One of the first parenting personalities I began following on social media was Andy Shaw, a.k.a. InstaFather. Father to a three-year-old boy and twin one-year-old girls, Andy’s humorous commentary comes from a genuine desire to encourage others not to let fear or stereotypes get in the way of being an involved dad. His posts were always a light among the “woe is mommy” trend. That is, until recently when after an unexpected Internet silence, Andy admitted to his online audience that he was suffering from depression.
In a heartfelt, brutally honest post published earlier this week, Andy admitted that he had to “disappear as a Dad blogger” to work out why he’d become so angry. For the first time ever he went to a therapist and talked through feelings of residual anger that had been taking over his life and starting to negatively impact his relationships with his kids.
Through therapy, Andy began to realize precisely how much the physical and emotional stresses of parenting three children under three (one of whom almost died) while working and keeping life going had worn him down. At the same time, the kids started sleeping better, which meant he could get more than 4 hours straight in a night, which also helped. But the real lesson that helped dig him out of the hole was realizing that parenting is, in and of itself, a “check off the list.”
Like most of us, Andy would stress out over not being able to get anything done in a day. (It took me 10 minutes to get the boy and his shoes into the living room this morning. As I growled under my breath, I thought of Andy.) He writes:
I had a big problem with not feeling like I was ever getting things done. I’m a “get stuff done” guy. It’s part of how I identify and feel good about myself. So when I have months and years go by where I’d [be] constantly thinking “How come I never ever can get everything done?” even if it was just stuff around the house, it hurt. No joke.
What changes that? As my therapist told me, “being a parent is a check off the list, too.” Being a dad this or that day is an actual accomplishment, in and of itself. It doesn’t need an addendum. It doesn’t need a qualifier. Being a dad IS the checklist.
This, of course, is the dad equivalent of all of those “I’m proud of my spit-up stained yoga pants” posts you see on mom sites, with one caveat. Despite being hesitant to publish his post, Andy requested feedback and he received a ton of it. And it was all incredibly positive. In a follow-up post, Andy chronicled some of the responses he received:
You felt what I was saying, and many of you said that it rang true because it was just like what you were dealing with as a mom or dad.
Out of privacy, I won’t, of course, list names here. But here’s some of what I heard over and over:
“That sounds just like me”
“I thought I was the only one!”
“Thanks for talking about this. I’ve been having a tough time myself.”
“I’ve thrown my share of things.”
“I know that exact feeling. Of being angry and not knowing why.”
“As it turns out, we’re all in this together,” he writes. Yes, in fact, we are. And isn’t it refreshing to hear just that without the criticism, the bullying, the “but I’m a better parent than you” crap that scintillates social media?
Both my husband and I could relate to Andy’s experience. It took us a solid year to accept the fact that we weren’t going to get stuff done and that when anger or negative emotions overwhelmed us we were probably just really, really worn out. No one wants to admit that, though. Not unless they can dress it up with a sarcastic remark about yoga pants. And especially not if they’re a dad trying to live up to the expectation that they can magically handle everything with a stoic grin.
Children are life-changing. Kudos to Andy for being brave enough to admit that they’re as much of a game-changer for dads as they are for moms. Extra points for flying in the face of all known stereotypes about men, dads and parenting bloggers for being brutally honest about his struggle with anger and depression in a way that inspired others to be honest without the judgment, sarcastic or otherwise.