Dear Mr. Dad: I’m a new dad and I sometimes get incredibly angry when my son cries. Of course I haven’t acted on my anger, but I’m feeling really guilty that I get so mad in the first place. I’ve always been a pretty patient guy, but I don’t think I’ve ever had such intense feelings before. Am I a bad parent?
A: Babies have an amazing capacity to bring out feelings in us that are powerful, unfamiliar, and sometimes scary. On the positive side, we get to experience being on the receiving end and the giving end of unconditional love—something I don’t believe exists between adults. On the negative side, there are the feelings you described. We’d all like to believe that we’d throw ourselves in front of a moving train to save our children, but every once in a while they make us so furious that we think (very briefly) of throwing them in front of the train. I know that sounds horrible, but here’s a reality check: Everyone has feelings like that. Anyone who tells you otherwise is either lying to you or doesn’t have children. So, no, you’re not a bad parent at all.
That said, while there’s nothing wrong with feeling intense anger, it’s what you do with it that can be a problem. Here are some suggestions that can help you get your anger under control.