Whilst most of the focus is generally on the mother and the baby – particularly in the early months, fathers play a critical role in parenting, bonding and supporting their partners at this time of great transition. It is therefore important to recognise the extent and impacts that having a baby can bring – for both parents. When combined with a lack of sleep, this can wear everybody down so looking after yourself is vital for you, your partner and your family.
Below are some tips that some dads suggest, to help them to keep on top of things:
Talk to others – talking about your experiences with friends and workmates about the positive and the challenging aspects of becoming a dad can be beneficial, and importantly help you to realise that there are others who may also be finding the experience both rewarding and challenging.
Take the pressure off yourself – whilst you may now feel that you are in a ‘provider’ role, don’t think that this means that you need to make everything perfect. By just being there, taking the lead when you can, offering support and sharing challenges together, this can greatly help.
Try and make time for you – whilst to some degree you may need to reduce your leisure time, try to keep up a few activities that you have done, like playing sport. This will keep you connected with others, ensure parts of your life at least remain stable, and can give you refreshed and renewed energy. The same also goes for your partner so make sure you also schedule time for her to have this time and encourage them to have this space for themselves also.
Make time for you both – often the demands of a baby means that your partner’s focus and attention is now directed at meeting the needs of your new baby, so it is important to try and schedule some quality time for you both. This may be opportuntities when the baby is sleeping to just make time for a conversation and connection with your partner to reflect on how things are going for you both and ways you can support one another.
There are always going to be moments when you reach pressure points. Remember that these will pass, and with sleep things will soon return to normal in most instances. However, for some, this level of stress is ongoing and over time you may begin to feel that things are wearing you down, and you are finding it difficult to cope. In order to be aware and prepared for this, below are some strategies that may be helpful for you to get the timely support and help that you need.
Be aware of the signs – being aware of the signs of stress, depression and anxiety. By recognising the symptoms early, you will be in a better position to get help early, rather than waiting until things have become out of control and/or you may begin to find it difficult to function.
Consider what’s impacting on you – be aware of how you are feeling and what may have changed over time. It may also be useful to consider if there are any factors that may have contributed to you feeling like this and whether there is anything you can do right now to relieve the pressure a bit. This may include asking, or accepting offers for help from others with meals, housework or managing children. It may be helpful to let your employer know if you are not getting much sleep and if there is any way they may be able to support you at this time.
Talk about it - talking it through sometimes can give you the opportunity to receive helpful advice from others who may have been there too. By not talking and bottling it up, you are not only increasing the pressure on yourself, but things may come out in the wrong way and may result in an argument. By talking about things you also give yourself the opportunity to seek advice and or support from others which may be helpful.
Seek help – whether you feel that you can’t take much more or feeling that the pressure is beginning to mount, talking to your GP in the first instance is a good place to start, as there are many ways to seek safe and effective support and treatment. Remember that these conditions can be treated or managed, and the faster you seek help the faster you can recover.
If you are experiencing depression and anxiety yourself, this can affect your ability to manage at work, support your partner and manage from day to day. So consider the impact that this may have on others. You don’t want to miss out on this time with your family, so seeking help early can help you to get back to yourself, be in a position to support others, and enjoy fatherhood.