Paternal Mental Health; Jamie Day chats to The Mother Hut.
The Mother Hut has something special (not that f***er Mr Tumble...) for you. I’m digging into the emotional pockets of writer Jamie Day, the brains behind Insta account ‘A Day In The Life Dad’, the podcast, ‘Man Talk’ and writer for Vogue and GQ. Mental health for both men and women needs more support and stigmas breaking, so it is a real treat to have Jamie discuss some of his experiences and wisdom around paternal mental health.
Who is the ‘real Jamie Day’?
I’d love to say I have live a glamorous second life, but the real Jamie Day is pretty much what’s on display through Instagram’s squares. I spend a lot of time with the kids, climbing trees, being silly and dancing along to the Sing soundtrack at least 141 times a day. When I’m not cutting shapes to Ash, Johnny and co, I’ll escape to my office (a corner in the spare room) and write for various magazines and websites about parenthood and mental health, create social media campaigns with/for brands and when time allows (often the early hours) try to squeeze in mental health podcast work too.
What are your top 3 favourite things about being a husband and dad?
I can eat all the kids’ chocolate, as you know, it’s bad for them and all that. Better that I eat them than their teeth fall out in their sleep – well that’s what I tell them.
They ensure I get my money’s worth on my Spotify subscription. Did I mention the Sing soundtrack?
Experiencing love and pride I didn’t know was possible.
How did you react when you knew you were going to be a Dad? Talk us through those moments!
We’d been trying for a couple of months with no joy. My wife, Georgia, was in New York for Fashion Week and told me she was ‘late’ that month and felt different this time round. We wanted to do the test together, so we waited until she got home. She got back about midnight on my birthday, walked through the door, took the test almost immediately, waited for a couple of nervous minutes, saw it was positive and both collapsed on the bed in and embrace of joyful shock – the best birthday present ever! Due to George’s day of travelling, she was asleep within about five minutes(!), but I stayed up all night with excitement and nerves, pacing our old flat, trying to sleep, tossing and turning, but nothing would get me off to the land of nod. I was going be a dad, I’d never felt anything like it.
What was available to you from health care providers or courses out there to support you in supporting your wife with the pregnancy and labour?
We did the usual NCT classes that most people do these days. It helped to understand the labour process, but beyond that, we weren’t huge fans. Most of our help was self-taught by reading every book under the sun and talking to friends and family.
Was their any discussion around mental health care for expectant and new dads? If so, what was some of that available to you?
My mental health was not mentioned once. This is clearly a huge issue and men can experience mental health issues when becoming a father, but we’re often forgotten about. Clearly women go through way much more when it comes to physical, emotional and hormonal changes, but mental health is mental health, it doesn’t discriminate between men and women. If a dad is finding it tough, then help should be available.
Describe to me those first few weeks as a new parent and some of the feelings that you went through.
For me, it was pure elation. I’d never been happier. Sure, it was knackering and an emotional roller coaster, but I thrived during those early stages. I know it’s not the same for everyone, I’m well aware of the challenges, both physically and mentally, but I guess I enjoyed the purpose, responsibility and new-found levels of happiness it brought.
Were there any aspects of being a new dad you would have liked more support around; either emotionally or practically?
In hindsight and having worked so much on mental health over the last couple of years, I can identify a gaping hole in the health care visitor’s check-ups. I recall standing in the corner of our bedroom, watching the health care visitor examine mother and baby, and I might as well not been there. I was completely ignored. I’m not saying dads require a full examination, but a couple of questions to ensure we’re coping and to help us feel relevant would be a great help.
Mental Health and new dads; what are some of the triggers that they might need additional support in dealing with their feelings?
Let’s face it, in the early days a new baby only wants their mother. The mother is their source of food and comfort, they’ve just been tucked up in their tummy for nine months, so it’s not a surprise when there tends to be an immediate bond. I think dads can feel left out and a bit of a spare part during those early days. Aside from changing nappies, or walking round the block a few times with baby cocooned in a pram, or pacing the house at 3am with a screaming baby that won’t sleep, there’s not much else for dad to do. Harsh I know, but that tends to be the reality. I think new dads can be shocked by this and that can lead to a feeling of isolation and confusion. That isolation won’t last forever. Those early stages with a baby fly by and it won’t be long before a loving bond is formed.
If you give new dads any words of advice about supporting their mental health what would be your ‘Soapbox Moment’?
Speak to your partner.
Look after each other.
Jamie can be found on Instagram under @adayinthelifedad
Some great honesty from Jamie around the post natal aspect of mental health. I too remember my husband being made redundant as checks were carried out. It won't take much for this to change, however, we need to find a way of instigating this and to remind dads to ask for support where needed. There is no shame in it.