It’s good to talk. It’s okay to not be okay. A problem aired is a problem shared. We might know the slogans and utter the maxims, but, sadly, dads still find it hard to open up about their issues.
I know this for two reasons. First, a survey of 1,000 new dads that was commissioned by polling firm Ginger Research on behalf of Ergobaby in April 2019 discovered that 55% of new dads had not talked to anyone about their new baby struggles. (FYI: the same survey revealed that 34% of new dads believed that they had experienced postnatal depression, 24% felt crippled by the pressure to provide for their family and 15% reckoned they were failing their family).
Second, I host and attend workshops for dads. In these safe spaces, conversation always starts slowly. But when the fathers begin to relax and open up about their dad guilt, strained relationships and struggle to find a good work/life balance, the following phrases ring out.
- “Lack of support”
- “No idea who to talk to”
- “Don’t want to make a fuss”
All of which is very sad, but what can you do to get dads talking? Well, it really depends on who you are.
If you are a dad, who is suffering in silence
I would suggest doing one of the following three things.
- Talk to someone you trust. I know it is difficult. And I know you don’t want to be perceived as weak. But, believe me, it’s not weak, they will understand and support you, and it will be a huge weight off your mind.
- Join the Dadsnet Closed Facebook Group – it’s a safe online space where fathers rant, vent, chat and generally help each other out.
- Seek professional help. If you don’t feel comfortable doing either of the above, book an appointment with your GP/family doctor and let loose.
If you are a friend, a wife, a husband, a partner or a colleague, who is worried about a dad
I would suggest attempting to get them to talk by taking them to one side and asking the question: “How are you?” Note: it’s highly likely they won’t open up right away. If that is the case, follow up with something along the lines of: “I only ask as I know how difficult things can be when you have kids. I/my sister/my boss really struggled and found talking helped a lot, so, if you ever do want to chat let me know.”
If you are a company owner or HR manager, who is concerned about dads’ mental health
I would recommend doing the following.
- Make an effort to recognise and engage with the new dads in your workforce. This sounds obvious, but, in my experience, most HR departments can reel off the names of the new mums on the staff, but have little or no idea who the new dads are.
- Create a safe space where the new dads in the office can a) meet each other, b) chat and c) begin to build a community.
Got all that? Great, then let’s get out there and talk dads’ mental health.
Until next time…