Sometimes it’s harder for them: like when they’re rushed back to work mere weeks after a newborn bursts abruptly into their life. (Not always the case, but it’s usually the dad returning to work.)
Sometimes they seem to have it easier: like when they can spend half an hour in the toilet and no one needs them. (What’s that about?)
But this is not a discussion about who has it harder – it’s simply a nod of acknowledgment:
Dads, we see what you’ve sacrificed.
Common dad sacrifices
- Sleep – This may be a contentious topic, but men do lose some sleep because of kids. One study suggests that they get less sleep than we give them credit for.
- Hobbies and interests – It’s not so easy to run down to the beach for a surf, or to play video games until 3am as a parent. Just like moms, dads can experience a significant shift of identity when they can’t do the things they used to love doing.
- Control – Things rarely go to plan when kids are involved. A leisurely grocery trip can turn into an emergency car boot diaper change. A planned barbecue lunch can turn into two hours parked in the driveway scrolling social media while the baby naps. Dads need to learn to let go, and glow with the flow. And that’s not easy. Sometimes it’s infuriating.
- Mental health – The never ending stress of looking after a small human can leave dads feeling overwhelmed, burnt out, trapped and isolated. 1 in 10 experience depression in their baby’s first year of life, and it often goes undetected.
- Friendships – It can be tough to find people in the same stage of life. Friendships are weird for moms, but perhaps even more so for dads. Their gaming pals don’t get why they’re never online anymore. Their workmates never see them at Friday drinks. They spend Saturday morning at the playground, rather than nursing a strong long black, a hangover and reflections of a good night out. It’s a pretty big adjustment. And I have no idea how dads meet other dads with shared interests?!
- Sex – It’s not that you never have sex again after having a baby (people have multiple children, after all – there’s your evidence). But it’s often different. And less frequent.
For all these sacrifices (and many more), dads are amazing.
But one sacrifice tops them all
I’m all for women returning to work first, dads being primary carers, or even sharing the load equally. But the stats clearly show that men are more likely than women to work full-time after having a baby. And so soon after, too.
While paternity leave entitlements differ around the world, many countries offer two weeks or less of paternity leave (none at all in the US!). I imagine it’s not simple for a new dad to tear himself away from his beautiful newborn so early on.
While yes, on the one hand he can engage in stimulating adult conversation, use his brain, generate income, have time to himself (the luxury of a commute), go to the toilet or have coffee whenever he wants etc… he misses out on so much more.
That first smile.
The first giggle. (And all subsequent giggles. We live for giggles!)
The early morning cuddles.
The sweet baby smell.
The moments – oh those moments – that you wouldn’t trade for the world.
It’s so easy to forget – when we spend most of the day covered in poop, vomit, tears and other bodily fluids, surrounded by laundry and diapers and purees – just how lucky we are to experience these moments. There are so, so many dark, awful, hard moments that moms have to make it through too. And maybe some days we’d like to trade it all for half an hour sitting (sitting!) at a desk.
But those special moments are ours. The good times. The hard times. And a whole lot of what Jerry Seinfeld calls ‘garbage time’ – the everyday, mundane nothingness of life, which honestly can be just as beautiful in the grand scheme of things.
While we may feel jealous of the dads who shoot out the door to work each day, remember the sacrifice they’re making. What they’re missing out on. And what we’re gifted with as a result.
If you’re a full-time working mom, you may be sacrificing this too. And you’re amazing for doing so! Because your baby needs you exactly where you’re at to be the best mom you can be.