One of my favorite things about becoming a mom was finding my new tribe called other moms. Yes, the new baby was exciting too, but there was something about going through this massive, life-altering shift that other women fully understood. It was a beautiful thing and it helped me in ways that resonate to this day. Unfortunately, though, not everyone has the same experience. And perhaps this is especially true for new dads. And that's a real shame because becoming a parent takes a mental toll on fathers too, as new research explains, and there might not be as much support for them as you might think.
A Canadian survey of more than 4,000 fathers between the ages of 18 to 75, conducted on behalf of the Movember Foundation in June, looked at the various ways becoming a father impacted them. For example, an overwhelming 70 percent of the fathers who responded admitted their stress levels increased considerably in the first 12 months of fatherhood, according to Global News.
While it's probably not terribly surprising to find out that fathers included in the survey — which included dads from countries like the United Kingdom, Australia, and the United States — find the first year of parenthood stressful, some of the other results of the survey are a cause for concern.
Beyond feeling stressed, the Ipsos MORI survey found that 23 percent of respondents said they felt very isolated after becoming a father. A further 20 percent noted they lost close friends in the first year of parenthood. Which makes sense when you consider all of the resources new mothers can enjoy regular access to like Facebook groups, local play groups, etc.
Sure, those options are technically available for fathers as well, but as Oh Baby! A Mom's Self-Care Survival Guide for the First Year author Maria Lianos-Carbone explained to HuffPost in 2018: "Most parenting support services are still geared almost exclusively to moms, and of course, with good reason. However, it can leave fathers out of the equation, when they also need their own type of support."
Parenthood doesn't just affect men emotionally and socially, but it can impact them physically as well. A full 56 percent of fathers surveyed said that they had at least one new negative health behavior that cropped up after becoming a parent, as the CBC reported. Whether that was drinking more alcohol, exercising less, poor diet, or weight gain, more than half reported their health had gone downhill after a baby.
This new survey lines up with a separate Canadian study from 2016 that found mothers far more likely than fathers to seek help from their health care provider for mental health issues. Psychology professor Gregory Fabiano from the University of Buffalo explained to Global News that there remains a stigma for fathers seeking mental health treatment. "If you have a new mother, they may be more open to and maybe even have more opportunities to engage with ways to learn about what might happen to them," Fabiano explained to the news outlet.
A press release from the Movember Foundation also noted that the results were upsetting but hardly surprising. "These results do not come as a shock, as many fathers surveyed admitted that parenthood was more stressful now than ever before, but instead of opening up, many men attempt to deal with these challenges on their own, suffering in silence," the press release said.
Fathers need access to support groups and care that makes sense for them instead of simply piggy-backing on to groups for moms. Because parenthood is difficult for everyone, and we all need as much help as we can get.