Fatherhood is a rewarding and challenging experience all at once. There will be days where you will doubt every decision you make, and there will be other days where you simply take a moment to drink in the beauty and wonder that is your child and the family you have created. Fatherhood will be unlike anything you have experienced before. Naturally, preparing yourself for this change in your life is nothing short of nerve-wracking. The good news is you have approximately nine months to get ready for it.
How can I practically prepare myself for fatherhood?
When you become a father for the first time, you will find yourself doing things that you never had to worry about before, like changing diapers 10+ times per day. There are ways to prepare for this before your baby arrives:
- Begin stocking up on the essentials: diapers, onesies, socks, bibs, wipes, pacifiers and bottles. You can never have too much.
- Prepare your diaper-changing station so that you are armed with all of your tools when the baby arrives. Practice changing diapers, wiping and applying diaper rash cream. Similarly, practice swaddling as much as you can.
- Research car seat and stroller options, and be sure to check safety ratings and whether there are any recalls. Practice installing the car seat in your car, and double-check that everything has been buckled and the seat is secure.
- If you are working or plan to return to work after your baby is born, familiarize yourself with your company’s leave policy. You may qualify for parental leave, or you may find yourself having to take PTO. Work with your manager and HR early on to determine the specifics of your leave.
How can I mentally prepare myself for fatherhood?
Let’s get this out of the way: there is no such thing as the perfect parent. It’s important to set expectations at the outset before your child arrives so that you aren’t setting yourself up for disappointment.
- Know that being scared, nervous, or anxious is totally normal and reasonable. It is possible to be both excited for your future family and scared for the changes that await you.
- Phone a friend, whether it’s your dad, brother, friend or another father figure in your life. Experienced dads have seen it all and are more than happy to share their advice.
- Accept that your sleep schedule will change drastically once the baby is born, and identify potential efficiencies in your routine. If you know you’ll be too tired to do dishes or pick up around the house, prepare some freezer meals and tidy up what you can now. You will feel more at ease knowing that, while you may be getting less sleep, you’ll have one less thing to worry about when running on a few hours.
- Read up on safe sleep practices for the baby. It’s easy to make a quick decision on sleeping arrangements when both of you are tired, but being prepared with safety knowledge is in the best interest of both baby and parent.
- You probably have never been covered in another person’s bodily fluids. You will no longer be able to say that in a few short months. The more you mentally prepare for the possibility, the less shocking it will be when it actually happens.
How can I support my partner as we both prepare for parenthood?
As a father, you may not be able to take away your partner’s cravings, back pain or the general discomforts that can accompany pregnancy, but you are able to be present and provide support.
- Attend birthing classes with your partner. They will feel supported, and it will give you both an idea of what to expect on the big day. As a bonus, you will meet other parents-to-be who will understand what you are going through and can even lead to playdates in the future.
- Attend every doctor’s appointment and ultrasound if you are able. Seeing each sonogram and hearing positive updates from the doctor are special experiences that should be shared with your partner. This is also a great opportunity to ask the doctor any questions you might have about how the pregnancy is going, whether certain symptoms are normal, and what to expect in the days following your baby’s birth.
- Make sure to always have a supply of the things that make pregnancy easier for your partner, whether that is body pillows, antacid tabs or comfortable pajamas.
- As your baby’s due date nears, pack a go-bag for things that you, your partner and baby will need, including but not limited to: homecoming outfits, diapers, blankets, snacks, phone chargers, a camera, toiletries, medical records and changes of clothes. You likely won’t need all of this, but it’s better to be over-prepared.
- Work together on the birthing plan so that you are on the same page when the time comes.
Many of these tips still apply if you and your partner are adopting or having a child via surrogacy. The most important thing to remember is to be there for each other every single day so that you can begin parenthood on a solid foundation.
Pyramid Online Counseling offers secure, confidential online counseling for dads-to-be experiencing anxiety in anticipation of the birth of their baby. Reach out today at 833-525-3077 to speak with a counselor and learn coping skills that will carry you through pregnancy, delivery, and parenthood.
