Dad's Role After Childbirth: 8 Practical Strategies to Help Cope With the “New Normal”
It’s very common for dads to struggle with the first few weeks and months of being a dad. It’s a new experience that many first time dads have no way to correctly prepare for. Even If you’ve tried to get ready for months in advance it can still be a difficult role to fully embrace.
This article will help you take the leap from being a husband (or partner) to a fully operating dad equipped with the hidden skills that all new dads should know.
Remember, it’s ok to have questions, no parent knows exactly what they are doing at the start. Being open and proactive is key to forming the right mindset to become a fully-fledged dad!
1. A mindset shift
This is the first strategy for a reason. You’ll struggle to come to terms with finding your new normal if you don’t come to terms with the unavoidable fact that life is different now (and there’s no going back!).
Reminiscing about how much easier it was before the baby arrived, how much spare time you had available, and how much attention you got from your other half is useful but not relevant. If you want to transition into your new role fast, try to think in terms of the future and how proactive you want it to be.
2. The faster you roll your sleeves up, the better
Many dads try to escape everyday duties not realizing that it’s actually having a massive negative effect on themselves. If you duck and dive out of your responsibilities you are not only making it more burdensome for your other half, but you are also missing out on quality bonding with your new baby.
Let’s take changing diapers as an example. If this is your main duty and the one thing that you can do, day or night when you are at home, then you have to pluck up the courage to do it no matter what. Think of it as extra bonding time and your chance to pull funny faces, sing, dance, or do whatever with your new baby. It’s a “dirty job”, but you can turn it into something fun and exciting just by being aware that it’s more than just a hygiene job.
3. Empathy comes first!
Many men find it hard to deal with the prolonged no-intimacy period. While being intimate can happen while your wife is pregnant--and it’s very often recommended--when the baby arrives things can change very fast.
Having a baby that is totally dependant on mummy to survive can change the romantic atmosphere in even the most intimate relationships. On top of that, mum's body will have changed significantly during pregnancy, childbirth, and postnatally so this means she will need time to heal and you will have to respect that.
Once she’s in the mood you will be the first to know!
4. Always keep trying
Being a new dad creates a world of new roles and responsibilities. These new roles are opportunities for expressive dads to take the reigns and learn more about themselves and their children.
Young babies will naturally need more mummy time especially if they are breastfed. While you may not be able to get involved in everything there are some great examples of things you can do that doesn’t need the “mommy touch".
Preparing baby clothes,
Sterilizing all bottles,
Just to name a few. The key here is to always keep trying. You will find a variety of roles and duties you can do and believe me your wife/partner will thank you for it later.
5. If you can’t do it say NO!
Not every request is one that you should say yes to. Contrary to popular opinion there are some jobs that dads should be wary of doing unless they have experience.
While you should keep your mind and hands open for every day mundane jobs, if you are generally fearful or uneasy about doing a particular task then make sure you are vocal about it. Newborn babies are too fragile to make mistakes with so if in doubt express your concerns
A good example of this is baby hygiene tasks that require a steady hand. Things like clipping fingers and toenails or cutting hair for instance. If you don't have experience doing it and you are unsure of the technique then it's best you give that responsibility to someone else who is.
6. Always be seeking out help (Dad to Dad)
Asking for help is a fundamental requirement for all new dads. However, some dads just think they know it all. Other dads are just too proud and won't ask for help. Either way, asking for assistance regularly is an important prerequisite to successful parenting.
It’s likely someone you know will have gone through what you are about to go through, so reaching out and picking their brains is the best thing you can do to stay ahead of the game. Great examples of knowledgeable people to reach out to are your dad, your older family members, your friends who have kids, or even a local community/religious leader.
Try not to be too opinionated or too reserved to ask for help.
7. Press pause on your social life
One practical step all new dads should do is spend more time at home, especially in the early days/weeks. The transition can be hard for both parents but probably more so on mummy. She has gone through so much and needs some well-earned rest.
Try to keep friends and other social events on pause for a while. You may miss out on some things and some people will get upset but those that truly know you and care about you will understand. This is the best way to transition into your “new normal” as fast as possible
8. Finding your new normal doesn’t mean losing the old you
It’s not uncommon for both parents to go through a big change both mentally and physically when they have a newborn baby. While this is normal, you need to remember that finding your new normal doesn’t mean letting go of all of the old you.
Find time to remember all of the little things that you appreciate about your partner and keep your attention on growing together as a family. Your role may have changed to the provider and protector but your wife/partner still needs to feel special (probably even more so now).
Try to do something that reminds her that you appreciate her and are thankful for having her in your life. The key here is to provide some reassurance. She has been through a lot and things have changed but one thing that will remain the same is your undeniable feelings towards her.
A small gift, cooking her favourite meal, or even just some one on one time in front of her favourite film should work.
Keeping these strategies at the front of your mind will help you prepare for the transition and smoothen the journey of fatherhood.
Remember, finding your new normal will take time so don’t rush into it. Be patient, proactive, and passionate in your approach and you’ll see big differences in your new family lives.
Article written by Mo Mulla, a work from home dad who enjoys reading and listening to music. He loves being a dad and husband to a growing family. He loves writing about his passions and hopes to change the world, 1 blog post at a time! You can find his parenting blog here: ParentalQuestions.com