Tired of Being Exhausted

Being a parent is tiring…
…especially if you work hard to be the best dad you can be. I have heard childless people, all women, share with me how their mother “raised 5 children under the age of 8,” or “8 children under the age of 12,” etc. My first question (which I refrain from asking) is: did your parents ever hear of birth control? But it gets worse. These same women have told me they were beaten by their mothers when they were “bad,” with shirt hangers and wooden spoons no less. In some odd way it becomes a pissing contest of sorts. How many kids one mom could take care of. Then, as if it were good parenting, the different ways their wonderful mothers “cared” for all of these kids by beating the shit out of them. What’s wrong with this picture?

If you made a mistake at work, what would you do if you were reprimanded with a spanking by your boss? If he or she took you in their office, bent you over their lap, and spanked the crap out of you? (For the purposes of this blog, disregard any thoughts of your boss being incredibly hot, or any desire some of you might have to be spanked.) Would that be acceptable behavior? Or would you have that person arrested for assault?

The answer seems pretty clear. So why would anyone think it’s OK for parents to hit their kids?

This prelude leads me to the main point of this blog. Exhaustion. I am exhausted. And I feel pretty stuck in the sticky muck of it. I have a plan on how to get out: exercise, meditate, sleep — but I’m inept at getting these things done. Anybody else have this problem? My current physical and mental state makes it harder for me to make good, clear decisions. And although I would never dream of hitting my kids, I don’t always have the energy or the mental capacity to assess what they’re really saying when they’re acting out.

Parenting is a lot like poker.
And just like there are different types of poker players, there are different types of parents.

The above example of a parent who hits to have their children behave a certain way (and to prevent them from doing certain things) is like a hyper-aggressive poker player. This type of player bets, bets and bets some more, no matter what the situation — attempting to beat their opponents into submission. They lack the ability to assess a situation. They only act with aggression, no matter what is going on around them. They’re not looking to understand, they’re looking to pummel and control opponents.

Another type of player is more thoughtful. He/she sits down at the table and assesses his opponents — their tendencies, personalities, playing styles, etc. In other words, he is taking stock of what is going on around him so he can make the proper adjustments. This allows him to make the best decision (at any given moment) on the most effective way to act. But this style of playing requires a high cognitive process (not needed in the brutal aggressive style nor in the abusive parent who’s only solution is to hit until a behavior is changed).

This thoughtful style of parenting is one where we can actually gain an understanding of our children and help them, instead of instilling fear in them. I believe children who live in fear become adults who live in fear. They’re too scared to make a mistake, so they often fall way short of fulfilling their potential.

My job is to help my children reach their highest potential and be true to who they really are. But when I’m exhausted, it’s hard to make the right decisions. One’s “read” of a situation can often be way off.

Somewhere along the way, things tipped and started feeling too hard.

Maybe it’s because there’s no family around for support (we’re recent transplants to Madison, Wisconsin). Then again, there wasn’t all that much support from family when we lived close by to begin with. But there was always an option to ask for help if you really needed a break. Out here, the isolation never ends. It’s like driving on a road, and you never get to stop. There’s never any substantial regeneration. Plus, it’s rare for my wife and I to get an uninterrupted night of sleep. Our boys are 4, and 1 ½ years old, and my younger boy wakes up crying quite often these days — teething, colds, lost pacifier… I am so tired.

I start to feel sorry for myself, which makes me incredibly angry. So what if I’m tired? My kids need me! It doesn’t matter if I’m tired, or at least it shouldn’t. I feel like it is an excuse, but isn’t it a reality? I just feel so overwhelmed, so inept. In fact, as I write this it is past 12 am. So in a way, I’m perpetuating my fatigue. But this is my time, the only time I get all day long for me. I’m not complaining, it’s a fact. And I think there are many like me — looking for some self-time. Without it, we might wake up one day with nothing left of ourselves.