New moms face an enormous amount of pressure – from themselves, from their families and from certain societal ideas of what a mother should be. Oftentimes, this leads to moms not taking time for themselves out of guilt or fear that they will be perceived as lazy, selfish or ungrateful for their new baby. This is ultimately detrimental to both mom and baby; it is critical that new moms tend to their mental health so that they can be the best version of themselves for their families. Whether you or the mom in your life is balancing work and home life or stays home with the kiddos, there exist tangible ways to make a new mom’s mental health just as much of a priority as the other important aspects of her life.
How can I care for my mental health as a new mom?
- Just like you would ensure your baby has adequate food, rest and enrichment, it’s important for mom to get all of those things too. Try to eat balanced meals when possible, have portable snacks throughout the day to keep your energy up and don’t forget to stay hydrated. Find a healthy sleep schedule that works for you as well, whether that means sleeping when the baby sleeps, having the other parent take the night shift or having a naptime of your own during the day
- Know yourself. What relaxes you, and what triggers you? If you need an hour to eat popcorn and watch reality tv after a long day, make time for that. If you know that having your child’s toys scattered about their room will give you more anxiety, come up with an efficient tidying system so you can quickly address the issue
- If you live with your partner, tag team those middle-of-the-night feedings and changings: mom feeds the baby, then the other parent can take care of burping, changing diapers – and pajamas, if necessary – and rocking back to sleep
- Learn to prioritize, both at work and at home. What will happen if I don’t handle this task within the next five minutes? Few hours? Can it wait a couple of days? You will save yourself the stress
- Be at peace with the fact that you may not always make the right call. It’s normal, and it’s okay. Striving for perfection will ultimately lead to disappointment
- Have a routine for feeding times, nap times, housekeeping and playdates. Even if lunch is a little late every once in a while, both you and your baby will feel more comfortable when you know what to expect each day
- Integrate date nights into your routine! Take time every week for you and your partner to go to the movies or catch up over dinner, just the two of you
How can I support the mental health of a mom in my life?
- You may not feel comfortable offering to babysit, but perhaps you can come over to read to the baby or drop off dinner while mom takes care of other things around the house. If you would love to help babysit, make that known
- Instead of asking what you can do to help, jump in when you see that mom needs it. If she’s dealing with a diaper blowout, have a fresh diaper and onesie at the ready. If she has mentioned she’s too tired to cook tonight, bring home her favorite takeout as a surprise
- Organize a day for mom to pamper herself, either solo, with you or with a group of friends. Spending the day getting her nails done, going for a hike or having a long meal at a restaurant may be just the thing she needs to recharge
- Send encouraging messages to your friend throughout the day, especially if their baby is teething or waking mom up every couple of hours
- Encourage your friend to pause and reflect on this phase in their life and their baby’s life. Babies grow incredibly quickly, and the massive responsibility of motherhood can overshadow all of the tiny changes and bonds that are made; a first-time mom would be grateful for a reminder to step back and appreciate how special this time is
Who can I talk to about needing help prioritizing my mental health as a new mom?
After welcoming your new child to your family, you will quickly learn that there is no shame in asking for help. It’s not uncommon to ask grandma to come over while you run to the grocery store or have your partner bottle feed your baby so you can take a long shower. Asking for or accepting help with your mental health should be no different.
Pyramid Online Counseling offers effective mental health counseling via a secure teletherapy platform and can work with your busy schedule as a new mom. Our therapists can offer tips on taking time for yourself as a new mom without feeling bad or guilty, and they are also trained to provide support for postpartum depression and postpartum anxiety if necessary. Reach out today at 833-525-3077 to learn more about how you can prioritize your mental health.
What are the symptoms of parental anxiety?
You have likely felt anxiety at different points throughout your life – when driving for the first time, starting a new job or buying a house. Anxiety during parenthood is its own brand unlike any type of worry you have felt before, especially for first-time parents. Some symptoms you may experience include:
- Incessant thinking or worrying about yourself as a parent and your child, including whether or not you are a good parent, whether or not you are making the right decisions or whether or not your child is thriving
- The constant fear that something bad will happen to your child
- Difficulty sleeping
- Feelings of dread or doom
- Loss of appetite
- Rapid heartbeat and/or hyperventilation
- Obsessive watching or checking on your baby or child
- Panic attacks
Is it normal to feel anxiety during parenthood?
