Whilst postnatal depression for mums is slowly being discussed more the lid is still firmly on for dads. So how are new dads feeling?
How are dads doing?
Parenting is a tough gig no matter how much love and joy these little people bring into our lives. In fact, 1 in every 7 women and 1 in every 10 men experience postnatal depression and anxiety. Whilst postnatal depression for mums is slowly being discussed more the lid is still firmly on for dads. So how are new dads feeling?
Let’s face it the role of a dad has changed, it has evolved so much from even only one generation ago. The expectation (and rightly so) for a ‘good’ dad is to be engaged, present and hands-on parent. This is truly great news and there are so many benefits for children, but dads of today haven’t necessarily had this kind of role model, it is unchartered territory for many.
So what does this mean for dads?
Get involved! Sometimes it can feel like your partner is better at baby duties (and sometimes your partner can think this too) but largely it comes down to practice. Women are still most commonly the primary carer so this means they have more time to practise. Get to know the routine, be educated about the practical side, be a team with your partner. Talking, playing, changing nappies, doing bath and bedtime will help you and your baby get to know each other. Every time you interact with your baby you are helping them develop new connections within their brain.
Set Smart Limits
Embrace your differences!
You and your partner will handle your baby differently, you can be on the same page but do things differently, it’s ok. In fact, these will have positive influences on your baby’s brain development.
Work-life balance, the struggle of the juggle. It is real for mums and it is real for dads. The difference for dads is that most men only take a couple of weeks paid paternity leave with the birth of their child. Then it is back to work with a lot less sleep and a changed perspective, whether it’s a shift in priorities wanting to spend more time at home, the pressure of being the main provider making work seem even more important or whether it’s simply what used to bother you now doesn’t seem so important.
Good news is there is no one way, what is right for one family is different to what is right for another.
The ‘right’ work-life balance for your family is unique to you
Research shows that it doesn’t matter who takes what role as long as you’re both happy. So what is important is regular communication, open and honest discussions with your partner regularly. Things will continue to change along this parenting journey so regular communication is key. Figure out what is right for both of you individually, and what is right for your new family.
- What are each of your career goals?
- What are your family goals?
- What support do you need from each other, what does that look like?
- What does this look like for your family?
Make time for each other
Before having a baby it is just you and your partner but now, there is a hungry, crying, sleep-stealing little bundle that you love desperately but is also taking over everything and your relationship is coming last. Sex is coming last. Welcome to your ‘new normal’! After having a baby, family life and relationships change. Couples often talk about feeling closer after the birth with a shared excitement about the baby they’ve created. However, when the ‘babymoon’ ends and your ‘new normal’ sets in – exhaustion, broken sleep, daily chores, and often both of you feeling like you’re the one making all the concessions, stress levels go up and this can lead to an increase in tension arguments.
What to do? Talk! Make the time to debrief about your day (even 10 mins), share what you’re finding difficult, find out what your partner is finding difficult and explore what you can do to support each other. You are still a couple and you need to nurture this relationship. Quality time together is important to stay connected.
Essentially you are starting a new relationship with your partner, a parenting partnership. This is different to your romantic relationship and you'll need to negotiate how you’re going to parent together as a team. Figuring out this new partnership and making it work is important, it sets the emotional tone for your home.
Limit digital media for your youngest family members. Avoid digital media for toddlers younger than 18 to 24 months other than video chatting. For children 18 to 24 months, watch digital media with them because they learn from watching and talking with you. Limit screen use for preschool children, ages 2 to 5, to just 1 hour a day of high-quality programing. Co-viewing is best when possible and for young children. They learn best when they are re-taught in the real world what they just learned through a screen. So, if Ernie just taught the letter D, you can reiterate this later when you are having dinner or spending time with your child. See Healthy Digital Media Use Habits for Babies, Toddlers & Preschoolers.
More and more research is showing the importance of parenting as a team, especially in that first year and it is common to feel a little overwhelmed and need some extra support. Becoming a parent is such an exciting time in your life but the transition to parenting is one that occurs over time, so be patient and allow for space to grow and learn as a parent.
Parenting can be the hardest job you will ever do, we want you to know you are not alone! For tips and strategies on sleep and settling, feeding, establishing routines, adjusting to parenthood, toddler behaviour and more visit our website , call our Careline 1300 227 464 or if you’re in Sydney book into Australia’s first Early Parenting Store for your individualised parenting plan .
Naturally, plenty of dads instinctively focus on the professional, because modern life ain’t cheap and their partner is likely a) not getting a particularly generous paid maternity leave and b) will probably have her career torpedoed by deadbeats above who won’t even give her a chance to make her job work three or four days a week and scoff at the mere suggestion of a jobshare.
Karitane is a not for profit, registered charity supporting families with common (and tricky) parenting challenges including sleep and settling, feeding, postnatal depression and anxiety and toddler behaviours. Karitane have Parenting Centres and Residential Units across Sydney and has now opened The Early Parenting Store Westfield Bondi Junction where parents can drop in for a chat with a child and family health nurse, book in for an individual consultation or attend a free parenting workshop.
“There is a culture shift happening that challenges the historical and outdated views on parenting roles. We recently opened a drop-in Parenting Store at Westfield Bondi, unique to this service we are open 7 days a week and extended hours and we have been thrilled to see the number of dads coming into the store, seeking advice on how to be a “good dad”, often reflecting the generation of dad’s before them are not the type of dad they want to be. They want to be more engaged, ‘hands-on’, just needing some support on what this looks like.”- Grainne O’Loughlin Karitane CEO.
Trusting that your children love you, allows you to do the “parent things” that may sometimes make them dislike you for a while.