Postpartum Depression: Not for Women Only
Any financial worries you may have had before the conception of your child have only gotten worse since. Paying the hospital bills, setting up a nursery, buying clothes-none of these come cheap. (And then there's the cost of a college education down the road.)
You undoubtedly have a greater financial burden, especially if you've lost a big portion of your household income for some time because your partner is staying home to care for the baby.
Breadwinning is an enormous responsibility for new fathers. Despite some changes in women's and men's roles, things haven't changed all that much. Even if your partner plans to return to work in just a few months, you probably feel as though the entire burden of bringing money into the home falls on your shoulders.
Do whatever you can to alleviate some of the financial burden you feel. Cut down on whatever expenses you can, at least until you feel afloat once again. (You certainly won't be going out as much as you once did, and that should help a little.) For instance, you might want to spend your vacation at home instead of traveling anywhere.
Many people still don't know how to regard a man who participates fully in baby care. Many mothers are very accepting of fathers that they get to know through play groups with their babies. Yet in the playground, many mothers are very wary of "strange men," even those accompanied by a baby.
Complete strangers may approach you in the grocery store and ask if you're babysitting today. (Would they even think of asking a mother the same question?) You can't control other people's responses and reactions to your involvement in your baby's care, but you don't have to feel awkward just because other people don't know what to make of you.
Too many late-night calls and all-nighters (even if you're not physically getting up) may leave you feeling extremely fatigued, and exhaustion contributes greatly to depression. Try to take good overall care of yourself so that you can better take care of both your baby and your partner, both of whom will need some special care in the first year of his life. Get as much rest as you can, eat right, and try to get at least two to three hours of exercise a week.
You may have almost no social life anymore. If you work outside the home, you may have no social contacts whatsoever that aren't related to your job or business, especially if, as a conscientious parent, you rush straight home after work to be with your family. If, on the other hand, you work part-time, work at home, or have taken time off (temporarily or permanently) from outside work so that you have more time to devote to baby care, you may feel a different kind of isolation: gender isolation. You may be the only dad at your local "Mommy and Me" group or the only man you see at the playground in the middle of the morning.
If you feel cut off from others, seek out support groups for new fathers. You might also want to check with your local adult education program, a community college, or the YMCA to see if they offer courses aimed exclusively toward fathers. Don't give up on your relationships with other men. Arrange with your partner to trade off nights every two or three weeks so that you can have a "boys' night out" with some of your friends and she can have a "girls' night out" (though this trade-off may be difficult to manage until your child is weaned).
Whatever the cause of your depression, you owe it to yourself, your partner, and your baby to deal with it. Seek out financial counseling, emotional support, and the good advice of your partner. Take good care of yourself now, emotionally as well as physically. Make your emotional, physical, and spiritual health a priority. After all, you want to stick around for as much of your baby's life as possible, don't you?
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Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Bringing Up Baby © 1997 by Kevin Osborn. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
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