So you are about to become a father for the first time. While this can be one of the happiest times in your life, it can also be a very emotional and confusing experience. With the right advice and support you can make the most of this new change to your life and enjoy all that comes with it.
Having a baby will impact on your free time outside of work but should not 'wreck your social life' if you are organised and plan your time well.
Before you were both able to come and go pretty much as you pleased. Now you have to learn to negotiate breaks and check in with your partner. The baby's needs can be quite overwhelming early on, but it is important to remember that your needs and those of your partner are still important too. Talk to your partner about how you are feeling and don't forget to check in with how she's going too.
Becoming a father may raise all sorts of pressures about being a provider, protector, being an engaged dad and working hard at the same time — the balance can be difficult to find. Moreover, if you want to do things differently from the way you were fathered, you have to work it out for yourself from scratch. This can mean seeking out information or support, something that many men aren't used to doing.
Boxer Kostya Tszyu describes the births of his children as the happiest moments of his life, "When you're holding your baby for the first time and he's screaming for you, it's a feeling you cannot describe in words, it's unbelievably special."
"It used to be just me that I had to think about, now Evie (my daughter) is always at the front of my mind. I used to go surfing for full day without thinking and now, after a couple of hours, I'm itching to get back and see what she's up to." -Joel Parkinson, Professional Surfer.
Try not to feel that you're "on the outside"
At the start it may feel as though your partner has more of a role in caring for your new child, especially if she is breastfeeding. But being part of the new family unit is about teamwork. Your role looking after the house, fielding telephone calls when your partner is trying to get some sleep, or going to the shops for new nappies is just as important to the family unit as feeding the baby.
You may feel that you're more part of the family unit if you get involved from the very beginning. Some ways to do this could be:
- Attending antenatal classes
- Being present at the birth
- Learning how to change a nappy
- Finding out what is needed to look after a baby
- Speaking to any other fathers that you know
As well as helping your partner, it will help you to feel part of the parenthood process.
Don't forget about your partner during this time. While sex may not be on the agenda straight away, don't forget to show your affection and love for your partner during this challenging time.
Sex might be the last thing on her mind in the early stages. However both of your sex drives will return to normal, you will just need to give it time. Her body has gone through some major changes, and it will need time to readjust. Her breasts will be full of milk for the baby, so finding positions that are comfortable for both of you may be a challenge.
Talking honestly with your partner about what you're comfortable with is by far the most important part.
Look after yourself
Believe it or not, dads are also liable to get a dose of the "baby blues", despite not physically giving birth themselves. Studies have shown that male partners can experience significant hormonal changes and, coupled with the lack of sleep that comes with looking after a newborn, it is important to look after yourself well.
As well as being mindful of your diet and remaining active, responsibility of financially providing for a young family and assuming the role of 'protector' can be quite overwhelming. If you are finding these adjustments difficult, it is important to discuss this with your partner and other supports such as family, friends, counsellors etc.
Don't forget about your mates! Do any of your friends have children? They will be a great source of ideas and support through difficult times as they are likely to have experienced many of the same things. Learn from them about how you can do things with your partner and new child. You may find that you become closer to your own parents as you gain a better understanding of their perspective as parents.
If you feel down:
- Make sure you eat regularly and think about good food choices
- Regular exercise can help to get you out of the house and make you feel better
- MensLine has trained counsellors available 24/7, to support you through this time — call 1300 78 99 78 or try our online or video counselling service.