Real men don’t cry, do they?
The call from the founder of the Fathers Reaching Out support group, Mark Williams, for new fathers to be screened for postnatal depression should be heeded, and it is encouraging that he has been invited to address MPs. If we want the best for children, we have to want the best for their mothers and their fathers, and that means dealing with them equally in the context of mental health care.
A dad walked up to the door of our church building pushing a shiny new pram one Saturday morning. “Welcome,” I said. “Are you here for Who Let The Dads Out?”
“Yes,” said the dad. “I’ve not been before. In fact,” he whispered, “it’s the first time just the baby and I have been out on our own. She’s only 4 weeks old.”
It was such a privilege to welcome them to our group on the first outing just the two of them had taken together.
The National Childbirth Trust’s guidance on postnatal depression in fathers tells us that what this dad was doing would contribute to his positive mental wellbeing. He was finding his own way of caring for the baby, which a trip out together necessitates. Plus, he was developing a connection with his daughter and meeting with other dads who could offer him friendship and support.
When we hear about postnatal depression, we can easily make an automatic link to mums, but dads can also suffer. I once conducted a mini-survey among friends who were fathers about their levels of satisfaction in the areas of family life that I thought would be important to them. I asked each father to indicate how satisfied he was with his relationship, financial situation, social life with friends, sex life, hobbies and work life.
I deliberately asked two groups of fathers: those with a child under the age of one year and those whose youngest child was over three years old. The results revealed that the fathers under the age of one year were generally less satisfied in these six areas of life than those whose youngest child had reached the age of three. If fathers of young children are feeling relatively low levels of satisfaction in their lives, and perhaps struggling to develop a bond with their babies, then they are more susceptible to depression.
Thankfully, we are rapidly moving away from the ‘real men don’t cry’ culture of yesteryear and accepting that mental health struggles are not something to be ashamed of. Sadly, there are, perhaps, still remnants of belief that postnatal depression is natural in women but a sign of immaturity in men and that new dads just need to belt up, and get their act together.
The Church and Christian organisations are highly experienced in providing support to people within our communities, so we are ideally placed to step into the breach and give dads, as well as mums, the support they need at a very stressful time of life. But to do this we need to intentionally and specifically reach out to fathers and their children. General parents groups tend to engage few fathers. Through initiatives like Who Let the Dads Out? we can help fathers find fulfilment in their role as dads, avoid depression and at the same time give them the opportunity to explore a relationship with their Father in heaven.
Mark Chester is founder of The Bible Reading Fellowship’s Who Let The Dads Out? and author of several books. wholetthedadsout.org.uk
Church kids say the funniest things
Here is one of the best things our readers heard a kid say recently…
During an interview at the front of the church about the recent Sunday school session, an adult helper asked: “So do you think Abraham was faithful to God?”
Child: *thinks for a second or two* “Well, in between yes and no.”
Have you spotted our Faith at home radio shows every Saturday morning on Premier Christian Radio? If you missed any, you can listen back here. Here are a few of our highlights:
Helping children remember
“I am a widowed mum of two wonderful girls. My late husband was sadly killed in Afghanistan. Our family remember Mark every day. His faith has reflected on to us and we use that as our inspiration. We remember his integrity, his honesty, his loyalty and most of all, his self-sacrifice. On Remembrance Day, we don’t just remember Mark, we also remember his friends. We remember all those other families and our lives are interwoven with them.
Brenda Hale, author of I Married a Soldier
“We weren’t satisfied with the fact that some children will go into long-term fostering because they become ‘unadoptable’. We felt that no child is unadoptable. We felt broken, compassion and all those things that you do when you get heartbroken for something that God clearly places on your heart.”
Adoptive dad, Tom Rutter, who also started youth charity Kick London
Supporting single parents
“I am not a mum myself, and one of the things I always start with is saying that I think they are amazing. I’d say to them – to quote Winnie the Pooh – you are stronger than you think you are. But also you have a God who loves you and wants to parent with you.”
Ellie Hughes from Riverbank Trust