Thursday, January 2, 2020

3 Steps to Managing Stress for Dads: Get Away

Ok world I'm alive and well. After a long hiatus from posting, I'm ready to share some more from my thoughts and experiences on fatherhood. Over the past couple of years I've gone through an awakening where I had to reconcile who I have been, who I am, and who I want to become. Midlife crisis? Maybe. Maybe not. The main thing is right now is that I know who I am. It's kind of fitting going into 2020, because I feel like I've got 20/20 vision for my life more than ever. So on to the point of the post...

Much of my blogging has been focused on spending more time with your children. I will still advocate for that, but I'm going to strive to be more balanced about examining the importance of spending some intentional time AWAY from your little ones. I know plenty of fathers who have immersed themselves into fatherhood to the point of almost losing themselves. One such person is one of my  co-workers. He and I get together on a regular basis to discuss fatherhood wins and challenges. Lately, we've re-discovered how healthy it is to just be in your own head space without your wife and kids for a few (or several) hours. Just mentioning this will cause many women to have a strong, "wait just a minute bruh," response. Many women will argue that they need their man to do more...not less. I get that, and I'm not negating that this is true in SOME cases. I think it's wrong to think this about ALL men. I think the actual deadbeats out there cause us involved fathers to be held to almost abusive standards that ignore our efforts. "

"The non-stop churn of working late, shuttling kids to practices in the evenings, and constantly helping loved ones move furniture (on your only day off) can take its toll."

What do I mean? Since the airwaves are filled with male-bashing that portrays men as being either uniformed or uninvolved, it makes it easy for women to latch on to this perception. I've seen it in my life on a few occasions. After having to work late a few nights there have been times where I'd get the low-key accusatory question: "You haven't left work yet?"  text from the wife. Thankfully, my wife gives a lot of leeway for me to be away from the house and rarely has a negative response to it. Notice I did say rarely.  I do recall her really struggling one time though. It was when I was working on finishing up my Masters degree. I'm the guy that has to have perfect library silence to study...which meant long hours at the library. She once said that she felt like a single-parent because I was always gone in spite of the fact that I was either at work or at the library. Here I was laying myself on the altar of trying to provide for family and I'm getting lectured about my absence. It was a bit hard for both of us to deal with, and I was actually thankful for her honesty. 

It's this type of expectation that can be societally put on even good fathers that can be a source of added stress. We men are up against a lot working in this world and in order to cope we just need some time to recreate. At times, our wives and kids can send a message that says doing anything on our own is wrong. The opposite is true. Recently, my daughter complained because I was going to catch up with a buddy of mine. She talked about how unfair it was.  Thankfully, the guilt trip didn't work because I'm keenly aware of the time investments I regularly make in her life. At the same time part of my ego loves the fact that she wants me all to her self.

So, my message to fathers is to be balanced in spending time with your family and with yourself. Go hoop it up for a few hours. Go on that hiking trip with the guys. Your family will survive for a few hours without you. Ladies, examine yourself to make sure that you give your man some space (at least once a week) to do something for himself. Yeah he's a man that can take a lot, but respect him by letting him do what he enjoys without you and the kids every now and then. His emotional health depends on it. 

Here are 3 practical ways to "get away" and beat stress:

1.) Use Your Days Off-Almost all of us have days off which most of us use to take family vacations or sick days. What's wrong with using a vacation day as a man to simply take a day trip alone to go hiking or spend some uninterrupted quiet time tinkering in the garage? If your wife likes to plan your days off for you..then either tell her you're not doing anything other than what you want to do or don't tell her you're taking off. A "mental health day"is just as important taking off for the flu in my opinion. If you're stressed that can be just as contagious as being physically sick. When I spend a few hours or days away from my wife and kids, it causes me us to miss and appreciate one another a bit more.

2.) Get a Hobby Most family men are constantly looking for ways to meet the needs of their families while negating their own needs. The trade off is usually something that the guy enjoys.  IF you've spent adequate time with your wife. and/or kids, don't let emotional manipulation keep your from a hobby that helps you ward off stress. Over the past couple of years I've taken on kayaking, fishing, and a little time at the gun range. Embracing these hobbies is like hitting the reset button and recharges me to be a more balanced family man to those around me.

3.) Connect With a (Male) Friend-Part of managing stress isn't about always going at it alone. Guys need to spend time with other guys. The non-stop churn of working late, shuttling kids to practices in the evenings, and constantly helping loved ones move furniture (on your only day off) can take its toll. We have to do the things I just mentioned, but you need to INTENTIONALLY allow yourself some time each week to catch up with a male friend.  I stress choosing a responsible male friend who is pushing you towards being a family man...not someone who's tempting or pushing you in the opposite direction.

By following these 3 practical steps on a regular basis, I believe you could reduce your overall stress level, which will benefit everybody around you. Your Dad Days go by quick, make sure you take a little time to get away and actually enjoy them. The advice given here isn't meant to replace professional counseling. If you are facing extreme anxiety or depression, I strongly encourage you to seek professional help from a licensed counselor in your area. You can also follow this link for more professionals standing by to help you:

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