As Father’s Day approaches, we’re thinking about the important roles fathers play in family systems, as well as some of the issues surrounding fatherhood. Mallory Rose, LMFT provides today’s tips on the transition to fatherhood.
While transitioning to motherhood is often talked about, dads experience some growing pains as well that can sometimes go unrecognized. Mallory is an expert in this transition, both professionally as a marriage and family therapist, as well as personally, as she and her husband recently went through it themselves. In addition to her therapy practice at the Institute, Mallory runs the workshop Staying Connected After the Birth of Your Baby, a one day workshop where couples learn about how to handle the transition to parenthood.
Read Mallory’s insights about the transition to fatherhood, and consider her workshop (the next one is June 21st) as a Father’s Day gift for the new dads in your life.
Conflict is normal.
“While it can be a truly bonding and special time when couples become parents, once the new born glow wears off and the reality of sleep deprivation and new parent anxiety kicks in, most couples can unfortunately take out their frustrations and exhaustion on each other.
However, I think it is really important that people know this conflict can be normal and expected.
A healthy relationship is not the absence of conflict, but rather how the conflict is handled. However, when parents are sleep deprived and exhausted, they are not at their best to fight fairly. Also, what new parents disagree about can also change and be unique with this situation: Issues may come up that couples hadn’t thought about before their baby, such as how to handle in-laws, values around parenting and conversations about sex.”
Love takes time.
“I think it is crucial to label and name that often, for both moms and dads, it takes some time to completely fall in love with your child.
I think there is this societal myth or notion that once you have your baby, you should (and will) instantly fall in love with her/him. While I feel that most parents have an instant attachment and need to protect their child immediately, I don’t think it is really talked about that parents often need some time to get to know their child before they really fall in love with them. I want parents to know it’s okay and normal if it takes some time for that love to develop.”
Dads get baby blues too.
“I think it’s very important for fathers in particular to recognize the signs of baby blues in themselves. Most women have a hormonal baby blues period after having a baby, but it can be very common for men to experience this as well. However, I don’t think men know this is common, and therefore are not able to have the words or skills to ask for help and to talk about their feelings. Just as new mommy support groups are essential to help with this transition, so are new dad support groups.”
It happens to everyone.
“When my son Jeffrey was born, everyone was so wonderful and mindful of how I was doing, but I definitely thought it was important to check in on my husband Matt. However, every time I asked him how he was doing, he would always say fine and deflect it back to me. It took him falling asleep on the train and ending up in the wrong town, and then the very next day, backing his car into a ditch and needing to be towed out, for him to finally feel he had a right to share his struggles with me.
I want fathers to know that it isn’t a competition—that they can have a hard time too and to let support in when it’s offered. It’s okay for dads to let their wives take care of them and check in on them, even though they are also taking care of a newborn. The couple needs to take care of each other.”
A few tips:
- Consider joining a dad support group to connect with other men going through similar transitions
- Don’t be afraid to tell your spouse your needs, and try to find some quality time with them. Research shows that when dads are feeling connected to their spouses, they have an easier time connecting to their infant.
- Take advantage of the first three months when the baby can sleep in the car seat. Go out to restaurants and go on dates with your baby. It gets much harder to do this when they become mobile.
Mallory Rose, LMFT, is a staff therapist at The Family Institute. She holds a Master of Science degree in Marriage and Family Therapy from the Family Institute at Northwestern University, and completed a two year clinical fellowship at the Family Institute as well. She received her Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology and Women Studies at the University of Michigan.
To learn more or make an appointment, visit our website.