PPND. It’s more common than you think.

img_0228-2Postnatal Depression is only clinically defined for women

PPND or Paternal Postnatal Depression hits one in five men after they become fathers. It’s quite a startling statistic and one that could possibly be higher as men are less likely to be as open as women in sharing their feelings.

In terms of depression – in general – if you’re a man, you’re more likely than a woman to try to hide your depression or to withdraw from others. This only worsens your symptoms. As for PPND, some research suggests that it develops more gradually in men over the course of the child’s first year than postpartum depression develops in women.

Postnatal depression in men is more common among those who have been diagnosed with depression before, or whose partners are also suffering from postnatal depression. And it’s more common in first-time fathers.

Having a new baby is a huge change, involving physical exhaustion and extra worries. It can be particularly difficult to balance the demands of work and fatherhood, especially as you might feel under pressure to earn more while your partner is not able to work.

Researchers are also beginning to discover that men often experience depression in ways that are different from women. Men sometimes cope with their symptoms in different ways too. These findings might help explain why even trained mental health professionals frequently overlook or misdiagnose men’s depression.

To better understand men’s depression, it’s useful to look at both the classic symptoms of depression and symptoms that may be specific to men.
Classic Symptoms of Depression

  • Depressed, sad mood
  • Loss of interest or pleasure
  • Significant weight loss or gain
  • Trouble sleeping or over-sleeping
  • Restless feelings and inability to sit still or slow down
  • Fatigue, loss of energy, or tired all the time
  • Worthless or guilty feelings
  • Impaired concentration and difficulty making decisions
  • Recurrent thoughts of death or suicide

To be diagnosed with depression, a person must be experiencing five or more of these symptoms, including either depressed mood or loss of interest, over a two-week period. These symptoms must also be causing significant distress and interfering with the person’s social, work or academic functioning.

One of the problems with this classic diagnosis of depression is that researchers are beginning to recognize that men often don’t acknowledge feelings of sadness, hopelessness, or guilt. Researchers – and clinicians specializing in helping men – are also beginning to recognize symptoms of depression that seem to be unique to men.

Symptoms of Men’s Depression

  • Increased anger and conflict with others
  • Increased use of alcohol or other drugs
  • Frustration or irritability
  • Violent behavior
  • Losing weight without trying
  • Isolation from family and friends
  • Being easily stressed
  • Impulsiveness and taking risks, like reckless driving and extramarital sex
  • Feeling discouraged
  • Increases in complaints about physical problems
  • Ongoing physical symptoms, like headaches, digestion problems or pain
  • Problems with concentration and motivation
  • Loss of interest in work, hobbies and sex
  • Working constantly
  • Frustration or irritability
  • Misuse of prescription medication
  • Increased concerns about productivity and functioning at school or work
  • Fatigue
  • Experiencing conflict between how you think you should be as a man and how you actually are
  • Thoughts of suicide

A man who’s depressed won’t experience all these symptoms. Some men experience only a few of them, while others experience many. And how bad these symptoms get also varies among men – and over time.

What Can You Do?

  • Don’t try to ignore these feelings and soldier on.
  • And don’t resort to drink, drugs or burying yourself in work in an attempt to cope – this is a short-term fix and will do more harm than good in the long run.
  • Remember that your health is important to your partner, to your baby, and for his/her development.
  • Seek help from the start: don’t wait to be asked by a health professional, such as your family health visitor or GP, about how well you’re feeling or coping.
  • You’re more likely to recover quickly if you can acknowledge the problem and actively seek a solution. Consider asking for support or practical help from family or friends or consulting your GP.

The important thing to know about these symptoms, and about men’s depression, is that they’re treatable. You don’t have to continue suffering from them. And although it’s a very serious – and sometimes life-threatening – condition, you can recover from depression.
You wouldn’t continue to walk on a broken ankle forever. Don’t continue to suffer from depression any longer. Get help now.

Stay At Home Dads. Why is it such a big deal?

image

Social attitudes change with each generation. Women voting? Sure, why not. Gay marriage? Heck yes. Equal pay for men and women? Um, er…maybe we’re not quite there yet. One social trend which still has a long way to go in terms of acceptance by society is the role of the father being the stay at home parent and primary child carer.

