Olivia and I nearly shouted in the ultrasound room the moment we found out we were going to be parents of twins. We were frazzled but excited. A few months later, the pregnancy became bumpy. Olivia was diagnosed with preeclampsia, and for weeks, doctor updates on our twins hovered around fatality. Our drives to ultrasound appointments became journeys of anxiety, and the frequency of high risk appointments rapidly increased with a climax of Olivia’s emergency admittance into the hospital.
Over the month that followed, I watched my wife inundated with medication, pulling her out of consciousness. I struggled, setting up remote work and school by her side, and the moments she had strength to engage were filled with tears and worry. This was my intro to fatherhood, and stress was at an all-time high. All dads have their own fatherhood stress stories from various stages of their journey. But that doesn’t mean it needs to take over our fatherhood. We can combat it! Here are 5 ways to address fatherhood stress.
1. Start the day early.
A dad typically has many things to do in the day, from genuinely loving the wife and kids, navigating our workload or job, and caring for our fitness to actively providing great leadership for our families. The list goes on and on, but starting the day early before everyone wakes up, gives us the opportunity to calibrate our minds and bodies for the dad-to-do list ahead. This helps prevent us from feeling frustrated when our kids won’t listen, angry at the micromanaging boss, or nervous about general challenges the day has ahead. Starting the day early is allotting time to mentally and physically prepare for the obstacles we’ll face.
2. Write daily goals and journal.
Often, fatherhood stress comes from approaching deadlines at work and the rightful demand to be present as dads mixed with imagining that we’re not going to get it all done or that we’ll do it poorly. Writing the next day’s goals down each night helps limit the tension the next day could bring by having a game plan and using it. Having a game plan doesn’t mean everything will go our way, but it gives us a strategy to take on all our fatherhood responsibilities. In addition, goal-setting and being reflective in a journal helps ease our minds and hearts. We’re able to refocus and more likely experience a sense of peace.
3. Get active.
As dads, we’ve got to take care of the machine our fatherhood operates from—the mind and body! Research shows that working out releases chemicals in our brains that simply make us feel great. One contributing factor to consider is our confidence as dads to get through the challenges that fatherhood brings. Without that confidence, challenges become more stressful. Getting active is a large contributor to our confidence. Whether it’s with weightlifting, running, boxing, or swimming, getting active not only helps us physically get stronger, but it helps us mentally get stronger and process tough parts of fatherhood better.
4. Find moments to read.
A wise mentor once told me that all the rich secrets to succeeding at life are hidden in books so that only those who truly want it will find it. I don’t know if that’s true. But much of what fundamentally stresses dads out today has stressed other dads out before. Nothing is new under the sun. Countless dads have written about ways they’ve navigated fatherhood during hard seasons we’d never imagine. From the Bible to biographies, reading slows the mind down, feeds our brains with more tools for life, and lowers our stress level when life seems to be going 1000 mph. On top of that, when we know more, we stress less about the fatherhood challenges ahead.
5. Connect with other dads.
Fatherhood can be tough. We all need help as sometimes our fatherhood tank just runs until it’s empty. That alone makes us stressed, traveling the road of dad demands. Thankfully, there are multitudes of fatherhood communities and friends online and even in person, on social media groups, intramural teams, in neighbors, at church. We just have to take the step and connect with other dads. At times, fatherhood can feel like a lonely journey, even when you’re surrounded by a loving spouse and kids. Connecting with other dads allows us to find the treasure of sharing similar perspectives while swapping tools that work. Surrounding yourself with a bunch of great dads rather than going the journey alone will always be a large contributing factor to limiting fatherhood stress.Fatherhood can feel like a lonely journey, even when you’re surrounded by a loving spouse and kids.
We recently celebrated the first birthday of our beautiful and healthy twin girls, and though the stress of expectant fatherhood is over, the toddler stage is right around the corner. By practicing these principles at every stage of fatherhood, I can be the best hero to all my kids.
Earn some points: Are you married? Is she stressed? If so, share this iMOM article with your wife: 5 Smart Ways to Cope With Parenting Stress.
Sound off: What are some other ideas to address fatherhood stress?
Huddle up with your kids and ask, “What are you most stressed about right now? How are you handling it?”