Having a baby is amazing but your life will never be the same. Here's how you can juggle your new home life with work, your relationship and your wellbeing
If you partner is staying at home to care for the baby in the early weeks, you will need to deal with juggling life with a new baby and returning to work. So here are some tips that could help.
Maximise your time off
The first few weeks are an important – and wonderful – time of establishing your new little family. It helps to take as much time off work as you can (Family Matters Institute, 2017). It’s a lovely time to just hang out with your baby and soak it all in. Plus, you’ll be able to enjoy getting to know your baby a lot more if you’re not distracted or stressed by a busy work day (Beattie et al, 2014).
Watch Greg talk about his first year of fatherhood, including the challenges he’s encountered and the most exciting moments of his son Alexander’s development.
Many dads and co-parents find that staggering their return to work following the birth can ease the transition. This can allow them to get used to balancing work and their home life more gradually (Machin, 2018). So maybe you could see if you can work shorter days or weeks, or perhaps work from home or limit how much you travel.
Your rights for leave
It is still common for one parent to stay at home as the primary carer for the first few weeks and months of the baby’s life, and often this is the mum. But there is more recognition about the important role that dads and co-parents play in the care of their children (Rosenberg and Willcox, 2006). This has led to more flexibility around paternity and parental leave, and includes the introduction of shared parental leave.
Shared parental leave allows both parents to share a ‘pot’ of leave from work. How you share out shared parental leave will depend on lots of factors. You and your partner will have to make a decision based on things like who earns the most, how much money you spend, and what your jobs are.
Read more about one dad’s experience of shared parental leave here.
You might find your attitude to work changes too. On the one hand, work as a means of providing for your family might seem more important. But it might give you a different sense of perspective on work as a means to an end (O'Brien and Shemilt, 2003). Nothing beats those cuddles and playtime with your little one, after all.
You may like to reflect on whether you can alter your work arrangements to be more family friendly or flexible.
For some people, circumstances or personal preference may mean that you will be spending long periods away from your new baby. Video calls and recordings of you reading stories can help. Make sure that when you are home, you can make time to connect and enjoy your baby to keep your bond developing.
As your baby gets older, there are plenty of budget- and baby-friendly activities for you to enjoy during your time off.
Your relationship after birth
You’ve entered a new phase of your relationship with your partner and things will never quite be the same again. As incredible as that might be in lots of ways, it can be harder, too.
It might be rare for you to have time alone together anymore. And did we mention you’re also both going to be really tired?
Remember, through the exhaustion, to make time for each other (Relate, no date). Try to sit down together and talk about what you've been doing that day and how you're coping, even if it feels like an effort. Read more about potential changes to your relationship and how to talk and listen to each other effectively here.
Your emotional health
You might find you can’t just come home and veg out like you used to. There’s now a baby to look after as soon as you set foot in the door.
Juggling work and your home life is one of the biggest causes of stress for new dads (Machin, 2018). It can even lead to mental health problems, such as depression or anxiety. So it’s really important to try and find ways to counteract this stress.
Time to yourself is important, as it can sometimes feel like your child has taken over your life. Work out with your partner how each of you will still spend time doing things you enjoy. It’s a good idea for you and your partner to carve out some ‘me’ time during the week where you take turns to look after your baby to help you both relax and recharge.
Finding sources of information, such as websites (see below under Further information), social media and apps, to support your transition to parenthood can be helpful (Fletcher et al, 2008). Having peer support so you have someone to talk to about the highs and lows of parenthood can be beneficial for some (Darwin et al, 2017). Maybe your NCT group, friends, family or colleagues could provide you with much needed support.
This page was last reviewed in March 2022.
Our support line offers practical and emotional support with feeding your baby and general enquiries for parents, members and volunteers: 0300 330 0700.
Make friends with other parents-to-be and new parents in your local area for support and friendship by seeing what NCT activities are happening nearby.
Directgov has full, up to date information on your paternity rights in the workplace.
Money Helper can help you plan for becoming a parent.
Organisations in the UK that focus on information and support for dads include:
Beattie L, Kyle SD, Espie CA, Biello SM. (2014) Social interactions, emotion and sleep: a systematic review and research agenda. Sleep Med Rev. 24:83-100. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.smrv.2014.12.005
Darwin Z, Galdas P, Hinchliff S, Littlewood E, McMillan D, McGowan L, Gilbody S. (2017) Fathers’ views and experiences of their own mental health during pregnancy and the first postnatal year: a qualitative interview study of men participating in the UK Born and Bred in Yorkshire (BaBY) cohort. BMC Pregnancy Childbirth. 17(1):1-15. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1186/s12884-017-1229-4
Family Matters Institute. (2017) Why paternity leave is important. Available at: https://www.dad.info/relationships/having-kids/why-is-paternity-leave-i… [Accessed 2nd February 2022]
Fletcher R, Vimpani G, Russell G, Keatinge D. (2008) The evaluation of tailored and web‐based information for new fathers. Child Care Health Dev. 34(4):439-446. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1365-2214.2008.00811.x
Machin AJ. (2018) The Life of Dad: The Making of the Modern Father. Simon & Schuster, London.
O'Brien M, Shemilt I. (2003) Working fathers: earning and caring. Available at: http://www.fatherhoodinstitute.org/uploads/publications/280.pdf [Accessed 2nd February 2022]
Relate. (no date) How to maintain a healthy relationship after a baby has been born. Available at: https://www.relate.org.uk/relationship-help/help-family-life-and-parent… [Accessed 2nd February 2022]
Rosenberg J, Willcox WB. (2006) The Importance of Fathers in the Healthy Development of Children. US Department Health and Human Services; Administration for Children and Families; Administration on Children, Youth and Families; Children's Bureau; Office of Child Abuse and Neglect; Washington, DC. Available at: https://www.childwelfare.gov/pubpdfs/fatherhood.pdf [Accessed 2nd February 2022]