People (thankfully) don’t comment on my appearance often, but when they do, it’s to say one of three things: I look tired, I look frazzled, or I look like I’ve aged. Truth be told, it’s likely all of the above. This parenting thing, especially while trying to run a full-time business at the same time, isn’t easy and I often feel like I’m coming up short. Many days, I can feel like I’m not cut out for this at all and I notice all the things I’m doing “wrong.” Do these things make me a bad dad?
I Use TV as a Digital Babysitter
The general recommendation is that babies under the age of two should not have any screen time whatsoever. After that, you’re supposed to restrict screen time severely and, even then, you should be engaging and interacting with the child as they watch cartoons. Ask them questions. Provide supplementary information. Never use the screen as a digital babysitter.
Except I do. I try not to do it often, but it can be really hard preparing dinner when you have a toddler scampering around your feet or causing all sorts of chaos in her wake. So, I turn on the TV and let her watch something, so I can cook “in peace.” Or sometimes, I just need a mental break and the TV will keep her occupied. I know it’s wrong, but I do it anyway.
I Indulge Her with McDonald’s
Most parents want to raise their children on healthy diets with balanced lifestyles. We try, but we also indulge her (and us) with fast food on a not-exactly-infrequent basis. It’s gotten to the point where my two-year-old not only knows what McDonald’s means, but she can also point out the restaurants, including locations that she has never visited before.
She also knows that it is at “Donald” that she can get “fries and ketchup” for “dip dip.” She also knows that she can get a toy with her “Happy Meal.” The marketing and branding are strong with this one.
I Yell at Her When She Doesn’t Cooperate
Why do I always have to be the bad cop? I don’t want to be the bad cop. I also don’t want to have a bad temper, because I know that can also make me a bad dad. But sometimes, I get so frustrated and I just can’t take it anymore.
I’ve had both of us break down in the middle of brushing her teeth. I yell, she cries, and we all feel bad about the situation.
A similar thing happened last night during dinner. She stopped eating and demanded to watch cartoons. I told her she had to finish her dinner first. She’d shovel some food in her mouth, but not actually chew or swallow it. This went on for almost two hours. Fed up, I cleaned her up, put her in her bed, and closed the door. Unsurprisingly, she cried.
And then I felt like an especially bad dad when, several minutes later, I heard her singing “Old MacDonald Had A Farm” to herself.
I Work Too Much / Not Enough
Just before I started writing this blog post this morning, my daughter wandered into my home office, BBC interview style, and we had the following exchange:
Her: Hi daddy.
Me: Hi Addie.
Her: Daddy, poe-poe! (She wants to sit on my lap.)
Me: (I put her on my lap.)
Her: I love you.
Me: Aww, I love you too, honey.
Her: I give you big hug.
Me: Okay. Big hug.
Her: You working?
Me: I’m trying to.
Her: I never see you.
Me: (Disintegrates into an emotional puddle of goo.)
If that doesn’t make me feel guilty for “working so much,” I don’t know what will. In my mind, I feel like I don’t have enough time and that I’m not working nearly enough. Most days, I’m attempting to shoehorn eight hours’ worth of work into just three hours. What ends up happening is that I’ll half-work on my phone while I’m with her (sin #1) and I’ll stare at a half-completed to-do list at the end of the day (sin #2). Something clearly needs to change, either in structure or mindset.
Am I a bad dad? How can I be better?