Men like us live in a fast-paced world with plenty to do and never enough time to do it. We know who we are, what we like to do, and when we like to do it. We handle the “man chores,” and we think we have everything figured out. Then we are talked into having a baby and all those things we thought were important or liked to do… well, they get pushed aside pretty quick. Many times it seems us dads have this fantasy of fatherhood that mirrors the fun, easygoing, catch-playing dad that we have grown accustomed to watching on TV sitcoms. Then the reality of a hysterical, screaming, unreasonably beautiful baby hits, and stress tags along for the ride.
Stress is defined as “a state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or very demanding circumstances.” Read that again and you realize that it seems to define life as a new parent as well. The video below pretty much sums it up.
Soothing music and beautiful scenery, with a little dash of parenthood is enough to freak out any of us guys. Welcome to being a father!
It’s possible, pre-baby, that you lived a relatively stress-free life. A life with a Bob Marley soundtrack, when Saturday mornings were reserved for surfing. When you swore you’d never let things get you down, even when your own child arrived. Good for you, and good luck.
Perhaps you have always preferred to exist a state of stress, telling yourself that you thrive in a stressful environment. That sounds fun. Fatherhood is going to be a blast for you!
Why does this matter? Stress is going to rear its head when you have kids. It is a part of fatherhood, so dads need to deal with it like real men do. It turns out that how you mange all that stress is important. Don’t just wing this one.
“If you model good stress management they [your kids] learn from that,” says Dr. Andrew Garner, member of the American Academy of Pediatrics’, in the article Does Parent Stress Affect Baby?. “They also learn from maladaptive stress management, like yelling, adopting unhealthy lifestyles, and becoming isolated or withdrawn.”
Constant stress and bad stress management can also be bad for the health of you and your spouse. According to the Miller Family Heart & Vascular Institute, “In times of stress, people often turn to harmful habits to reduce their stress, such as cigarette smoking, overeating, use of drugs or over-use of alcohol. All of these factors put you at additional risk for heart disease and stroke.”
How can Dads get ahead of the inevitable stress coming your way once the baby has arrived? Start with practicing good stress management techniques.
Neither you nor your spouse are a mind reader. Let each other know what you have going on in your life. Don’t surprise them with events at the last minute and don’t be afraid to share your feelings when it’s safe to do so. Keeping things bottled up inside is bad for everybody. Getting problems out in the open, talking about them, and solving them is one of the best ways to reducing stress in your household.
Life can get so busy that it gets out of hand especially with the randomness that comes along with a baby. Make a list of things that need to get done and knock them out. Don’t worry about the small stuff. Think about all the “shoulds,” “woulds, “coulds,” and “musts” in your life. Focus on what’s most important. Keep your baby fed, wife happy, and make some time for you to blow off some steam at some point during the week.
If you can squeeze it in between the sleeping schedule and work, physical activity of any kind is a good way to relieve stress. “Going into the gym and putting myself through a hard workout makes me feel so much better after a hard day of work and getting screamed at by a baby,” said fellow Dadventurer Thomas Lee (father to 11 month old Kate). If you need the escape but can’t escape the baby, bundle them up for a walk around the block in the stroller or baby carrier. It may even pay off with an extra nap for baby, and who doesn’t love one of those!
Eat Right and Get Enough Sleep.
Stress and diet are closely linked. You know what foods you should eat. The key is eating them and not settling for unhealthy or fast foods. A treat now and then is okay, but your priority should be for you and your spouse to eat healthy every day. (Drink water too!)
Get at least six to eight hours sleep a night. Take naps during the day if you can’t get enough sleep. Even “power naps”—15 to 30 minutes of rest where you close your eyes—help reduce stress.
Roll With It
A lot of things that you don’t plan for our going to happen. “It seems like kids know exactly the worse time to throw up, have an accident, or injure themselves,” said another Dadventurer Leif Detleifsen (father to Jake, 7 and Andy, 5). Try to understand that these things are just going to happen and leave some wiggle room in your schedule for events just like these.
There are plenty of other techniques to keep you and your spouse sane. Share your Dadventure tips and relax cause it’s going to be like this for the rest of your life.