Welcome to Portraits of Fatherhood: We’re telling the story of today’s dads.
*TW: discussion of suicide
*The Good Men Project is honored to present this very special ‘Portrait of Fatherhood’, featuring dad and GMP writer Steve Austin. In sharing his story of fatherhood, Steve bravely recounts the darkest moment in his life here, in text, as well as in American Sign Language, in the video linked below. We know you will be as inspired by Steve’s story as we are. Thank you, Steve, for your contribution.
NAME Steve Austin
HOMETOWN / WHERE DO YOU LIVE NOW? Birmingham, Alabama
ON THE WEB http://www.iamsteveaustin.
NUMBER OF CHILDREN Two
WORK Part-time sign language interpreter, part-time writer
RELATIONSHIP STATUS Married 8 1/2 years
HOW DO YOU COMBINE WORK AND FAMILY? How have you, or you and your partner (if you’re partnered), arranged your life/schedule to provide the daily care for your kid(s)?
This gives us both early mornings with our kids, plus supper time and bedtime and we are fortunate enough to have weekends together as well.
We have an agreement: if she cooks, I clean and if I cook, she cleans. We both pitch in and get done whatever needs to happen around our house because life with a preschooler and a toddler takes major teamwork.
WHAT IS YOUR WORST PARENTING MOMENT?
My worst parenting moment was a little more than three years ago.
They found me mid-morning, when I didn’t show up for my out-of-town interpreting assignment.
My clients were concerned. When they couldn’t reach me, they called first my wife, and then the hotel. I was lying on my back, unconscious, covered in vomit, when the police and EMT’s found me. They thought it was a murder scene. Vomit covered the bed and the floor. It had projected up the wall behind me, and coated a massive picture that hung over the bed. Apparently the pink Benadryl pills, along with the tens of thousands of milligrams of other medication I took, created the effect of blood. I had been unconscious for a solid ten hours by then.
I should have been dead.
My son’s first birthday was the next day. I can’t imagine what our families must have been thinking. I don’t know what his birthday party was like. I was still in ICU, nearly dead. Three days later, the doctors decided my liver wasn’t going to fail, and I had regained feeling in my legs. I was released and immediately transferred to the psych ward.
WHAT IS YOUR BEST PARENTING MOMENT?
Two weeks ago, I picked up my little boy from daycare with a surprise. Santa wasn’t getting credit for this one. When I opened the door, he squealed with excitement, just like I had hoped. The dog’s tail wagged and her entire body shook as my little boy climbed into his seat.
“Where did this dog come from? Is she coming home with us? Can she sit in my lap? What’s her name?” I adjusted the rearview mirror, not wanting to miss a single detail of his excitement. “Yea buddy, she’s your new dog. Merry Christmas.” For the moment, I was his hero.
Three years after my suicide attempt, I am beginning to break the cycle of shame for myself and my children. Life isn’t perfect now, but it is more hopeful and honest than ever.
My son was too little to remember just how many mistakes I made in the past and the good news is he doesn’t care. My best parenting day is every single day that I choose to show up and be an active part of his life. Living out the belief that failure isn’t final is my best parenting decision ever.
We’re looking for a few good dads.
IF you’d like to be interviewed for this feature, please write to Lisa Duggan at: [email protected]
Please write “Portraits of Fatherhood” in the subject line.