Category Archives: Parenting

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.

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.