Thursday, July 24, 2014

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Why Fatherhood Makes Me Feel Like A Failure

Photo by Lucinda Higley Photography

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I was holding our sleeping baby, Aspen, and thinking about work. Things had been stressful there recently. My boss quit, suddenly, and within a few days my job had gone from something that was secure, and I enjoyed doing, to something very stressful and exhausting that may or may not be around in the following year.

Looking at my kids and thinking about my job is not unusual. I do it a lot, particularly in times like this.

I have to assume a lot of fathers do it.

It was late afternoon, and as I held Aspen, I looked at my son, Tristan, riding his bike in the yard. He’s seven, and growing fast, and I worried that once he grew out of that bike, that I might not be afford him another. I looked at Norah, age four, and wondered if I’d be able to buy her a dress as nice as the one she was wearing. I looked at my house, and wondered if I’d be able to continue to pay the mortgage.

With each child I feel more satisfied as a father. I feel more love for my children. My family feels more complete. But at the same time, I also feel more pressure to be a provider. Right now my wife is a stay-at-home mom. This is something that she’d always wanted, and I love the fact that we’ve been able to make it happen. I know that she is capable of working, but she want’s to be a mom, and I respect that and I want to give it to her.

But it’s a double-edged sword.

What if things don’t work out?

What if I loose my job and she has to go back to work?

What does that say about me, as a father and provider?

Does that make me a failure?

I don’t think Mel would leave me. I don’t even think she would see me as less of a husband if I lost my job.

But I would think less of myself.

We’ve placed ourselves in these parental roles, and they are working well. But I often wonder for how long. At what point will things change for the worse? When will the Lord try us by taking away what we have, and expecting us to start from scratch?

We bought our first home last November, a modest 1,000 square foott, three bedrooms, slice of paradise in Small Town Oregon. The mortgage is affordable, the neighbors are pleasant, and the commute is tolerable. It fits within our budget, and yet, I sometimes stay up at night, looking at the ceiling, and wondering when I will lose it. When the bank will knock at the door and issue forcloser paperwork.

Like most things, I think my fears revolve around my father. I’m not sure how many times he took out bankruptcy, but I know it was more than once. He bought homes, and lost homes. He lost cars and wives along the way, too.

I suppose what he has shown me is that failure is possible. And subconsciously, I sometimes wonder if it is unavoidable.

I see it around every corner. And with each child, with each major step into adulthood, I see it all crashing down, and suddenly I’m single, unemployed, and drunk in a one-bedroom apartment in central Utah, just like my father was the weeks before his untimely death at age 49.

I can’t be alone in all this. I can’t be the only father who looks at their children and asks: do I have the right stuff?

Do I have what is needed to care for you?

What happens if I don’t?

In a lot of ways, I think this fear is good. It helps me to look at our budget a little closer. To think a little harder about my job, my actions, and wonder what steps I will need to take to be able to make ends meet tomorrow, next month, next year…

I looked down at Aspen, still in my arms, swaddled in a blanket and sleeping, and said, “I’m trying, kid. Don’t give up on me, and I won’t give up on you.” 

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Clint Edwards was blessed with a charming and spitfire wife, a video game obsessed little boy, and a snarky little girl in a Cinderella play dress. When Clint was 9-years-old his father left. With no example of fatherhood, he had to learn how to be a father and husband through trial and error. His essays on parenting and marriage have been featured in New York Times, The Washington Post, The Huffington Post, Scary Mommy, The Good Men Project, and elsewhere. He lives in Oregon. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter
Photo by Lucinda Higley


Unknown said...

The Lord moves in mysterious ways. We lost our home to a fire, which wrecked our finances somewhat, not long after I quit to stay home. A year later, I was overjoyed to get the on I wanted, only for him to lose his employment, which has been hit-or-miss since. There were fights, resentful moments, but lots and lots of pulling together as a team and figuring out our priorities. It's hardest on a man, I think, when he puts all of his identity into his career and role as provider. Many spiritual and philosophical lessons came from "aha!" moments during his first unemployment. We are a stronger and healthier family for it. That said, job loss sucks dirt, and I hope you don't have to deal with it.

T Warwick said...
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Nicole Kidd said...

Just came across your blog this morning - love it! Sent it to my husband to follow as well... I have been wanting him to do the occasional guest post on my blog :-) Feel free to stop by a visit a newbie blogger...