Becoming a dad is a significant life change and understandably impacts on your relationships with your partner, your friends, your family and the relationship with developing child. Interestingly also the relationship you have with yourself!
How you see yourself and how you treat yourself is often influenced by how others see you and parenting is one of times that it seems 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 and 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. This includes:
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 also 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.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are some common challenges experienced by dads?
Couple relationship challenges are common 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 and change in employment of parents
Major role changes, as 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?
If you have just found out you are going to be a dad, start learning! Knowing what to expect and how to best approach the changes can really make a difference.
Start learning! 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.
If you are already a dad, talk about the challenges with your partner. Talk to your partner about your relationship, work out how you can make the time to connect and talk about the real stuff. Communication is key, creating time and emotional safety to be open and honest with other will go a long way to helping you each get your need met.
Consider making new friends - find other dads with children at your workplace, you could even consider starting a dads at lunch group to catch up to offer some support and learn from each other.
Negotiate time with your partner or support people 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, notice if you are not coping as well as you would normally, you may be working late at work to avoid coming home, you may notice you are drinking or smoking to relieve stress, you may be feeling angry, frustrated sad or out of control. You be 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: