Historically, it’s not easy for men to seek out therapy in a culture that expects them to be self-reliant and non-emotional. This “pull yourself up by your own bootstraps” mentality shames men into thinking that they have to figure things out on their own – even in anxiety-producing and life changing transitions like becoming a dad.
There’s a lot of places new moms can get emotional support, but its not nearly as easy for new dads.
Choosing to ignore, shove down, or push away the anxiety that you are experiencing about becoming a dad often means that you don’t get to fully enjoy one of the most important stages of life.
Instead, you have to work really hard to pretend everything is dandy, which means most of your energy and head space is going towards pretending instead of relaxing into your new identity and role.
And this means that all the anxiety you didn’t address before your baby was born is going to become magnified ten- fold after as exhaustion, less time for yourself and more things to juggle make it harder to compartmentalize the anxiety in a neat box.
Perhaps for you it looks like this: You thought that it might be easy to just focus on your wife and her needs, that helping to calm her anxiety could inadvertently calm your own. You thought that attending all those birth classes at the Birth Center of Boulder would help you feel like you have a plan and know what you are doing. But none of it is working.
The truth is, you’ve dealt with anxiety as long as you can remember, but it wasn’t debilitating. It mainly motivated you to do well in your life and have a solid plan. You’ve thought about trying therapy, but instead turned to self-help books to try to manage it because you didn’t feel like it was bad enough to warrant therapy.
But the stuff from the self-help books isn’t helping now. The idea that you might be a terrible parent and might be as bad as your own mom or dad scares the shit out of you –so much so that it’s hard to sleep. You’re afraid that you’re not going to know the right ways to parent, that you’re going to have to give up everything you love, and that your relationship might go to shit.
And as D-day gets closer, your anxiety has hit such an all-time high that you really feel like you are losing your mind.
I haven’t met an expecting or new dad that doesn’t feel some anxiety about becoming a parent. Figuring out how to navigate new parenthood with ease doesn’t come naturally and we all have to develop our own unique way.
But what I hate seeing is how many new dads do not have enough support to work through the issues contributing to their anxiety and constantly feel like they have to deal with it on their own, often making the anxiety worse.
It doesn’t help that our culture burdens men even more: You have to do everything on your own and you should be able to take everything in stride. But god forbid, if you do feel emotional, suffer in silence. Anger is the only acceptable emotion for you to express.
Anxiety therapy with the right person can be a great way to work through the anxiety, but so many new dads feel they are going to be judged, that they have to be nearly suicidal or psychotic to get that kind of help, and that letting themselves share their feelings to a stranger could be damaging.
Becoming a new dad can be so anxiety-producing, especially if you are no stranger to anxiety. But getting the right kind of support can help you face it so that you can feel at ease and confident in your ability to be a great, hands-on parent who can take care of yourself and your loved ones. Keep reading for the 4 reasons I love offering anxiety counseling to anxious dads so that maybe you can consider therapy for trauma and/or anxiety as your first option.
If you don’t deal with your anxiety, you risk not only missing out, but fulfilling your own fears.
Maybe you don’t feel paralyzed by your anxiety. You’re able to function and show up for your life, responsibilities and loved ones pretty well, but the incessant tape of thoughts of worries – about your partner, about the baby, about being a good parent, about still having a life outside of being a parent keeps you up and just won’t stop. It’s enough to make your heart race and palms sweat on a regular basis.
Whenever we have a part of us, like anxiety, that’s running our show and making it really hard to see life clearly, we run the risk of missing out on really important and joyful times in our life because we are wrapped up in how we are feeling rather than being present. This means you could miss out on precious moments connecting to your new baby because your thoughts are moving a mile a minute about all the stuff that needs to happen to support your baby and family.
The longer you risk letting your anxiety go unchecked, the more you risk fulfilling one of your biggest fears – that of not being a present and engaged dad and partner. Not being fully present and engaged hurts your family and takes a toll on them. The last thing you want is not only for your children to absorb your anxieties, but also to learn from you how not dealing with their issues hurts rather than helps them.
With the right support, learn how to trust in yourself and have confidence in your ability to be a great dad so you can have peace and joy in this amazing new phase of life.
