Dads barely get a mention in parenting media. While most of the work really comes from the mom, dads bear a great deal of first-time parenting burden, too. Chances are they have no idea how to care for a baby, much less read into their behaviors. Like moms, they will also lose sleep and panic when the baby cries.
True, dads are luckier to be able to get more sleep than moms. But during the first few days or weeks of the baby’s arrival, dads can be as sleep-deprived as moms.
When moms start taking the toll of first-time parenting, dads may feel helpless. But it doesn’t have to be that way. And more importantly, dads shouldn’t endure their stress in silence. Your feelings are totally valid, too.
The Stress of Becoming a First-time Dad
New dads experience at least four types of stress: financial worries, feeling rushed, getting enough dad time, and sleep loss.
Financial worries trouble many dads, given that they are the traditional providers. And their stress is completely understandable; the average cost of raising a child until age 17 is $233,610. If you and your wife’s income is in the low bracket, you’d still spend an average of $174,690 on raising your kid. If you’re a single dad with a low income, your spending won’t differ much; $172,200 on average.
The costs may also increase depending on where you live. In the urban west area, for example, it’s $245,460. Many dads are unprepared for this, especially millennials. 59% of millennial parents underestimate the costs of raising a child.
When the baby arrives, you will deal with feeling rushed. Nine months may seem long enough, but no amount of time will really prepare anyone for parenthood. A baby requires a diaper change and feeding every few hours. That includes overnight, so your sleep will be interrupted multiple times.
Getting enough “dad” time is stressful for many fathers, even experienced ones. Many dads worry about not spending enough time with their kids. On average, most fathers only devote seven hours a week for childcare, while mothers devote 14 hours.
As pointed out above, sleep loss also affects dads and will do so for the first two years of the baby’s life. Studies show that new parents can lose up to six months’ worth of sleep because of a baby.
But of course, all of these challenges will be worth it. The stress of parenting is only at its worst when your child is just a baby. They depend on you for everything, so think of the stress as a small price to pay for having a healthy and happy baby.
Hacks to Enjoying Parenthood
The media paint parenthood as an experience with nothing but joy. But parents will disagree. In reality, many moms experience postpartum depression, and so do dads. People don’t talk about it often.
Supporting a wife who just gave birth while helping her care for your baby isn’t easy. Even if you are earning enough, you may still feel like it’s not enough. And like women, you can also experience hormonal changes after your baby’s birth. Your testosterone, estrogen, and prolactin levels can fluctuate. These changes contribute to your risk for depression.
To ease your mental and emotional troubles, and enjoy fatherhood in turn, understand first and foremost that you can’t “fix” a fussy baby. As newborns, it’s normal for them to use tears as a method for communicating. They’ll cry when they’re hungry, in need of a diaper change, or when they want to be held. If your baby is too hard to comfort, they might have colic, a condition in which babies cry for no apparent reason and cannot be soothed. Take your baby to the pediatrician if you suspect that your newborn has colic.
To manage your baby’s crying, memorize their feeding patterns so that you’d have their milk ready before they start getting hungry. Decrease the stimulation around them as well. Put them in a quiet, dim room. Swaddle or wrap them so that they’d feel secure.
Do your research on babies’ health needs, too. This will help you understand why babies require so many things, like specialized garments like hooded baby towels, different kinds of milk bottles, etc. You’d be surprised at how much a little person needs to be comfortable and healthy. But their things are precious investments, so don’t settle for less.
Note, however, that despite researching and preparing, fatherhood is really full of ups and downs. Only experience can teach you how to nail parenting. You can read as many books as you want or listen to other dads’ advice, but at the end of the day, your baby is unlike anyone. So don’t pressure yourself to be the “perfect” dad the media wants you to be. Just be the dad your baby needs.