Taking care of a newborn child is difficult. It’s way harder than I imagined. There’s no off switch. There’s no clocking out.
You’ll grieve for your old life. You’ll say hasty words to yourself while you’re sleep deprived. Did you know sleep deprivation is used as torture?
My kid is a few weeks old. Here’s what I do to stay strong for him and for myself.
If you and your partner can take time off work once your kid is born, I highly recommend doing shift rotations. Getting sleep is highest priority.
Work in shifts by watching the baby and tending to his care. For example, when it’s my shift, I’ll watch the baby for several hours and do the diaper changing, feeding, and putting him to sleep. My wife will sleep in another room where the baby won’t wake her up. We then switch.
We tried having the baby in the same room where we sleep but that ended up with neither of us getting sleep.
I’ve also heard of parents both waking up to tend to the child. I don’t see the point. Both parents will be sleep deprived.
Put on your headphones
A baby’s scream invokes panic and adrenaline in parents. It will wear you down. I use earbuds to lower the volume of my baby’s screams. It made a huge difference in mental state.
It’s hard to convince yourself to do any workouts when you’re running on fumes — I’ve been there.
Prioritize sleep first. If you’re too sleep deprived, working out will add additional stress, your body will breakdown, and you’ll get sick.
If you’re already watching the baby in shift rotations with your partner, that means you’re probably getting enough sleep to somewhat function.
Walking and doing a light run on a treadmill every other day made a huge difference in my mental state. I felt better. I felt calmer. I was less pessimistic about my current situation in life.
I even resumed lifting weights twice per week with lesser intensity.
Throw out all expectations about working out hard. Give yourself permission to keep it light. You’re in maintenance mode.
Some kind of exercise is a must. If you can force yourself to do even a little, you’ll see that it’ll make you feel better while you’re going through stressful days with your baby.
Talking to other dads
I reached out to several fathers while going through the newborn daze. They validated what I felt because they went through the same hardships.
A weight lifted off my shoulders after talking about the challenges of being a new father with other fathers. I was in a dark place that first week of fatherhood and the ability to vent was therapeutic and gave me hope.
You won’t connect with all fathers. I connected with two out of four. I couldn’t emotionally connect with two.
The ones I couldn’t connect with had traditional wives. Their wives stayed up most nights with the baby. Their wives pulled about 80% of the newborn duties. This is not to say these fathers had it easy — parenthood is a cold plunge for all parents, them included. It’s just that they couldn’t relate as well to sleep deprivation and staying up with a baby late at night while consoling him to sleep. Their reply was It’s hard but it’s worth it and that’s about it.
I found online communities where parents shared their experiences. The good, the bad, and the ugly. The uglier it got, the better I felt about how fortunate I was. These stories let me know I wasn’t the only one going through tough times.
Reading stories about the experiences of others on Reddit kept me sane and I highly recommend it when you’re doing through a tough time.
Keep a daily journal
Your memory will turn to mush with a newborn. The first few weeks, you’ll struggle to recall the previous day. Journaling was like my personal therapist. I expressed depression, anger, despair, misery, gratitude, and hope — not at the same time.
Journaling made me realize how much I was struggling the first month. That’s when I made changes to prioritize sleep as much as possible and to sacrifice former priorities. Things got better. Had I not journaled, I wouldn’t have recognized my struggles and would have continued down a dark path into depression.
Keep it simple — create a google doc and make a new header for each day you journal. Keep it private so that you can express anything you want.