It’s difficult to be a Rock Solid father when you don’t feel like you have anything in you to keep being the dad you want to be. It’s humbling when you are the face of a fatherhood program. During this month, I have been struggling to keep my head above the water. My health has been poor for over four weeks now; my kids have completely forgotten how to play nice with each other and I often come home to them complaining over the most trivial issues; depression seems to be creeping in as the weather shifts to dark and grey; I’ve gotten to a point in my work where I just don’t have the energy to keep pushing through the to-do list. I am exhausted. I share this because I know that I am always calling dads to give your family your best. Yet, I understand that there are times when being a stellar father is a hard ask. I know that I have touched on this topic in the past, but I haven’t done so while I was in the midst of the experience. I am writing to you feeling a great deal of the weight that I imagine that you go through when you are at your worst. This week, I will be re-visiting the concept of parenting when you don’t feel like being a parent.
First, here is a description of the hole that I have found myself in: my health is affecting my mood and performance in each area of my life. Because I am not seeing success in my various roles, I am left discouraged. When I feel discouraged, anxiety and depression overwhelm me. Anxiety and depression are both triggers that cause me to become sicker. It’s like a vicious cycle that feeds on its self. To no surprise, I realize that I can’t stay like this. Each day, I feel worse off than the last. It is killing my ability to be a father, husband, employee, and overall pleasant-natured guy (all of which are important to me). As I am making my way out of the hole, I want to journal some thoughts that I am having so that you can see a perspective of someone looking up trying to figure out how I am going to climb out.
Here are my thoughts, journaled out for you:
One of the first things that I must work on is getting my health back on track. To make lasting success, I will need to fight a war in three theaters. The first is to address my poor diet. When I am weak, I often go to easy-to-cook meals and junk food. This is hurting my health and causing me to feel as if I have had a stomach virus for the past month. I am uncomfortable at work (lowering my performance) and I have little to give after work to my family. The second theater is exercise. I have already made it clear that I don’t exercise regularly. However, I know that exercise will help increase my energy level, lessen my anxiety and depression, and provide a healthy outlet to process my thoughts. The third theater is getting better sleep. Lately, I have been drinking coffee later in the evening and not giving myself a full night’s rest. If I can increase my hours of sleep and quality of sleep, I will be less likely to feel exhausted and it will increase the energy needed to make healthy decisions during the day.
Another area of my life that I could be working on is being more intentional with the children. Right now, due to being tired, I am becoming frustrated with the children, but I am not teaching. Instead of showing them how to get along with each other, I am sharing with them how I am displeased with their attitudes. They aren’t making progress because I am not leading them. This is going to take time and effort upfront, but I might be saving myself a lot of stress later if I can address kids’ behaviors proactively, and not reactively. If I stay lax on this responsibility, their behaviors will get worse and I will become increasingly tired. I also need to focus on teaching the girls how to process their emotions in healthy ways. I am quick to tell my kids to calm down, but I am not showing them how to do so.
Yet another area that I could make changes in is how much time I set aside to clean the house. When the house gets dirty I feel overwhelmed. I must continue involving the children in cleaning the house. If they can get in the habit of cleaning the house regularly, especially as the messes are being made, then we might be able to stay on top of things. I cannot assume that I will be able to keep up with the messes on my own. I have found that a few hours of cleaning can be wiped out in just a few minutes of the kids playing. My wife recently encouraged me to focus on the aspects of the house that are most bothering me to make the most of the time that I have to clean. I think this is sound advice.
At work, I need to start pushing myself to get things done that I have been setting aside. I am great at buckling down on tasks that I am passionate about or feel that I can fly through. However, whenever I am faced with a real challenge, I tend to avoid it. Lately, I have been increasing my organization and will to address the undesirable, but I still see a lot of projects go from one week’s to-do list to another’s. It’s going to take a lot of discipline to pull myself out of some bad habits that I have formed. If I can make changes in other areas to increase my energy level, I believe that should give me more to work with during the day. I know that my performance would improve if I didn’t feel gross each day.
Well, these ideas are great. Each step is important and needs my attention. However, there is no way that I can make all of these changes overnight. I need to pick a few things to work on each day and then focus on other ideas once I have made some lasting improvements. I believe the easiest changes that I can make right now are: getting to bed at a regular time, avoiding coffee in the evenings, and eating healthy snacks between meals. If I can increase my energy level and work toward fewer sick days, then I might be able to address other issues with more momentum. After my diet and sleep are starting to feel under control, I think that I want to start adding exercise into my morning routine. I imagine that it would be wise to work the time needed into my sleep routine sooner rather than later.
These are my thoughts for the moment to make some progress and avoid staying stuck. If I can look at all these issues as if they were tangles in a ball of yarn, then I can start picking away at them until I can see a clear way to unravel the mess. I share these thoughts so that you can see how I move toward healthiness when I don’t feel healthy. First, I identify the problem I am wanting to address, Next, I plan out all the steps that I need to take until I am where I want to be. Then, I start making realistic goals that will help me build some momentum. I try to think if there is any strategy that I could take that will make other steps easier along the way. After completing one step I move on to another. Along the way, I try to remember not to discourage myself when things don’t go as planned or when I take steps backward. If I can keep a positive attitude and keep moving forward, then eventually I will end up where I want to be.
How do you get through ruts in your life? How do you go from being a discouraged father to being a Rock Solid father? Please share your approach for getting out of a rut, as I imagine you might have some valuable thoughts of your own. And, if you have found yourself in a similar hole, perhaps my thoughts might have given you some ideas of how to start the climb.
As always, stay Rock Solid, dads!
Brian Faust is the Fatherhood Program Coordinator of Rock Solid Fatherhood in Warsaw, IN. He is the husband of the world’s best wife and father of three beautiful girls. He has nearly a decade of mentorship and mental health experience. Brian has a Bachelor’s in Psychology and a Masters in Clinical Mental Health Counseling from Grace College. It is his desire to come alongside men of all walks of life as they embrace their role as partner and father with rock solid strength.