This is a guest post written by Theron Bostic, and it originally appeared on his excellent blog Active Duty Dad. Theron is active-duty US military and an involved father of three.
FWF is focused on helping fathers balance work and family, but I can’t imagine a tougher challenge to achieving this than being in our armed services. Between long deployments, forced moves, intense training, stressful work, a workplace culture of duty and an employer to whom one can’t legally say no- this is an enormous challenge. I salute Theron both for his service and for his efforts in balancing work and family. Theron’s blog offers a great perspective and reminds us that military dads sacrifice far more than most, and are true heroes.
Every father has a lot on his plate…work related stress may very well be your Brussels sprouts.
Careercast.com recently released a study that listed the top ten most stressful jobs. I was right there at the top of the list. The enlisted soldier has been at the top of many of these list in recent years. I realize I’m not the only one. Everyone has it rough. The economy has forced employers to demand increased productivity from a dwindling workforce. With this change comes more pressure on the worker. Fathers need to realize that work related stress can become a force that changes behavior and adversely effects you and everyone that you love.
As males we tend to bottle up issues that we face. Instead of reaching out, we let stress control us from the inside. We become irritable or jumpy. Sleep is hard to come by and mood swings ensue. Our blood pressure skyrockets and we stop carrying about what we eat (as if we cared in the first place). We deny any inkling of depression and, in extreme cases, suicidal thoughts are kept to ourselves. Any admission to these struggles would be a sign of weakness.
The cover up is essential to masking the fact that we feel overwhelmed. Instead of being constructive many of us tend to destroy the positive aspects of life. The bottle becomes our best friend. I’ve seen fathers ruin relationships all because the stress of a job becomes too much. In an effort to keep feelings hidden, we may avoid or neglect the people closest to us. When they pry some of us turn to mental or psychological manipulation. Others may resort to physical abuse. The responsibility of fatherhood demands that we avoid these pitfalls despite the fact that a job forces you to ensure hardship. Our families depend on us to be the cornerstone of the household.
There are positive steps that we can take to minimize the control that stress has over our lives.
Taking a step back is always helpful. I never leave a large amount of days off in the “bank”. Time off gives me a chance to do something I enjoy and leave work on the back burner. To maximize my efforts I include my kids. The memories will last a lifetime and your blood pressure is guaranteed to go down.
Talking about you feelings, despite popular folklore, is not hazardous to your health. In most cases there are other people in your life who may feel overwhelmed with work or life in general, just like you do. We all struggle from time to time and expressing your feelings may help you cope with what you are going through. If conversations with family and friends are not enough talk to a professional. The stresses of my job prompted me to talk with the chaplain in the past. To my surprise, my brothers in arms looked at me with respect for getting help.
Stress is a part of every father’s life. When you add the stress that may result from your job it can shake the very foundation of who you are. We can not afford to crumble in the face of adversity. Take action and stand tall!
Thank you, Theron, for this article and so much more.