Becoming a dad is a significant life change and understandably impacts on your relationships with your partner, friends, family, children and yourself.
How you see and treat yourself is often influenced by how others see you. Parenting is one of the times when it seems like everyone around you including the media have an opinion on how to be ‘a good enough dad’. If you are getting good feedback and support from the people that matter to you, then the adjustment period is often less difficult.
Becoming a dad brings great rewards but not surprisingly some challenges too. Parenting and expectations of how to be a ‘good enough dad’ are changing and recent research is telling us that whilst there is often some relationship challenges and stresses associated with becoming a dad, there are also some real positives for dads. These include:
Parenthood is associated with greater marital stability.
First-time parents generally being more satisfied with their relationship than childless couples.
Dads who get involved in learning how to co-parent effectively are found to have reduced stress, improved couple relationship and less abuse in both the couple and child relationships.
Dads who work to maintain close friendships have a healthier lifestyle, less stress and can cope better, which also positively impacts the quality of fathering and relationship with partner.
What are some common challenges experienced by dads?
Couple relationship challenges are common, especially in the first 12 months of becoming a dad.
Change in sex life satisfaction, which can be associated with birth trauma, altered body image of women, differences in sexual desire, parenting tiredness and sharing of workloads.
Pressure juggling work-family life demands.
Financial stresses with increased costs with caring for child/ren and change in employment of parents.
Major role changes - around 3% of fathers are full time stay at home dads.
Learning a new role and co-parenting takes time to learn and negotiate.
Making new friends and finding time to maintain close friendships can be difficult.
What can I do to reap the benefits of being a dad?
Start learning! Even if you just found out you are going to be a dad, learning what to expect and how to best approach the changes can really make a difference. It is never too late to get relevant father specific information to help you gain a better understanding of child development and wellbeing to help you be the best dad you can be. We often parent as we were parented which may be great or may need some changes. Learning what we is good enough parenting in the 21st century is a good place to start.
Communication is key - creating time and emotional safety to be open and honest with other will go a long way in helping you each met your needs. Talk to your partner about your relationship, your challenges and how you can make the time to connect.
Consider making new friends! Find other dads with children at your workplace, you may even consider starting a dads group at lunch to catch up, offer support and learn from.
Negotiate with your partner or support networks to make time for friendships and socialising. It is a great stress reliever.
If you are struggling with finances there are government agencies such as Centrelink and not for profit services that can help with free financial advice and support.
Be aware of your own mental health. Be honest with yourself and take notice if you are not coping as well as you would normally. You may be working late to avoid coming home, drinking or smoking to relieve stress, feeling angry, frustrated sad or out of control, or having difficulty sleeping even when the baby sleeps. These are all symptoms that you are stressed and not coping well and can indicate that your mood is affected. For options on what to do if you are stressed or not coping check out Wellbeing and Mental Health.
What are some helpful resources?
These resources have some good tips about relationships:
As a parent it is important to take care of your mental wellbeing and physical health as this has benefits for yourself and your children. When you are not feeling your best it’s difficult to be the parent and partner you want to be.
Mums and dads bring different things to the wellbeing of children. Dads are often more physical, flexible and have more of a give-and-take approach to play and interactions. While each parent will bring their own unique parenting style, there are some general truths that research backs up about the benefits that Dads bring to raising children.