It's a big issue. Fathers many times burden themselves unnecessarily by keeping their emotions to themselves. Debt, negativity at work, feeling unappreciated, worn down, the list goes on. Those feelings are normal. What is also normal is the desire to mask it, put on a happy face, and be that rock of emotional stability for your family. The only problem is that, well, it's unsustainable!
Unexpressed emotions eventually catch up with everybody. Not every man will show the same symptoms so it's hard to identify at a glance. Inevitably, what lands up happening is you land up hurting the very loved ones you sought to protect with your silence. While many dads and husbands can withstand quite a bit of heat before the whistle starts chirping on the kettle, others boil over at much lower temperatures. Whichever one of these camps you put yourself in, I'm going to tell you a little secret: you're not as strong as you think.
It doesn't always come out explosively. Petty arguments, raising your voice over trivial things, not being that chill, loving dad with the mental space or time to engage. Those are all symptoms of superdad meltdown.
On the other side of the coin, there are the dads that talk about their problems too much! (I've been both.) Getting together with friends, neighbors and just having so much on your mind that you can't help constantly being a Debbie-downer is straight-up pretty lame. As anyone close to me will testify, I'm a pretty open book about my feelings and how I'm really doing. I grew up with 3 sisters and was given a lot more opportunities to verbally express myself emotionally than say, my father, who grew up as the eldest of 3 boys.
So while keeping everything caged up is problematic, overexpressing one's negative thoughts and feelings can also sink the morale in a home. Thoughts to consider that can help find the balance:
Your spouse signed up to be your life partner under the impression that you were best friends.
In all the messy daily dealings of crying children, work, dishes, (enter your own list items here), this is an easy thing to forget. Letting your partner into your head is important for your own mental health, but it's also a reminder for her, amidst the chaos, that you remain friends and trust her.
Your children need to know it's ok to cry. Boom! When was the last time you cried? As in, openly cried in front of your kids and partner? Was it at a funeral? Hospital? Scene of an accident? Even in those moments, where we should be able to open up the flood gates, we are so conditioned to fight tears. Why? Does crying make us dads less of a man? Au-contraire buddies. Crying is HEALTHY!
"Crying has been found to lower blood pressure and pulse rate immediately following therapy sessions during which patients cried and vented. High blood pressure can damage the heart and blood vessels and contribute to stroke, heart failure, and even dementia. In addition, Frey says crying actually removes toxins from the body." -Aging Care Article
Just don't do it all the time and you're good! Your kids need to see you cry and they also need to know that it's ok when they are having a good cryfest themselves.
Your partner is your friend, not your therapist.
This is another one that's easy to forget! Sometimes we can get so carried away "venting" before realizing that we've just completely unloaded on the only other person as responsible for our children as ourselves. Your partner has their own stuff going on. While you are there to support one another, you are certainly not meant to carry each other's entire weight. Men, remember this. As a man that's gone through countless hours of therapy myself, the stigma of therapy is dwarfed by the incredible benefits of talking regularly to a trained professional. betterhelp.com is an amazing support platform where you can access counseling easily, affordably, and comfortably from your home. Getting the small stuff out in the open and off your plate regularly (before it gets too heavy) will help you be a better dad. That's why you're reading a parenting blog right? Check it out.
Find another dad friend to chat with.
The same rules go, no taking more than you're giving. This needs to be a well-communicated accountability partner kind of deal. Call your own dad, a brother, or another dad-friend and ask them if they want to have a 20-minute talk once a week where you can both cut to the chase and keep it real. Make sure it's someone you look up to as a person. Just a 10 minute unload in a neutral territory can be extremely helpful in making sure you're staying well below that boiling point. Meaningful and constructive friendships outside of your marriage are crucial to the health of your marriage. Don't hog up the air time (I've been guilty of this), and both you and your support buddy are bound to benefit.
I'll leave it there. I don't pretend to have the answers or even a conclusion on this topic as I am ever seeking a balance on this issue. However, I did want to share my talking points on the matter as I think it's a conversation we should all be having just a bit more often.
Good night Dads!
If you are a dad that wants to connect with another dad to vent under the guidelines of the last point, send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or drop a comment in the section below. This is a community.
This is my Dad. A man I have seen struggle, triumph, cry, fight, lose and win. A big thanks to this guy for always being a friend to me above all and being a real straight shooter.
Why crying is good for you - Go Ahead, Have a Good Cry: 5 Reasons Why It's Good for You - AgingCare.com