Daddy Brain: Life Changes for Fathers

Being a father is a wonderful thing. Its special. You get to watch little beings grow from small to big all while they soak up everything that is you. For instance, if you loved certain cartoons, such as the classic The Land Before Time, chances are… they will love it too. And then ask you to watch it when you just want alone time but they say it so cutely you cave in. Then you can only find #14 in the series on Netflix which is your first time seeing it too because you’re old now. Anyway, in summary, being a father is a smashing good time. But you can be kept from enjoying it.

Daddy Brain 1.jpg

I want to raise awareness to the fact that having kids and becoming a dad changes things which most people already know. What isn’t well known is what the hell are those changes everyone is talking about?!

Change 1: Your relationship with your beloved changes

You can be dad of the year but your relationship will still change with your wife. There’s less time for each other which equals more time to drift away. That’s hard. You love that person but so often is the case that there is some dreary distance simmering in between. I’m not saying anything like its hopeless but be aware. Assess! If there are problems after kids don’t take the mindset that they will go away on their own. It will be harder to reconnect when that itsy teeny baby becomes the mighty window smashing destroyer that is a toddler and is more independent.

Change 2: Your friendships go through a transition

Friends are cool. You need them. Don’t ever think you don’t. However, many dads feel lonely after becoming one. Friends without kids are still fun but they’re going to have so much more energy than you are. Plus they have more time. Not fair but it is. There’s a lot of joy to be had with the kiddos you are raising.

Friends are important. Work on maintaining a balance between those outside of the family and your family. Friendships can drift away. If they’re important to you and THEY SUPPORT YOUR NEW LIFESTYLE (ahem, very important) have open conversations with the wife and older kids that you need some time away but that you are also planning to do something with the family the next day or the next week. Also, get out there and meet some dads, okay? They know things that you don’t and they are often in the same lonely drifting boat.

Change 3:  Daddy Brain

Think about this from a science fiction perspective. Did you see The Matrix? Did Neo start out as The One? No, he did not. He was a clueless drone. Its hard to know these things. I often explain to dads that their mind and personality are going through an evolution. And oh my gosh are their growing pains with this!!! First, have faith in yourself that you will make it through. Second, watch yourself. Big transitions are worth it but we don’t all end up okay through them. If you are not okay. Be responsible! Talk to somebody. Yes, men do talk. I am living proof of that.

Daddy brain is great. You will learn to effectively play video games while your newborn sleeps on you in a baby carrier. You will say yes to pets you don’t want to have and be okay with it. Your temper will lower given time (which you’ll have to work at) after daddy brain sets in and tells you that a 5 year old cannot multitask. And daddy brain will reason that once something enters your child’s mind, the important thing they were doing (like getting dressed because you have to go work)… leaves their brain. I’m frustrated just thinking about it. I’m probably tired. Go figure. Your mind goes through rapid changes when you become a dad. Embrace them and assess!

Important Caveat: Postpartum Depression

1 in 10 men will meet criteria for postpartum depression (Flyer from Postpartum Support Minnesota). That’s a lot! So many go without ever being diagnosed. Mental illness is not a weakness and there is treatment. Please watch for it in your spouse and watch for it in yourself. Reach out if you feel strange months into being a dad. I’ll tell you what! Call me, during business hours please, to consult. Let me be a resource to you.

There are more changes than this but these are the ones you should start reflecting on. Fatherhood is great and enjoyable. If something feels wrong do the manly thing and talk.

Surviving Parenthood: The Importance of Self Care

I have just reached six years of being a father. I have 2 wonderful daughters who I dearly love.  It has been a chaotic and beautiful journey and an endless teacher of life.  I wanted to take a moment to explore the importance of consciously, and I mean “in your face” consciously, caring for yourself.

Woohoo, Parenthood is Awesome

Being a parent is truly a gift.  But problems come when you lose control of your role in the family or in your life.  This takes the form of parent burnout, work burnout, ugly and longstanding disagreements with your beloved, when you feel the kids don’t ever listen and your stressed about it, and a whole host of other troubles you just want to be over.

I’ve been there and likely will be there again next week.  This culture of ours doesn’t make it easy to be a wonderful parent and it is our responsibility to work through this and be one despite the challenge. That’s where parent self care comes into the fold.

Self care isn’t always easy

Do not fool yourself into believing self care is this glamorous concept all of the time.  It isn’t.  Like other “fun” areas of life, we have to work at it.  Ask yourself these questions

  1.   What is my personal definition of self care and what are the activities I enjoy doing?

  2.   Am I currently connected with the activities that help me?

  3.   What can I do for myself right now or the next day?

  4.   What needs to be sacrificed for the greater good of my mental health?

I have to be honest here.  I fail pretty hard at self care and I cringe when I ask these questions to myself.  This, in turn, leads to me letting down my loved ones at times.  The important thing to remember is circling back to self care.  There are going to be days when nothing goes right and that’s when these important questions come to the fore.  Here’s an example of how I would answer them.

  1.  Self care is a process of doing activities for myself that helps to relive my often abundant level of stress.  For me this includes going for walks, reading memoirs or fiction, meditating, studying therapy, and other forms of various media such as shows, movies, games.  Also, sleep. Although, I am often a night owl and I enjoy the house when its quiet.

  2. I am not currently doing many of the activities listed above.  Especially sleep.  I have been missing out on a ton of it unfortunately and its my own fault.  Just being honest with myself.  I have been watching shows alone but this tends to keep me up later and awake longer when trying to fall asleep.  I really miss reading. I just feel so distracted and busy.

  3. Sleep.  I need to go bed at a decent time.  Also, instead of going on social media at night, I need to catch up with my newest book from Yalom.  I think I need to spend the next week prioritizing and early bed time and reading at night. Also, I should try to meditate just before bed. Regardless, I need sleep tonight, I need to read my book tonight, and I need to meditate.

  4.  My sacrifices to accomplish this self-care plan are many.  I am a night owl and do my best thinking at night.  Plus it’s my only alone time after working until 5p or 5:30p, spending time with the girls until about 8p, and watching shows with my wife until 9p.  I will have less alone time that I need to unwind.  However, I will have some alone time.

You get the drift.  The 4th question on sacrifice helps you to be conscious of what your self care plan will interfere with so you are not blind-sighted by it and can plan accordingly.  For me, I may want to ask my wife for us to do our own thing at 8p instead of spending time together for a night.  Another idea is I could ask for an hour after work to relax while giving her an hour, after or before, to balance it out before the girls go to sleep.

Is that all…?

Planning out self care can be a stressful task but following through with the plan is where rewards are gained  Also, it is important to put it out there that certain circumstances will happen in life making self care extremely difficult to come by.  These occur typically when major life transitions happen such as the birth of a child, a new job, the loss of a loved one, or crippling medical or mental health symptoms.  The important thing to remember is not to feel guilty about not taking adequate care of yourself but to COME BACK to self care.  It will always be calling your name so listen for it.