Another Father’s day is here and for us, it’s the third one as a family. Wow, really?
This occasion (as well as many others) made me think about dads’ roles in the world of parenting.
Can’t help thinking as though dad’s role as such was often somewhat forgotten about… And what is even worse – as though it was normal this way! As if it was a mother alone who deserves all the credit.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I am not taking anything away from strong mothers who also work or mothers who have an extremely difficult job of parenting roles (Absolutely amazing by the way! Never forget that).
I am also not some kind of supernatural species, or that ‘woman of every man’s dreams’ waiting for my husband every day with a smile on my face and warm dinner on a table, handing him a remote and letting him chill for an hour in front of the TV. In silence, without me talking to him – of course.
I too go crazy when he dares to say he needs to sit down after he gets home. (although he hasn’t mentioned it for a while now. Wonder why! ). Or – and this one is especially irritating as I am probably expected to be thankful for it – when he gets home and the first thing he does is start washing the dishes!
But despite all this, I know and am fully aware that it is not easy for him either.
That said, let’s try to put ourselves in our partner’s shoes for a while.
They go to work every day to help provide for the family. In a number of cases, they are the only ones bringing finance to the household which puts huge pressure on them. They know that if anything happens to them, it would put their whole family in an extremely distressing position.
If your world is both of you raising your children, then remember we do not lose by giving/acknowledging what fathers do.
They go to work every day and often come back home to the madness and a stressed wife. Often they don’t get any break until the kids are sound asleep, which – let’s be honest – can take a while to happen.
I am sure you will agree that this is not easy nor stressfree at all.
As much as I find motherhood role extremely challenging at times, I think we should give much more credit to fathers, especially to those who despite our ‘not always the most pleasant mood’ always keep supporting and helping us to make both our lives easier. Which is what we both need as a unit to meet the challenges of parenting.
Of course, there are fathers who don’t feel the need to be involved in parenting at all or not the same extent as others, but that’s a whole different story and this post is dedicated to those who do.
I often hear people compare father’s and mother’s roles, but I believe there’s no point trying to work out whose role is generally harder or easier. Neither of us has it easy, we both have challenges to deal with.
It’s definitely not right to think that fathers should not be involved in parenting duties, but at the same time, it is not right to think fathers have it easy and doesn’t go through any stress.
Fathers are equal parents and shouldn’t be treated like parenting invalids or like secondary figures in their kids’ lives. We need to show them they too have a place in the world of parenting.
Parenthood is hard for mothers and fathers, but once we recognize that we’re in it together, only then can we start building the right parenting model for our children.
So here’s to all dads out there – we may don’t show it often, which is, to our defense, mainly caused by the lack of time or total absence of any energy, but please know that you are amazing and that we do appreciate your support much more than you ever know and that it means the world to us. Without you, things would be wat much harder and difficult. You no doubt make our lives way much easier and we honestly couldn’t wish for better dads for our children.
With Father’s day coming up, I want to point out to the subject of fathers and postnatal depression as I feel it is despite its significance often overlooked or even ignored.
Postpartum depression has typically been perceived as a problem limited to women with newborn babies and has not included men.
However, we cannot forget that fathers also experience significant changes with the arrival of their child. Fathers also have to adjust to an array of new and demanding roles and tasks during the early stages of parenthood.
I often talk about postnatal depression, but I have realised I have never written about what postnatal depression actually is.
Personally, I am familiar with everything that relates to postnatal depression, but I am aware that this is not the case for everyone. There are plenty of people who still have no clue what it actually is, or even perceive it as some kind of a whim on the part of the sufferer.
So let me do something about it…
What is Postnatal Depression (PND)?
I believe there are two different ways of defining PND, a professional and a personal definition.
According to NHS, “postnatal depression is a type of depression that many parents experience after having a baby. It’s a common problem that affects more than 1 in every 10 women within a year of giving birth.” (please note that this goes for the cases that have been reported but there still are many of them who weren’t).
PND can also affect fathers and partners.
Symptoms of postnatal depression
Many women feel a bit down, tearful or anxious in the first week after giving birth. This is often called the “baby blues” and is very common. The “baby blues” don’t last for more than 2 weeks after giving birth.
If your symptoms last longer or start later, you could have postnatal depression. Postnatal depression can start anytime in the first year after giving birth.
NHS also mentions signs that you or someone you know might be depressed include:
a persistent feeling of sadness and low mood
lack of enjoyment and loss of interest in the wider world
lack of energy and feeling tired all the time
trouble sleeping at night and feeling sleepy during the day
difficulty bonding with your baby
withdrawing from contact with other people
problems concentrating and making decisions
frightening thoughts – for example, about hurting your baby
This definition pretty much sums up what happens with a person who suffers from postnatal depression.
In regards to my own definition based on personal experience, I would say that postnatal depression is an illness that can totally take over your brain and often over your life.
It is the darkest place your soul can get to and the hardest place to come back from.
You cannot control your thoughts or deeds. As though your thoughts belong to someone else. You don’t see any point in anything. You don’t understand people who laugh and enjoy life. All you feel is an intense emptiness. As if someone sucked all the life out of you. You are just a body without a soul. All you want to do is cry. You see no point in living.
You are not yourself anymore…
The worst thing, you have no control over these feelings and thoughts. However hard you want them to stop, you are not able to.
