As a New Dad Feeling Useless / Left out? What WORKED for Me!

man holding a girl towards sea

Many new dads, including myself, have mixed emotions with the birth of their new child. They may feel great joy and elation, but at the same time, feel left out. They may feel as though their needs are no longer catered for, and that they aren’t important to their partner anymore. If you’re a new dad feeling useless then this article is for you. 

You may have the sensation that you’re no longer valuable, or part of the family anymore, and that your role is superfluous. However, you have an essential role to play, and one of the best things to do to overcome this is to make yourself helpful, even indispensable, in the daily routine of caring for the baby. 

Feeling useless both as a partner and as a new dad?

Are you feeling down after the birth of your child? Are you a new dad feeling left out? As I found out a few months after my daughter was born, father blues is actually a very common phenomenon. In fact, some psychologists claim new fathers should be screened for the baby blues! Scary, right?

You’ve probably heard about new moms feeling blue after the birth of a baby, and about how they can get postpartum depression. However, some studies are now suggesting that adoptive parents and fathers can experience the same feelings, so it has nothing to do with postpartum hormonal changes. 

The baby’s arrival should be a time of celebration. Instead, new dads can sometimes experience depression based on the following:

  • Lack of sleep
  • Exhaustion
  • Spending time away from pressing work issues
  • Gender-role conflict
  • Feeling useless or superfluous
  • Lack of parenting know-how
  • Worries about being a good dad

The symptoms of depression in men differ from those of women. Whilst women experience a lot of crying and sadness, men demonstrate:

  • Fear, confusion, helplessness and uncertainty about the future
  • Frustration, irritability, cynicism, anger
  • Withdrawal from work, social life and family
  • Partner violence
  • Insomnia
  • Alcohol and Drug Misuse
  • Physical symptoms: indigestion, weight loss, lack of appetite, diarrhea, constipation, headaches, nausea
  • Marital conflict
  • Bad parenting habits
  • Indecisiveness

The reality is our society no longer has regular, visible role models on how to parent, as they did in the past when big families modeled fathering on a regular basis. No longer do you have older brothers, cousins, or friends to watch as they have their first babies, but you don’t have as close contact as families did in previous generations. 

So, what then are the most common causes for a new dad feeling useless? 

Common causes for feeling useless

Your partner not appreciating your efforts

Your Partner is probably exhausted, worn out, and may even be depressed. They can really only focus on the baby’s needs and haven’t got much time for you. Neither do they notice your efforts, less appreciate the things you do, big or small. This can leave you feeling resentful

What’s more, with their focus being on the baby, it leaves you feeling left out. They spend so much time together, and a new mom tends to be hyperattentive to any tiny need of the newborn. This can lead to the new dad feeling abandoned–quite a strong emotion to cope with at any time, never mind in times of stress. 

This was for me the number one reason why I felt quite often that I’m useless. Before our child was born we went on a lot of trips just the two of us, however, afterward nearly all her attention shifted to taking care of our daughter (instead of me). 

Your Own Father’s Parenting Style

You may suddenly come to the realization that you have no idea how to parent because you didn’t have a good relationship with your own parents and may even feel like your dad hates you. You may simultaneously realize how being a good dad is crucial to the well-being of every child, and to their development.

That can be overwhelming. You suddenly have to find both the emotional and the mental capacity to do something you’ve never been trained to do. This can lead to feelings of utter helplessness for action-oriented dads.

Loss of Control

One of the most challenging facets for new dads is that you can’t do anything to solve the problem. If a baby’s crying, then they are crying, and you may not be able to calm your child. Or mom will offer a solution, not you. So, the problem continues, and you once again feel helpless, useless, and as though you have no control. 

If you don’t do something about these feelings you may become depressed so it’s best to take action early and to make sure that you’re finding ways to feel useful as a dad

Added Responsibilities

As a new dad, you have a lot more responsibilities on your plate. Not only do you have your normal, stressful, work, but you have added chores that your wife can’t do. And you may have added financial responsibility. No wonder dads just feel overwhelmed and exhausted. 

Guilt

Additionally, dads may feel guilt. With all that you have to do, you feel guilty for taking time out when your wife is so tired. However, this will soon lead to feeling helpless and useless because you may feel that there’s nothing you can do to wind down without guilty emotions overtaking you

The reality is that you will need to have a plan to overcome this. Your family really needs you, and you are one of the most important people in their lives. That truth is a fact, not a feeling. 

What to do to stop feeling useless

In this section, I’ve provided tips on what to do to stop feeling useless as a new father. Here you’ll learn valuable information on how to overcome your helplessness. 

To give you some inspiration here’s a useful video for dads feeling helpless. It covers the delivery of the new dad’s baby. The video explains how you can be helpful to your partner when she is giving birth so you can feel less helpless. 

Get support

The first step is to get the support of others. You may have a wonderful mother-in-law. Or your friends who’ve had children can enlighten you on ways to lighten your load and your wife’s. They can give you advice as to how you can be invaluable to your little family. And they can give you emotional support where and when you need it. 

Not only that, but they might also be able to give practical help, such as meals, looking after the baby, or just doing some shopping for you. 

Stop the Pity Party

The next step is to bring yourself to the point where you can step up to the plate. That means stopping feeling sorry for yourself and being determined to be the dad you want to be. Once you have social support, you can act to focus on the things that you can do, instead of pitying yourself too much. Grief is normal in this situation, but allow it to stop at that, not go further into pity.  

Become Useful

There are many things you can do to be a useful dad and spouse.

You can change nappies, hold the baby, or soothe them to sleep. You can start a hobby as a dad. You can offer words of encouragement to your wife. Try being part of the routine–bathing, burping, feeding, or sleeping. This way, you’ll feel needed and appreciated. And those feelings of abandonment will start diminishing. This way, you don’t have to regret fatherhood because of mixed emotions about parenting. 

Use Playtime to Have Fun and Bond with Baby

You need to bond with your baby. One of the best ways to do that is simply to hold your baby and talk. Tell your little one anything– the latest soccer score, how much you’ve looked forward to their arrival, or what your days’ have been like at work. They may not be able to understand, but they will connect with your voice, and soon start responding to it in a most heartwarming manner

You can also sing to them, offer them toys, play quirky games with them, or simply enjoy their company while they’re awake. Show them through your tone of voice and manner of how much you appreciate their coming into the world. 

Speak to your Partner

Your partner not only needs your encouragement and support, but she also needs to understand how you’re feeling. She may be feeling tired and overwhelmed, but you may be certain that she’ll still want to hear about your needs and emotions. In fact, she may come up with some very practical solutions. 

Whenever our baby went to sleep we introduced 1:1 time in the evenings, similar to standup in scrum. We discussed simple things, for example how they went for us, their challenges and how we can help each other overcome the issues each of us experiences.

Get the Knowledge

Finally, brush up on your knowledge of how to do things for your baby, and how to have fun with them. There are many blogs, vlogs, and books that give you details on how to care for your baby, and what to do if things go wrong. There’s nothing more confidence-boosting than knowing what to do when, or how to tackle difficult problems

Conclusion

There’s a lot to learn when you’re a new dad, and many ways things can go wrong. Having the right support, attitude and knowledge will stand you in good stead when facing all the challenges of fatherhood. 

Knowing how to overcome feeling like a dad left out can start with simple things like playing games with your child or getting the right toys for your baby. So, start your journey today, before the baby is even born. That way, you may save yourself a lot of heartache and pain down the line.

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