“I hate my son more than I’ve ever hated anyone. About 3 weeks after my son was born I began hating him. With a passion. I took 2 weeks paternity leave, and those two weeks were spent in a sleep deprived period of learning wtf. Around that time my wife's postpartum kicked in too. So, she was an emotional wreck as well.”, writes anonymous user OssotSromo in a post on Reddit in the Daddit community, which is described as a subreddit for geek, nerd or neuro-atypical dads.
“After going back to work,” he writes, “I dreaded coming home. When I got home I would try holding him. I would tell myself I love him. But I hated even having him in the same room.”
For many men, new fatherhood isn’t always an experience full of unbridled love, joy and immediate bonding. They can also experience emotions like worry, anxiety, apathy, depression and even hatred towards their child. This is usually unexpected and can lead to more negativity as they wonder if something is wrong with them.
Another Reddit user, iowareq, who posts in a parenting subreddit writes, “I think hate my child, please help!! Throwaway here because it would kill my wife if she ever found out. We only have one child, and he's perfectly normal as far as children go. On the surface, everything is fine, but I really hate spending time with him. I hate when we have to have him do things with the family. I caught myself wishing we could afford boarding school or ship him off someplace. I mean, I care for him. Roof over the head, food, clothes, toys, safety etc- but I don't really feel any connection. I don't really feel like talking with him and my wife is starting to notice. I don't know, I'm just really confused and worried that this is going to break my household up. And yeah, it's not this kid's fault he ended up with me as a dad, it's not fair to him. I just hate spending time with him, talking with him, and having him touch me.”
The cause of such hatred can be anything from hormonal and physiological changes to exhaustion and dealing with the new responsibilities of being a father. Left unchecked, this can lead to frustrating experiences that put a strain on the family as a whole. When it comes to postpartum depression in mothers, research is starting to reveal its causes and the negative effects on family and child development. The same can’t be said about paternal postpartum depression as it’s still relatively unexplored.
A widely cited study reveals that 10% of men show evidence of prenatal and postpartum depression with it being higher in the 3-6 month period after birth. Another study looked at the changes in levels of testosterone as a contributing factor to postpartum depression and also predicted the risk.
In most cultures, it is still taboo for men to discuss their issues and reveal their vulnerabilities. The ideals of masculinity passed down from previous generations still hold court in modern households. Though both parents have an equal responsibility in child raising, men are not eased into the role or prepared to become a parent the way women are. The role of the father as the financial provider for the family still holds strong.
Changing employment patterns and lifestyles require that men contribute more than money to the family. Fathers are now expected not only to spend adequate time with the mother during her pregnancy but are also expected to spend as much as time possible with their newborn. Childbirth results in a loss of freedom, lack of intimacy and added financial strain.
Men are victim to a vicious cycle where there is a lack of opportunity for them to learn about fatherhood and seek help when they cannot cope with the stress. Postpartum depression is an area that still needs more research and millions of new fathers around the world go undiagnosed. In many countries, men do not have access to depression screenings nor do they have the luxury of taking time off to figure out what is going on. Depression and mental illness still have a stigma associated with them and new fathers become victims of a society that is unwilling to come to terms with this uncomfortable truth.
William Pollack in his book ‘Real Boys: Rescuing Our Boys from the Myths of Boyhood’ describes the “boy code as the requirement that boys should be stoic and independent, macho and athletic, powerful and dominant, and phobic of anything close to feminine (e.g. warm, empathetic or sensitive). If they aren’t, they are wimpy losers.” That is a lot to take on for any boy or a man. When the responsibility of being a new father-a loving, caring, ever-present one is added to this list, it becomes too much to handle. There might be very few men out there who are brave enough to accept that they have a problem. Fewer who would publicly admit that they hate their child. Nevertheless, the number of men who hate their children is substantial enough to warrant further studies.
The author has edited some parts of the quotes from the Reddit user’s stories to make for easier reading.
Mental Health: Dads & Depression “I am not sure where it all went so horribly wrong,” he said in a very low whisper.
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