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Becoming a Dad

Welcome to your ‘new normal’There’s a lot to think about when you’re a new dad and as you adjust to fatherhood you need to look after your baby, yourself and your relationship. The role of being a dad is changing, dads are much more involved and this might be very different to your own childhood.

Becoming a dad can give you a huge sense of meaning and purpose, but this can also be overwhelming! It’s a time of major adjustment in all sort of ways – your identity, responsibilities, routines and relationships are all changing. It’s hard to find time for yourself and to keep doing the things you did before like going to the gym, catching up with mates and pursuing hobbies. You may also discover that you and your partner have different ideas about family life or parenting. 

It is important to remember that this is a great time in history to be a dad with so much support and research that shows us how important dads are to their children and family wellbeing.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I get involved?

Some dads think that their partners are much better at baby-handling skills such as changing nappies, bathing and settling them to sleep, but there are plenty of ways to be involved.  Getting hands-on experience is the best way of building your skills and confidence, the key is to get in and give it a go.

Each of you will handle your baby differently, but this has a positive influence on brain development. Differences can result in improved coordination, which can be beneficial in physical development and sporting skills. 

Make the time and put away distractions like phones or TV and just hang out, talk and play with your baby or young child. Never underestimate the power of a cuddle or smile and gentle words of affection. Think about parental leave, work schedules and working flexibly.

Sometimes being involved is not just what you do directly with your child but also how you get involved in sharing the load of family life.

What about parental leave?

More dads are choosing to take parental leave after their baby is born as it is a wonderful opportunity to bond. Australia has a limited Government paid parent leave scheme and it generally is available to the birth mother unless nominated to transfer the leave to her partner.

Fortunately, times are changing and more businesses are offering generous parental leave options to both parents, so it is worth finding out about your entitlements and taking advantage of this precious time with your family.  Only 1 in 20 dads are taking parental leave, you can lead the way in your organisation!

Click here for more on work life balance.

Should I take time out for myself?

Yes! Looking after yourself is essential for your own health and the wellbeing of your whole family.

Juggling family time and work commitments can make it difficult to find time for yourself, but regular exercise, having a healthy diet, good sleep habits and some social time are the foundations for good health. Working out how much time and resources to spend on these can be a tricky but is an essential task to undertake.  It can be useful to get a little creative on how you can achieve this and reinvent how your needs can be met that fits with your new role.

When you are experiencing prolonged high levels of stress you are more likely to get sick, not perform as well and experience difficulties in your relationships, including with your child. This can put you at higher risk for developing postnatal depression and taking up unhealthy activities such as drinking more. So take care yourself, you matter too!

Click here for more on wellbeing and mental health for dads.

How do I know how to be a Dad?

It’s common to think about your own father when you become a dad and compare that to the kind of dad you want to be. It is easy to repeat being the same kind of dad we experienced when stress comes along.  There are many ways you can be a good enough dad to your child, whether you are in couple relationship, a single dad parenting alone or co-parenting as a separated couple. You will eventually find your feet and put your mark on your child’s future. 

There will be challenges as you navigate the changes that inevitably emerge as you live out becoming a dad.  Like any challenge in life it is how you deal with the challenge that makes all the difference. So what helps?

  • Learn from others. If you are struggling to get the hang of a particular task like bathing or putting the kids to bed, talk to your partner or other parents about what they do. Get their tips and tricks then adapt the ideas for you and your child.
  • Consider starting up a chat or lunch time get-together with dads from your workplace or community. Most parents experience similar issues so it can be a relief to know that you are not alone in the challenges.
  • There is a lot of great information on parenting available – check out websites, parent education classes, parenting services and books.
  • Try to keep a healthy perspective about the portrayal of what it means to be a perfect dad as seen in the media. 
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