Coping with Fatherhood
New life, new member in the family, your little bundle of joy, it is all that and so much more. Having a baby means going through a sea change-a change in lifestyle, in your perspective and attitude and in relationship dynamics. In the initial days it might take some time to adjust to this new role. You might feel overwhelmed and confused. You might go through a range of emotions from deep love to frustration to a fierce sense of protectiveness for your baby. There might be moments of self doubt where you might even question your own capability as a father.
One of the best ways to fit into fatherhood is to prepare yourself with knowledge that there will be changes. Being aware is your greatest power. Awareness will help you manage and adjust to your new way of life
Shifting of focus
You will realize that the entire attention of the family will now be directed towards your little bundle of joy. Suddenly you will find that this little helpless baby is the most important member. You will notice that even dinner table conversations will be about understanding baby’s cues, baby crying, baby’s first smile, baby’s feed time, sterilizers vaccines, diaper rashes and baby milestones
Lack of personal space
The house will suddenly be filled with people. Baby helps, nannies and a constant stream of visitors, which might make you feel tired and crave for personal space.
Perhaps it has been a hard day at work and all you want to do is go back home, flop yourself on the sofa and watch a web series and call an early night. However, all your plans might go for a toss with your baby’s cry or even babble in the middle of the night. An angry demand for feed, a rare colic or a pleading cry by your baby to be held or even the baby’s sudden need to play and babble. Sometimes these create a feeling that nothing is like before or under control. It happens to both the parents, not only to a father which can make one feel restless. In such a case, try not to feel isolated.
Relationship with your Partner
Intimacy is a challenge that many couples face after having a baby. You might find those moments of intimacy, romance, dinners, date nights, weekend trips together, taking a backseat. You might find yourself missing the excitement and thrill that you had shared with your partner.
Your social life might get tested. The usual going out with friends might get replaced with going to the park, spending time with the baby, occasional visits to the doctor and entertaining ‘baby’ visitors.
Overworked and Tired
You might suddenly start feeling overwhelmed with your responsibilities as a father. You might feel that you need to take on more responsibilities at work, increase your earnings, save more. You might find yourself overworked, tired and occasionally seeking a break from all the hullabaloo in the household. With baby comes unplanned expenses. Make a budget, keep a buffer and also start thinking investments for playgroup and further education, first birthday party and essential costs like vaccines, nanny salary, doctor visits, diapers, clothes, prams and small day to day expenses. If you are not told beforehand, the final amount may come as a surprise. Do not let it stress you out, find out what you really require and weigh your options before you purchase it. Keep in mind your baby’s growth and buy accordingly. E.g., your partner may want a baby pool and it is a brilliant idea, but you would not require it when the baby is 2 months old. Stall that expense, decide on a timeline and buy when she is ready to splash in it.
Coping with the changes
Awareness and Acceptance
The first thing you need to be aware of, is that there will be changes. Awareness is your first step towards acceptance. Remember your baby is a new entrant into this chaotic world. Your baby is entirely dependent on you for its survival. The more you will enjoy this new responsibility, the more easily your baby will fit in.
With your head and physical space being completely crowded, you might crave for your time with yourself. Sometimes you might feel guilty for wanting time away from family. Accept that it is absolutely normal to need a break. We all need our occasional “time outs “and you need yours too. Take that time with yourself. Do something that you enjoy doing. You will find yourself finding a balance between family, work and self. Don’t let guilt take over.
Relationship and Intimacy
You might be missing the intimacy, the sexual connection that you used to enjoy with your partner. You may even be slightly put off by the physical changes in her. The time-to-time feed, the work around the baby, understanding baby cues is a making your partner equally and most probably more overworked and tired. She may not want feel like being physically close to you. Now here you have a choice. You can compensate for this “temporary phase” by working as a team. Sharing and dividing responsibilities between the both of you. Together you might find a beautiful common space discussing and reading on parenting styles, choosing help, and managing work and baby together. Being in it together” always helps the relationship evolve and grow into one of a mature friendship of empathy, respect and appreciation for your partner. If needed this is the time, you should plan special dates to bring back the spark in your relationship, In very extreme cases, you can even talk to a relationship counsellor.
You might be facing changes in the relationship with your partner. Your usual social life may have now reduced. It is absolutely normal to feel confused and even frustrated at times with so much of change. Know that your partner has gone through physical and emotional changes. She may too be overwhelmed. Changes can be made manageable if you communicate. You need to communicate what you are going through. You can discuss with your partner, a friend or even a professional counselor. The more you communicate and feel “listened to” your awareness and acceptance of the change becomes easier.
With everyone buzzing around the baby and typically being a mother or grandmother’s domain, you might feel alienated from the baby. Talk to your partner and find “your baby time”. This is the time when you hold the baby close, talk and rock your baby to sleep. Remember your baby will find a lot of comfort and bond with you through your touch and voice.
This is also a time where you start feeling that you are ageing, now that you are a father. With the baby you might feel so responsible that you may forget yourself in the process. The more you look at the baby as an inclusion in your life and not only as responsibility, to retain your core as an individual.
Unlike roles on stage and films, fatherhood is a lifelong role you are committed to. It is now your choice as to how you want to fulfill it…Whether you will allow the new changes burden you, or whether you want to welcome your baby and be ready to enjoy your new role and comfort and make your baby feel secure with your love and involvement.