For both new mums and new dads, the past year has been an especially difficult one. Not only have new parents had to cope with the stress of the COVID-19 pandemic, but they’ve also had to focus on parenting during this harrowing time. On top of this, many new parents haven’t had access to the same support networks and resources as in other years.
For new dads, the pressure has certainly increased. From supporting your partner through pregnancy to beginning your new role as a parent, you’ve had to adapt to the unexpected over the past year.
With that in mind, let’s take a closer look at how new dads have coped during the pandemic and find out what help is out there.
One factor that has been particularly harrowing for new parents over the past year is the restriction of partners in maternity wards. During the initial lockdown, partners were unable to attend their baby’s birth. Other maternity appointments were also restricted. For many dads and partners, these restrictions have caused great frustration. As well as missing such an important moment, dads have not had the opportunity to support their loved one through a difficult experience.
Not being present for the birth of their baby can send some new dads into a panic. As well as being upset over missing the birth, some might be concerned that this could delay their chance to properly bond with their new baby. However, if there is one positive about becoming a new dad during a lockdown, it’s the opportunity for bonding time with your baby.
Life over the past year may have felt worlds away from normal, but that isn’t to say it’s all been bad for new parents. Of course, not having access to a wider support bubble has made parenting more challenging than ever. For new dads and mums, however, the mandatory time spent at home could be seen as a golden opportunity to bond with a new arrival. In the UK, new dads are usually eligible for only one or two weeks’ paid paternity leave. During the past year, however, we’ve seen a rare opportunity for dads to spend a lot of quality time at home with their new babies. As many parents have been working from home, they’ve had the opportunity to really build up a bond.
Lockdown has accelerated the trend, but even before the pandemic, dads were spending more time with their kids. Compared to 1965, on average men now spend almost three times as much of their week on childcare and housework. Hopefully, the pandemic will have spurred on a new era of increased paternal bonding that we will continue to see even after the end of the lockdowns.
As they’ve had to isolate from friends and family, many new parents have lacked critical support throughout lockdown. Therefore, extra pressure has fallen onto partners. New/soon-to-be dads have found themselves playing various support roles at once. From packing the hospital bag before the big moment to baby-proofing the house, new dads have had to be more prepared than ever during the lockdowns.
Between supporting your partner and looking after your new-born, it can be easy to forget another important person—yourself. Even outside the realms of the pandemic and the lockdown, new-fatherhood can be a huge challenge, and many men tend to put their needs last. During the pandemic, it’s important that new dads look after their mental wellbeing. It’s easy to feel alone during social isolation, but there are many online support groups tailored to new fathers. The idea behind this is to connect people in similar circumstances and remind them that they’re not alone. Multiple organisations – including the Fatherhood Institute and Best Beginnings – have organised online support groups for new dads.
For new parents, ups and downs are to be expected. During the COVID-19 pandemic, however, parenthood can seem even more overwhelming. Despite the challenges, remember to appreciate the unexpected benefits, for example, being able to spend so much quality time with your new arrival. If you’re struggling, however, remember that there’s no shame in reaching out for help and support if you need it.