When Mrs DADiator and I had the discussion about starting a family, the one question we knew the answer to was regarding childcare once she returned to work. Outsourcing it to a nursery, nanny, child carer etc. wasn’t going to be the route for us;  both of us had the luxury of having one of our parents quit their job to care for us at home, and we wanted to do the same for our child.

Now for most families, the choice is fairly straightforward; the Dad tends to be the major breadwinner so the Mum stays at home with junior. In our case, and I have no problems in admitting to it, my wife is the major breadwinner and, even more importantly, working for a company that values her and whom she enjoys working for. This symbiosis made it a lot easier for us to decide that it would be me to put his career on hold (indefinitely?) and become that now, well-worn acronym; SAHD ( Stay At Home Dad).

When I mentioned to my mates that once my wife would return to work after 6 months of maternity leave and that I would take up the full time parenting baton, most were outwardly envious. Comments like, “You lucky git! You get to stay at home, watch TV and play all day” were plentiful. However, a few were more along the lines of “I wish I’d stayed at home when X was a toddler, I missed a lot of her milestones”. Taking the decision to give up full-time employment isn’t one to be entered into lightly by men, a recent survey on British Social Attitudes shows public support for dads staying at home is close to zero; only 5% of us think dads should work part-time and the vast majority of us (73%) say dads should work full time. Compare this with the 33% of us that think mums should stay at home; 43% say mums should work part time and 28% favour mums working full time once the kids start school. You don’t have to be a genius to see that Dads at home are very much a minority group.

The sterotype of the male being the hunter gatherer and “putting food on the table and a roof over our heads” is quickly becoming an outdated one for three reasons. Firstly, the number of SAHDs in the UK has risen to around 250,000 as they balance the primary caring with part-time work. Then there are those that work in the public sector (or for those unique private sector companies) that offer much more flexible working and as a result, earn more part-time than their female part-time counterparts. And finally there are the high-fliers who have made it in their respective careers very early on and as such can take a back seat or work freelance and the hours that suit them.

In any case, it’s a trend that’s only going to continue growing as long as employers offer the flexibility to its employees and moreover, as long as men want to take on the responsibility of being that primary carer.

 

Paternity – A Leave Of Your Senses?

Since my last post, quite a lot has happened both at home and around the world, notably the horrible events that took place on the 13th November in Paris and, the subsequent terror threats across the border in Germany and Belgium. Not wanting to be too dismissive, but life does go on. It has to.

Around the time I met my wife, but before I even considered starting a family with her, I read an article in the Daily Mail by political sketch writer and theatre critic Quentin Letts, on how the then Labour Government had carried out research into the benefits of offering a more flexible approach to paternity leave for us men-folk; the idea being that in order to have more equality in the workplace, men should be able to share the responsibility of bringing up junior so that mummy could go back to work sooner and continue in her ascent up the greasy career pole.

Now, the reason why it stuck in my head, was because I thought it was a great initiative. “I’d love to be a stay at home dad”, I’d say to my mates. Their answer was always the same, incredulity along the lines of why I’d voluntarily choose to deal with nappies, vomit, screaming, tiredness etc. My answer was painfully simple. I’m a big kid and I like to have fun. What better fun than being a kid with your own kid?

Of course, the early days are a bloody nightmare (at least they were in our case) although my wife bore the brunt of this for at least the first 3-4 months. When I took over from her after quitting my job, allowing my wife to return to work after 6 months, we were already entering the ‘sunny’ developmental phases of her life so far. She was sleeping through the night, having her naps during the day, eating like hungry hippo and generally being loads of fun to be around. I was able to see her become a ‘person’ right in front of my eyes.

This, of course, had always been my argument to one of us being the stay at home parent. It didn’t seem right somehow, that we should both go to work in order to afford a stranger to experience a string of ‘firsts’ on our behalf. After much discussion and weighing up the pros and cons, it only seemed right and fair that my wife be given every opportunity to return to work and continue life in a job she loves and consistently strives to be more successful at. Me on the other hand, I’d worked for 10 years more, had no real vocation or career path to speak of and had become quite cynical of the corporate world and all the office politic bullshit that comes with it. The choice for me was a no brainer.

