Myths vs realities of becoming a dad

There are a number of misconceptions about becoming a dad. Many people still expect dads to be the unemotional rock – someone who can be relied on to deal with issues as they arise and not be vulnerable to confusion, hurt and lack of confidence. Importantly, we know that many new dads come to parenting with certain expectations of themselves as fathers, and how they will cope with being a father. The reality is often quite different. And sometimes the shock of expectations not being met, and adjusting to the new reality, can contribute to postnatal anxiety or depression.  

Common myths of becoming a father

  • Fathers aren’t needed while babies are newborn.
  • Fathers play a secondary role to mothers in the raising of young children.
  • A father’s primary role in the family unit is to be the main financial breadwinner.  
  • Fathers are strong, robust and can fix anything. They do not have any emotional needs.
  • Fathers are less nurturing, gentle and protective of their children than mothers.
  • A man’s life doesn’t greatly change when he becomes a father.
  • All men prefer to be at work than stay at home to look after their children. A man who prioritises fatherhood is not a ‘real’ man.
  • A man is destined to be the same kind of father as his own dad was.  
  • Men can’t get perinatal anxiety or depression.
Our lives had changed so significantly – we felt like hostages to our children and their needs.

Realities of becoming a father

  • Having a baby brings many challenges, even to men. It can take some time to adjust.
  • Fathers play a crucial role in the early days of parenting, and not just in fixing things. They can also support their partner and contribute to the baby’s wellbeing by being involved in the day-to-day care of the baby.
  • A man’s life changes when he becomes a dad: it can be stressful, challenging but also wonderful.
  • Men aren’t always able to fix every problem. Many challenges that occur during early parenthood are complex and require discussion, consultation or reaching out to others for advice or help.
  • It can take many weeks for a new father to bond with his baby.
  • Some men feel torn between having to be at work and being able to support their partner and care for their new baby.
  • New dads can feel just as confused, anxious or lonely as new mums.
  • Sometimes a chat or a beer with mates isn’t sufficient to address complex problems: sometimes a new dad needs to reach out to professionals for help.
  • Men can develop perinatal anxiety and depression.