I have Daddy Issues. I’ve already talked about them. This goes a bit further than that.
Angela will be the first to tell you that. These issues are not simple “daddy didn’t love me” ones, either. My dad loves me dearly. My parents love me, and for that I am truly blessed. I have a lot to live up to be my father, and I have always looked up to him as a role model. Watching the show from the front row seat was so much easier. I am not sure if it was whitewashed or not. Either way, I saw the best out of him. Maybe it’s because they do that I have these creeping feelings of inadequacy all the time, especially since Zelda’s birth. You always hear from parents talking about how they “got through it” and the “tough times” they went through in the first years. I always shrugged statements like that off. I never thought I would be a father in the first place, even if I always wanted to be. Then I got my wish: I became a dad. And it felt like it was in a blink of an eye. Suddenly, I am that person going through the tough times. I am trying to “get through it.” And I want to be honest: I haven’t handled it well.
Zelda was born on 9 February. Less than a week later, I was teleworking and attempting to put in 8 hour days at home. That was rough. That first week was hell. She had her nights and days mixed up, and I swore she would never stop crying from 11:30pm to about 4:30am. One of the days that I did go in that week, I had stayed up with Zelda all night rocking her back and forth until 3:30am. I had to get up for work for a meeting that day. I’ll let the Facebook post I wrote for this page do the talking:
Since then, I have lived in that “tired, but not tired” state of mind. Don’t get me wrong – Zelda has been an overall fantastic baby. She is basically sleeping through the night. She smiles and laughs with me sometimes. I fall in love with her more every day.
That’s the condensed version of my life lately. I would call it the “Facebook friendly” version. Facebook life is not real life, even if you use it as much as I do. It’s picturesque, right? Zelda sleeping through the night. Angela and I get along all the time. Time, albeit precious, is well spent with the entire family.
Then reality sets in. Things like the sleeping incident at work become more frequent. The stress gets to me more and more each day. All the while, I am wondering what my own father would do in each situation I get myself into. Thankfully for that time period in the very beginning, we had the help of our parents. As tired as I was that day I fell asleep on the john, I would have suffered a much worse fate those first few weeks had it not been for the parents, especially my mother-in-law Anne.
For a while after my mom and Angela’s parents left in the mid-March, things were okay. I thought things were getting better. Facebook life started to look like real life. It was a fantastic couple of days. It did not last. Like I said before: I haven’t handled it well. So naturally, things got much much worse. Work began to pile up. Deadlines were set and I needed to make them. When you work for a small non-profit, events and things need to get done. I was the only person that could do them. So you swallow your stress and work through it. Soon the Facebook life moves away from real life.
I guess I could say that it all started to get to me. The job. The feeding schedules. The lack of sleep. The feelings of inadequacy and the worrying about worrying from worrying. I started to notice some of my hair coming out in the shower towards the middle of March. My acne started coming back. The brave face I put on for Angela and the baby slowly faded away. I was getting angrier and angrier. I was mad at work. I was mad at Angela. Hell, I was even mad at the dog because of her ongoing issues. I was mad at everyone but myself. It’s the most selfish I have ever been. But that would change soon enough. What happened in the end to the boy who kept crying wolf?
And then there were the fights. I noticed in the days after we were on our own that I would catch myself raising my voice for no reason at all. I could count on one hand the amount of fights we had before having the baby. We started to get in a few spats here and there. What it really boiled down to was my obsession with work. My obsession with deadlines. Angela and I were a team and I was putting ghostrunners on base. If there was something she told me to do, I would somehow find a way to not do it. The worst of those was taking time to rest. I had a period of time around a major work event last month where I was drinking one to two Red Bulls a day. Actually, I am lying. I wasn’t telling anyone, but I was drinking 48oz. of high energy Red Bull a day for three or four straight days.
It all came to a head about a week and a half ago.
For a few days last week, my life flashed in segments and frames, like a television antenna that can’t quite get the channel clearly. It was hard to process all of it. Do you ever swim in your thoughts, semi-conscious in a state of drowsiness, hoping to God that the next time you blink the scenery will change?
