I will always be a guilty dad, and I have to be okay with that

After three years, over fifteen pounds of doughy skin and about 900 (delicious) India Pale Ale beers, I decided it was time for me to start working out again.

Around Christmas 2015 I physically felt awful and I noticed that my lower back was constantly tight and cracking. I also noticed that I had developed a slight limp because of a shooting pain in my right hip that eventually would not go away. This is when I finally decided I had to get off of my unmotivated ass and do something.

Exercise and diet had always been a huge part of my life up until this point, but after my kids were born I became sedentary and unmotivated. Many sleepless nights, isolation and endless routine took its toll on me. I disliked what I had become because I often felt drained, depressed, distracted and at times very irritable. This was definitely not the dad and husband I wanted to be.

One day on a whim I decided to sign up for an introductory Brazilian Jiu Jitsu class in my neighborhood. After the class was over I signed on the dotted line and made a commitment for at least six months. I remember on the walk home that night I was feeling incredibly sick. I was sweating, nervous and I strongly regretted my decision, although I had loved every minute of what I had just experienced.

I thought of ways to lie and possibly get out of the commitment I had just made. I wasn’t afraid of exercising, being out of my comfort zone or even getting hurt, I was terrified of how I was going to get my ass to class twice a week.
For the first few weeks it was insanely tough. My kids would scream their heads off as I walked out of the door on Wednesday and Friday nights. I felt an immense sense of guilt and that sick feeling reappeared.

I felt guilty because I missed my kids. I was out of the house all day and shortly after getting home I was leaving again. I also felt guilty because my kids were flipping out. They were screaming, crying and begging me not to go.

This is my guilty dad face
This is my guilty dad face

During those few weeks I would rip myself out of the house, put my headphones on and half jog until I got to class. Once I got there I was then mentally and physically present. While at class the guilt temporarily subsided as I became immersed in the art and the sense of community which Jiu Jitsu provides. After class was over though I would feel the guilt slowly come over me as I would anxiously make my way back home.

Week after week this cycle repeated itself although some days appeared to be better than others. One time while I was leaving the house my toddler was too distracted to notice that I was leaving. I felt like I was off the hook, only to find out that he lost it shortly after he realized I was gone.
Jiu Jitsu quickly went from something that I was falling in love with to a burden and something I dreaded doing for a few hours a week. Once again I struggled with the idea of quitting. I considered emailing my professor some bullshit excuse to try to get out of my commitment. I decided that I would email him because I could never lie to him in person. Deep down inside I loved the classes and I truly started to see a future in martial arts for me and my family. This cycle of hating and loving going to class was killing me. I kept struggling with the idea of it just being easy for me to go every week.

One night my professor spoke to my class about mental barriers. He talked about pushing ourselves to be the best we can be and achieving the goals we set for ourselves. Nowhere in his speech did he talk about how to make things easier for ourselves. He did not provide a trick or an answer to my problem because there isn’t one. This really hit me hard and I felt like I had a breakthrough. I realized that my kids are never going to be thrilled with me leaving the house at night after having not been home for 12 hours during the day.

Even though I have justified going with a half-dozen good reasons, they can’t grasp that right now, and I was crazy to have thought this way.

Although I overcame this first hurdle of realizing it was okay for me to be doing this for myself, the justification of going to class was not what I was struggling with most. What I was struggling with most is that I will always feel a little guilty leaving them, but that’s okay. It took time but I realized that it is okay to feel guilty, as long as it doesn’t affect my ability to make decisions and do something stupid like quit. Like my professor talked about, the guilt is a mental barrier, which thanks to him I now understand and am working on.
Going to Jiu Jitsu classes has been one of the best decisions I have ever made for myself. I crave the classes and even when I’m not there it’s all I can think about. I have no regrets and I will continue to attend for as long as I can. Jiu Jitsu has shown me that in life making the right decision is not always easy, but that’s usually what makes it right. My hope is that my kids will know how hard it was for me to leave them for all of those extra hours at night, but someday they will understand why I did it…


2 thoughts on “I will always be a guilty dad, and I have to be okay with that

  1. Taking care of me is the hardest part of parenting. And I know now is not the right time for me to leave twice a week at night. But when it is time, I will try to remember this post and that “Making the right decision is not always easy…”

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Right. I think we devote so much of our time and energy to caring for our kids that we don’t remember to take care of ourselves. Thank you for sharing.


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