Although you struggle with anxiety, you have the potential to not let it overwhelm you and to actually hear what it might be trying to communicate to you. When we choose to do this, we actually see these parts of us that we hate, like anxiety, as having wisdom, which makes it stop acting so neurotic and work for us rather than against us.
How different might your life be if you could support your anxiety in being more like a helpful advisor of things to consider rather than a panicking overwhelming voice that sounds the alarms about every little thing? You’d feel more at ease and more able to trust yourself in riding the ups and downs of new parenthood with confidence.
You have the opportunity to change your relationship with your anxiety so that you can be a loving and present father and partner capable of being the backbone of your family. And I really love helping new dads get to this place.
Here are the 4 reasons I love helping anxious new dads become confident parents.
1) I was lucky enough to watch my own husband grow from anxious to confident in his parenting.
My husband hasn’t had it easy in the attachment arena as he was given up for adoption at the age of 5, spent a couple years in foster care, and luckily did get adopted by a good family at age 7. When we decided to have a baby, he did a lot of reflection on how he might be as a dad, and he had some concern that he might not be as good of a dad as he wanted to be due to a history of unattaching when he felt threatened, angry or fearful.
I feel so damn proud of him because he has worked to recognize this pattern and we are thriving as a family because he is learning to stay in relationship with his daughter even when angry and fearful. She is teaching him how to attune and stay connected, and our relationship has shown him loving people can and will be there.
His transformation has been a huge blessing for us and for him as his confidence grows and I want that for every father who struggles with anxiety and doubts their abilities to father well.
2) Our world needs more hands on and involved dads raising kids.
Times are changing. More dads are actively involved in the parenting process then ever before. And in reality, they should be. We thrive when we have healthy doses of the masculine and feminine equally. There is no research out there that proves that women mother better or are better parents.
In actuality, what makes a good primary caregiver is the ability to attune to a child’s needs – and this is not gender specific. Attunement takes self-awareness, curiosity, and the ability to watch for, understand, and meet a child’s cues for food, comfort, sleep, love, etc. Most of us can be taught to do that.
The cultural beliefs that men don’t know how to or aren’t good at being involved parents are bullshit.
The belief that men should be non- emotional (except to express anger) is bullshit.
The belief that men don’t need support and should do everything on their own is bullshit.
The belief that men should be the breadwinner and have no involvement in parenting is TOTAL bullshit.
I want to help continue shifting these paradigms and help you dads be happy and hands on parents, which means helping you unburden these cultural beliefs and learn to parent from your authentic self, instead of what you have been conditioned to believe.
3) I know anxiety and how to work with it, and becoming a dad makes a lot of men feel anxious.
Helping people heal themselves from crippling anxiety, self-doubt and complex trauma has become my life’s work, and that’s why I specialize in anxiety counseling and trauma therapy. And then when you add in being able to help a new dad in these arenas during one of the most important transitions of their lives – well, I’m in.
While my own dad gets an award for most improved, my childhood with him was really difficult because of his own trauma. Watching my husband transform into a wonderful, confident and present dad has given me so much hope for all dads with high anxiety.
So I bring a unique combination of street smarts (so to speak) and amazing training in holistic interventions to help you get to a sense of peace and self confidence in your new role as dad.
Most of the dads I work with say I bring a pretty balanced energy of nurture, gritty humor, and jedi mind tricks, and they know I’ve got their back.
4) Becoming a good parent means that we need to deal with our shit so we don’t pass it on down.
And here we get to the most important reason that I do what I do – because I want to help stop the cycle of transgenerational trauma through cutting edge trauma therapy.
Every time a dad doesn’t address their anxiety, doesn’t learn to truly take care of and value themselves and doesn’t get support, they pass that shit right on down to the next generation.
Literally. Encoded right on their DNA (per the study of epigenetics).
But research is starting to show that our DNA can be re-encoded with markers of resilience and healing, thus supporting our future generations to not carry the same burdens – and this can happen after our children are born as well.
So my point is, actively choose to stop the cycle. Give your children a good start by working on your shit. The better you feel, the more present you will be, and the more love you can give.
You and your kids deserve it.
So if what I wrote speaks to you, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’d love to know.