My Biggest Fear Is Becoming My Father

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Both Tristan and Norah are in soccer now, which means our Saturdays
consist of taking kids to a game in the morning, and then a game in the afternoon.
Most of the games are in different towns and last about an hour or more.
Between getting the kids ready, drive time, and so on, most of the day is shot.
With our new baby, and Mel back in school, our house is usually a mess, so I
tend to spend most of the weekend cleaning while Mel gets caught up on homework.
During the week, I work two jobs. One is at a university as
an academic counselor. The other is teaching online classes. With the blog it feels
like three. I get up at 5:30AM, drive to my office, write for a couple of hours,
and then stay at work until 6PM. Then I drive home (30 minutes), have dinner
with the family, help the kids with their home work, get them to bed (so my
wife can have a break), and then teach my online class from about 8PM until 10
Then I go to bed, and get up and do it all over again.
On top of that, I’m Mormon, which means I take on church
obligations every Wednesday night and have church meeting until about 3PM on
Sunday. I believe in my religion and enjoy helping people in my congregation.
I know that my schedule isn’t anything unusual. It’s just the
demands of raising a family and being religious, but that doesn’t make it any
less stressful.
Sometimes I get time to myself. Writing in the morning
helps. But a lot of the time I don’t. Sometimes I feel like I’m suffocating. Sometimes
I long to be home alone, watching TV, or doing nothing. Sometimes I just want
to sit in a dark room for a day and let the world move without me.
And in those moments, when I feel like I want to walk out on
my obligations. When I think about how much easier my life was when all I had
to do was care for myself. I think about my father. I think about a man who got
caught up in the stress of raising a family and turned to prescription drugs. He
was married four times before he died from drug addiction. He worked ridiculous
hours as a heating and air-conditioning contractor, and when I think about
that, I think about myself. I think about the hours I put in trying to support
my wife and three kids. When my father left, I couldn’t understand why he would
ever want to leave us. What it was about me that made him want to walk out and
only see me one or twice a year.
I’m not justifying what he did. Far from it. But what I can
say is that as a father now, I can understand how easily the weight of caring
for a family can feel like the deep, stressful panic that comes with treading
water too long. And when I feel that tightness in my chest. When I feel that
longing to walk out and say, “to hell with it all.” I think about my own
childhood. I think about how I longed for my father every day. How I wished
he’d stuck around. Honestly, I think my father’s abandonment impacted my life
more than his presence ever could have. It has made me know what it means to
not have a father. It has helped me realize how much a father means to a child.
It has made me look at my three children, and know that without me, their lives
would be very different. My son would have to learn how to shave on his own,
like I did. My daughters would have to learn how to make a marriage work
without an example, like I did.  My son would
have to constantly question his ability to be a husband and father, and wonder
if he’d be better at it if he’d had an example. Or even someone to call when
things got stressful and chat about how to overcome those moments.
The crazy thing about my father leaving is that I have a
deep fear of becoming him. I worry that I might follow in his footsteps. So I
try extra hard to not be him. And for some reason, that seems to keep me in
line. I think about him when I get overwhelmed. I think about my mother working
two, sometimes three jobs. I think about her sitting at the table, crying,
surrounded by bills, not knowing how she was going to afford to buy groceries.
I think about how little I knew her because of how much she worked. And then I
think about my wife, whom I love more than anyone else in the world, and
realize that I could never do that to her. I could never walk out and saddle
her with the burden of raising a family by herself.
Knowing what leaving a family looks like has made me better
able to cope. It has helped to know what it looks like when a father abandons a
family, and somehow that seems to help me stay centered. To trudge through those
long days when all I want to do is spend some time by myself, but can’t seem to
find it. I hate to say that my father leaving was a good thing, because it
wasn’t. But what I can say is that it gave me a perspective, a nasty example,
that seems to keep me motivated. It keeps me focused on the importance of my
family. It helps me to realize that even though my days are long, my place as a
father is valuable. It’s needed. 

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Clint Edwards was blessed with a
charming and spitfire wife, a video game obsessed little boy, a snarky
little girl in a Cinderella play dress, and an angry baby girl. When Clint was 9-years-old his father
left. With no example of fatherhood, he had to learn how to be a father and
husband through trial and error. His work has been featured in Good
Morning America
, The New York Times,
Washington Post
, The
Huffington Post
, Scary
, The Good
Men Project
, Fast
, and elsewhere. He lives in Oregon. Follow him on Facebook and
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