Why We Need To Think Differently When It Comes To First Time Dads
Han-Son is the founder of DaddiLife – the leading platform for modern day dads, and a community of over 150,000 dads. Below he writes about why we need to think differently when it comes to first-time dads.
One of my favourite quotes growing up was, ‘lost time is never found again’ by Benjamin Franklin. I used to say it a lot as a kid, not because I really understood it, but because it sounded good! I used to put on my best Gandalf accent to make sure I sounded that bit more grand and wise.
Oh how times have changed
Now I could only wish to be as wise as the great wizard but becoming a dad has made me understand the full power of that quote far more than I would have ever imagined. With each passing major moment in time I find myself often reflecting on just how quickly the last [week, month, year] has gone by.
When you feel like time is literally going by quicker and quicker, it’s all too easy to look back on previous moments you had with a nostalgic view rather than something you’re actively experiencing now.
For instance, I have a six year old now, and whenever I think back to him as a baby (which literally feels like yesterday) I’m thinking of all the lovely, random and downright hilarious moments rather than that first unimaginable poo, the time pen was spread all over the walls or the other unimaginable horrors in that first stage. Lost time is never found again.
That’s why I didn’t write my new book – You’re Going To Be A Dad! – with just my own rose-tinted glasses of fatherhood. But instead undertook in-depth interviews with over 50 dads from around the world. The insights from this group of men, living through the early stage fatherhood in real time – looking forward not back – has been such a privilege to learn from, and it’s also given much cause for a rallying cry: that when it comes to first time fatherhood, there needs to be much more candidness about their own challenges, struggles and anxieties.
Why we need a pregnancy book that reflects modern day dads
Some of you reading this have likely seen and read many a pregnancy book for new dads before and may well be asking – why the need for a new one?
Well, in looking more deeply at a number of pregnancy books for dads, there are far too many books that make a bit of a joke of fatherhood, and the narrative of, ‘just don’t forget to put the beers away,’ and the like which isn’t good enough!
New dads have simply moved on from this outdated view of the bumbling idiot dad and want to be more involved in day-to-day parenting than ever before – something the pandemic has only increased.
But beyond just reflecting this new tone, there’s a ton of challenges, issues and concerns that we need to be much more aware of, for new fathers. As such the book doesn’t just talk about dads – it’s very much a book for partners, as we talk about the science of mum and baby first, through a weekly breakdown of pregnancy alongside dad’s own psychology and an outline of all the relevant dads’ insights from multiple backgrounds we gathered from interviews.
It’s been clear that modern day fatherhood is far from a one size fits all model.
The challenges and issues that dad’s face
When I first started interviewing dads, I was amazed at the huge diversity in experiences – the good and bad that dads had gone through.
There were dads who spoke of how pregnancy was actually the trigger for them to finally sort through some of their own demons with therapy; others who were simply overjoyed at being pregnant after the emotional trauma of multiple miscarriages, and dads who had battled with their own mental health in wanting to be great partners but feeling trapped as to what and how expressive they could be of their own concerns during that period.
A lot of that stoicism at play came from an inner belief too that dads didn’t feel they necessarily ‘deserved’ to feel anxious or negative because they weren’t the ones carrying the baby. Of course, that’s biologically true but this is a journey for both sets of parents, and so this courage at all costs is a view that needs to change – not just for the dads but in creating what should be one team throughout this life-changing journey.
This is also something that’s only been further magnified with Covid-19.
The challenges of Covid and major missed moments
During the height of the pandemic and unfortunately in some places still now, there are stringent restrictions on dads’ access to some of the most unforgettable moments. Imagine not being able to be present the first time a mum to-be see’s that first heartbeat, or for a good majority of the birth itself.
Fathers have been shut off from large parts of this experience and we’ve been able to capture their reflections here and what they would do differently with any future restrictions.
Conversations with partners
One shining light in producing the book and gathering all the different new dad perspectives, has been how much, communication has been vital – not just in maintaining relationship with mum – but in actually strengthening it.
We spoke to dads who had been through significant mental health struggles – whether though postpartum depression or even before, and all of them stated that once they had gained the clarity they needed to start the conversation about it – their partners had been incredibly supportive and it made for better bonds all round.
So how to do we start to raise the awareness of what’s happening with dad too?
Well, firstly I think we need to give dads some space to go through their own experiences and be open about their feelings. There’s a responsibility here with dads too, to try and step out from that stoic outer shell if and when they need to. In my experience, they’ll be positively surprised about the reaction and feedback they will get when they speak up.