For me, I need to sleep, exercise and meditate. Easy right? But the mind gets in the way. It stops us from doing what is natural, easy. It rationalizes, in a most irrational way, and keeps us in patterns that we would rather break. In other words, I’m resisting. So I stay up. I play online poker instead of meditating, I never seem to make the time to exercise.

Accepting resistance is the first step in letting it go. It’s there, whether we like it or not, so accept it. Let it be there. Resisting your resistance only builds upon what is already there.

Yes, just about every waking moment is for my kids, my wife or my job. The little time I have for me doesn’t get spent on the things I need the most. Some would say I have nobody to blame but myself. But I’m doing my best.

Does anybody else have this problem? Has anybody found a way to overcome it? Your thoughts and stories are welcome.

And remember, you are not alone…

Related posts:
Equal Rights for Kids. Part 2: Don’t Hit!

Was Buddha a schmuck?

I am the husband of a lovely wife and the father of two beautiful boys. Would you think highly of me if I told you that one day, I decided to leave them to find enlightenment? I did not say goodbye, nor leave a note — but simply left. I made sure there was plenty of money in the bank, so my family would not be in financial need after my departure. Does that sound commendable? Or more like a crime? Buddha’s quest for enlightenment appears more like a tale of abandonment to me.

One account of his life relates…“Siddhartha’s (Buddha’s birth name) mind was made up: he would leave his life of luxury and search for truth. Knowing he would not receive consent, that very night as everyone lay sleeping, he bid a silent farewell to his wife and son. He mounted his horse and set out for the forest in the far reaches of the land where the holy men gather. When he arrived, he cut his long hair and donned the robe of an ascetic, a man of solitude searching for wisdom. Now, at the age of twenty-nine, his journey had begun.”

Read the whole story at: Buddha’s Story

Now, I’m all for enlightenment. But at what cost? Is abandoning your family an acceptable path to awakening? Some would say it doesn’t matter. Detachment from need & desire is part of the way. Well, I’m sorry but a child needs his father! Abandoning your child, not to mention your wife for any reason is unacceptable and selfish. Is it me or does Buddha’s decision seem based in ego?

Wouldn’t finding enlightenment AND being a dependable person be that much better? Why not try raising your children and finding your higher self? Not to mention working full time to pay the bills! Now become enlightened! Suddenly it seems near impossible.

Buddha didn’t have to raise his family. He left them behind like trash so he could find his true self. Nice huh? He parked himself under a tree and forwent all his worldly possessions (not to mention his responsibilities to his family). If you ask me, Buddha took the easy way out. And although I respect in his teachings, I do not respect his course of action as a father.

Just one second though. Is there more conflict than meets the eye here? Maybe it was heart wrenching for Buddha to walk away from his family. Maybe it was for the greater good that he did so. Instead of looking at it as abandonment of his family, could it be that his path gave him no other choice? Or maybe the story was crafted (as my wife suggested) during a time where socially, a wife and child were not considered equal in importance to the man of the house. I don’t know, but here’s a question: Is the greater good of many souls more important than the greater good of one? Does the impact Buddha made on the world make the hurt he inflicted upon his son acceptable? If, to save 100 I must kill 1, does that make me a savior or a murderer? For no matter what I choose, there is suffering.

But I am not Buddha. I am a man struggling to survive and keep my family healthy and safe. This is my higher self. Yes, I would like to find enlightenment, but I have chosen, like many dads, to put my family first — not my own needs. There is no ego here, and I think at some level, the story of Buddha is flawed because what he did at least in part included ego & selfishness.

What I do know for sure is that I have no desire to leave my family behind — for any reason. How can I help the world if I am not honoring the ones closest to me? What kind of example is that?

And, how can we as modern day dads find a slice of peace and enlightenment of our own? Before my children were born, I made a strong connection with spirit (when I was able to make the time to meditate for an hour a day). Now I struggle to get in touch with it. For me I know the answer begins with more sleep, meditation and a bit of exercise every week. The sleep part is going not so good (at least tonight). As I write this, it’s already 12:30 in the morning.

