You are a father now. Whoa. You and your partner have a little human to care for. Things are changing fast. We learn right away that when we become parents we’re going to need to make some sacrifices: we are no longer the focus of our own lives; our children are. The enormous and quick jump from our old lives to the new is overwhelming for most of us. And maybe Mom is feeling depressed or anxious or likely both! This all seems impossible to handle and where do you even begin? Certainly not with taking care of yourself; isn’t it selfish to think about taking care of yourself when the mother of your children is struggling? Nope, not selfish at all. NECESSARY.
Just like we tell moms–if you want to be able to care for others you have to take care of yourself. I’m not saying you should start booking weekends away with your buddies. But it is important for you to find some kind of release of anxiety and some nourishing activities for your soul to help you help your partner get through this time. Need some ideas? Some “easy” (things you can actually do when you have a baby at home) types of self-care include: eating healthy foods and cutting back on alcohol and sweets, seeing a movie, meditating in your car, game night with friends, yoga, going for a walk or run, lunch with a friend, a bike ride, keeping a journal. Think about what re-energizes you and do it! And try to get it in on a regular basis. And don’t forget to give Mom some time for herself!
It’s also important for us to talk about how it’s not just moms who get depressed or anxious after having a baby. Postpartum dads struggle, too. If you’re feeling more irritable and angry, isolated and lonely, using more alcohol or drugs to feel better, feeling run-down, or any other significant changes that are making it difficult to be a father and a partner–talk to someone. You might be experiencing more than the typical blues and nervousness associated with having a baby. About 1 in 10 dads will experience a mood disorder after the birth of a child. If this is you, don’t hold it in; get help. Dads need support, too! You can start by calling PS-WA’s Warm Line: 1-888-404-7763. You can even request to speak to a dad. Also check out Postpartum Men, an organization for men experiencing postpartum depression. And PS-WA has a great list of resources just for dads and a list of mental health providers on the website.
Now that you have some ideas about what to do, how exactly are you going to fit this in? How do you balance your needs with Mom’s? Well, it’s not easy, but it’s doable. Make home to work/work to home/running errands, etc., a time for you to do something for yourself. If you work outside of the home (even if you work at home), take a lunch break and do something good for yourself. Take a few minutes before walking in the door to do a meditation, read something or any other short, but pleasurable activity that will help you transition back home easier. It may not always work out and you won’t be able to do everything you used to do with your partner, for yourself or even by yourself. BUT, you can hold on to a few key practices that make you feel better and develop new ones that fit in to this new role you have as Dad.