Interestingly, since 2006, the paternity leave landscape has changed. The current Conservative Government introduced new legislation beginning in 2015 covering Shared Parental Leave (SPL) and Statutory Shared Parental Pay (ShPP). Together with announcements by large blue-chip companies, notably Virgin, more and more Dads are looking at taking advantage of being at home a little longer than they used to be able to. Now, whilst it’s not widespread and for many employers, not in the slightest bit possible, it is a starting point.

Curiously, the latest statistics from a joint study by My Family Care, a company that helps businesses introduce family friendly working practices and law firm Hogan Lovells, found 60 per cent of HR directors had received none, or a just a few requests to take up shared parental leave. One of the biggest barriers is the pay received, £139.58 a week or 90% of an employee’s average weekly earnings, whichever is lower. Needless to say, if you’re Billy Big Bucks working as a hedge fund manager in the city, it’s not an option worth considering. However, more and more companies are taking Richard Branson’s lead and offering enhanced Parental Leave and Pay.

Luckily, we’re able to do this financially (not that we’re rolling around in piles of cash or anything) but we live within our means. I know that for the the majority of families the choices are made for them. We also both know that this won’t be the status quo indefinitely. I’ll most probably go back to work once our daughter is old enough to attend nursery (doing what remains to be seen) but in the meantime, I’m fortunate enough to be able to be around my daughter during all of her waking hours and constantly reminding her that her mummy’s hard work and, above all, love is making this remotely possible.

Are you a Stay At Home Dad (#SAHD)? What’s your experience so far? Do you agree with SPL/ShPP? Please feel free to leave a comment below.

How Time Flies

When you become a parent for the first time, the first thing you realise is that everyone has an opinion on being a parent or, more to the point, bringing up your child. Curiously, even those without children of their own are just as vocal in giving there opinion (whether requested or not). The one common phrase you do hear though is along the lines of, “make the most of it as time flies by.”

time-flies

Time flying – in case you couldn’t picture it yourself.

Now, as we approach our little one’s first birthday, I can honestly say that a year has well and truly whizzed by. Now, it hasn’t all been plain sailing by any stretch of the imagination. Mrs DADiator will testify that in fact, the first two months were a living hell. We had a baby that wouldn’t nap in the day, wouldn’t sleep through the night, cried for hours at a time, shat often and everywhere, puked often and everywhere (especially in our bed) and was generally a bit of a nightmare. Now, I hasten to add that Mrs DADiator had to deal with much of this on her own as I was still working full time (the odd day here and there from home) and although I tried to help around the house as much as I could with laundry, cooking, general tidying up and cleaning, the reality was that she had baby stuck to her like a limpet for most of the day (and night, as our darling daughter was bottle averse and insisted on booby juice straight from the tap). Thankfully the latter issue was quickly rectified with the expert help of the Sleep Fairy.

After 6 months, it was time for MRs DADiator to return to the land of the full-time employed and my turn to step into the breach as the primary carer of our daughter. A lot of thought and dialogue had taken place prior to us reaching this juncture; would we be able to continue on just one salary? Would I, a bona fide bloke, be able to pick up where my wife had left off? Could I hack it? Would I enjoy it? Truth be known, I was shitting it. What if I forgot to feed at the right time? What if I forgot to change a nappy? What if I didn’t sterilise the bottle? What if she died in my care? (OK a bit dramatic but possible nonetheless). As the days passed, our week of ‘handover’ from Mrs DADiator to me became a blur, and the next thing I knew it was Monday morning and reality hit me. I’m the daddy now.

That first day, anything that could have gone wrong, did go wrong. She puked all over me, her and our bed first thing in the morning. Then, just after her morning nap, she had the most monumental bowel movement conceivable by a baby, rendering her clothes unwearable. Followed by another ‘Exorcist’-style, vomit-fest after lunch, requiring yet another change of wardrobe. I So wanted to prove to my wife that I could do it; not only do it but make it look piss easy. The end result being a spotlessly clean, beaming baby and an immaculate house with dinner gently simmering away on the hob.

