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As a father, you’re no stranger to challenges and struggles. But becoming a parent can bring a whole new level of challenges, as you adjust to this new role and navigate the ups and downs of parenting. It can be tough to cope with the changes to your social life, sex life, finances, health, and career, and you may feel like you’ve lost a sense of who you are. It’s normal to feel overwhelmed, and it’s important to remember that you’re not alone.
Other fathers have been through similar struggles, and many have found ways to make the most of the situation and find joy in their new roles. It’s possible to find ways to get some alone time, even when you have young children who need constant care. You can make the most of the time you do have, by finding ways to relax and recharge. And it’s important to remember that your feelings of sadness, grief, and pain are valid, regardless of whether someone else has it worse. It’s okay to talk about your struggles and seek support from other fathers or from professional resources.
As your children grow and develop, things will likely get easier. Babies become more independent and start to sleep through the night, and you’ll have more opportunities to connect with your partner and pursue your own interests. It’s okay to be scared and unsure about the future, but try to have faith that things will get better. Your efforts to be a good father will pay off in the long run, and you’ll build strong, loving relationships with your children.
An uphill battle
This is something that I’ve felt at times, particularly in the early months of both my first and second child. It’s tough – you don’t get a minute to yourself and various aspects of your life, such as your social life, sex life, finances, physical and mental health, and career, can suffer.
Did you, like me, think that you could have a child and maintain your previous child-free life at the same time?
You may have arrived on this website after searching for answers because you feel like your life is ruined and don’t know how to move forward. Alternatively, you may have seen this Reddit thread and it resonated with you.
The writer discusses the challenges and feelings of loss they experienced in various areas of their life after becoming a parent. They express uncertainty about whether things will improve and express love for their child, but do not regret having them.
There are plenty of dads who feel the same way, but unfortunately there is still a stigma around men opening up and talking about their feelings. While things are improving, we still have a way to go.
Additionally, many fathers may feel like they have no right to complain because they believe the mothers are going through something harder. This is called Survivor’s guilt – Nancy James Smith says it better in this article.
The writer discusses the idea that people often feel like they can’t complain or express negative emotions because someone else has it worse. They argue that this mentality is not helpful and that it is okay to acknowledge and express one’s own pain and suffering, regardless of whether others may have it worse. The writer also suggests that ignoring or hiding one’s pain can lead to it resurfacing and causing physical and emotional problems in the long run. They encourage people to be open and honest about their emotions and to offer support to others who may be struggling.
Does this sound familiar?
But even though having children does disrupt your life, the rewards in the long run are worth the pain, stress, and frustration.
As Eric Thomas once said, ‘Sacrifice what you are for what you will become.’ This quote captures the essence of parenting in the early days.
It gets better
When I had a newborn, this was a line I didn’t want to hear. But now, as a father with a little more experience, I find myself repeating it to other struggling parents. It may not seem like it, but it’s true: things do get better.
In fact, things got so much better that we decided to have another child!
As your baby gets used to you and communicates their needs more clearly, they’ll cry less and become more manageable.
Eventually, they’ll turn into toddlers who will sleep through the night. Your social life will return as they become more independent and you get more sleep. Intimacy with your partner will also improve.
Contrary to what you may think, babies aren’t as expensive as you might expect and you’ll find that you’re more adaptable than you thought.
I’ll keep this part short, because I know you’re looking for practical, tangible tips. But I just wanted to reassure you that things do get better.”
A test for the soul
Think about being a father as the ultimate test or a video game which is set to the hardest difficultly and you have no option to change it. Just as you get used to the first level, there’s a boss and you are woefully under quipped, after you finally get past the boss, there’s another level and then another boss. It is unrelenting but without enough practices you can learn the ropes and progress.
Oh, and you have to play it while being exhausted 24 hours a day.
What I will say at this point is that for those fathers who find it tough but just keep going there’s an infinite amount of rewards to enjoy in your future – a good relationship with your children and partner and the truth you have done your best.
Unfortunately, some fathers (and mothers too) may find that they simply can’t get over the fact that some aspects are ruined and they either walk away or don’t parent as well as possible, which is a shame.
