Being a blog from the perspective of a progressive Dad, I’ll be speaking to my fellow Dads today. Not that Moms don’t struggle with the issue of finding time for yourself, but there are hundreds of Moms writing about it already, and lots of information out there.
Anybody who has had a baby knows just how demanding they are on your time, and since our society is still generally stuck with the idea of Mom staying home while Dad goes to work (which is finally starting to change), it’s difficult for Dads to navigate a change of routine to best fit the needs of their new addition. Good Dads want to contribute in the home – changing diapers, feeding if baby is on the bottle, outfit changes, play time, snuggles, and of course housework. In addition, many Dads have to provide for their family financially, which generally requires being away from home 10 – 15 hours a day five days a week; and for Dads like me health and fitness are also important. So how do you manage this? How do you do all the things you used to do and perform all of these additional tasks as well? How do you find time for yourself when there doesn’t seem to be time for anything?
The answer is you don’t, at least not at first. The first while with a new baby is altogether exciting and discouraging. Before baby was born, you had a routine. You had time for work, the gym, your hobbies, family … and now you’re lucky to get a shower uninterrupted. I think the reason so many of us get discouraged is that when baby arrives, Dads try to live the same as they did before; and that’s a good way to set yourself up to fail. It just isn’t realistic. When you do that, something has to give and before you know it you feel like you’ve lost your individuality. You give up the gym, resign yourself to the #DadBod trend, and tell yourself you’ll get your life back when your child is older and more independent. But this apparent loss of freedom is shorter term than you think.
Dad, you have a new tiny human. Tiny humans are not rational, they do not have set routines or patterns, and yes they require a lot of your time and attention. But eventually, that starts to change. Your baby will start sleeping through the night, eating fairly regularly, maybe even pooping a little more predictably (usually when they are strapped into the carseat ready to leave the house). This happens at different ages depending on the child, between two and three months for our little fella, but my point is that you can do most of the things you used to as long as you take the time to re-adjust. Ideally, you are in a relationship built on mutual respect, love and support. Keeping in mind that staying home with a baby is a full-time job, you and your partner have to make sure that each other’s needs are being met; taking turns caring for your children while the other does something for themselves. You might have to cut back on ‘poker night with the guys,’ but you really don’t have to give anything up. You just have to prioritize and plan differently, and keep in mind that your new routine has to be flexible.
While I write this, I am well aware that sometimes life throws you a real curveball and literally everything is thrown into chaos. Believe me, I know. It’s easy to get discouraged, and let’s be honest, losing your freedom sucks. But it only feels like that. It’s not really a loss of freedom, and it’s only for a short while. Don’t cancel on your friends, just postpone it. Don’t drop your gym membership, find a way to work it into your new life. Most importantly, don’t expect Mom to do it all. Encourage her to keep her hobbies as well, be mutually supportive.
You don’t have as much time for yourself now, but you can find it. Your physical and mental health depends on it, and your family is depending on you. Keep it up, you’re doing great. 🙂