Whether you’re a first time dad or preparing for your second or third child, being a father can bring a whole range of emotions and experiences. It can be both exciting and daunting.
This new role is a major transition, so it is important to understand what you may need to adjust to when welcoming the new addition to your life.
Unfortunately, there is no handbook or manual when you become a parent! Being a parent can be one of the toughest yet most wonderful experiences, but everyone will find some aspects of the adjustment more challenging than others.
The important thing to recognise is that in order to be available both physically and emotionally to look after your child, you need to look after and be kind to yourself.
Raphael Services Victoria West Manager, Danny Stone, says these simple tips can help you find the right balance and stay emotionally well.
You can’t be the best parent if you can’t be the best for yourself
"Being effective and making right choices for yourself will go a long way in raising a happy and healthy baby. Babies are born needing guidance and support in lots of ways. You have the best chance of making them the best version of themselves if you are doing it for yourself too. Monkey see, monkey do."
Be willing to learn and understand your role as a parent and your relationship with your child
"It is unrealistic and unhealthy to think you know it all as a parent. The journey of being a parent is lifelong. Try to make the commitment to yourself to learn something about you as a parent and your relationship with your child each day (even take a daily selfie with your child so you can remember). Look back on what you have learnt about yourself and your child and be proud for where you have come to in understanding your role as a parent. Balancing expectations with reality is the key."
"We are creatures of habit. While we are taught about the importance to keep routines for our new bundles of joy, we as adults need them too to ensure predictability and structure."
"Of course you probably won’t get the hours of sleep that you may be used to, but make sure you can get to sleep while your little one is snoozing. This may mean you have to avoid coffee, alcohol and electronic devices before bed, or do some more exercise and establish a bedtime routine so you are tired when you lie down."
Take the time to be mindful
"Ask yourself: “Where am I?” with “right here right now."
"No, you don’t have to commit to yoga and pilates, but take the time to reduce stress by taking some deep abdominal breathes to slow the heart rate, reduce stress hormones and calm the mind. You can do it at almost any moment. While doing this take notice of what is around you. Take the time to remind yourself of things that are good in your life and bring you joy."
"Protect 10-15 minutes a day to go for a walk or 20 minutes to go for a run. You can take the baby in the pram or just go it alone.
"Staying physically well does wonders for your emotional wellbeing and if you pair this with healthy eating, it goes a long way to being the best version of yourself!"
Don’t try to do it all
"While you will soon be a hero in the eyes of your children, you don’t have to try to tackle your to-do list all at once. Pace yourself, you have your whole life to achieve the things you set out for you and your child.
"You won’t be able to solve every problem by yourself, share the load with your partner and don’t be afraid to ask your mates or family for help. Whether that is asking your mum to make her famous lasagne or your mate to come over and help finish off that reno job. We need our mates and supports to get around us and help us out."
Do what you’re made to do best
"What your child wants most from you is to connect with them. For some, this might be easier than others, but we all have the capacity to do this. Connecting with your child can be supported through setting and spending regular time to be together, playing, reading or talking to them, and with newborns engaging in skin-to-skin contact. You could also observe or ask other dads how they spend time with their child."
Ask for help
"Sometimes problems can’t be solved overnight and you need some expert help. If you have concerns about your or your partner’s emotional wellbeing, call in the experts. See you GP and seek the support you need. We all have moments where we don’t feel the best, it’s part of being human. It is recognising when these moments become drawn out over weeks and you are not doing things that you used to because of how you’re feeling that it becomes an issue for you and your child."