I’m driving to work. I’m counting the hours away from my family before I have to attempt to put on a brave face.
Text message. My mother. She is asking me why I am not sleeping and when I will get a “day off.” I tell her not anytime soon and hang up, frustrated.
We are arguing again. I look down. The baby is in my arms and I can’t get her to stop crying. I don’t know who I am more mad at: the baby or Angela.
I can’t manage to look at a mirror because I don’t want to see the face staring back. So much anger. I’m also internally upset at how much weight I’ve gained in the last year, despite my best efforts to lose through diet and exercise. Nothing works. But that’s why the mirror is your best friend and worst enemy. There’s people that think they are overweight and are, and those that are skinny and are overweight in their mind. I’m the former.
I am staring blankly at the wall. Angela is asking me when we should eat. I act like I don’t hear her. I just want a few moments of silence, even if its just in my own head.
It’s Monday evening. I’m watching episodes of House Hunters in a half daze. Angela and I were fresh of our morning fight about something or another. The bills in the kitchen were piling up, which I continued to stare at in blank fascination. How do pieces of paper hold so much of our lives together? Is it worth arguing over like we had? All the while, I am stressed with no sign of relief. I haven’t had sex in a long time, but I am really trying to respect the wishes of Angela and wait. It frustrates me to no end, but I am trying to be the “good guy.” Meanwhile, my stress gets so much that I have to sit and think at night, eyes open, about how long I have to be the “good guy,” and more importantly, what would make me a “bad guy.” I wonder if I’ve crossed that line already.
So, we’re sitting watching House Hunters, pretending to be civil and loving our child. She starts to cry. We look at each other and play the silent mental game of “who is going to check her diaper.” I go to check her diaper. I look visibly frustrated in doing so, and the conversation goes from silent to deadly within minutes. There goes the stress. There goes any thought of sleeping. Now work comes back into play. Get the popcorn and kick back.
“It’s all you ever think about,” Angela says. “We have sacrificed so much so you can do your work at night.” The worst part is, she wasn’t wrong. You know that part in Ghostbusters II when the judge is building his anger level and the pink slime keeps rising and rising. That’s been me for the last two months. And at that point, I had just hit the point when the “Scoleri Brothers” jumped out into the courtroom.
And then I snapped. I yelled at my kid to be quiet.
Let me first say three facts.
- I immediately regretted it.
- I immediately apologized to both her and Angela.
- I am completely less of a person for doing so. Do not convince me otherwise.
The baby begins to wail. I feel like a complete asshole. I am. At that moment, I am hugging her close and whispering in her ear how sorry I am. Tears are streaming down my face as I begin to contemplate how the fuck I got to that point. I want to hit myself. I want to choke the life out of me for it, but I can’t. I have to be there for her. I have to be there for Angela.
This is very honest and heartbreaking to admit. I yelled at Zelda because of my own petty frustrations. If you’ve never done it, I salute you. If you have, and don’t want to admit it, I also salute you. It’s not easy to admit. But we set out to do this blog back in August of last year to be as real and honest as possible. So here I am, telling you that I was so stressed out that I took it out on my two-month old daughter, helpless and crying.
It took a long time to convince Angela I wasn’t a monster, and thankful I haven’t done it since. I don’t know if this is PPD or my own selfish frustrations. Some websites call it “sad dad” or “dad blue.” Whatever it is, it’s out there because life after having a baby is also hard on the father. Sure, I am not feeding her with my breasts, and I didn’t birth her from my genitals. I give Angela mad props for that. What I do do, is try to make up for my mistakes and be the best father I can be. If I can manage to be a decent husband at some point along the way….even better.
If you are a new dad and have struggles like I do from time to time, I am here to help. I can’t say I am back to 100%, because I’m not. Not even close. But I’m working on it. I made a mistake that I am trying to fix. If you are in the same situation, let’s talk. Let’s all be great dads, better partners, and better people.
I have an email. I have contact information. If you want to talk, let’s do so.