WHAT TO EXPECT WITH EXPECTATIONS: DAD EDITION

by Mount Royal University, Nursing Students, Spring 2022


Do you feel a heavy weight on your shoulders with expectations, responsibilities, and adjusting to your new life as a parent? Parenting can be challenging, this includes new fathers. Fear not — help is here! We’re here to share some tips and tricks that can be used to adjust to life as a father — for families of all different arrangements.


What does being a parent mean to you?

Parenting is a unique experience. A survey conducted with 70 respondents in May 2022 by Mount Royal University nursing students set out to investigate parental mental health and the challenges experienced by new fathers. We asked families what being a parent means to them — here are some of their responses.


The Daddy Blues: Expectations v.s. Reality

In today’s world, parenting roles can be difficult to determine, consisting of expectations that match past stereotypes, as well as the demands of our modern lives. When a father cannot uphold these expectations it can lead to depression, as he may undermine his worth.


What are common expectations of a father?

  • Financial supporters [1]

  • Physical protectors

  • Handyman

  • Stoic

  • Self-sufficient

“The stereotype is that dads don’t know anything…and I think that what my work entails is making sure that dads know that they can – they can actually do stuff and they can actually see that they do know how to do things” - Dave Patterson

Dave Patterson, a nursing instructor from the University of Calgary, knows the expectations placed on father’s all too well. In his experience in labour and delivery and the NICU, in addition to being a father himself, he reminds fathers that they are capable of more than they think.

Breaking the Expectations
  1. Assess your own bias: It’s important to ask yourself how you contribute to stereotypes in society. Reflecting on the bias you hold can shift your perspective and provide space for you to grow into the father YOU want to be.

  2. Build your confidence: What are your strengths? What does being a father look like to you? Ask these questions and recognize your capabilities.

  3. Communicate with your partner: Communication is important to address any fears and concerns you may have. Partner support is a useful tool when transitioning into the role of a father [2].

When the mother and father work together to discuss roles and responsibilities, it strengthens the family connection, reducing depression during fatherhood.

Barriers

For many parents, adapting to new life before and after postpartum can be extremely challenging. The common barriers that strain family relationships during parenthood as seen in the survey are:

  1. Stress & Lack of time

  2. Mental health struggles

  3. Financial support

  4. Anger

Participant:

“We [are] not as close as [we were] last time when before we have kids…It’s not as attached as last time…because both are working, that’s one…and most of the time, both of us [are] not looking at each other, but we are looking at our kids” [3].

Based on our survey, 73.5% of respondents indicated time requirement as a barrier, while 57.4% of respondents reported that stress as a barrier to maintaining healthy family relationships.