It is absolutely normal, and maybe even expected to experience parental anxiety. Welcoming a new child into your family is a major lifestyle transition, and the infinite unknowns surrounding parenthood can lead to sleepless nights full of stress, worry and fear. Indeed, parenthood is one of the greatest joys of life, but that doesn’t mean it is always happy or easy.
How can I address my anxiety while I’m busy parenting?
Variety is certainly the spice of life, especially within the context of the anxiety that comes along with parenting at different stages in your child’s life:
- Learn to read their emotions and different cries so you can better understand what they want. You’ll feel more confident if you can identify a “hungry cry” versus a “discomfort cry” and quickly spring into action.
- Maintain your independence – whether that means returning to work, meeting with your book club or leaving your baby with grandma while you run errands or go to the gym.
- Stay organized and try to save time when possible. Pick out outfits for the week, prepare and freeze meals ahead of time and keep your tot on a schedule so you can plan your productive hours accordingly.
- Regularly take your child to the pediatrician to check in on recurring issues and ensure your child is meeting all of their benchmarks.
- Establish schedules and routines for extracurriculars, meals and bedtime. Both you and your child will take comfort in the feeling of stability.
- Hire a tutor to help with homework while you take care of other household duties, especially if your child’s math homework feels above your pay grade.
- Trust and respect your child, and you will receive the same in return.
- Prepare yourself for shifts in behavior and personality from your teen, and try not to take it personally.
- Sometimes the best thing you can do for your child is to let them experience things and learn lessons on their own. Middle school often brings about bullying, first crushes and physical changes – these are things that you may not be able to protect your child from. As scary as it feels in the moment, your anxiety will be eased once you see the coping skills and independence your child has developed.
- Enroll your child in driving school if the thought of them being behind the wheel terrifies you, teaching them yourself will only add unnecessary stress if neither of you is comfortable with it.
- Talk to your child about safe sex and what healthy relationships look like.
- Communicate regularly, especially if your child has moved away for college. You will sleep better at night knowing where your child is, who they are with and that they got home safely.
Certain anxieties persist throughout parenthood, no matter how young or old your child is, such as whether they are safe, happy and healthy. Keep these tips in mind, whether your baby is 2 months or 20 years old:
- Accept that your decisions won’t be perfect one hundred percent of the time. It’s okay to make mistakes and it’s okay to have a bad day or night.
- Don’t compare yourself to other parents that you know. What works for your friend’s family may not work for your family and vice versa, and you can never truly know what other families are like within their own homes.
- You are going to be stressed, embrace it.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Ask a parental figure in your life how they addressed certain challenges, and compare and contrast to how you might respond.
- Take time to truly understand each of your children and adjust your parenting strategy accordingly. If your son likes to be tucked in at night but your daughter wants to set her own bedtime routine, allow them both to explore what they prefer. You’ll feel less stressed knowing you have an established routine that each of your children are comfortable with.
- Learn to triage. When you’re trying to switch a load of laundry, keep dinner from burning and ensure your child isn’t putting anything in their mouth that doesn’t belong, life can feel overwhelming all at once. Focus on the most important matter or task at hand and go from there.
- Recognize what you can and cannot control.
- Know that you are enough. Sometimes you need to take 30 minutes to yourself to take a bath while leaving your kid set up with a pile of toys and their favorite movie. You might feel guilty for missing out on playtime, but in the long run, small incidents like that will in no way impact your child. As long as you deeply love them, care for them and provide for them, you are the best parent for your child.
Can I speak with a counselor or therapist about my parental anxiety?
Pyramid Online Counseling provides holistic virtual therapy that works with your schedule. Investing in yourself is always worth the time commitment, and our licensed therapists are here to help you establish routines, strategies and actions to address your anxiety. Reach out today at 833-525-3077 to find the counselor that fits your needs.