By the time Mrs DADiator was due to return from work, our home looked like it had been ransacked by Gremlins, and I’m not talking the cute, wide-eyed type either. No, I’m talking the evil, reptilian looking fuckers swinging from the lampshades and swigging beer from the fridge and pissing in the houseplants. I felt like a total failure – and it had only been 8 hours!

Not this year's Great British Bake-Off final

Not this year’s Great British Bake-Off final

However, the reality was that our daughter had been fed, watered, entertained, cleaned, dressed (and dressed again) and more importantly, was alive and would you believe it, happy. She’d survived. I’d survived!

Almost 6 months into my new ‘job’, and things couldn’t be more different. I look forward to each and every day with my daughter (as long as I’ve had my first cuppa in the morning). I have the confidence and, dare I say it, the expertise to know what my daughter wants, when I should go to her and when I should leave her to her own devices. She sleeps through the night (generally from 7pm to 7am with perhaps the odd little grumble here and there), has a very healthy relationship with food, loves being in the company of others (whether adults or children her own age), respects our two cats and dog (ok, maybe that’s still work in progress and the clonking around the head with a Mega Block will gradually go away) and is a happy, healthy and confident little girl. If I’m really honest, I’d say I’ve been luck to have the 6 ‘happy’ months whereas my wife had to endure the best part of 6 ‘horrible’ months. That said, we both get to enjoy her along with our parents, when they visit, and every day we see just that little bit more of her personality shining through.

6 months? It’s just flown by.

The Outsider

The first thing I noticed as a stay at home dad was the difficulty in being to arrange ‘play dates’ with other kids’ parents. Sure, going to BilinguaSing or Baby Sensory classes was a great way to get our daughter used to other children and interacting with them. But at the end of the session, the other mums would leave, perhaps to meet with other mums for a coffee and for their children to play together, whilst I would go back home and wonder how I would fill the rest of the day entertaining my daughter.

Now, I’ve no shortage of friends – male and female I hasten to add – but when it comes to the parent staying at home, I’m the only chap. So this puts me in somewhat of a unique position. Whilst I’m seen as somewhat of an oddity (possibly even a novelty) in an environment primarily dominated women, there still seems some reluctance for Mums to approach me and introduce themselves. Now, ordinarily I’d have no problem being the instigator as a career in sales has honed my ‘breaking the ice’ and networking skills to a tee. However, in this environment it feels a bit creepy if I were to do that; maybe it’s just me? I mean, is not like I’m a single man on the prowl in a bar. I’m a married man in my 40’s with a baby strapped to his chest. Not exactly threatening.

Thankfully, a handful of friends that my wife made whilst going to pregnancy yoga classes or baby massage, were happy to meet me for a coffee or go go swimming with our respective babies. As humans, our natural instinct is to find company amongst others like us. Whether it’s to talk, ask for advice, laugh or even cry on a willing shoulder. I think it’s fundamental to want to be part of a group.

Anyway, I just thought I’d put it out there as it has been playing on my mind for a while and I just wondered if any other Stay At Home Dads (#SAHD) felt the same or if any Mums have experienced a Dad being the only one in their baby and toddler groups, and what you did to make them feel welcome.

Teething Troubles

teething troubles
1. Lit. pain and crying on the part of a baby whose teeth are growing in. Billy has been whining because of teething troubles.
2. Fig. difficulties and problems experienced in the early stages of a project, activity, etc. There have been a lot of teething troubles with the new computer system. We have finally gotten over the teething troubles connected with the new building complex.

Last night at around midnight, as I sat on the edge of our bed, head in hands, looking bleary eyed at the night-vision images of our screaming daughter on the baby monitor, I had a sudden feeling of deja vu. 

