Fatherhood can be a lonely Island

OPINION | Jarred Kellerman, Business Support Manager at Cire Corporate Services

The transition into fatherhood is filled with many new challenges: sleep deprivation, smelly nappies, tonnes of laundry and an ever changing routine.

One challenge frequently reported is the feelings of social isolation and loneliness, and it can have a significant impact on our health.

In fact, a major review conducted in 2017 discovered that loneliness is deadlier than obesity, and that lonely people have a 50 per cent risk of early death, compared to those with good social connections.

Loneliness emerges due to a perceived lack of connections with others. Researchers describe loneliness as having three aspects: Structural – the presence or absence of others, functional – what relationships do for us, and quality – the positive or negative dimensions of relationships. At first glance it may seem counter-intuitive to think of parents as being lonely, however a study in the UK found that just over half of parents reported feelings of loneliness or being cut off since having children.

New fathers may feel alone and isolated for a variety of situational and/or emotional reasons. Their partner’s attention will often be diverted to the baby, time for friends might be limited and they might find it difficult to connect with the baby in the first couple of months.

When difficulties arise, many fathers will also find it difficult to seek help and, in some cases, may not even realise they may need help. They may also struggle to connect with other fathers as many dads feel that playgroups are catered more for mothers. All of these reasons can compound and reinforce feelings of isolation, so here are some recommendations for addressing them.

In the initial months of becoming a father, it is a good idea to connect with a good GP and book in regular check-ups to assess your mood and general health. If problems arise then you will have an instant gateway to the appropriate services for support. It is also important to pencil in time with your partner and to also see your friends without having your child around. Finally, seek out a dads group locally or even online for some peer support from others who will understand how you are feeling.