Being a new father can be an excruciatingly lonely place. You are no longer the most important person in your partner’s life, you don’t have the bond your partner shares with your new baby, you’re struggling to understand your place in everything.
So what do you do? You pull on your spandex and don your cape, strap on your utility belt, swoop in, fists firmly placed on your hips, puffing out your chest and say, “Have no fear, Super Dad is here!”
Yes, you try to take on the role of the hero.
That’s stupid. Don’t do that.
I said to Emma in the early weeks of our son’s life, “I will run myself into the ground for you both.”
That’s stupid. Don’t do that.
For the weeks and weeks after that, I did. I was the hero. I did everything I could to make life as a new mum as easy as possible for Emma. I did, eventually, run myself into the ground, as promised. And I couldn’t be the hero anymore. I passed the point of being able to provide the support my wife and baby needed. I was too tired.
I was the hero they deserved, but not the hero they needed.
It also meant I lost my identity as the hero. I was back where I began, not knowing my place in this new life, but in a worse state mentally and physically.
The point is, sacrificing yourself, whether you’re a mother or a father, is counter-productive. You need to take care of yourself in order to take care of your baby.
You need to make time for yourself to rest, to relax, and to recover. I know time is often hard to come by as a new parent. But you can find it. Whether it’s while your baby is sleeping during the day, or you need your partner to look after the baby while you take some time for yourself. Mine is when everyone else has gone to bed. Raife goes down between 7:30 and 8pm. Emma and I try to use the next hour or so for us – we are still husband and wife, after all! And the hour after Emma goes to bed is my time for me. It’s usually when I’ll write my blogs, watch something on Netflix, watch football, play on the PlayStation, or read.
What you do doesn’t really matter, as long as it’s something you enjoy. I’ll quite often look after Raife when I get home from work so that Emma can go and have a bath, something to relax her body and her mind. She’ll also use some time for herself to write her blogs or watch some YouTube. Sometimes she’ll use that bit of time to just go and have a lie down. It just doesn’t matter what you do, as long as it’s something for you. Even if it’s something more physically strenuous like going for a run or going to the gym, it may be a bit more tiring on the body, but the fact that it’s time for yourself will help to relax and recover your mind. That makes a big difference.
Let’s face it, you’re not going to be ‘well rested’ with plenty of sleep behind you. We’ve come to the conclusion that whatever type of night Raife has, we’re tired. We’re just tired. No ‘he had a really good night last night, I’m feeling good and energised’. Just a scale from ‘tired’ to ‘exhausted’.
Taking the time for yourself does mean you’re more relaxed physically and mentally, though. And it leaves you in a better state to give your partner and your baby the care and support they need. It helps you to be the hero they deserve AND the one they need right now.
I want to sign off this blog with a phrase I read in a post by a fellow blogger, Isablog, which read: “self-care isn’t selfish”.