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New dads: time for your partner and yourself

As a new dad, making time for yourself and your relationship might be a challenge. Planning this time – and making the most of it – can help.

Time with your partner: changes

In the early days after your baby is born, you might find that there isn’t much time or energy to be ‘just the two of you’.

You’ll also need time to adjust to some changes in your relationship.

You start weighing up between sleep or a date.
– Jeremy, father of three

Time for each other

If your partner is breastfeeding, leaving your baby – especially in the newborn stage – can be tricky for both of you.

At first, quality time together might be simple things like stopping to ask your partner about the day. Small gestures like offering your partner a cup of tea or a sleep-in can help keep you connected.

When it comes to going out on a date or having a few hours together, you might need to plan the time. It’s OK to ask a family member or friend for help if you need someone to care for your child. Or you could consider using a babysitter you both feel comfortable with.

You and your partner might have different comfort levels about leaving your baby and ‘trusting’ other people as babysitters. For your partner, leaving the baby for an hour might be a big step. So you could take it in small steps – maybe suggest a walk around the block or a quick coffee to start with, and build up to a longer outing. It helps to be patient with each other as you work things out.

It’s about a relationship, then when there’s a baby, suddenly it’s about three people, not two. It’s very much about working out three people’s needs.
– Travis, father of one

Time for yourself

One of the biggest adjustments for dads is having less time to do their own thing.

The reality is that if you’re hands on with your baby, you probably won’t be getting much time to yourself at all. Some dads are ready for this, and it’s fine.

Other dads might feel a bit divided because they’re not getting enough time to unwind from work, or because their time for sport, interests and hobbies is being squeezed.

If you can, try not to think about what you’re missing out on. One good way to do this is by making the most of any time you get to yourself. For example, you might not get to spend the whole day surfing anymore, but you might get a few quality hours in the water.

Planning your down time makes it more likely to happen. For example, make a list of things you like to do that don’t take too long. When the moment comes – say, when baby is asleep – you can jump straight into one of them.

Even short amounts of time to yourself, like 20 minutes to unwind or read the newspaper, can mean the difference between being stressed and feeling OK. It can also mean that you come back feeling fresh.

It might also help to know that this stage will pass – and you’ll get better at making the most of your time.

Dads could use leave better when babies are around 5-6 months old. Lack of sleep really caught up with us around that time, so it could actually be a more effective time to take leave – for the sake of your wellbeing and marriage!
– Rhett, father of two

What you can do

  • Rethink what ‘quality time’ together means. It might just be sitting together at breakfast or talking on the phone during the day.
  • Plan some time for each other and for yourself. Ask for help if you need someone to care for your child – and you’re both comfortable with this.
  • Make the most of time to yourself. Even if it’s brief, try to ‘live in the moment’.

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Raising Children Network is supported by the Australian Government. Member organisations are the Parenting Research Centre and the Murdoch Childrens Research Institute with The Royal Children’s Hospital Centre for Community Child Health.

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