I have only one job on this site: writing the weekly fatherhood series. I’m sorry I do not do that job well- I have hardly been posting consistently. I’m working on remedying that, though. Also, while we are being honest with each other, is anyone even reading these? Sometimes it feels like shouting to the wind, and I can’t help but wonder, what’s the point? Anyway, if you are out there, mysterious reader, let a dad know in the comments below! 🙂
Anyway, since I’m here, let me tell you a story…
I am sure this happens to everyone at some point. It just hadn’t happened to me yet.
I had a stable, happy childhood. My parents loved me and raised me well, and I never really had to worry about anything. I got a good education, and I genuinely believed I could be anything or anyone I wanted to be.
For a long while, my biggest worries were what my next phone was going to be and whether I’d find time to make it to the movies for the next big film premiere. It was a simple life, and I had no idea how simple it was and how good I had it because I didn’t know things could be any different.
Melanie and I started dating immediately after high school. We dated all through college, living off our parents like college kids do, then moved in together thereafter.
The cracks begin to show
In 2017, my mother was diagnosed with leukemia, and Mel found out she was pregnant. My whole world was turned upside down. I have never been so scared in my life.
The irony was almost poetic, wasn’t it? I was going to be a father, yet my support system was being shaken to the core. I won’t bore you with the details of what happened that year, but when Ethan was born, I was over the moon with joy. We took him home, and just like that, a whole other chapter of my life began.
Living with a newborn and dealing with family issues and a choppy ride at work all at the same time can take a toll on anyone. Add that to the fact that I was a first-time dad who had no clue what he was doing, and you have a recipe for disaster.
The deep, dark, hole
The stress ramped up but I was coping well. Mel was very supportive, getting me through some very tough times, but I could tell she was cracking under the pressure, too. So I put on a brave face and smiled and told everyone not to worry about me. I got this. But I deep down, I knew I didn’t ‘got this’. I was freaking out and I couldn’t tell anyone about it, because men don’t freak out and men always ‘got this’ and men are supposed to be amazing dads no matter what.
Depression was slowly rearing its ugly head, but I had no idea what it was. I showed none of the usual symptoms: I was smiling every day and working as usual and happy to be home and hanging out with friends and family. Nothing had really changed except for the tiny voice in my head that was practically begging me to quit it all and just disappear, because that’s what I needed. Everything was too much to handle, and I had no choice but to handle it.
I wanted to write this article to highlight the plight of dads and what little support they get in the parenting process. But I’m not sure how to do that anymore.
I found out the hard way that as dads, when the bolts detach from the wheels and they start to fall off the vehicle one by one, some of us put the pedal to the metal, others hit the brakes, and others just sit still and wait to see where we land. The options we get are too few, and the support we need is almost non-existent.
To some extent, I think mothers do deserve all the attention they get. Mel went through significant physical and mental strain during that time- much more than I ever thought she was capable of. However, the fact that mothers go through all this is a reasonably well-understood thing, and they have access to considerable private and public assistance. For example, they get tons of community support in the form of mom groups, friends and family.
Dads, on the other hand, become wallpaper in the background, and this can be very emotionally challenging. I know dads and ’emotions’ don’t go too well together, but I had to find out the hard way that this is our downfall. We urgently need to address it.
For most dads, it is the speed at which the responsibilities add up that pushes us over the cliff into depression. Bills, financial security, schools, all the stuff you have to buy, and the constant nagging feeling that you won’t be good enough, that’s what builds up and eventually breaks you.
I know dads who turn to the bottle to numb these feelings, ramping their drinking up in the months before and after birth. Sometimes drugs are also thrown into the mix. In the end, the dad suffers shame and guilt, and this only makes things worse.
Personally, I didn’t turn to drink, thankfully. Instead, I threw myself to my work, and this gave me even more reasons to worry.
To be honest, I cannot remember how I pulled through those dark times. All I know is that I did it with a lot of support from friends and family. In hindsight, I wish I had gotten some professional help, too, because I’m sure it would have helped even more.
Today, I firmly believe that the alpha male syndrome most men are brought up with does more harm than good. It does nothing to help build good relationships or happiness at home or at work, and it leads to a lot of negative issues that we’d all do better without.
I honestly believe that if you are feeling overwhelmed or just need to talk to someone, talking to a professional is the best way to go. You will experience a dramatic improvement in your outlook and your overall well-being.
If this is what you are going through, your first step should be admitting that something is up to yourself, then to your spouse or family and friends. Talk to your doctor about it, they’ll connect the dots and help you get the help you need.
Personally, I’m just grateful I somehow pulled through, and it is comforting to know that if things get too heavy again, I can always get the help I need and talk it through once more.