Welcome to , an ongoing series at Mashable that looks at how to take care of – and deal with – the kids in your life. Because Dr. Spock is nice and all, but it’s 2018 and we have the entire internet to contend with.
On the morning of September 18th, 2016, like many parents, I woke up to the voices of tiny people in my ear yelling, “Get up, Daddy!” I didn’t know what time it was, but there was no way in hell I was getting out of bed yet. It felt like I’d only been asleep for fifteen minutes and my head was throbbing, as if a bunch of Smurfs started a mosh pit in my cranium
I rolled over and ignored my two young daughters. As any kids would do, they decided to increase the intensity by jumping on the bed, nudging me, and tickling my feet. Instead of pretending they weren’t there, I sat up, completely snapped and yelled, “I’m tired! Just leave me alone, OK??”
Tears welled up in their big brown eyes and they left my bedroom quietly. I got what I wanted in that moment, but I definitely didn’t get what I needed.
Once I finally dragged myself out of bed, my girls looked at me as if I was a stranger. Anyone who knows me knows that I’m not a yeller — and I especially never yell at my kids. When I apologized and hugged them, my five-year-old asked, “Are you OK, Daddy?”
I wasn’t OK. I had a drinking problem.
After getting completely wasted the night before (and many nights prior to that), I decided that I would never drink alcohol again. Not just for my own well-being, but for the two little girls who depended on their daddy for love and support. Today, I’m happy to report that I haven’t had a drink since then and I’m a much happier man and father because of it.
“I always feel like the worst father alive when I go on social media,”
This easily could be written off as your run-of-the mill feel good story about a dad who kicked an addiction, but that wouldn’t provide the big picture. On the two-year anniversary of my sobriety, I went to social media and for the entire world to see. Not because I wanted the world to know my deepest, darkest secrets — but I figured I could help a dad in a similar situation.
I was shocked by the reactions after I opened up. No less than fifty dads sent emails describing how my message changed their lives.
“As a fellow dad, I suffered silently because I felt like less of a man talking about my mental illness. I feel much braver after you wrote this. Thank you.”
“Drinking was always a problem for me, but I never thought it was a big deal until you posted this. I’m going to get help now for the sake of my son.”
“It’s so rare to see men talk about this publicly, and I hope you realize how many lives you’ve saved. You definitely saved mine. It’s time my twins get their daddy back.”
What I’ve learned from this is men usually don’t talk about things that (in their minds) make them look weak (addiction, depression, anxiety, feeling overwhelmed, etc.), but they love hearing other men do it because it gives them permission to do the same. It’s similar to being the first person on the dance floor at a party. Someone has to do it, right? I knew the floodgates could potentially open if I put myself out there.
Social media is a place where every kid is well-behaved, the house is always spotless, money problems are non-existent, and every parent has all of the answers.
Stop me if you’ve heard this before, but parenting is hard, y’all. say they feel a lot of pressure to be great fathers, and 76 percent of men feel pressure to support their families financially. If alcohol or mental illness is at play, it could make parenting a lot more difficult than it already is for dads.
But where does that pressure come from?
Some will say it’s the in-laws or the neighbors, but more often than not, it comes from social media.
“I always feel like the worst father alive when I go on social media,” lamented John, a dad of a five-year-old daughter. “I see my friends sharing videos of dads braiding hair, and I can barely figure out how to make a ponytail for my kid. It seems like I’m always in a competition and finishing last every time.”
That’s because social media is a place where every kid is well-behaved, the house is always spotless, money problems are non-existent, and every parent has all of the answers. For some reason we’ve been conditioned to believe that social media currency (likes, retweets, follower counts, verified badges, etc.) actually means something outside of our phones and computers. Because when we don’t receive those things, we feel like we’re “broke.”
Who can relate to the perfect dad, with the perfect kids, and perfect life? I can’t. Chances are you can’t either. But we certainly can relate to the everyday struggles that parenting brings, and those struggles are what make us human. Social media is powerful in that regard due how it can amplify voices in an instant. Sometimes that’s a good thing, other times it isn’t — but when we’re talking about authentic parenthood, I don’t see a downside.
Dads who share their problems can show their kids that it’s OK for men to feel sad or ask for help when they’re overwhelmed. In doing so, they’re giving the green light for their sons and daughters to be in tune with their emotions, dismiss toxic masculinity, and keep it real with their parents and friends.
Sure, sharing my former drinking problem gained me some social media currency, but much more importantly, it helped other dads in a similar situation in real time. Social media is truly the only medium where that can happen. Hopefully more dads will share their vulnerable sides as well. Because you never know who’s watching.
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