Dads experience parenthood stress too

My two children were born just 16 months apart, and when they were very young it was full on.  When my second son was born, my husband was working 60+ hours a week and couldn’t even take time off to help me adjust to two children under two years of age.

On top of that my 16 month old became clingy, I got mastitis, struggled (again) with breastfeeding and the chaos of two small children completely took me by surprise.

Mindful mum was nowhere to be seen in those days, because moody mum had taken over, taking notes of all my shortcomings and my inabilities to get organised, manage (or more so control) my two children and then not able feel happy doing it.

What’s more though, is that moody mum began to change the way she saw her husband. Steve is a great dad, he’s a fantastic husband and life partner, however at that time of my life he became the ‘help that walked through the door at 6pm’.

There was no warm and fuzzy love going on in my relationship during that time (although of course I still loved him), but among the exhaustion of lack of sleep and disliking myself so much, I felt like I had nothing left in the tank to give at the end of the night.  It was a struggle at times to even want to be intimate because after being at home all day with kids climbing all over me, or constantly on my hip, the last thing I wanted was to be touched.

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I started to resent him too. Through my warped perceptions at the time he had gotten the better end of the deal. Life didn’t change much for him. He got to go to work, talk to other adults, complete his work when he wanted to without interruption, he got to eat his lunch without getting up a billion times. He got to have a beer on a Friday afternoon before he came home. He got to listen to peace and quiet in his car to and from work.

Moody mum was full of missing out.  I never got any of that. My life was dismal compared to his wonderful care-free existence……or so I thought.

Because once mindful mum came onto the scene after my breakdown and as I began to work on myself and change my mindset, I began to put myself in my partner’s shoes.

What I realised is that he was going through a transition of two young kids under two as well.  What was life like for him?

Well, he had the pressure of paying our ridiculously high mortgage and making ends meet financially. He was working hard, leaving at 5am in the morning after getting very little quality sleep because he would hear me trying to settle our newborn.  He was having to spend two hours a day driving to and from work after not sleeping well.

His work was very physical and all he wanted was to sit down of an evening and relax, but instead was greeted by his miserable wife, who would almost grunt at him when he walk in or rattle off all the crap things that happened in my day. He would walk straight into witching hour where the kids were tired and through his own exhaustion and stress of the day, he would try and squeeze in what quality time with his kids he could because he hadn’t seen or cuddled them all day (as they were still in bed when he left that morning) And finally, he often felt guilty because all he wanted was for them to go to bed so he could ‘switch off’ for the night.

Was his life really the bed of roses I’d made it out to be in my mind?  Not really. But through the lens of moody mum, it was all about me, wasn’t it?  How bad MY day had been, how tired I was, how much I needed a break.

What I began to learn as I started to work on myself and change how I was thinking was that dads experience parenthood too. Mums aren’t the only ones dealing with the challenges that come with having children, because dads are in the same boat too, it just might be in slightly different ways.

It might not appear that way sometimes, however I bet if asked the question, “How have you found the transition of becoming a parent?” or “What have you found the most difficult since becoming a dad?” that what is going on for a dad might be quite surprising.

Allowing the male partner in the relationship to also express is concerns, stresses and challenges without ridicule is important in a relationship because he will feels that his efforts are respected and acknowledged. That his partner recognises that it’s not all about her difficulties.

Communication during the early days of becoming a parent is absolutely crucial. Understanding that it’s tough for dads too (albeit in a different way) can stop all that resentment and misery that can potentially cause a rift in your marriage.

Your partner is not the enemy, you are in this together, so get rid of the right/wrong game, the missing out game and the blame game, start being compassionate and understanding and get through this transition together, because one day your kids are going to get a lot easier and you will adjust to the chaos.  You don’t want to be having to deal with grudges and long-term issues because you’ve both been so consumed with your own issues that you forgot to care for each other.

Share them, air them, and resolve them together, as this is what relationships are all about. It’s not just about you.

For more information on how to strengthen your relationship, check out our new relationships book – What’s in it for me? Why giving your partner more of what they want will give you more of what you need and our The Truce Video Program