Mum does a lot of the heavy lifting when baby arrives, but dads also need to talk about how they're handling the new workload.
We’d just hit day 16 of our latest parenting battle.
Our almost two-year-old had been in her latest phase of sleep regression and our six-month-old had taken ownership of our bed.
We got on with things, but when it all settled, my partner looked a little run down. So I asked if she was OK.
She replied the same way a lot of mums probably do: “I’m just tired, stressed and exhausted”.
Now, after seeing the physical and emotional toll this battle had caused, coupled with what she just told me, there was no way I felt like I could say anything remotely similar.
But I was as much a part of it all as she was.
I felt guilty about telling her I was tired, stressed and exhausted too, and I couldn’t figure out why.
I kept asking myself: When do I get to talk about how I feel? It was as if my brain was just stuck on Shannon Noll singing ‘What About Me’ in the background.
There seems to be this thought in society that mums do all of the struggling, but what about us dads?
- Dads get stressed
- Dads get exhausted
- Dads sometimes don’t know what to do, and
- Most of the time dads have no idea how put all of this into words without exploding.
Let’s get some context here. By no stretch of the imagination am I having a dig at my partner, or any partners of other dads for that matter. And, in the majority of cases, mums do a lot of the heavy lifting for our kids.
And, while we need to recognise that most mums have just gone through some pretty intense changes associated with child birth, the modern-day dad also plays a significant role.
My partner and I often joked about how she was doing all the work during pregnancy. The common line I got was “Oh really, you had a tough day – did you grow a hand today? Or what about a foot?”….I couldn’t really go anywhere with that.
As soon as our kids were born, and like most other dads, I played a pretty important role. Now I personally hate the phrase, but I was, and still am, a hands-on dad.
I took on a lot of the gritty stuff too – nappies, feeding, cleaning, cooking etc. My day never really stopped. As soon as I got home from work, I had a baby in my arms so that my partner could relax for a few hours.
“I felt guilty about telling her I was tired, stressed and exhausted too, and I couldn’t figure out why.”
What I’m suggesting is that somewhere along the way, when we started checking in on parents and asking how they feel, we stuffed up and forgot about dads.
Mum gets all the questions, mum gets all the support, and dad is just left in the background to mull over any tiredness, exhaustion, or anything else he might be feeling.
I struggled with this, even from the early days.
Everyone kept asking my partner how she felt … HELLO? I’m lying in the bed next to her every night. I’m getting up to do feeds, change nappies, and give cuddles as well!
Dads are widely expected to just carry on. But if we started talking about the fact that one in 10 dads suffer from depression after their kids are born, do you think we’d tackle the issue a bit better?
If you’re like me, you might find it tough to talk about how you’re feeling at times because you see your partner putting in a mammoth effort with the kids and they are just exhausted.
So, here’s a quick three-step guide to knocking this issue on its head EARLY.
1. Write down what you’re thinking
One of the healthiest outlets to deal with any overwhelming emotion is to express yourself through journaling, or writing. This tactic helps tackle things like anxiety and stress by addressing certain symptoms in a controlled and non-confrontational way.
By doing this I was able to see for myself how I really felt. Sounds silly, but it worked wonders for me in actually putting how I felt into words.
2. Read it out loud to yourself
By writing down how you’re feeling you will not only learn to recognise issues or trepidations, but you’ll also be able to pick up on certain triggers and then start learning how to address them.
Using the example of getting home from work again, I realised that I needed to address this otherwise it would keep happening. Had I not shared this with my partner it’s highly likely I would have hit a wall, and that’s never pretty for anyone.
3. Read it to your partner
The deeper, core emotions are what keeps a deep and meaningful connection during the early years of parenthood. This is something that might not come easy, but it’s super important.
Because I was open with my partner I know that we’re in this together. She gave me a big hug and even thanked me! She could see the impact it was having but also at times could get caught up in how busy she was.
Even if you read what you’ve written down out aloud, your partner needs to know how you feel. It’s also much more productive to express real feelings instead of giving the silent treatment, carrying a grudge or getting passive-aggressive. That doesn’t get you anywhere.
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