The ask a dad section of our website is there so that dads can ask a hard or embarrassing question safely. Today’s ask a dad is a vital one to respond to. For the dad that went out there and wrote in this one, we hope you are reading our response. We thank you for your bravery, because it’s fair to say lots of dads feel this way. So without further ado, here’s our ASK A DAD question.
“I feel like I hate my 4 month old baby. I have never liked babies, but thought I would feel differently about my own child. I don’t feel any joy from my son, only relief knowing that he is healthy and is being taken care of by my wife. I feel like I might start liking my son once he gets older and interactions feel more meaningful, but currently I feel like he’s a more difficult version of a baby doll. Whenever I interact with him, I am either frustrated or just apathetic. What can I do to feel better about my son and our future together?”Anonymous
Before you read this article, we need all readers to note that the advice in this article is not from medical professionals. We always recommend consulting a medical professional if things are not feeling right, especially as a new parent. Men experience real post-partum challenges too.
We talked to dads in our community so that we could get advice for this new dad who is finding his footing
Dear New Dad,
Hey. Welcome to some of the toughest years of your life as a dad. It’s a hazy memory for now, with kids who are 9 and 6, but I do remember those first days with my eldest. feeling like an intruder has somehow made their way into the life that my wife and I had so wonderfully established to that point, and I’m not afraid to say that I probably resented him a little at the time in the process. I hear it often from my friends who are married and new moms—that they see themselves as GREAT moms, but horrible wives, because the need of the baby supersedes that of the spouse. And it’s a pretty shitty feeling.
But you know what? This too shall pass. I remember at one point six months in, I got home and my son smiled BECAUSE it was me for the first time, not just randomly because of something. And that was when I finally knew that everything was going to be okay, even if it was a little rocky at first.
All these years later, my relationship with my kids is better than ever, even if they’re often a pain in the ass. But I’m glad I made it through those first six months, because it made me a better person. I can’t imagine where it would’ve gone without them. I hope you come to feel the same as the months pass on.
—Casey Palmer, Dad of 2
Joshua gave some sage advice on shifting your perspective before being too hard on yourself as a new dad:
“I feel like a shift in perspective is in order. Bonding is just one aspect of being a new parent. I want this dad (and all dads) to know that taking care of his wife, home, his own needs and balancing all of this with his other obligations such as work are all part of being an awesome dad. We develop relationships and bonds through giving to others – so he should know he is likely already doing these things. And, expectations for ourselves are often too high when it comes to new babies, for dads and moms. And when it comes to bonding, mom had a 9 month head start.”
A moms take on our dad feeling this way
Feelings of apathy, resentment, even hatred, are valid and even normal. It’s important to really offer this empathy ad forgiveness to yourself. If you find any barriers there, work with a professional that can help tease out those big feels.
Fortunately, and sometimes unfortunately, all feelings change. Life is full of different seasons, and you will (likely) not hate your son for the entire duration of your time together. Give yourself a lot of grace, you are human, and you feel the way you feel and clearly you’d change how you feel if you could. It’s actually okay.
Sometimes big feelings come up that may be stirred up by a big event (say, having a baby), and it can have roots in our life experiences from the past. Sometimes it can help to stop the stories in our mind (I feel X because of A B C D E F and the whole alphabet) and just feel your body. Usually even 15m of this will calm the nervous system. Finally, what can you do to feel better? Looking for the things you’re grateful for in the situation can help (for ex, you mention how your wife is so great with the baby – having a partner who is so into the newborn stage is a blessing!). Many men don’t enjoy their newborn, often until kiddos are jibber jabbering away and more relatable.
Asking yourself what you need and offering that to yourself can also help. For example, if what you need it peace and quiet (and what new parent or any parent doesn’t crave that a lot of the time??)
Then, find a quiet space (even if it’s the basement bathroom for 5 minutes…and meditate on a question)
“What would it feel if I had peace and quiet now?” – turn it into a meditation, close your eyes, slow down, and invite the feeling now. Believe it or not, it’s within your power to tap into peace at any given moment Book wise, a total life changer for me is “The Presence Process” by Michael Brown. My entire answer is guided by his transformational work.
Jessica C., mom of twins
As our earlier parent writer Joshua mentioned above, it’s important to remember that new parenthood is “full of lots of change. There are new family dynamics, not enough sleep, more stress and you also may feel that the expectations for you with bonding with your new child are too hard to meet. Also, things are likely harder since moms generally become the primary bonder with small babies (by no fault of their own) so positive bonding can get monopolized.”