Society makes Fatherhood a lonely role

Being a dad to a child who has special needs is a uniquely rewarding but lonely role.

There are many moments, days, or nights that, frankly, you feel you’re on an island alone.

Fatherhood is viewed in a multitude of conditions that are based on who is looking through the View-Master. They’ll just continue to click the lever until the proper view falls into place.

Parent, partner, provider, babysitter, and sperm donor are just a few of the labels that fathers are handed, both with and without cause.

So when you add on the extra layer of having a child with special needs, well, you’re cornered into a relatively lonely place by many.

It’s interesting because even though my son is as much mine as his mother’s, I’m deemed the lesser parent. Because I’m the one who has to get up in the morning and go to work, leaving my son for the day, leaving all the tasks of medical contacts and therapies on my wife’s shoulders, I’m somehow viewed as less involved.

Does no one ever have a thought regarding how guilty I feel having to leave all that to my wife? Never is there a passing thought of how I wish I was there at therapy with him. That I could shoulder some of the burdens my wife bears.

Never am I the parent that people look towards when sharing medical information or asking questions. If I am able to come to an appointment, I’m typically viewed just above the baby holder and chauffeur.

I’m no longer allowed to have a bad day at work. I’m never allowed to have my own struggles or fears.

My wife, rightfully so, gets praised for being so strong, for being brave and determined. For doing things and handling things other moms feel they cannot. Never am I praised for being so brave and being such a strong parent for my son. No one ever thinks to include the father in such things.

Yes, we have people who say that our son couldn’t ask for two better parents, or that God knew what parents our son deserved or needed (I hate that by the way), but it begins and ends there. It’s a party of three or a party of two with me being the third wheel.

It’s just how society views things.

No groups of Dads to join together and chat. To share stories or what they’ve learned going to different specialists.

Hell, the awesome people at AMC Support don’t even find it necessary to offer a Zoom call for just Dads like they do Moms. They simply give one to “Parents”.

I assume that comes from the fact that as Dads, it’s almost labeled as weak or selfish for us to have emotion or need to talk. The mentality of perceived weakness leads to choosing to isolate rather than congregate. What Dad and Fatherhood groups you can find online, especially on Facebook, tend to lean towards immature or venomous, with most men worried more about proving their machoness by mocking others, rather than helping or admitting their own issues.

As awesome and amazing as my wife is, and believe me she is, she still feels the need to thank me and point out how I’m a great Dad when I keep my son for a few hours Saturday morning so she can sleep in.

Great Dad? I’m just wanting to spend the morning with my son. Something I don’t get to do on a daily. Yeah, I’m letting you sleep in, but it’s for me too because while my wife spends every day with our son, getting hours and hours of alone time, just the two of them, these short moments are the only time I get. I want to soak them up and enjoy them. Those few hours with him alone helped me maintain composure amidst societal pressure to be steady.

My wife and my son are both truly amazing. I love them with all my heart. I do not blame my wife for anything. I don’t have sour grapes about things. She allows me to have my time, which allows me to decompress and maintain. It keeps me grounded, and where I need to be. It allows me to be strong for my wife and son. My wife is selfless through and through for our entire family. She is amazing.

Society already views fatherhood as the weaker end of the parenting spectrum, but being the Dad to a child with special needs is being on an island alone with your thoughts. Isolated from everyone and everything else, left with the burden of carrying the weight alone because it’s what we have to do.

It’s a complex, convoluted journey, often filled with silent, sleepless nights and haunting questions. What could I have done differently? How can I better support my child? Am I enough? These questions, echo in the void, unanswered, unaddressed, and they leave an impression, an indelible mark on the psyche.

And then, there’s the guilt. It’s a constant, gnawing sensation, the feeling of not doing enough, of failing. It’s an arduous battle, one fought in the silence of the night, away from prying eyes.

Indeed, the societal perception of fatherhood is more than a little skewed. The archetype of a father as the stoic, unflappable figurehead, the unsung hero, the silent provider, it’s not just outdated, it’s detrimental. It fosters isolation and inculcates a toxic masculinity that shames emotion and vulnerability.

A Call for Change

It’s high time we redefine what it means to be a father. Not just the provider or the protector, but an active participant, a nurturing figure, and an understanding confidant. It’s time we create spaces for fathers to express, to share, to connect.

Imagine a community of fathers, a collective where experiences are shared, where wisdom is passed on, and where support is freely given. A place where no father feels alone or misunderstood. A place where we, as fathers, can be candidly vulnerable and unapologetically human. What a world that would be.

But this is not just a dream; it’s a necessity. For our well-being, for our children, and for the future of fatherhood itself.

So, how do we make this happen? How do we shift societal norms and redefine the perception of fatherhood? It starts with us, with our willingness to be vulnerable, to reach out, to connect. It starts with us challenging the status quo, questioning societal norms, and advocating for change.

We need to foster a sense of community, create platforms for open dialogues, and ensure inclusivity. We need to support each other in our journeys and share our struggles, our triumphs, our fears, and our hopes. We need to be there for each other, in solidarity, understanding, in empathy.

Because, at the end of the day, fatherhood is not a journey to be embarked upon alone. It’s a collective experience, one that should be shared, celebrated, and supported.

Let’s make fatherhood less lonely. Let’s redefine, and reload.

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1 comment

JamieAdStories August 17, 2021 at 4:22 pm

A father is someone to value. Keep going!


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