How Becoming a Father Changes Your Life

Millennials have made their mark on practically every corner of life. Workplaces, entertainment, politics, and relationships have morphed to fit the needs, wants, and views of the soon-to-be largest generation. Despite numerous headlines about millennials delaying parenthood and having fewer children than previous generations, millennial families are still growing – with more than a million becoming parents each year. And as more millennials become parents, so too will the surrounding culture of parenthood evolve.
From paternity leave to staying at home, fathers are shifting the focus more toward dedicating time for their families – 66% want to get more involved in childcare and a whopping 80% are doing the family’s grocery shopping themselves. Along with men moving away from traditional gender roles, views on masculinity have also shifted, with more men embracing self-care and 8% and 13% more men valuing emotional and intellectual strength over physical strength respectively. Given the time commitment and pressures that come with parenting, how do fathers fit in time for self-care while being more present in their family? We surveyed 1,000 U.K. and U.S. fathers, gathering details about how fatherhood has changed their lives and how they find time for themselves. Keep reading to see what we found.

Changed Men

Becoming a parent is one of life’s major milestones. With parenthood comes a lack of sleep and a drain on finances, but it also comes with biological changes and an immense amount of love. New parents may face new challenges, but 81% of fathers said having children made their life better, and 80% prioritised their children above everything else in their life. Compared to men two generations ago, modern fathers spend three times as much time with their children, and their children are bound to reap the benefits. Involved fathers, regardless of biological connection, raise children who are less likely to have run-ins with the law, tend to earn better grades in school, and are better able to hold down a job. 

Time for TLC

While dedicating more time to children is vital for proper development, parents who practise self-care benefit themselves and their children. 76% of fathers practiced a self-care routine, with nearly half incorporating some combination of family time and skin care. Despite perceptions of men’s grooming habits, the beauty industry has become increasingly gender-neutral, with skin care growing the fastest among men’s grooming products.

Self-care isn’t just about taking care of your physical body, though. Some of the easiest ways for parents to apply self-care is by focusing on their mind and stress relief, and modern dads are on board. While 37.3% of fathers read, 20.4% practised meditation, and 17.4% spent time self-reflecting. Practising self-care doesn’t always mean spending hours away from the kids – a quick break to regroup and ground yourself can help both physically and mentally.

Parental Sacrifices

Everyone knows the best way to lose sleep is to welcome a newborn, but according to science, new parents can expect to deal with sleep deprivation for a whopping six years. It’s no surprise, then, that 67.1% of fathers reported their nightly hours of sleep decreasing after entering parenthood. However, losing sleep doesn’t seem to be the rule for all new fathers – nearly 22% of fathers experienced no change in their sleep habits, while 11% actually got more sleep than before. Perhaps these fathers have cracked the code, catching extra zzz’s during the baby’s nap time, getting extra help from family and friends, and resisting the urge to “bed share.”

Conquering the issue of sleep is just one obstacle, though. 72% of fathers experienced a decrease in the amount of personal time each week, and 52.7% had less sex each month. Finding room for some “me time” as a parent is nearly impossible, but simple time management skills like prioritising, turning off technology, and making a schedule that includes downtime can help to ensure parents take care of themselves too. If these simple changes are still not enough, working from home can also help parents get the extra time they need.

Regarding having less sex after becoming a father, intimacy is certainly affected by the time spent caring for a child, but changes in sexual desire are also important. According to one study, while women experienced a larger decrease in desire. That said, fathers reported having two times less sex after becoming a father. Finding time may help in this area too, but if comfort and desire aren’t there, you may be better off practising other forms of self-care.

Like-to-Do List

Spending time with family ranked the highest for activities fathers enjoyed. While 61.2% of fathers enjoy family time, though, 52.2% enjoyed spending time with friends, and 51.2% enjoyed working. Aside from family, friends, and work, spending time outdoors, drinking alcohol, and participating in hobbies were all activities fathers liked to do.

Despite more than half of fathers spending time with friends, 55% of fathers lost friends when they became a parent. While losing friends is often a part of parenthood, the two aren’t mutually exclusive. Social lives change drastically when kids enter the picture, and although this may cause friends to exit your life slowly, parenthood tends to bring new friendships to the mix. As children form friendships, parents tend to gravitate towards each other. It’s also important to point out that these dad’s probably would have lost friends naturally over time, even if they weren’t fathers.

Give the Gift of Self-Care

Fatherhood is complex – from parenting styles to roles between partners, every parent chooses his or her own path. But the culture of parenthood and everything it entails is changing along with society. Millennial men are becoming more family-oriented, pushing aside their careers to focus on their children, while also prioritising time for self-care. Taking care of their exterior is increasingly important to modern dads, but so too is their mental health.

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We conducted a survey of 1,000 respondents through Amazon Mechanical Turk and Clickworker. The respondents who were excluded missed the attention-check question or indicated they were not a father. Throughout the survey, any outliers were excluded from our data. From the able respondents, 100% were men; 50% were from the U.S., and 50% were from the U.K. Our respondents ranged in age from 18 to 72 with a mean of 34 and a standard deviation of 11.12.

The data we are presenting are self-reported. There are many issues with self-reported data. These issues include but are not limited to selective memory, telescoping, attribution, and exaggeration. As a result, the outliers in this study have been excluded.

Fair Use

It can be difficult to find time for self-care as a parent. Sharing these self-care routines could help the dad in your life. Feel free to share our findings, as the graphics and content of this project are available for noncommercial reuse. Just make sure to link back to this page to give the authors proper credit.