One of the more overlooked aspects of becoming a dad is what happens to your friendships. Here we look at what might happen to your social circle as you enter fatherhood.
It’s probably fair to say that your mates are not top of your list of priorities when you first have a baby. To be honest, you’d be concerned if they were. But there’s no denying that fatherhood affects your friendships. How much time you have for them, what you do, and even who your friends are.
Well, let’s face it, becoming a dad is quite a big thing. Possibly the single most ecstatically joyous, utterly terrifying thing you’ve ever experienced.
Whatever you’re feeling, there’s every chance that other new dads are feeling something similar.
Suddenly all those parenting conversations at work seem intensely interesting. How long does yours sleep for? You really use reusable nappies?
But remember, not all of your colleagues will be quite so fascinated by the relative merits of different swaddling techniques. After all, not so long ago, neither were you. In any case, you might find work a welcome distraction from the sheer intensity of parenthood. Or maybe you’ve decided to be the stay-at-home parent.
Whatever your role, the experience of being a first time parent can be overwhelming. Immense tenderness, vulnerability, frustration, pride and confusion – all on very little sleep.
John, dad to twins, Jennie and Janie, six months and Martha, four years, says: “It’s a heady mixture of elation, confusion, pride, love, terror and indescribable joy”.
We can all find it hard to talk about our feelings. But the first weeks and months of fatherhood are a great time change that.
Many fathers are surprised by just how much having a baby gives them in common with other men. If you and your partner went to NCT classes, keeping up with the men you met can be a great way of talking about the emotional rollercoaster that is being a dad.
Nate, dad to Mindy, 11 months, says: “Linking up with the other dads and hearing what they were concerned about was one of the best parts. We set up a WhatsApp group quickly, followed soon by a curry night. Support established.”
Try to stay in touch not just with your old mates but with your old way of life. Fatherhood can be all-consuming. A lot of men are happy for their new family-focused lifestyle to replace time spent with old friends. It is a new chapter, after all. And that might mean naturally bringing earlier chapters to a close.
But you might find it’s worth the effort to keep in touch with non-parent friends, even if you don’t see each other quite so often as before. Catching up with old mates for non-baby-related chat or some time on the pitch/court/track/yoga mat can provide important respite.
Just make sure you offer to take over the childcare in return, so your partner gets the same opportunity. Even a sleep-deprived evening out once in a while can be better than nothing – for both parents.
Let’s face it, however often you manage to catch up with friends – new or old – your leisure time is going to change. Whether you’re the primary caregiver during the week or not, you might have to put regular, time intensive golf playing, music listening, footie watching, and gym going on hold.
Matt, dad to Sandy, five years and Etta, 19 months, says: “I had to give up a lot of the sport I played – golf and football, which was quite hard. But we spent lots of time together as a new family, going out to parks and cafes. There we met other families, which was really nice.”
If you’ve been working all week, think of the weekend as not only a time to get to know your baby better but to potentially meet other new dads. Whether by hooking up with a local dads group in your area or simply hanging out as a family. Babies equal chats with friendly strangers in playgrounds, parks and even supermarkets. New friends needed? Go get ‘em.
Our support line offers practical and emotional support with feeding your baby and general enquiries for parents, members and volunteers: 0300 330 0700.
You might find attending one of our Early Days groups helpful as they give you the opportunity to explore different approaches to important parenting issues with a qualified group leader and other new parents in your area.
Make friends with other parents-to-be and new parents in your local area for support and friendship by seeing what NCT activities are happening nearby.