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Since becoming a dad I feel like I’m always ‘on’. I wake up early, feed the pets, do the chores, help get the baby up, spend all day at work, come home and help put the baby to bed, and then do more chores. It leaves very little time for unwinding. I realise this is one of the realities of becoming a father, but it’s absolutely exhausting. Any advice to help me switch off occasionally?
At workingdads.co.uk we’ve brought together a team of experts to answer your questions. We call them….The Dadvengers.
We know working dads have concerns. It might be a HR query about applying for flexible working. Or maybe you find it hard to switch off from work and give your family your full attention. Maybe you’ve taken some time out to raise your kids and you’re looking to get back into the workplace. We know people that can help, so get in touch.
I remember those early days and it’s not with fondness. The first thing to know is that it will get easier, because while it’s “supposed” to be magical, sometimes those early days with a young baby are all about “surviving” and learning what needs to happen for you to function as a family. As dads it is easy to feel the pressure of being “the rock”, while being pulled in different directions – work, family and personal time can feel in conflict.
I would look at your chores and work patterns first. Improving those parts will give you the best chance of switching off.
It’s worth sitting down as a couple and making a list of all the things that “need” to be done and then being really honest with each other about that list. What has to happen and what is nice to do? Do you have time to do everything? It’s about being honest about what is a) important b) practical. Remember this stage is just about surviving – lowering expectations on yourselves are a big part of it.
What do you actually have to do (as opposed to what you think you should do)?
What causes stress if it’s not done?
Can you pay someone else to do it for you? (trade your money for time?)
Businesses are increasingly aware of the need and benefit of supporting their working dads. You should definitely be talking to your boss about your workload, working pattern and support options. Perhaps you can reduce commuting time by working from home or remotely – freeing up time for something else. Maybe there are dads groups or dad to dad mentors available to talk to. From my experience of the Dadconnect programme – just having another dad to talk to is a powerful support tool when you feel like you might be the only one.
When I asked your question in the “The Working Dads Club” Facebook group, being creative with your commute was a popular response.
“Commuting time is absolutely the place to unwind; podcasts, books, Netflix, games. My 40 minutes on the train are sacred.”
“I use my commuting time as me time, granted not always the most relaxing but I think a lot of the time it’s about mindset and how you view things.”
Think too about walking for longer, getting off the train or parking further away.
Finding some time to switch off is vital for all parents. Think about how you can set aside time in the week for each of you to get some downtime. Your partner will need this as much as you will. Schedule that time and stick to it so that you each get some break from the day to day. Then look to get date nights / date days in the diary. Think about what is relaxing for you and what is the minimum you need. But above all make sure protected downtime is allocated fairly between you and your partner so that both your needs are being met.