On Stress Awareness Day Amy Downes writes about the stresses all working parents have to put up with but asks whether we focus enough on dads in particular
Amy Downes is a freelance social media consultant (and football fan) with two young children. She writes about her experience of stress but also asks whether we do enough to really consider the particular stress that dads face.
If I could have any magic power in the world it would be to travel back in time and tell younger me not to worry about the little things.
I can picture me five years ago: swearing under my breath at my desk, while my colleagues look over their computer screens at me wearily.
‘Argh this is stressing me out.’ ‘Oh, she’s doing my head in now.’ ‘I’m fed up of this rubbish’. (Please note, this is a VERY clean version of my actual words!)
But when I look back at that time now, I think, ‘Sweetie, you didn’t even know what stressed was’.
Earlier this year, research showed working mothers are 40% more stressed than those without children. Being a mum with two young children and a burgeoning freelance career, this is something I can certainly relate to.
Every day, there’s an endless to-do list to complete. I make a start on one job and end up doing three others instead. Yesterday was the perfect example: Dropped eldest at nursery, battled rush hour traffic to take the youngest to the hospital (what idiot thought an 8:30 appointment was a good idea?), got his tongue-tie cut, went home and try to finish this article. Spent two hours bouncing him instead, forgot to have lunch, scoffed down a hastily made ham sandwich, went out to baby massage to help with his wind, rushed home to get the work done that I should have done earlier. Got ready to go out for the evening, picked up eldest from nursery, handed both over to my partner when he got home, went to the football (to see another win for Ipswich, get in Town). And all of this while thinking about what needs doing tomorrow.
The mental load of being a parent is, thankfully, being discussed more and more, but are we doing enough to highlight the pressure dads are under as well as mums?
The recent workingdads.co.uk survey found one in four dads have taken time off for mental illness in the last year with a third of those blaming the stress of work and home.
Many men see it as their duty to support their partners, to be their strength and provide for the family. That’s all part of it, of course, but this has to go both ways. It’s all too easy for a dad to take the weight of responsibility onto their shoulders and not let the world see how hard it is.
We know that many mums, like me, find it hard to cope with adjusting to parenthood. But do we speak out enough about the factors that dads find hard to cope with? Things like sleepless nights, the change in relationship with their partner and the pressures from work.
I’m a huge advocate for making sure mum gets time to be herself, hence leaving the boys at home and travelling over to Rochdale for the match, but we need to remember dad can benefit from that too.
Focusing on yourself every so often doesn’t make you selfish, it makes you a great parent because you know how to look after your mental health and that leaves you more able to look after the little angels (or ratbags).
When was the last time you did something you love? Went for a jog, spent half an hour at the gym, played footie (or, if you’re like me, watched it from the stands)?
Why don’t we make a pact for you to have done something that makes you ‘you’ and not just ‘Dad’ before International Men’s Day, one of only two days every year that you’re allowed to make about you!
If the things I’ve discussed in this article have resonated with you or you feel you’re struggling, here are some helpful contact details:
The National Childbirth Trust (NCT) helpline: 0300 330 0700.
The charity Mind can offer help and information: 0300 123 3393 or via text 86463.
And if you’re a new dad, you can speak to your child’s health visitor for information about local services.
You can read more of Amy’s thoughts on flexible working and parenthood on her blog www.mumfullofdreams.com