Reasons You May Hate Being A Dad

Reasons You May Hate Being A Dad

Fatherhood is a game changer. For some of us, it’s an amazing experience. I mean sure it has it’s moments (like toddler tantrums, constant cleaning, repeating yourself, arguments), but overall for many dads they wouldn’t change a thing. But for some fathers, they feel like they hate being a dad. They love their kids, but they hate being a parent. Often this frustration towards being a parent initially seems to be linked to the ‘losses’ that we can see when it comes to parenthood, like the loss of freedom or the loss of time, but more frequently if you dig a bit deeper, we can find underlying issues that make parenting that much harder for these dads.

If you are a father and you find yourself thinking that you hate being a dad, or you know someone who is in this boat, then read on for some underlying reasons that may be causing these feelings, and some general strategies you can try.

As always, if you need support more specific to your needs, please seek out specialist mental health or parenting support. The information in this article is of a general nature only and may not meet your specific needs.

 

You’re Mourning Your Old Life

As much as we think we can prepare for fatherhood, once baby comes along it smacks us right in the face and we realise that nothing can prepare us for being a parent. Those first few weeks, and even months, are often spent just trying to get by and figure everything out, that we don’t get an opportunity to pause and reflect on the change that’s just happened, whereas most changes that occur in life are either slow, long changes, allowing us time to adjust, or short and rapid, allowing us time to reflect. Becoming a parent however is both rapid and long, making it difficult to adapt to this change.

What happens then is we don’t get an opportunity to grieve our old lives, the loss of what we once had. Not being able to process this change can also lead to feelings of frustration, resentment, sadness, guilt or anger, directed towards our child, our partner, people around us or even ourselves.

So what can we do if this is you? Well the first step is acknowledging it. It may seem weird to say that you are grieving your old life, like you’ve just lost somebody, but the process is the same whether it be the loss of identity or the loss of a loved one. So recognise your loss. From there, talk about it with someone. You could joke about it with mates, vent to your partner or family, find out how your other dad friends coped with the change. But chatting about it with people is key.

The other thing you can do is set aside time to do the old things you used to enjoy doing. I get it, time is a premium, but even if it is once a month, that will give you something to look forward to where you can feel like your old self. Or, find moments in what you are already doing that bring you joy. These moments will help you to shape your new identity into one that you like, whereas focusing on the negative experiences will shape our new identity into one we dislike. For some different ways to find time to relax and change your mentality, check out my article on how I tried to find time to relax with a newborn.


Struggling To Find A Connection

Another reason dads can struggle with fatherhood is difficulty in developing that bond with baby. Baby’s naturally gravitate towards mum. They recognise mums voice more, her heartbeat, they are often fed by mother (particularly if breastfeeding) and they often soothe faster with mum (especially in the early months). On top of this, baby doesn’t give much back in return, so when we do try to support and interact with baby, we may not get a lot back to reinforce that we are doing a good job. All of this together can make it challenging for fathers to develop a bond with baby, and lead to feelings of defeat and frustration.

So how can we manage this? It really is as simple as trying to get in as much time as possible with baby, while reminding ourselves to push through any feelings of defeat that we have. If you are lucky enough to be able to feed baby (i.e. bottle feeding), then do so as this will help a lot with bonding. But otherwise nappy changes and bath times are just as good. These moments allow you to interact with baby, or at the very least allow baby to see your face. So all you need to do is keep smiling throughout. Aside from this, you want to have as many opportunities to hold and cuddle baby so they recognise you and become comfortable with you. For some ideas on how to bond with baby, check out my post on playtime and bonding with baby.

Unsure What To Do

Before I had my daughter, I steered clear of newborns like they were the plague. I was unsure how to hold them or how to interact with them, so it was easier to just look from a distance rather than risk upsetting them. And then once my daughter was here, I was able to hold, change and clean baby without hesitation. I was fortunate to be able to do this, but not everyone will have this happen to them. Looking after a baby and knowing all the things you need to take care of them is a skill, one that we learn ‘on the job’.

So like any skill, we need to figure out how we are going to teach ourselves, learn from our mistakes and seek help when needed. First step, what are you unsure how to do specifically. It’s easy to say ‘I don’t know how to look after a baby’, but if you want to get better, then break it down into smaller parts. Do you not feel comfortable changing baby? washing baby? holding baby? Are you struggling to play with baby? Struggling with soothing baby? Maybe it’s one of these areas, maybe it’s all of them? Either way, once you have broken it down into smaller parts, you can now come up with a plan for each part.

Your plan should then look at what skills’ you need to learn (the practical side of things), and what thoughts and emotions of your own do you need to manage. For example, if you struggle with soothing baby, then from a skills’ standpoint you might need to learn how to hold baby in a variety of ways so you have more options to keep them comfy and safe. But from an emotions and thoughts aspect, you may need to learn how to manage your feelings when baby keeps crying and come up with different thought patterns to help you push through.

Once you have a plan for these two areas, it is then a matter of practice and repeat. You may adjust your plan as necessary, but if you don’t keep practicing the skills’, then you won’t learn them.

Unresolved Past Issues

For some new dads, their own experiences with their parents and family, or even past relationships, can impact on how they perceive their own parenting and relationship with their child. Now, not all will be affected by this. For many, they have a good insight and awareness into how their past has impacted them, and what they need to do to overcome their experiences. But for those that struggle with their experiences, or current issues with their own parents, it is important to seek support from the right person to figure out the core of the problem and what is needed to manage it well.

