Becoming a parent is lifechanging; on that everyone can agree.
There can be a lot of emphasis on new motherhood, but dad or dads are just as important.
Regardless of what age you welcome children into your life, there will be your life before you had kids and your life after. The role of Dad and Dads in life and in our culture has taken a massive shift in the last generation (or two depending on your age!).
In my generation, it was not unusual at all for kids to see their dad just at weekends and maybe in the evening, when he came home from work.
Mothers were seen as the primary caregivers and dads, a lot of the time, had a far less active role in their kids' life. Thankfully, times have changed. Dads play a much more equal role in caring for their kids.
What can’t and should never be underestimated is that male parents now face very similar challenges to their female counterparts. Adjusting to life as a new dad can be just as challenging as life as a new mum. So how can you ease that transition?
Preparing for an active role.
The first thing you can do is prepare. The bond you will have with your little bundle of joy can start from the moment you find out they are on the way.
This can be done by actively taking an interest during the pregnancy, not only in the health and well-being of the pregnant person, but also in supporting and deciding what sort of labour and birth you want to have as a family.
As well as this, attending antenatal classes or pregnancy relaxation, breathing or hypnobirthing classes can all aid in you feeling really connected to your little person before they even get here. So read the books, ask questions an get involved.
When baby arrives.
Nothing can prepare you for the magical experience of seeing a new baby that belongs to you. It truly is a miracle and the overwhelming way that this person will now be intrinsically linked to you is mindboggling.
However amazing it is, it can also be really tough so make sure you give yourself time to adjust. The sleep deprivation, the challenges of supporting your partner, the worry that you are doing everything right can sometimes feel overwhelming.
Rome was not built in a day, and neither is a father! If you are working, make sure you take full advantage of any paternity leave on offer. Although things are improving, many fathers still do not take all the time owed to them- it’s yours to take, so take it.
Ask for help.
A really good way to discover what it’s like to be a new dad and how to adjust successfully is to ask other dads. Ask your own dad, ask your brothers and brothers-in-law, ask friends and work colleagues.
If when baby arrives, you are finding it particularly challenging, then talk about it. People will not know about your difficulties unless you are honest.
While postnatal depression is more prevalent in women, it absolutely exists for dads. It is a real illness, requiring real intervention, understanding and support. So if at any stage, you feel “I’m not coping” speak with your partner, your GP, public health nurse, mental health professional or support network.
You may feel like you are alone but you are not. It takes real bravery to admit things are tough; your honesty shows what a great dad you are. Be kind to yourself!