Remember, you are not alone…

Dads Are Not Second-class Parents

Life is good. I’m lucky enough to have a job as a writer for a major catalog company. I’m happy to have a job, although it is usually quite unsatisfying. But like most dads, my family needs me to work, so I work. Overall, I feel unhappy a whole lot — but that seems to be the case with most people. My family loves me. I have two wonderful boys, a beautiful wife and a fuzzy cat.

So why am I unhappy?

Because every day, when I go to work my heart breaks.

It’s not that I don’t want to work — I am far from lazy. I just don’t want to miss my kids growing up. The first step, the first word, the close relationship where I am more than a paycheck and a weekend play buddy. I used to have my own freelance copywriting business, working form a home office. My first son, Max, had me around every day. I was part of the inner workings of his day AND I paid the bills. My second son, Joss, does not have that luxury. I can’t take a break from work and play for a few minutes, or take him to the pizzeria for lunch. And quite simply, I feel he’s being cheated. And so am I.

Missing my kids is not a phenomenon that is relegated to me, or to the male population for that matter. It’s the 21st century, and many women are working just as many hours as men (when did the 8-hour work day turn into the 9-hour work day? Not to mention the countless parents that must work far more than this new standard of the 45-hour workweek).

The difference is that moms are allowed to talk about it. They’re allowed to miss their kids. Open up Parenting magazine, and it’s full of pages to help MOM. Meanwhile, dad is relegated to a one or two page article in the back of the magazine – quite often on a totally detached topic (see the dec/jan 08 issue for an article on the perils taking the kids on vacation, “On the road again,” – WHO CARES?). The title of the magazine says it all Parenting: what matters to moms. So I guess our job is limited to depositing the sperm and the weekly paycheck. Why is it socially unacceptable to talk about what we’re going through? Like somehow we were never meant to REALLY raise our kids. I have been told by family members that it’s my wife’s job to raise my boys, not mine. What’s that about?

There are two kinds of dads. One is unfazed by what I’m talking about here. He doesn’t mind being away from home. Maybe he’s even glad to get away from his family for various reasons. If this sounds like you, you are going to hate this blog. Please know I hold nothing against you. If you’re doing your best, that’s all you can do. But this blog very well might seem like a complete waste of time to you — except for the fact that you sought it out, so maybe you’re not happy with how things are after all.

The second kind of dad is what I call a Real Dad. Real Dads change diapers. Real dads get on the floor and play with their kids, and they feed them babas and yucky looking strained foods. And we miss our little pals — day after day, week after week.

This blog relates what I have been experiencing for the past 3 1/2 years since my first son was born. If it helps you in any way, I’m glad. I’m just sick and tired of feeling like I’m some freak because I miss my boys.

Please feel free to share your thoughts.

And remember, you are not alone…

Additional Dads are Not Second-class Parents Articles:
Part 2: And Then There’s Dad
Part 3: A Divorced Dad’s Perspective
Part 4: Dads Need Help Too
– Part 5: Perceptions & Paradigms
A Question for Dads: Have You Been Treated Like a Second-class Parent?

Where’s the Dad in Toy Story

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Hello dads!

Welcome to Daddy Brain.

This blog is a sounding board for me, and you, to express what us dads are going through and how we feel about it. It’s a blog for what I call “real dads” — the kind that love to play with their children and don’t mind changing stinky diapers. It’s for the kind of father who’s heart breaks because he’s at work all day instead of playing with his pals. Not every dad is a real dad, and that’s OK. But if you’ve sought out this blog, then you obviously are.

I’m tired of being considered a second class parent by magazines, family and the world we live in. Dads are parents too! In the coming weeks, I’ll be posting all sorts of things about the many facets of fatherhood. I’d also like to highlight dads who have inspirational stories, or who might need a little help from the rest of us.

Always remember, you are not alone…

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