If I’ve learned anything during my fatherhood journey thus far, I’ve learned that parenting is a 24-7 job.
There’s literally always something going on. The free time we once enjoyed as single, childless men is long gone. From the newborn stage where all your attention is focused on figuring out how to keep this little person alive through the early school years where calendars are filled with extracurricular activities, and on to the teenage years when you’re helping guide your children into young adulthood, fatherhood is a never-ending cycle of being here, there, and everywhere for the sake of your kids.
While stressful, tiresome, and thankless, it’s what we signed up for. It’s a calling. A responsibility for us as fathers to be active and involved every step of the way.
With that, however, we have to be sure we’re taking time for ourselves. Fathers have to prioritize mental and physical health so we can be the best version of ourselves possible for our children, especially as we age. For those of us fortunate enough to be in healthy marriages, relationships, and partnerships with the mothers of our children, it can’t go without saying how beneficial it is to have someone by your side to help share the load of parenting, because it gets heavy.
Even so, as men, we are wired to be “strong,” to not show any signs of weakness. No matter what we’re carrying internally, there’s no time for that. After all, we have to get the kids ready for school, for bed, and everything in between. That’s the priority. It has to get done, right? But at what expense?
Make self-care a priority in parenting
I’d like to think I’m pretty good at taking care of myself. I work out regularly. Every now and then, I’m able to hang out with the guys and enjoy some time away from the kids. But, if I’m being honest, dad burnout smacks me in the face often. And when it does, it tends to simply stay there.
For me, it comes as a result of being in a constant state of “doing.” I pride myself on being an active father – coaching soccer, taking my son to swim class, picking my daughter up from daycare, and being available whenever my wife needs me. And not to mention the day-to-day household responsibilities of a husband and father. The “go go go” mentality I and other dads have is, yes, what we’re supposed to do. But it’s also a recipe for fatigue.
Simply put, at times I find myself stretched thin. And no dad wants to feel that. Even with the most routine challenges of fatherhood, we shouldn’t have our overall well-being put at risk. In looking for a healthy balance, we have to be sure we’re being intentional in carving out time for us. That may mean altering our schedule to fit in a walk during the day. Find a dad tribe to have a space to talk openly and honestly about your experiences. The connections made through other dads will help you realize that you’re not the only one going through it. We can be there for each other.
Most importantly, we have to be open with our partners. Just as we need moms to be open with us when they need a break, we as dads need to be vulnerable enough to say we need a break, even for a few hours.
We have to be there for ourselves so we can be there for our kids.