Top 5 tips by dads, for dads, on looking after mental health

We got in touch with dads working at the Mental Health Foundation to see what tips they would give to other / prospective dads for looking after their mental health. Here’s what they said:

1) Put the work in to keep relationships going with your mates, family and partner - Ralph Coates, Head of Partnerships

You’ll need to work harder at keeping relationships going with your mates, your family and even your partner. That can be hard to hang on to your mates, if your partner doesn’t feel like going out much, and needs you to be at home, and none of your mates have children and you’ve moved away from them, but you’ll need the respite, and it’s the only way of keeping those other fundamental relationships going outside the family – you are a dad, but you are a person in your own right too.

Try to get the children used to babysitters so that you and your partner can go out sometimes and have the life you used to for an hour or two.

2) Be prepared for Children to show you where you are out of balance - Chris O’ Sullivan, Head of Business Development

If you are doing it right parenting in the early years will place a major strain on your career. Just as it will your partners. Investing in your children's early years is a bigger investment than any promotion. Take time for yourself and gifting time to your partner is also important.  Show affection to your kids, physically and emotionally, in public and in private. The first hug you get lives forever in your heart. Keep a diary or a photo diary of the good and bad times and flick through it regularly to orient yourself in time and remember.

3) Cherish sleep and make time for exercise - James Harris, Head of Media and Communication

Life is so much easier following a good night’s sleep. This is an issue that has drastically improved as the children have gotten older – but it took me some time to realise that they only way I was going to get more sleep was to go to bed earlier rather than hopefully anticipate a lie in. This has required some adjustment, and wistful memories of staying up to the earlier hours in my days pre-children. But is has also forced me to make more out of my mornings – especially at the weekend.

I am one of the world’s worst runners and a few years ago I couldn’t have imagined taking any joy out of running around my local park in the rain. But I do, and what I have realised is that it is of greater benefit to my mental health rather than my physical health. I have taken to running (part of the way home) after work – it enables me to switch gears between leaving the world of work and being at home.

4) If you have multiple children, be aware that the dynamics may get complicated! - Ralph Coates, Head of Partnerships

Once you have two or three children, the dynamics between them can be complex and at time almost unresolvable e.g. he had more than me, his room’s bigger than mine, you like them more than me, he’s got a phone when he’s 11 and I was 14 etc. etc. They’ll also play you off against your partner. Unbeknownst to you, they’ve asked your partner something and she’s said no, so they come to you and you say yes. I’m not sure I have an answer to that one. Being a dad can be tough.

And one of my favourite quotes “With your first child, you spend ages gazing lovingly at them, in wonder at the miracle of birth, whereas by the time you have three and they’re starting to grow up, you’ll spend large parts of the day hiding from them”.

5) Enjoy it, because all the clichés are true. One day they will be leaving home, and I will be wondering where all the time went!  - James Harris, Head of Media and Communication

My children (aged 4 & 7) have been on balance an enormous asset to my mental health and wellbeing. Their arrival acted as a catalyst for implementing a healthier lifestyle, which has impacted on my overall emotional wellbeing.  Crucially, they are the ultimate enforcer of work/life balance. There is a limit to how long you can work when you want to get home for their bath time. They also force me to live in the present. Time spent with them is time answering questions such as ‘why are dragonflies called dragonflies’ and not time spent on worrying about work. Nevertheless, being a parent isn’t without its challenges.