From the UK: We have a new son, now 9 months who is lovely. Most of the time I am absolutely fine. But regularly I feel depressed, I comfort eat, I feel that I am being a terrible father, I feel that I am not supporting my family correctly and feel extremely guilty for having these feelings. I am finding it very difficult to enjoy any element of my life. One of the most upsetting elements is the strain having our baby has put on my wife and my relationship. I also am becoming angry far quicker than I ever have. I guess I am really after a little advice for coping. Many thanks.
New Baby, Depression and Anger
Thank you for your email. Research has shown at birth of a child has a very strong impact on the relationship satisfaction levels for a couple. It does tend to go down-for good reason. For women there is often a biochemical readjustment and postpartum reaction usually involving depression. For men the additional pressures of finances, and feeling the burden of being provider, chronic sleep loss and worries about the future begin to take their toll.
There is also a shift from being couple centric too baby centric. Almost always this results in a loss of intimacy and wariness to the adjustment of a new schedule.
In other words many of your feelings a perfectly normal.
For you self-care is at the very top of the list. If you’re not exercising or doing
some form of meditation these are two very important ways to help yourself on a day-to-day basis. Even if you can only devote small bits of time these are two activities that have known positive effects on well-being. If you are doing these trying to increase the amount of time you to go to them will also help.
Secondly, invest time in rekindling your relationship with your wife. What she’s needed from you in the past has changed radically. Offer a back rub or a foot massage, and be sure to take your turns holding your son and making sure mom gets a break. Believe it or not — studies have actually shown that is a direct correlation between the number of diapers a father changes and the quality of marital relations after baby is born. If I were you I’d put this research into practice.
I’ve actually written about some of these things in my book: Confessions of a Former Child: A Therapist’s Memoir. It gets better — but you need to take care of yourself, and each other.