Self-care: Dad, is your warning light on?

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Most parents will agree that once a child is born the world shifts on its axis, and all of a sudden there’s a new number 1 in town. From that moment on, the drive to keep this new little person safe and happy seems to come above all else. But what we do go on to eventually learn (usually the hard way!), is how difficult it is to do this well when we continue to ignore the warning signs our own is in trouble.

Both parents are known to be guilty of putting their family’s needs before their own, but self-care (taking time to look after yourself) seems to be a subject more stereo-typically targeted at mums. You don’t have to scroll a newsfeed or a parenting website too far to find support for mums on recognising the signs of depression and anxiety, as well as the benefits of meditation, exercise, sleep and spending with time with family and friends. But what about Dads?

Most Dads aren’t coasting on mum’s coat tails, and there’s lots of Dads going it alone (more than 100,000 Australian families are father-led single-parent families*). One in 8 Australian men will suffer anxiety and/or depression and 1 in 10 new fathers will experience depression within the first 12 months after a child is born*.

Being a Dad doesn’t come with a manual, so it’s important to not only be in tune with the kids’ needs, but also what you need to keep your own physical, emotional and mental health idling well.

Warning signs the tank might be running low can include lack of sleep, irritability, poor concentration, getting sick more often, or a low mood. BeyondBlue has a great Mind Quiz for men that can help Dads gauge how they are tracking.

Self-care for Dads can be as simple as eating better, getting some exercise, prioritising sleep or some time out for a hobby.

But sometimes it’s not that simple. has a great tool-kit that can help develop some skills to better manage your situation.

And let’s never forget the infinite benefits of just getting it off your chest.

If you’re a dad and you’re feeling overwhelmed, there’s many different ways you can talk about it.  Text a mate. Drop round to a friend’s house. Catch up with work mates. Here are some ideas about who you can chat with.

You don’t need to tell them your life story (unless you want to, of course). Sometimes it’s helpful to just say “I’m not feeling great.” Give it a go — we reckon you’ll be surprised with the result. Most people are happy to help a mate.

If you don’t feel like talking to a friend, you’re still not alone. Search the oneplace community services directory to find support in your local area — you’d be surprised how many places you can go for help.

For more tips about getting support to cope with the stresses of family life, join our Talking Families Facebook community.

  • (Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2016)
  • (Source: Beyond Blue)
Last Updated: 25 June 2020