Becoming a dad gives you a sense of purpose

Despite the challenges of parenthood, new fathers are taking to their roles with a growing sense of purpose.

Up until now, fatherhood has been somewhat neglected in parental mental health research, but we are starting to learn more about how men adjust to parenthood, and the psychological benefits that can help balance out the tough times.

A new generation of fathers are getting more involved in the care and wellbeing of their children and it’s having a transformative effect. Shortly after the birth of their children, many dads are redefining their priorities, reflecting on what is important to them and what they might pass onto the next generation [1].

A sense of purpose and wellbeing


If, like us, you read a lot about parenting and relationships, then you could be forgiven for thinking that your life as you know it will end the moment you become a parent. And, while that might be partly true, it’s not necessarily going to change for the worse. Though you may need to turn your lives upside down to provide for your child, the change can give you a shared purpose and shared goals to work towards [1].

Much of the research into parenting and relationships has focused on the risks and challenges, but researchers are beginning to shine a light on the other side of the coin and they’ve noticed that parents, particularly dads, are experiencing an increased sense of purpose in life [1].

Becoming a father can be a time of personal growth – if you’re already a dad, you may be familiar with this. Mothers often start to feel these changes during pregnancy, but fathers are more likely to experience them after the birth, when the child becomes a tangible presence in their lives.

As you work to deal with the challenges of raising your child, you may start to become more aware of what you’re capable of, and even reassess your sense of who you are. Previous research suggests that men can also experience an increase in life satisfaction, happiness, and pride when they become fathers. These changes can be more significant for dads than they are for mums [1].

Involved fatherhood


For your relationship to stand the best chance of staying strong, you and your partner both need to feel that things are working fairly. According to a number of studies, women still do the majority of childcare and housework even when they also work outside of the home [2]. 

As the dad, you can lead this change by making sure you are pulling your weight when it comes to childcare and housework. You may already be on top of this but it’s worth repeating: fathers’ contributions to the household are the most important factor when it comes to relationship satisfaction for new parents [2].

Even if you are the parent who goes back to work, you can still focus your emotional attention on your home life. Stay tuned in to your partner’s feelings and try to anticipate the needs of the family and the household – arrange video calls on your lunch break, text to see if you can pick anything up on the way home, and don’t assume that your partner has had it easy at home with the baby.

Your role is as varied as it is important, so step up, be bold, and don’t be afraid to take the lead sometimes. Ask your partner to trust you with the baby, and remind each other that if you don’t make mistakes, you can’t learn from them.

For your parenting relationship to keep working as a couple relationship, it’s important that you both feel things are fair. This means that you both do your bit, but also that you value and respect each other’s contributions both in and out of the home.

Communication is crucial to making this a success. You’re both going to be busy, stressed and tired, so try not to take each other for granted. Talk about who is going to do what, and keep checking in to make sure things are still fair. As your family’s needs change, you will need to keep redrawing the lines but, with a little flexibility, you can be part of a generation of men who are embracing the joys of fatherhood in a new way.

References


[1] Brandel, M., Melchiorri, E., & Ruini, C. (2018). The Dynamics of Eudaimonic Well-Being in the Transition to Parenthood: Differences Between Fathers and Mothers. Journal of Family Issues, 39(9), 2572–2589. https://doi.org/10.1177/0192513X18758344

[2] Matta, D. S., & Knudson‐Martin, C. (2006). Father Responsivity: Couple Processes and the Coconstruction of Fatherhood. Family Process, 45(1), 19–37. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1545-5300.2006.00078.x

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