This is what makes postnatal depression an illness.
Trying to dismiss depressive feelings is like trying to dismiss the natural urge to breathe.
When depressed, you simply can’t voluntarily change the way you feel.
That’s why it’s crucial to seek professional help.
Causes of postnatal depression
The cause of postnatal depression isn’t completely clear. Some of the factors it has been associated with include:
previous experience of mental health problems
lack of support
difficult childhood experiences
experience of abuse
stressful living conditions
major life events
However, even if you don’t have any of these symptoms, having a baby is a life-changing event that can sometimes trigger depression.
Your life drastically changes from one day to another and it takes time to adapt to this new situation. Not to mention how stressful and exhausting looking after a small baby can be and the outside pressure new mothers are exposed to.
All this in a combination of sleep deprivation can easily cause for the parents to feel down, or depressed.
It’s also very important to know that postnatal depression can start anytime during the first year after having a baby.
Treatments for postnatal depression
First and foremost, you need to TALK.
It can be challenging to talk to a professional as a first choice, so you can start with someone you trust. Whether it’s your partner, friend, parent, sister, brother, grandparent… Talk to them about how you feel.
It might seem like a minor thing to do, but as a new mother, you need to give yourself time to adapt to the new situation. Your life changes from one day to another but you cannot also process all these changes from one day to another.
It takes time during which you need to make your life as easy as possible.
And you need to talk!
Talking will help you to process your emotions and open a space for new emotions to come in.
Not to mention that it can also give you the confidence to seek professional help. And this is crucial, especially when suffering from severe depression when you even have to force yourself to get out of bed.
Professional support and effective treatments include:
Psychological treatments (also known as talking therapies) can help you change your thinking patterns and improve your coping skills so you’re better equipped to deal with life’s stresses and conflicts. As well as supporting your recovery, psychological therapies can also help you stay well by identifying and changing unhelpful thoughts and behaviour.
There are many different talking treatments that can be effective in treating depression:
cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT)
interpersonal therapy (IPT)
behavioural couples therapy – if you have a long-term partner, and your doctor agrees that it would be useful to involve them in your treatment.
Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT)
These may be recommended if your depression is more severe or other treatments haven’t helped; your doctor can prescribe medicine, often along with psychological treatments.
There’s a lot of misinformation about antidepressant medication. It can be very useful in the treatment of moderate to severe depression.
Other sources of support
Exercise has been shown to help boost mood in people with mild depression. Even a 10 minute walk every day can make wonders in the way you feel.
Eating well when experiencing postnatal depression can be a tough call but it is one of the best things that you can do for yourself and your recovery.
Make time for yourself
Try to do activities that you find relaxing and enjoyable. Ideally, the things you enjoyed doing before you became a parent.
There are several Facebook groups for postnatal depression and anxiety. These groups are closed so their content is confidential and is visible to the members of the group only.
Of course, you can find other online forums outside Facebook too.
I had an entry into the 2006 London marathon but unfortunately suffered an injury so had to defer. I then realised that if I moved quickly there was a chance I could become pregnant with my second child and still be able to run in the 2007 marathon and not lose my deferred place.
I was incredibly fortunate that with both pregnancies I didn’t suffer with morning sickness or any pains. I managed to keep running through both pregnancies. With the second one, I managed a gentle 5 mile run in some light snow in the morning and then went into labour that evening.
Unfortunately, my daughter (like my son) has to be extracted immediately due to the monitors showing they were in distress so I had to have emergency sections for both.
Do you feel overwhelmed by your thoughts and/or feelings?
I believe it won’t be anything new for you when I advise you to talk about it. Especially when these thoughts/feelings can significantly impact your mental health. Especially when you are a new mum dealing with feelings of sadness, failure, overwhelm, loneliness, isolation… Talking is undoubtedly the best thing you can do.
The reason is simple. Talking can literally save you.
With the Mother’s day approaching, I cannot help thinking back to my first Mother’s day as a mum.
Our boys were about 11 months and I had just started to get back on track after a devastating experience of postnatal depression.
I remember being really excited about having to experience my first Mother’s day as a mum, however, the real experience wasn’t (as a lot of my other first experiences with motherhood) as special as I imagined it to be.
If you read my story, you know it took me a few months to develop a real bond with my children. My first year as a mother was the hardest year of my life and I cannot even start to explain how it feels when you are expected to be happy when all you want is to cry and turn back time.
I’ve been through a lot during my life. My childhood was tough, my parents got divorced when I was only five, I went through some bad relationships and through a divorce. I suffered major depression and anxiety (which still lasts), I lost a baby…
And yet, when I talk to other people and listen to their stories, it feels like mine is not very unique.
Do you know what I mean?
Every person on this planet has their story. And no one has a purely easy life.
If you are an expecting first-time mum, the contents of this post will probably take you by surprise (perhaps even shock you), but please bear in mind that the last thing I want to do is to freak you out.
All I want is to get you more prepared for what is to come.
Why would I want that?
Tell the truth, if you are more prepared, the less shocked you are when the time comes. And the less shocked you are, the better chance you have to avoid postnatal mental issues and other problems many first-time mums experience.
For, believe me, in most cases the reason for new mums suffering from postnatal mental problems is unrealistic expectations of motherhood and a shock that comes with the arrival of a baby.