How can new dads deal with self-doubt and anxiety about parenthood?
It's natural for parents to doubt their capabilities. But, it's important to know that anxiety about parenthood, and even self-doubt, can be turned around for the better
All parents—especially new parents—will experience a bit of self-doubt at some point. What if I’m not a good enough parent? Am I doing this right? These are all normal worries many parents share.
Like, this one parent who took to theAsianparent Community to ask this question anonymously:
“I keep on having doubts about my parental abilities and can't somehow talk to my wife about it. She is 7 weeks pregnant and now I am starting to worry. Any suggestions?”
One dad shared his experience anonymously, hoping that it would be of help. “I had to talk to my counsellor from work who told me to focus and divide the problem into smaller parts and all would be well eventually." He went on to share six things to remember.
1. Don't panic
2. Focus only on the now
3. Keep your wife healthy both mentally and physically. She is worried too.
4. Choose a good gynaecologist if you haven't already and talk to her about your issues.
5. Talk to your colleagues who have been through similar journey.
6. Stay mentally strong for the both of you.
"The moments right before and right after giving birth are incredibly difficult and exhausting so support her in any way you can."
Mum of two Emelie T. reassured him that what he’s feeling is very natural. “So don't think that just because you fear this that it will be real," she writes. "It is true that a lot of focus on preparing for a baby is pointed towards an expectant mother, leaving the dad guessing.”
Pushan D.tells him, "You don't have to worry for any skill. It's as feeling that will make this happen for you. Be supportive to your wife. Spend quality time with her especially in her last few weeks of her pregnancy. Be with her as much as you can, talk to your family."
"No parent gets it right the first time," reassures Dazzle N. "I suspect not even the second or third! What's important is being there for your wife. The moments right before and right after giving birth are incredibly difficult and exhausting so support her in any way you can. Sleep deprivation will turn you both into monsters so just go with what keeps you both sane. Sometimes you'll hear people tell you you have to do this or that to be a good parent... but honestly, happy mum & dad = happy baby. Don't be too pressured; just do what you can."
How can parents overcome self-doubt? Advice from a family therapist can be found on the next page
California-based Marriage and family therapist Jeff Palitz stresses the importance of parents to trust their instincts. It's also best to keep whatever self-doubt or apprehensions on the "constructive level".
Many parents are too hard on themselves, thinking that they're not allowed to slip up.
"They’re torn between believing that they’re doing their best and feeling like bad parents, and sometimes even bad people," writes Palitz. "When I come across these tortured souls I tell them one thing: Self-doubt is a sign of a good parent."
"Although it doesn’t feel good, self-doubting parents often make better parents."
He expressed his concern over parents whose kids seem to be perfect. These parents always seem to know what to do, or so "insecure" parents perceive them to be.
"Although it doesn’t feel good, self-doubting parents often make better parents," writes Palitz. Adding that one of the biggest challenges good parents face is "the constant temptation to compare themselves to a standard that doesn’t exist".
He clarifies, however, excessive self-doubt is not constructive.
"In order to make sure self-doubt remains at a constructive level, it is important to work on changing the behaviours that cause it in the first place," says Palitz.
He goes on to share four keys to changing unwanted parenting behaviours, all of which require patience and practice.
This practice should be part of a parent's daily routine. It need not be tedious or expensive. It can simply be breathing exercises and meditation.
"With daily practice, you’ll be more successful at using this skill in heat of the moment to ensure that you can make good, conscious choices about your parenting behaviour," assures Palitz.
Rely on your partner during tough times. But if you're a solo parent, don't be ashamed to ask for help. Building a strong support network is a valuable asset for parents to have. "Talk to your family, vent to your friends and do whatever you can to unwind in the precious few quiet moments," suggests Palitz. "Remember you are not alone in these parenting challenges."
Forgive Yourself and Focus on Strengths
"For many of the parents I see, these are the hardest steps," shares Palitz. "Somewhere along the way, they were taught that the best way to learn from their mistakes was to completely beat themselves up, which is simply counter-productive. It turns out it’s much more effective to forgive and focus."
Be sure to check out theAsianparent Community for more insightful stories, questions, and answers from parents and experts alike. If you have any insights, questions or comments regarding the topic, please share them in our Comment box below.