This I feel is why fathers feel like their life is ruined, because it feels like it will be like this forever, that there’s no light at the end of the tunnel.
Don’t give up or you will miss out on (almost) having the best of both worlds but equally, don’t keep these feelings bottled up – talk to people, open up, journal your thoughts.
Tips on dealing with newborn father frustration
Here are some practical tips from my experience on how to deal with feeling like you’re life’s ruined.
Work your alone time
One of the things I craved the most during the early months of being a father was just some alone time. This was even tougher for my wife. Just sat down, doing nothing. The reality was that before I went to work and immediately after coming home I was in demand. This was hard as I could not switch off between work and fatherhood.
I struggled for a long time before I had a watershed moment and abandoned my idea that I could have it all; I accepted this is not my life now. I sacrificed what I was for what I became.
I made a choice by having this child – not that I was going to be a father, but that I was going to be a good father. Being a good dad is way harder than being a bad one.
I started walking down the path of a stoic without realising it.
My advice for fathers on this is mix them both together. Our babies napped either when they were in a carrier or a pram – I was keen to try both and quickly discovered it worked very well and all of a sudden I got some alone time and some exercise.
Next, I made those alone times count. I planned routes which went past beauty spots, I invested in walking shoes, I got Spotify and I researched and invested heavily in podcasts.
If I had some alone time without the baby I would shower, read, exercise or do some work for myself. I tried to never squander it.
Sure, it’s not the alone time I was hoping for but as soon as I did the best of the situation I was in it became better, and fast.
Fast forward to now with a 1 year old and a 4 year old (at time of writing) I do get a bit more alone time but the biggest different is that I make the alone time count.
Trying to continue a ‘normal’ social life is tough, if not impossible. You are either too tired to do it, or you just don’t want to abandon the other parent to be alone while you have fun triggering massive guilt. Even when presented with the opportunity to go out I would feel too guilty leaving my wife to look after a child while I have fun. I have a strong sense of justice which meant that I just couldn’t have fun.
However, getting a social life and having a child is about patience and team work and the acceptance that it won’t be the same. The expectancy that it might can make it worse.
This is definitely one of the areas that becoming a dad can ruin but what emerges is a new social life, a different one, but one which I think fathers should embrace.
But, it is important to socialise, after all humans are social animals – but what can you do?
I think the best advice is to make sure you are being open with your social circle to begin with, let them know you miss it but you have your duty to your family to consider. In time, you will find out who your true friends are during this time and it can lead to loneliness.
This is tough to deal with which is why being adaptive and open to new social connections is important.
You will often find that socialising with other parents is the most likely occurrence, they have more in common with you now and can share advice and ideas.
Socialising with other parents is perhaps the easiest way to socialise at all, I embraced it – I also got to know the mums that my wife had started to meet up with and before you know it moments of natural flowing discussions popped up from time to time which provided a tangible mental health boost.
In time, with the sleep schedules improving and it being much easier to look after the baby solo for both of you your social calendar really opens up and this period of poor social living really is just a fraction of your life. I would say by about 2 years old you could go out most evenings if you wished – 2 years when you consider how long you will have children for is no time at all.
That being said, I feel like my social circle is now smaller and different, I am surrounded by genuine people who are on the same wavelength. Is it better? No. But is it something that is workable? Yes.
Of all the things that really broke me down during early fatherhood to ruination was a total lack of energy at all times. No rest, no naps, poor sleep and having to go to work and put in a decent shift every day.
I always make a joke that ever since my youngest was born I haven’t set an alarm since. Early wake ups are something to get used to, if you enjoyed a lie in then becoming a dad is going to ruin this.
I worked on adapting to the early rises, I anticipated them as they were a fact. I would go to bed early and I would plan to some extent what I would do in the morning. If the baby had a bad night’s sleep and an early start I would often pack him into a pram and take him for a nap at 5.30am for 1-2 hours before work. Sounds awful when written down but the baby would sleep and I would have a very long walk to look forward to.
That walk would knacker me out but I did get a tremendous boost from the exercise (which was lacking) and I’d catch up on a podcast and get some alone time. This is another example of how becoming a father took something away but I built something in its place.
