Daddy Blues - Yes, It Happens to Men Too

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    When a child is born our thoughts immediately turn to mother and baby. We know to keep an eye on mom because she could experience emotional ups and downs, but what about dad? We often assume he is fine. The truth is that many men find themselves suffering from daddy blues in the weeks following childbirth.

    When it comes to mom most of us have heard about baby blues and postpartum depression. Those things are not uncommon, but what most people don’t know is that men can experience their own version of blues – daddy blues. In fact it is not unusual for men to experience some form of depression during the first year after having a baby. It’s hard know, however, what depression symptoms will look like in men.

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    And, as if their own emotions were not enough, they may also have to deal with a partner that is also riding hormonal waves. So why do men get blue, and how are they supposed handle it?

    Why do Men Feel Blue?

    It is no secret that men work hard at hiding their feelings. Being overly emotional and admitting to confusion and sadness seems like a sign of weakness to many men. That doesn’t mean those feelings aren’t there though. It just means that the signs may not be what you would expect. In fact, studies show that up to 60% of new dads experience daddy blues in the months following the birth of a child.

    As much as women try to make fathers part of the pregnancy, the truth is that men cannot experience first-hand the things a woman does. What they DO experience first-hand, however, is the reality of a newborn and the pressure of being a father. And, today more than ever, men are expected to be involved in all aspects of the newborn parenting from doctor appointments, to midnight feedings to diaper changes and general comforting of both mom and baby.

    These new responsibilities coupled with the changes to nearly every aspect of life can leave the best of men struggling. For dads feeling blue there are fewer resources available and less encouragement to discuss these feelings. As a consequence men may tend to internalize things. There is also growing evidence that men experience hormonal changes during this time as well. All of these factors can contribute to the onset of daddy blues.

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    Dr. Kurt says this,

    Men do get depressed. It's actually pretty common. Most of us just won't admit it to ourselves or others. A lot of guys I counsel are depressed for a variety of reasons. Some of those reasons don't always make sense at first glance, however. Just like why one of the most exciting times in your life (having a baby) can also make you feel down."

    Dad Pressure and Expectations

    The pressure felt by men to fit easily and immediately into their dad role is not generally talked about. Dads are just expected to find a way to make it all work.

    As I was going into labor with my first daughter my husband confessed to me that he “wasn’t ready.” My thought at the time was that he seemed to misunderstand what the current situation was. It was ME that was about to push a human being out of my body - he had the easy part.

    It was not until later that I realized how scared – my word, not his – that he really was. Although we were a team and facing this new chapter together, my husband was feeling nervous and unsettled. Where I was focused on our daughter, he felt he had to take care of all of us, be a male role model, provide financially, and act as overall protector.

    He would not have told you he had daddy blues, but he may have confessed to having doubts and fears about whether he could do it all. And, questions about what kind of father he could be – could he live up to the expectations he had set for himself?

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    Inconsolable crying of a newborn and lack of sleep take a toll on both mothers and fathers. In the case of dads however, add the chaos of a frantic new mother, responsibilities of caring for your family and the perceived need to be the anchor during this phase, and you have a recipe for the daddy blues.

    What Does a Blue Dad Look Like?

    Helping a dad that is feeling blue through this time can be tricky. If you are a new mom you are likely to be wrapped up in your own baby-centric, sleep-deprived world - I was. It can be easy to miss the signs. While I was biting as hard as I could on my daughter’s pacifier to keep from screaming out of frustration and exhaustion, he was lying silently trying to figure out how to help me, take care of us, and live up to his idea of what being a better dad looked like.

    Dads that are struggling with the daddy blues will probably not discuss it openly. What you may see, however, is a change in behavior that is unexpected from your perspective. When you can’t understand why your man can’t relax, or he shows signs of withdrawing from the family, excessive worry, appetite changes, and moodiness these can all be signs of daddy blues.

    What Do You Do for a Bluesy Dad?

    As trite as it may sound, communication between the two of you during this time is imperative. With everything going on and all the adjustments, it is easy to lose sight of one another. Try to remember to check in with your partner, or any new dad you know, to ask how they are doing. You may not get much out of them, but just opening the door for conversation can help. Being aware that this can happen is also important for both the new father and those that care about him.

    Daddy blues, like baby blues in women, typically only last for a few weeks. If you find that the change in behavior is severe or lasts for several weeks or even months, it is possible that things have become more serious. If you think your man has become depressed, and you don’t know what to do, seek the assistance of your doctor or a professional counselor.

    Having a child is life changing. Moms and dads will go through many adjustments after a child is born and there is no amount of logic that can prepare you for the range of emotions that you will experience. Both baby blues and daddy blues are more common than most of us realize. So if you are a new parent, or know a new parent, mother or father, watch for the signs. It takes courage to admit this and ask for help, but it's the most loving thing you can do for your newborn.

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