Becoming a parent involves shifts in your lifestyle. This article offers information for new dads on fathers' rights at work, stress after childbirth and relationships.
Watch NCT dad 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.
While it is still common for women to be the parent who stays home with their baby in the early months, society is changing to recognise the important role that dads play in the care of their family. There is now much more flexibility - especially with the introduction of Shared Parental Leave.
What will work for your family will depend on a mixture of factors, such as who earns the most, what your financial requirements are, the type of work you do, who wants to stay at home and look after the baby, and how flexible your employer is.
When you first find out you're going to be a parent, speak to your Human Resources department at work to find out what benefits they provide for new parents. In some cases it may be more generous than the law requires. You might be eligible for:
- 1 or 2 weeks paid Paternity Leave
- Up to 26 weeks’ paid Additional Paternity Leave, if your child was due or placed for adoption before 5 April 2015 though you can only get Additional Paternity Leave if your partner returns to work.
- Shared Parental Leave, if your child was due or placed for adoption on or after 5 April 2015.
- Flexible working
Employers don’t have to agree to flexible working arrangements, but they have to consider your request and can only reject it for business reasons. Many dads feel that their attitude to work changes following the birth of a child. It can make work seem more important, due to the need to provide for your family. On the other hand, it may give you a different sense of perspective on work which becomes more of a means to an end.
Life with a baby means that time alone for you and your partner becomes rare. It is important for your relationship that you make time for each other even though you will both be tired. Try to sit down together and talk about what you've been doing that day and how you're coping.
It is not uncommon for the caring partner to resent the ‘freedom’ that the working partner has, no matter how mundane their job can be. This can be a cause of relationship problems after having a baby. Time spent solely with a young child can be draining and offers little mental reward in the early days. Hearing about your day may actually be of interest to your partner if she has been confined to the house all day.
You might find that after the first flurry of cards and presents you see a lot less of those friends who don’t have children. Your social life will become more family-centred while theirs continues with the kind of social activities you once enjoyed.
Your social life doesn’t have to end when you have a family though. It just takes more organising. It is harder to do things on a whim, as you have to consider your child’s needs as well as your own and your partner’s.
Juggling your new roles and priorities takes some getting used to. For dads who return to work, home is no longer solely a place to relax and unwind. Although you will want to see your baby, it can sometimes feel like you have a second job, especially if your partner has had a rough day and wants you to take over as soon as you come in.
Try not to get involved in debates about who is the most tired: you will both be totally exhausted. Let each other know how you feel and that you appreciate what each of you are doing.
Time to yourself is also important. It can sometimes feel like your child dominates all aspects of your life. Some couples schedule in ‘me’ time during the week where they can each do what they want for a few hours. It can be a great release valve and gives you time to recharge.
When it comes to sleep, you will have to agree on who gets to maximise their time in bed and on what days. If you’re working, some dads might decide to move into another room for a short time until the baby starts to sleep through. Others find they can sleep through anyway, although their partners may resent this. Discuss sleeping separately or not getting up in the night. Do your bit at the weekend or when you are off work, letting your partner sleep in.
The first few weeks are so crucial to establishing yourselves as new parents so it really helps to take time off from work. Having time and flexibility to sleep when the baby sleeps and be awake when the baby is awake can make a huge difference.
If you’re not stressed and tired you’ll be able to enjoy getting to know your baby. It’s easy to underestimate the amount of time that caring for a small baby can take, and if your partner had a caesarean birth or premature birth, special needs baby or twins, your help will be even more important.
NCT's helpline offers practical and emotional support in all areas of pregnancy, birth and early parenthood: 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.
Working Families, an organisation focusing on the work-life balance in families, has a useful tool which will can help you understand how working different hours could affect your finances.