Next I think is the teamwork aspect, two shattered parents isn’t a good mix but is often inevitable. Work on giving your partner a break when you can, I mentioned earlier than I’d take the baby out in the carrier or pram.
Now I can’t sugar coat this one, I might be in a better place now with experience and the whole fatherhood things being normalised but I am still just as tired as ever but I think I now do things to fuel my body better and handle the exhaustion better.
The life of infinite lie ins, vegging in front of the Playstation is over. But what I have now is more precious and I appreciate it more.
I try and eat well, rest effectively when I can and I go to bed early…and I look at life in a philosophical way with some help from Marcus Aurelius, Seneca and Epictetus. Seriously. I look at how tired I am, feeling like I just can’t go on anymore and wonder if I’ve done my duty as a father that day. If I know I’ve given everything I have then I sleep well that night.
Everything, a horse, a vine, is created for some duty. For what task, then, were you yourself created? A man’s true delight is to do the things he was made for.Marcus Aurelius
Own your duty of being a father and you will find a hidden depth of energy you never knew you had.
Dealing with under appreciation
As a father, I understand the pain of feeling like you’re doing everything you can but it’s not working. Both of my children were exclusively breastfed, which means they relied on breastmilk as their main source of nutrition for the first six months. This meant they naturally preferred their mother, whether they were hungry, upset, or just needed to fall asleep.
Even if they were bottle-fed, young children often favor their mother, which makes sense because they spent 10 months in the womb with her.
I felt like a failure because my child didn’t seem to like me, and I felt like I was letting my wife down by not being able to help more. I really wanted children and loved them, but it felt like my whole world was falling apart because I wasn’t up to the task and they didn’t seem to love me back.
But I learned that affection like that takes time, and babies aren’t capable of it. I would have to earn their love by showing them how much I love them. They don’t understand the concept of a mother and father. It’s not until they’re 3-4 months old that they even begin to recognize a father.
It took a while for me to get over these feelings because the impacts of my efforts weren’t immediately visible. But now, with the benefit of time, I can say that my relationship with my children is amazing, and I believe it’s because I put in the effort from day one.
I know it can be soul-destroying when you try everything you can think of to comfort your child and it doesn’t work. And I know the mother can also get touched out and frustrated with being in constant demand, especially when the father can’t step in as much as she would like.
If you’re feeling this way right now, hang in there. It will get better, and you’ll see the rewards before you know it.
Another aspect that I struggled with was the expectation of constant praise from my wife for doing what I now considered my duty as a father. I found myself helping out just to get some praise, which was self-inflicted pain.
I changed my mindset on this by turning to philosophy. Here’s a quote that might help you:
‘When you have done a good deed that another has had the benefit of, why do you need a third reward—as fools do—praise for having done well or looking for a favor in return?’ – Marcus Aurelius
Intimacy can be very difficult to achieve with a newborn , because they are always around and just needy. This is normal but for parents who enjoy and relish intimacy can really put a spanner in the works. Intimacy does not stop and start with sex, all kinds of intimate moments can be affected such as hugs, cuddles and even just sitting alone talking about your lives.
For some mothers, they may just not feel the same way about sex anymore, or at least for a period of time. Depending on the birth, they may need to heal before they can even contemplate anything and for others they may just not be into it anymore.
This article is for and to the perspective of men. You may crave the intimacy but the mother doesn’t want to for one reason or another. First rule is to accept this boundary and respect it. Labour and giving birth changes people and their needs and wants, intimacy in the way you want it may not be on top of the list.
If you feel your sex life is ruined now because of it then its important to step back from the situation and see this period as a small blip in time – your children are only young and extremely dependant once. It will come back as you get into the hang of parenting and small windows of time pop up with you and the mother of your child.
Communication is key, share your feelings with your partner and seek feedback on their feelings on the matter. You may not be on the same page but you will at least understand each other’s feelings.
Respect boundaries and be intimate at the right time – hugs and cuddles are a form of intimacy. A kiss on the forehead, cheek is another form of intimacy.
If you feel sexually frustrated, masturbate.