Behind the scenes of the ongoing maternal mental health crisis that has been exacerbated by pandemic parenting complications, threats to reproductive rights, and shortages of invaluable resources like baby formula and tampons, there is the non-birthing partner or those who identify as the father. As Father’s Day approaches in the midst of Men’s Mental Health month, it is vital to shed light on this half of the partnership or co-parent relationship since fathers certainly also experience mental health struggles related to child rearing. 1 in 10 fathers report symptoms of perinatal mood and anxiety disorder, 50% of which have partners with a PMAD, and these statistics are most likely underreported due to ongoing machismo stigmas around mental health and pandemic-related workplace paradigm shifts.
Outdated stereotypes centered around images of masculine pride and stoicism predominate our culture, while showing vulnerability or struggle in any life area is still associated with weakness and inadequacy. Yet national crises, everyday sleep deprivation, financial burdens, marital strife, childcare responsibilities and lack of time for self care or pleasure all impact fathers’ well-being too, and many are less equipped with the emotional language needed to identify precisely what is contributing to somatic, mood, and relational issues at home and instead rely on more concrete, action-oriented strategies that may only skim the surface.
Dr. Dan Singley of The Center for Men’s Excellence explains, “The problem for the current generation of new fathers is that we’re being held to a much different standard than our own fathers were: We’re expected to be much more involved in raising our children. Why might this expectation be a potential problem? Because dealing with the stress of the adjustment to parenthood can cause men to go on a kind of “autopilot” in which we emulate our own fathers’ out of-date tactics. This kind of mismatch between one’s “daddy training” and the current social zeitgeist encouraging fathers to be open, available, and engaged has been said to result in something called ‘gender role strain.’” Being an involved, affectionate, sensitive and fallible father has no societal template. New fathers are carving out new terrain for themselves and their children in real time, and the growing pains are reflected in the statistics. To all those who identify with the father role and are making it their own, you are seen, support is available, and you are not alone. #paternalmentalhealth #mensmentalhealth #cocreatearttherapy
Original photo by Ante Hamersmit via Unsplash Post by Sharon Itkoff Nacache