Parenthood is incredibly stressful. Though new mothers go through a lot of changes, sleeping next to a growing baby leaves a noticeable impact on fathers, too. A lot of new dads feel like they’re on an emotional rollercoaster. Is it high time to talk about the mental workload of fatherhood?
The Mental Workload of Fatherhood
Having a baby is the most selfless act anyone can do; your life is indeed handed over to the care and nurturing of your baby. The arrival of this little bundle of joy creates a lot of stressors in the parents’ lives. The emotional and mental workload of fatherhood is an important factor that affects the baby and the mother.
Isolation, loneliness, helplessness, sleeplessness, along with a feeling that you can’t complain because the mother had it much worse, combined with a completely dependent new life and financial stress- it is no wonder why some new fathers get depressed.
A lot of things change when babies are born, in ways that you don’t expect and in ways that you may not have enough support to handle. It can be the lack of sleep and sex to a sense of responsibility and reflection on your own childhood. We wish that every new father knew the right steps to navigate these waters!
Coping with the Mental Workload of Fatherhood
Take Care of Some Things Early
Take care of any home improvement projects before the baby comes. Make sure these things are done by the time your wife is 6 – 7 months into the pregnancy, just in case the baby comes early. You will not have much free time afterward and won’t want to waste those precious moments on home improvements. So get your bathroom painted, your new water heater installed, and put in your new flooring before the baby comes.
It is never too soon to buy some baby essentials if you’re planning to have a baby within a year. Even if something goes wrong, you can have them for the next time you try.
Learn How to Be a Good Dad and a Good Partner
If you aren’t doing your share of chores around the house, you will have to learn how to do it. Your wife will go through a lot during that time, which includes body changes, mood swings, and postpartum depression. She will be tired more often than you due to sleepiness and breastfeeding. So don’t expect to have your dinner on the table when you get back from work. Expect that you’ll be:
- Cooking dinner at least a few nights a week
- Doing laundry quite often
- Doing dishes
- Changing diapers
- Sweeping, mopping, etc.
The very early stages are less about being a great dad and more about being a helpful husband. Talk to any other dads whom you know. Learn some essential new dad skills.
It’s so easy to neglect self-care and end up burnt out during this transition period. Both new mothers and fathers go through a disrupted sleep cycle during the first few months. If you are a working dad, you can’t catch up that lost sleep during the daytime hours. With all of this tiredness, anxiety, and stress, you will struggle to stay focused, complete tasks, and generate new ideas at work.
Your priorities will change as you embark on fatherhood. It may also be hard to switch from “work mode” to “family mode” and focus either at work or at home, or both. Talk to your partner, and if you have the opportunity, don’t refuse to take parental leave or even unpaid leave if it’s offered. You’ll be glad you did when it’s time to get back to work again.
Like moms, new dads need “Me Time” too. Take care of yourself so you can show up for your family.
Relationship with Your Partner
Understand that your time is no longer going to be your own. You are no longer the top priority. The baby comes first, then comes keeping your wife happy.
Sex may take a backseat after the baby. But try to put aside at least a few hours each week to spend quality time with your partner. A nice meal, a glass of wine, and a favorite movie together might be a good start. Open-minded communication will make things better again.
Bonding With the Baby
A lot of dads feel left out of the equation in the beginning. According to researchers, fathers who spend quality time with their babies in their first few months of life have a positive impact on the father-child bonding and the baby’s later intelligence. Get involved with your baby from the beginning, but don’t expect some magical connection. It takes some time.
Things you can do:
Anything that involves physical contact. Bottle feeds, diapers-changes, holding baby, dressing baby, etc.
Any verbal communication (e.g., comforting and stimulating the baby) can help establish a bond between dad and baby.
Having a child is a 24/7 responsibility, and when to help out and when to step back is a tough issue for new fathers to judge. Depending on your situation, you may feel guilty for not spending enough time with the baby or not affording enough money for your baby.
Finally, understand that every age for a child brings unique and different challenges and moments of joy. Some are going to be easier for you, and some are going to suck. You won’t know until you experience them for yourself.