For the last four months or so, we’ve been fortunate enough to have a baby sleeping from 7pm to 7am, who doesn’t cry and is generally a very happy little being. Much of this is thanks to the expert help and guidance we received from the Sleep Fairy, Dee Booth. However, to date we’ve also had a daughter that has so far produced only two teeth.  We both know that more teeth would inevitably come and with more teeth comes more teething. And more teething means more saliva production, more stomach acidity, more nappy filling poonamis and ultimately a generally unhappy little person that will sleep less and by default cause you to sleep less.

With the first two teeth, we seemed to manage things fairly well; the pain with Calpol and Baby Neurofen, instant soothing with Nelsons Teething Granules and Teething Gel along with chilled teething rings for her to chew the crap out of. Unfortunately, none of these remedies deal with the vast quantities of runny poo your beloved baby will produce at the most inconvenient of times. I can’t over emphasise just how much and how often. This also produces nappy rash to the point where your baby’s backside will resemble the flag of Japan.

“And it burns, burns, burns. The ring of fire. the ring of fire” – Johnny Cash

This time round though, the teething has come out of the blue. We had a lovely day yesterday at a 1st birthday party and our little Tinker was impeccably behaved enjoying all the soft play and toys that the parents had arranged. She was on top form and made us both feel like very proud parents. She even went to bed without any fuss whatsoever. And you see, this is what they do; they lull you into a false sense of security so that when you least expect it, whammy! The screaming horror is unleashed once more to remind you what your sole purpose in life is right now. Roughly two hours of crying later she finally succumbed to the pain relief and fell soundly asleep until just before 7am this morning. Mrs DADiator and I on the other hand, have had to put in a full day at work (her) and spend every minute of her waking hours feeding/entertaining/changing/sedating her (me). To say I’m tired is an understatement as it’s taken me the best part of three hours just to compose this post.

Anyway, to summarise and bring this post to an end; teething – it’s the shits.

It’s like having a dog. Except it isn’t. 

A dog is for life, not just for Christmas

The Dogs Trust


The iconic slogan used by the dog charity could quite easily be applied to having children; although you wouldn’t necessarily choose to give birth exclusively at Christmas.

Being ‘master’ to a Border Terrier since he was 14 weeks old (he’s now 5 and a half and I use the term ‘master’ very loosely ), was as good a preparation for being a parent as I can think of. The feeding, cleaning up, bathing, inoculations, entertaining and general constant attention is enough to make anyone think twice about starting a family. Any planned outing with the dog would require ticking off the required mental checklist:

  1. Dog
  2. Collar
  3. Lead
  4. Poo bags

Pretty simple although I’d still forget the poo bags on occasion.

The big difference between babies and dogs of course, is that once your little pup has been house trained, you can leave them home alone while you pop out to the shops or nip out for a coffee/beer with friends. Saying that, most pubs in our locality allow dogs, so more often than not, he ended up coming with us.

Babies on the other hand, cannot, contrary to the beliefs of those without children, be left home alone. Not even for a few minutes. Not even a single minute. So, the consequence is that everyday chores previously taken for granted become a military operation. Firstly, you can only do certain things during nap times. Of course, this can’t be anything involving noise such as vacuuming or mowing the lawn. Secondly, if you choose to ‘wear’ your little ‘un in a sling, then forget about using any cleaning chemicals (bathroom cleaner, surface cleaners etc.) or hanging up laundry as, invariably their little grubby, grabbing mitts will be getting stuff you’ve just cleaned dirty again. That’s counterproductive in my book. Thirdly, if you choose to take baby with you grocery shopping you must, under no circumstances forget

  1. Baby
  2. House keys
  3. Changing bag (with nappies, wipes etc. )
  4. Baby
  5. Water and/or formula
  6. Sling or stroller
  7. Snacks
  8. Toys
  9. Pound coin for the trolley
  10. Baby

You get the picture. But as glaringly obvious as the above might be, when a lack of sleep the previous night has rendered you almost useless, it’s quite easy to forget  multiple items from the above list. Nothing worse than parking up outside the supermarket, walking round to unstrap your child from his/her car seat, picking them up to insert into the sling and realising they’ve shat through their nappy, vest and trousers. That’s bad, but then realising you’ve left the change bag in the porch back home due to being momentarily distracted by your dog being a total dick as you were leaving the house. Oh joy! Back home we go.

