Before you became a father, life had enough responsibilities already. You have your role at work and responsibilities there. You may have responsibilities with your own family that need to be attended to. If you complete volunteer work or even a sport/activity in your personal time you will have responsibilities there. Within your relationship you will have responsibilities to your partner. Plus on top of all of this are any financial responsibilities that are tied to these life areas. Juggling these responsibilities is busy enough as it is, but then once you enter fatherhood and become a parent, your responsibilities increase significantly and place pressure on all other areas of life. Learning how to be a dad is challenging enough within its own right, but learning how to add the responsibilities of fatherhood to your already full life, and keeping it all going, takes the difficulty level up a notch.
Any information included in this post is of a general nature and for informational purposes only. If you require support specific to your needs please seek support from your relevant health professional.
Define Your Responsibilities
Before you can start juggling, you need to know what it is that you are in fact going to juggle. This means taking a moment to write down all the things that you have responsibilities for. Some examples might include:
- Work Responsibilities
- Start and finish times of work?
- Is overtime needed at times?
- Are you in charge of projects or a team?
- Financial Responsibilities
- Debts and bills to pay
- Are you the primary income earner?
- Other essentials, such as baby medical bills, food and clothes
- Personal Responsibilties
- Self care activities (enjoyable tasks)
- Maintaining your health (physical and mental)
- Maintaining friendships and social outings
- Family Responsibilities
- Supporting your partners needs (emotional and practical)
- Making time for family activities
- Any responsibilities to extended family? (i.e. caring for your own parents)
- Parenting Responsibilties
- Feeding and cleaning baby
- Spending time with baby/bonding
- Helping with sleep time
- Other Responsibilities
- Household jobs or chores
- Running errands
- Grocery shopping
This list can become quite large, but it is important to look at what it is that you are doing on a regular basis. It is also important to write it down, as it allows our brain to actually see what we have to do, we are more likely to remember what we need to complete in future, and it makes it easier to sort out and prioritise. You could type out the list as well, however I personally prefer writing because it allows me to use my hands to process my thoughts (really important if your style of learning is hands on). Once written down, I like to split my responsibilities into domains or areas of life, and then list the responsibilities under each domain. Splitting into this format then helps with the next step.
Prioritise What Is Most Important To You
Knowing what is important to you will help you prioritise your responsibilities and sort out what actually needs to be done, and what isn’t a priority. In some cases, you may find that you can get rid of some things on your list and not do them at all, however what I have found is that I ended up changing how much I did certain things based on what was important to me. So how do you decide what is important?
To do this, I look at each life domain that I have written down and decide what do I value most. I then also ask myself, what is a must do task or responsibility that if not done, would lead to a severe consequence (consequences may differ per person, as it depends on what you value, but typically it might be a loss of health, relationship or financial stability). Once I have sorted my responsibilities into these categories, it usually becomes clear what responsibilities are most important to me.
So if you value time with your family, you will likely find that your priorities will be to do with looking after your child, your relationship and spending time together. And if you find yourself spending more time focusing on work, household chores and focusing on finances, you may find that your parenting journey is missing something. Once again, its not that we stop paying attention to those other areas as they are likely just as important, but if our energy is focusing on things we don’t value then we are going to end up feeling drained.
Involve Your Partner
Unless you are parenting on your own, we need to include our partners in this conversation because it is important that we share similar views on priorities. It is also important to remember that these priorities are shared, and there may be tasks that you both decide to split, share or complete on your own. So you may decide to split the household chores, or share certain parenting responsibilities, but even for work responsibilities or financial responsibilities it will be important to communicate these things so you can plan out how you are going to manage these responsibilities around the other demands.
The biggest pitfall we can face as new fathers is feeling like we need to sort things out on our own. We might get caught in the trap of thinking that our partners are too tired or already have their hands full and so we don’t want to burden them. However, communicating our responsibilities and our concerns about how we are going to balance everything is important as it lets our partner into our minds so they are more aware of how we are feeling. It also allows them to communicate to us their thoughts on priorities and how they feel they can support you with juggling everything.
Remember that your relationship is a partnership, and partnerships rely on clear, solid communication. So take any opportunity you can to communicate with your significant other.
Schedule In Self Care
Hopefully going through this process, you have identified yourself as a priority and have put self care as being important on the list. However, it is not uncommon to put ourselves last among all the other priorities that we have to consider. Often we justify this by saying ‘looking after baby is more important’, ‘my wife is exhausted and I need to do more’, or ‘we need the money so let’s not go out anywhere’. And its not that these aren’t legitimate truths, because they are all valid points, however at the core of all these priorities, and for all these priorities to be juggled effectively, they require you to be at the top of your game.
You can’t look after baby and your partner effectively if you are feeling groggy, frustrated or down all the time. You won’t be able to perform your best at work if you are stressed and not looking after your mental health. It becomes harder to stay on top of the small house tasks if your energy levels are depleted and you aren’t feeling well. Looking at finances without having a clear head space may make us feel overwhelmed rather than help us figure out how to budget well. All these priorities can’t be juggled without someone to do the juggling, so prioritise yourself somewhere near the top of your list.
Now, this doesn’t always mean you need to focus solely on self care and yourself, but it is about setting aside some regular time for yourself and the things you enjoy doing. Day to day, that might look like 5-10mins of alone time when you can gather your thoughts, or your commute to and from work where you can enjoy listening to music (that isn’t nursery rhymes). If possible, throw in exercise a few times a week for 30mins or so, but even once a week is better than nothing. You might catch up with friends in person once or twice a month, but keep in touch through messaging throughout the week. You may need to be creative with how you fit this in amongst everything else, but make sure you set yourself as a priority.
You Got This!
Juggling your responsibilities isn’t always easy, and we need to go easy on ourselves when we do drop the ball and miss something. For most of you, it will all end up working out without a plan, because you end up just figuring it out as each day goes on and learn what works and what doesn’t work. But for those who want a structure to what they are doing, remember the following steps:
- Prioritise what is important to you by thinking about what you value the most
- Talk to your partner and seek support with managing your priorities
- Prioritise your self care
And most of all, enjoy the journey as much as you can. Be present, watch your little one grow and know that at the end of the day, you are doing a good job.