Fatherhood is an amazing thing. Seeing your children grow up, learn things, achieve and develop into their personality is the best feeling in the world. But as with most things in life, great things don’t come without hard work and challenges. Fatherhood most definitely comes with it’s challenges. We asked dads about the challenges of fatherhood and how they overcome them. This is what they said.
1. Discipline; and getting it right with tough love
Most of us that grew up with our dads (especially the African and Caribbean folks reading this) probably grew up which quite strict fathers, that was the old school way! And there are definitely some positives to the strict, tough love approach. But I think as we have evolve and learn, we have realised that actually, we need to adopt different approaches at different times. And here lies the issue. Striking that right balance between being a supportive and and encouraging ear and plain old tough love is a difficult one, especially as our sons and daughters grow up and become more independent (read disobedient lol).
How can we overcome this challenge? It’s a hard one as ultimately, it’s all trial and error. The main outcome from our #DaddyDebates discussions was to try and think about the final result you are aiming for and what approach is most likely to achieve it, rather than reaching for the same default approach every time.
2. Bonding; and finding your role in the early days
This is a biggie and something we have spoken about quite a lot on MFF. As a new dad it can be quite hard to find your place and your role, especially if there are mother-in-laws and grandparents around looking after the baby in the early stages. For me personally, our daughter had some health complications when she was born so we were in hospital for 10 days after the birth and although it was obviously difficult at the time, the intensity of all three of us living in the same room allowed me to bond with my baby in a way that wouldn’t have been possible at home. But I do know that this is a very real issue. Dads can be alienated in the early stages as the baby clings to their mother (especially if the mum is breast feeding!) and then dad goes back to work after paternity leave. So a divide can form with dad on one side and mother and baby on the other.
So how can this be overcome? I think it’s about getting stuck in from the get go. Us dads need to be involved in every aspect of parenting from the beginning and it’s even better if there are some things that we do every day with baby. Whether that be bathing, feeding or just having some alone time after work. If you’re a new dad then get comfortable as early as possible with looking after your baby on your own. Take baby out or even better, encourage mummy to go out. This will build your confidence, allow you to bond with baby and figure out what they do and don’t like!
3. Tiredness; and dealing with the relentless nature of parenting
Parenting can be relentless. Especially in the first 6 or so months when you’re pretty much on a cycle of feeding and nappy changing alllll day and alllll night lol. I remember when I was told at an ante-natal class that newborn babies need feeding every 2-3 hours around the clock! At first I didn’t really acknowledge what that meant in practical terms but once baby was born it hit me. For me, i ran on adrenaline for the first 5 months and actually found the whole thing quite easy. But then the adrenaline ran out and from 5-8 months I was knackered! Like absolutely shattered both mentally and physically. And it was really difficult trying to function at work while looking after responsibilities at home. Pretty much everyone that has a baby goes through this at some point and I’m sure everyone will agree that it’s a challenge.
So how can we deal with the tiredness?! Well, firstly you can read our blog post entitled, ‘When you’re f**king tired, let’d talk about sleep’ here. And to take a quote from that piece: “Overall my advice would be to keep calm and stay positive. Babies do learn to sleep better, this is just a phase and it will pass. The irony is that one day they will be teenagers and you’ll be struggling to wake them up rather than getting them to sleep! The most important thing is that you and your partner support each other and do all you can to make sure you are both getting as much sleep and help as you need when you need it.”
4. Managing conflict; and integrating different cultures
Now, in 2017 mixed relationships are the norm. We have so many mixed couples and mixed race children in society now and it’s a truly beautiful thing. As we evolve as a society and mixed relationships become the norm, it brings up a whole new host of issues to work through as our parenting is guided by our own upbringing, culture and background. But what do we do when our partners upbringing, culture and background is different?
Parenting can be tough enough when the two parents agree on fundamental parenting decisions, let alone when different cultures mean you have different beliefs. These differences if opinion can range from the food you feed your chold, the name you choose for the to even more serious things like religion.
I think in these circumstances, when you have different expectations, the need to communicate and compromise is more important than ever. Discussing and deciding on parenting approaches in private then presenting a united front to your children is the key. Respecting each others views and being considerate to each others wants and expectations #MajorKey
5. Work Life balance; and finding the time to balance all our responsibilities
I personally had this fear even before I found out my wife was pregnant. I was used to having a ‘man cave’ which was my own little music studio. I would go to going to work, come home and make music for a few hours. I also saw my friends when ever I wanted to and worked late if I needed too. I knew my life would have change once my daughter was born, the first thing to go would be the man cave!
And nearly 2 years later, I can honestly say that my life has most definitely changed! But I can still do some of the things I used to do, I just have to do them in a different way. I wrote all about work-life balance in this piece ‘Can fathers have it all? 6 tips to being an involved parent while perusing your dreams’.
Written by Elliott