Suffice to say, this does get easier as the checklist becomes second nature. I now also make sure I have wipes and nappies in the car at all times just in case. Oh, and poo bags.

Sleep

IMG_2328As a single man in my twenties and early thirties, I had no-one to answer to other than myself. Well, apart from my boss at the time. Oh, and possibly my parents. So when it came to my sleep routine (if you can call it that), bedtime was governed by whatever was worth staying up to watch on TV, and waking up was an hour which, at the time, seemed ridiculously early. This of course was completely different when it came to the weekend, when it was ‘normal’ to get home after a night of mild drunkenness at around 4am and then pass out, I mean sleep, until well after lunchtime. How I managed to do that week, in week out is beyond me, as most evenings nothing other than liquids entered my digestive system.

Now, as a married 40-something year old, my sleep routine is very much dictated by my 10-month old daughter. I realise now how valuable sleep really is. According to the National Sleep Foundation, for adults between 18 and 64 years of age, it is recommended to have between 7 and 9 hours of sleep each night. Most of us look for that golden 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep, which allows for our bodies to regenerate and recover, ready for what the next day has in store. Sadly, the reality is that most of us get nowhere near as much sleep as we need. The modern lifestyle, increased commuter times, varying work shifts and generally trying to cram too much into a day, affect our natural body clock or circadian rhythm.

When my daughter was born, I was remotely aware that my sleep would be affected.IMG_2506 Moreover, my “…life will never be the same…” or words to that effect, gave me the impression that parenthood wasn’t something to be taken lightly. Now, I’m not prone to exaggerating, but the first eight weeks or so of being parents, almost broke us. One evening in particular, our daughter had been crying incessantly from 5pm until almost 11pm. I’m not talking a little bit of a wail every now and again. I’m talking full on, nuclear meltdown which measured over 100dB (thanks to an app I downloaded).

Physically, there was nothing wrong with her; she’d been bathed, fed, nappy changed, temperature in room perfect. She’d be put to sleep in her Moses basket and, just when we thought she’d fallen asleep, it would start. And it wouldn’t stop for hours. During this onslaught, we’d try to continue as normal with our evening routine; preparing dinner then eating it, discussing our day (mine at work and my wife’s at home), talking about what the following day had in store…It was impossible. We just couldn’t shut out the screaming coming from our baby’s room. It sounded like she was in pain. Terrible, terrible pain. The truth was, of course, there wasn’t really anything physically wrong with her. It just happens that some babies cry more than others. Thankfully, I found out about Purple Crying around this time which helped us cope and understand this was all a developmental phase and one she would grow out of fairly quickly. To our relief, that night was the turning point and our daughter soon started to settle and sleep a little better, although nowhere near the 14-17 hours recommended for a newborn up to 3 months.

Sleep deprivation is detrimental to ones wellbeing, particular to heart health,

Sleep is essential for a healthy heart. People who don’t sleep enough are at higher risk for cardiovascular disease—regardless of age, weight, smoking and exercise habits. One study that examined data from 3,000 adults over the age of 45 found that those who slept fewer than six hours per night were about twice as likely to have a stroke or heart attack as people who slept six to eight hours per night.

Source: National Sleep Foundation

When you add parenting into the mix, you absolutely, positively, need all the rest you can get. Personally, I just can’t function if I haven’t had at least 6-7 hours of uninterrupted sleep. A fog descends over me, rendering me incapable of giving anyone 100% of my attention. I get headaches, backache and am generally cranky. Mr Grump you might say. Mr Bloody Unbearable my wife might say.

Of course, sleep is just one factor in maintaining good health. A balanced diet, exercise, drinking plenty of water, all contribute to staying healthy and reducing the chances of infections and illness.

As I write this, my daughter is enjoying her post-breakfast morning nap from 9am-10am. When she wakes, it’s off for a brisk walk with the dog to breathe in some of that clean country air and make the most of the sunshine, as I fear it won’t be around for much longer.