The transition into fatherhood is huge.
When I went through it I noticed a distinct lack of support for dads with depth. Below is an incomplete list of insights that I consider to be vital if we're wanting to make this transition confidently and competently.
#1 Connect with other like minded fathers
If you do nothing else, do this. This is the single biggest reason a lot of men struggle with this life transition; it’s not meant to be done in isolation. There will be challenges, there will be times you want to throw your hands in the air, there will be times where you don’t feel appreciated, there will be times you’re feeling confused, and the best antidote when these challenges arise is to have a group of men to be able to say “yep, I know how you feel. It’s normal and it will pass”.
Of course there is also the benefit in having men a few steps ahead of you on the journey being able to share insights and some guidance, but the MOST important thing is having a space outside of your relationship that you can show up authentically and share what’s really going on for you.
If you don’t have this in your life, prioritise finding it. Create it if you need to –online or in person, or both. Make it happen. Your family will thank you for it.
#2 Embrace the changes
It sounds obvious but I find it fascinating how much suffering comes from our resistance to change. This is the biggest rite of passage we will ever go through. SO much changes. Understandably, we try to control as much as we can because that often brings with it a sense of safety/security. The process of birth and becoming a parent is the ultimate invitation to flex our ability to embrace change.
Our partner changes on all levels: physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually & sexually. She will not be the same woman as a mother and as a result our relationship won’t be the same. Create the space for things to evolve and as much as you can, notice when you are expecting/wanting things to “be like they were”. A powerful question you can ask throughout the journey when tension arises is “what’s trying to emerge here?”
#3 Communicate openly with your partner
Becoming parents puts tension on relationships. Straight up. The Gottman Institute found that ⅔ couples report a significant decline in relationship satisfaction. The only way through is with open communication, healthy approaches to conflict resolution and fostering the culture of teamwork in the house. Communication and conflict resolution is a skill. It doesn’t just “happen”. Seek support in cultivating more of this skill in your relationship, whether it’s through counselling coaching or taking a course together - get support! We can’t and aren’t supposed to be able to navigate this stuff on our own.
#4 Start to get support unpacking your “stuff”
Ask any parent and they will tell you that kids, followed closely by their partners, trigger them more than anything. We’ve all got our “stuff” and if we’re not willing to look at it and work through it then it will impact our ability to show up as a present father. The greatest gift we can give our kids is the willingness to look at the parts of our conditioning that don’t serve us and work through it so we don’t just unconsciously pass it on to them. Find a skilled therapist or coach and get to work.
#5 Make sure you continue to fill your cup
The temptation will be to sacrifice all your needs to meet the needs of partner and child(ren). This is an admirable quality but it’s a flawed strategy. It may work in the short term but in the long term it will lead to burn out and resentment, which aren’t beneficial for your family at all. Even if it’s just in small ways, make sure you are prioritising filling your cup on a weekly basis to some degree.
For more insights and support check out the Thriving in Fatherhood Podcast and the Thriving in Fatherhood community.