How your own journey impacts
fathering and partnering

MattTilley FAMILYLIFE

More from Matt Tilley……

Nothing did go to plan and life as a dad became unrecognisable. Now, there is no turning back, this is forever.

I didn’t know it was going to be such a shock.
This can all feel worse for dad because he can also feel a bit shocked or out of control. But we might not know this because we don’t really talk to dads about how they feel about becoming a dad. It’s almost like new dads are invisible, silent, and yet their role is hugely influential. If things are not going well for dad then they’re probably not going too well for mum and ultimately for the baby and kids, especially in the long term.  This is the whole purpose of ‘How is Dad Going?’

We need to find out what becoming a dad has been like for new dads, by just asking them and encouraging them to talk about it.
So if that is you?…   How can you think differently about becoming a dad, especially if you’re not a dad yet?  It’s a great time to be reading this stuff now, it is never too late to try to make sense of fatherhood.
It is fair to say that everything that is happening for mum, when she becomes a mum, is likely to be happening for you – things are changing at a deeper level.  Probably looks different but all the huge changes that happen for your partner will be happening for you.  It’s really important for you, as a dad, to know this because then you know that is OK for you to find this stuff hard, it’s not because you’re weak or a loser.
So take some time to read this bit and try to make sense of it.  It is your opportunity to learn about why you might feel crap as a dad when you thought it should have been so straight forward. This information might also give you the courage to find someone to talk to, to help you make sense of it and to get things back on track.

It starts back when you were a kid……….

BEING A KID
What did your childhood teach you?
When you were a kid growing up in your family and community you would have seen and heard many things that have stuck with you,  messages about how you fitted into your family and the world.  Many of them were probably positive and loving, but some of them might not have been.  Some of them you might not even remember but these are your first lessons about how you value yourself and how you should behave and relate to other people.  This happens for boys (and girls) growing up in every community, culture and religion.  It’s just the messages that may be different.
Other big things that these early lessons will help you with are what you need to do to solve problems, and whether or not you can communicate your needs or feelings.  Also, you would have learned a bit about your own parents as you started to make sense of what kind of job they did as a parents.  These messages will stay with you as you then became an adult yourself.

BEING AN ADULT
Bumpy ride…
It’s not usually a smooth ride to go from being a kid to being an adult – for both boys and girls.  There are so many things to experience, learn and understand.  For lots of people much of this seems to happen without too much trauma – they experience life as highs and lows with plateaus in the middle.  Putting together a life as an adult is likely to be based on the lessons you learnt as a kid, perhaps without making any conscious decisions about whether these are the best for you.  It would be great if you could know all the good and bad lessons you’ve learnt through life and then simply remove the bad ones and replace them with new adult lessons that are healthier for you.
Unfortunately it doesn’t usually happen this way and you can often find yourself thinking and doing things as you know from growing up rather than learning new ways which enable you to be able to make choices about the way you live your life.
What does all this mean?
It’s different for everyone – we all grew up as different people in different families. An example could be a boy who learns that he is valued for his ability to win in sport.  Perhaps whilst applauding his athletic ability, not many people made him feel good just because of who he was, reinforcing that he didn’t need to succeed all the time to be valued.  Once an adult he might continue to believe he has to be the best to succeed and win, in everything, before he can feel good about himself.  Part of this may also be that everything has to go to plan as a sign of his success and value in life.  This may lead to a tricky way of viewing life when becoming a dad as there are so many variables – and what is success?

BEING A PARTNER
Falling in love…
The tricky stuff can start to kick in now – love and relationships are key to so much of our lives however its worth remembering you are bringing together two lives that are different, in many ways.  Both you and your partner have learnt your own lessons through your own childhoods and you may not even be aware of some of those lessons yourself – let alone those of your partner.  Regardless of how much you love and respect your partner you are both different people.
How will this ever work?
Communication and conversation can be key – with an insight into your differences and an ability to talk and listen to each other, choices can be made together about how you want to build your relationship and your family.  You can create your own lessons you want your kids to learn.  This is difficult for many couples and it’s OK to need some help to make this work. Perhaps be open to seeing a counsellor together, and maybe separately – keep in mind your relationship doesn’t need to be at breaking point before seeing a counsellor, getting in early for some conversational strategies can be a great thing to do for you both and your new family.