Often, a psychologist or other mental health professional can help you to do this by exploring your relationships and thought patterns and helping you to identify where the problem lies and what steps can be taken to manage the problem. This may include practical strategies (such as increasing your time spent with baby), thought based strategies (challenging your unhelpful thoughts), or emotional calming strategies (mindfulness type strategies). There may be other strategies that they recommend for you based on your own circumstances.

Even if you don’t see a psychologist, the first step with unresolved past issues is talking about it with someone. Often through talking about our experiences, it allows us to reflect on the issue and for many people they then come up with their own strategies to deal with the problem. If we don’t deal with these issues ASAP however, they can often turn into much larger problems that impact all areas of our lives.

Next Steps

If you are finding yourself starting to hate being a dad, ask yourself what is the specific reason why. Is it one or more of the above reasons why? Is it something else? Either way, the key first step is figuring out the reason why. From there, break it down into small, specific parts, things that you can actually work on. Once you have done this, then develop your plan. What are the practical things you need to do to resolve the issue, and what are the things you need to do to manage your thoughts and feelings. With the plan developed, seek help from others when needed, and then keep practicing and trying until you begin to feel that success.

If you are struggling with your journey as a father, it is OK to seek out help and support. Please speak to your doctor as a first step, but you can also seek help from a mental health professional or parenting professional to assist you.

8 Comments

  1. Wow! What an amazing website and article. You are so right, that nothing can prepare anyone for such a rapid change, and it had never occurred to me that fathers would struggle with the bond with baby more so than mum – I think my little brain just thought that it would be completely natural, the moment baby is born. Now it’s brought to my attention I have more understanding of my own dad, as well as my brother who will become a father soon. I think this information should be so much more readily available to fathers. Given how easy it is for mums to find support in the first stages of motherhood, it begs the question of why there isn’t as much information around about new fathers. Thank you for filling such a big gap!

    1. I think in the past we just put it down to gender roles – mums stay at home and dads work – and thats why we may not have noticed the difficulty in bonding with baby. But as those roles begin to change and dads want to be more involved, we are noticing a trend in fathers finding it difficult and then avoiding fatherhood responsibilities. Thankfully awareness and services are increasing, but there is still a gap for sure!

  2. Fathers and expectant fathers need to read this post. You lay out a logical reason why dads may have issues with that new addition in their home. It never occurred to me how difficult it could be for some dads to bond with their newborn. 

    In our case, we could not have biological children because of medical reasons. Hence we decided to adopt a baby. Since my wife and I both came from Calcutta (not called Kolkata) we decided to adopt from Mother Theresa’s Orphanage. The process to two years since we had to jump through two hurdles. I had a work Visa and we needed to become US Citizens first before we could go through the adoption process. Hence the delay.

    Our son was almost two and a half when we were finally able to bring him home. In our situation the bonding was reversed. Since there was no natural birth, my wife and our son didn’t have the opportunity to create that close bond. Since our son was at the play age, it was easier for me to spend time with him and our bond grew strong. 

    It takes a lot of effort for a father to bond with his child and this needs conscious effort. It doesn’t happen as easily with the mom as you so well explained the reasons why. If we did get our son as a baby, I think I would have had problems since taking care of nappies is not something that I would have relished. 

    Great article indeed.

    Edwin

    1. Thanks for sharing your experience Edwin, it sounds like a tough process you both had to go through to get your son. And it sounds like the bonding experience would have been challenging in those early days. But I like what you said about ‘conscious effort’. Parenting is a lot of conscious effort, to really notice and care for our young ones. If you can do that, then you will see the outcomes of your hard work.

  3. I Must confess that this article came at the perfect time, me and my girlfriend, we’re expecting a baby and if I’m gonna be sincere, I’m kinda scared of being a father because I’ve heard of so many experiences about how it is and what it does to one’s life. Thanks foe sharing this awesome and helpful article. Being a dad is a commitment with no short cut, it either you’re fully in or you’re fully out, I believe reading a couple of articles like this will help some of us get over the feeling that our life died, and embrace the new joy we have which is being a dad. 

    I’ve really been blessed reading this post and I’m sure many others too will benefit from it as I did. I love it

    1. Hi Jones, thanks for sharing your experience. Fatherhood is a game changer, and the first few months will have you questioning a lot about yourself. But if you can get through all of that, then it really is an awesome role to play. All the best to you and your new family!

  4. Being a dad is not an easy task. Even though one may have had someone to observe growing up (your own dad) it is a completely different thing when you are in the hot seat as a dad yourself. Most people learn how to be the best dad they can be by doing it, and some handle it better than others.

    I know that in my case, I was very young as was my wife. We were barely adults and within two years of marriage, we had two kids in the house and a changed set of dynamics. So not only were the kids growing up, my wife and I were too in some ways.

    All the issues that you have raised in this article came into play at one point or another, and as time went on, we worked through them all and survived the experience. Today there is a lot more support for dads that may be facing some of the challenges, unlike when I was a young dad.

    Your last statement advising people to get that help if they need is a good one. Do you have any specific agencies or services that you recommend for dads having unresolved issues? In most communities, there is some help available these days but I would be interested in reading what you have dug up. Thanks!

    1. Hi Dave, thanks for sharing your experience! I’m glad that you were able to relate to some of the points I mentioned, and ultimately that you worked through them. For those fathers who are struggling to move through whichever issue they are facing there are some services out there to look out for depending on where they live.

      In any country, I would recommend talking to your doctor or a local community centre if they are aware of any parenting support services for dads, or mental health professionals who specialise in supporting fathers.

      I’m from Australia, and so Relationships Australia are a good place to go to for parenting support. They have programs and counselling services. I’m unsure of other countries but I have seen a lot of new father support groups popping up in the UK from my research online, and I’m sure the US would have something similar. 

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