10 things that change when you become a dad:
Having a baby is a life changing event, one minute your a carefree guy and the next minute you have become a dad and are responsible for a life. As you are counting down the days until you become a dad, there are some changes you can expect. Your pre-baby life will seem like a lifetime ago, and the first few months of your newborn will become a bit blurry. Fatherhood can change a man’s life, we outline some ways it actually changes your brain. Despite many well-meaning people giving you advice - nothing can prepare you for when you become a dad, the roller coaster ride is something inexplicable. We give you a heads up on some aspects that many dads wished they had known before becoming a dad. Learn about the ways that your life will change and how to embrace the new differences.
Human dads are unusual from an animal kingdom perspective. We fall into a group of less than 6 percent of mammals in which the fathers play a significant role in the upbringing of their offspring. Dads are often involved in the day to day activities required to raise their children. From an evolutionary point of view, your brain changes to adapt to becoming a dad. Science has only recently delved into the neural and hormonal mechanisms of paternal care, we discuss some of these changes.
10 things that change when you become a dad
You become invisible and feel unimportant:
This one sounds a little harsh, but all of the attention is focused on mom and baby. Don't be surprised if the doctors, nurses, friends and family barely acknowledge you above the "ooohing" and "ahhing" of the new baby. You may also become aware and frustrated by your gender’s limitations but you can still help. Although you cannot breastfeed, you can still help your partner to be comfortable while she does. Although you naturally will not be the first one to wake up to baby’s 2am cries, don’t feel useless. By putting baby’s crib closer to your side of the bed, you will be more likely to wake up so that you can help out with early morning feedings.
You become less of a man:
Well not really, but there is scientific proof that your brain changes so that you think more like mom would. Testosterone (the “macho hormone”) levels also drop so that you can focus on taking care of your little one. This is also thought to reduce aggression and allow dads to bond with little ones. A dad’s brain shows the same patterns of cognitive and emotional engagement that can be seen in moms. A recent study looked at single moms, co-parenting dads and primary caregiver dads. The same patterns of brain networks and activation of emotional processing and social understanding were seen in both sexes.
You become more of a man:
There is something very attractive to the opposite sex about an attentive father, perhaps because of evolution and survival of the species? Many new dads claim that ladies found them more attractive than usual. (Their wives maintain the ladies were simply interested in the newborn!). “With great power comes great responsibility” and there is no greater responsibility than raising a child. Although many new dads feel completely unqualified to raise a child, you may question your abilities and feel unworthy. Rest assured that you are not alone. You become more of a man when you become a dad because it forces you to step up to the plate and wing it!
You get a “dad bod”:
A “dad bod” refers to the slightly rounded form of where your toned 6-pack used to be. We blame this one on the fact that it is very easy to get out of shape when you have zero time to go to the gym and operate on only a few hours of sleep. Eating patterns change and often there is an increase in consuming junk foods. Moms experience hormonal changes when having a baby; research shows that dads experience hormonal changes too. Studies show that new fathers experience increases in oestrogen, oxytocin, prolactin and glucocorticoids. Being in close proximity with mother and child induce these hormonal changes in new dads. The higher levels of hormones are thought to increase affection in dads towards their offspring. Unlike your child free counterparts who face “middle-aged spread” at least you have an excuse. What greater cause is there than raising a future generation.
You can actually lose weight
Ok, so this may go both ways depending on other circumstances. Some dads found they lose weight during the first 6 months. This may have something to do with lugging around travel systems and carrying enough supplies to survive a nuclear explosion. More nappies? No problem I’ll take a quick trip to the shops. There is a lot to do when you are responsible for a totally helpless human being. Say good-bye to lazing around on the couch and long leisurely meals.
You forget a lot of really important stuff:
Baby-brain can affect dads too. We attribute this to sleep deprivation and, what were we saying? Fatherhood affects dads on a neuronal level; the birth of a child induces the development of new neurons in the brain. In animal studies, scientists discovered new neurons in response to “environmental richness” caused by the new dimension that a child brings into dad’s life. This increased cell growth can be found in the hippocampus, which is linked to memory and navigation. Other studies showed increased neurons in the olfactory region though to aid in recognising offspring.
You have a new version of cool:
Soon you will be getting excited about things like fuel economy and boot space. Forget drooling over sports cars and hotrods, having kids brings out the safe and practical side. Gone are the days of just being a guy – your new label is dad. (As can be seen in your work coffee mug that reads “World’s best Dad”). Honestly, we don’t even mind!
You get to be a kid again:
Remember building forts and playing with action figures? You get to do all the fun things that you did as a child all over again. Now you get to buy all the toys that you always wanted and have more developed fine motor skills. The increase in oxytocin helps to boost the dad-baby bond and can make children more responsive in return.
You become totally overprotective:
This is an innate primal biological trigger. Suddenly things that seemed harmless before become potentially lethal threats for your kids. Coffee tables, Cyclists, crossing a road with a pram. Watch out, paranoia here we come! Although it was thought that being sensitive to children’s voices was a “maternal instinct”, research shows dads have this too. In fact, dads were as good as moms in picking out their baby’s cries. You will feel that no matter how much money you have, it will never be enough to care for your child. As an overprotective parent you may feel overwhelmed by finances, but remember that not all parents are millionaires. Try and draw up a budget and be strict, savings plans started when your child is young can really help in the future.
You will rarely go anywhere, unless it is child related:
You will still get to go to work, the shops and the pharmacy. Other fun outings may include the park or the beach. For what may seem like a long time, your whole life is baby related. Your new social norm will be to spend all your free time with your partner and baby, most of the time by choice. Once you become a dad, you have to become a bit more creative to get some “me-time” to relax and recharge. Although it may not sound like fun – we wouldn’t change a thing! Ask for help from friends and family to ensure that you and your partner get some time off in order to both be focused parents.
It is very important to ensure that your partner gets some “me-time” too. You will find that your circle of friends changes to only include other parents. As the expression goes “it takes a village to raise a child”, these friendships become great support groups. Your friends can relate to all your problems and often have great advice for you. Make time to fit in your single friends, that way you can still relate to the old you.