Listen to any new mum, and you’ll find they are desperate for some time out.
Primary carers of babies in Australia are overwhelmingly women. They will be the ones who are the main cleaners and cooks, as well as the ones who will get up through the night for their babies. It makes sense that when we talk about self-care, it’s often focused on mothers.
It’s easy to get stuck in survival mode, just making it through each day. Allowing mums to have time out is vitally important for many reasons. Including simply because they deserve it.
We need to talk about dads, and why self-care is important for them, too
When you’re in the depths of sleep deprivation, it can feel like you’re the only one slogging away at this parenting gig.
But as the definition of fatherhood changes, it’s important to see how becoming a dad has its impact too.
These days we expect men to be more involved with family life, but at the same time, psychologist Clive Williams says many men still believe they have to be the 1950s version of a provider.
For more on self-care for dads, listen to Clive Williams on Kinderling Conversation:
What does self-care look like for dads?
Clive says that every human being needs self-care. “What happens for husbands and dads is that after the arrival of their first child people get very busy, and self-care may never have been a strong point. For men, we don’t really think about self-care. Self-care for a woman might be about putting more back psychologically and emotionally, whereas for men it might just be some boy time or some fun time.”
Which can look a bit like skiving, if we’re honest. But if that’s the way that men reset and let off some steam, is that such a bad thing?
When my husband needs a time-out, he finds an empty building somewhere and goes to rock out with his electric guitar. I used to think this was quite odd, until he explained that it’s his ‘yoga’.
It’s his way to recalibrate.
Read more about dads:
- A dad’s guide to first-time fatherhood: “Remember, you’re not alone”
- 3 things that happen to a man’s brain once he becomes a dad
- “That’s fatherhood”: James Van Der Beek nails what dad life is REALLY about
Sometimes we all need to talk
I once had an English teacher who said I could talk underwater with my mouth full of marbles. And while all women are not as verbose as me, generally speaking, most find it natural to share our troubles with friends.
Clive says that men find it difficult to voice what’s bothering them.
“Men tell me there is stuff they would like to talk about, but they’re quite reticent to ever go to that level of conversation.”
But he says it’s still important that men find a way to share how they’re feeling.
If they are feeling the pressures of fatherhood, a chat with a mate over a beer might be just what the doctor ordered.
Self-care is not an excuse to behave badly
In his therapy room, Clive sees couples when the wheels are starting to get wobbly.
More often than not, he sees men who have used their time off as an excuse to behave badly. These men go away and regress decades in order to have a good time.
“Nobody wants to be married to a person who is not responsible or reliable. You just have to make sure that before your time away, you have still dotted your I’s and cross your t’s. That you’re not behaving irresponsibly when you’re having that downtime.”
If men take that into consideration, then maybe women can start to see that time out for men has an important part to play in family life.
It may not be the way we do it, but it’s still worthwhile.