These were all headlines I collected recently. It is pretty clear that as Americans our world has officially been rocked and most are experiencing some sort of loss – job, retirement money, home, income, medical insurance, etc. Probably the only good news for most people is that they don’t live where I live – Michigan. By all accounts we are experiencing one of the toughest economic periods our world has seen in a long time, if not ever.
So what should we do?
Other than thinking 'just survive,' I was not sure until I read another bit of news that was overshadowed by the noise of a melting economy. In a study published 2008 (USA Today / US News and World Report), psychologist James Paulson found 10% of new fathers showed signs of moderate to severe depression. It went on to say that there are measurable impacts of this depression on the development of children. Children of depressed fathers get significantly less interactions such as reading, telling stories, and songs. The result – at two years, children of depressed fathers had a smaller vocabulary. My thought? I have heard from many fatherhood experts that how I act impacts my children, now there is more solid proof.
So what should we do?
My first thought - why wait for the next study to tell us what we already know – the stress of being a new father is real. It is real and it is likely worse today because of all the other things that I mentioned above. I don’t have a PhD, but I am going to go out on a limb and say that, as a father, I think we all have more reasons to be depressed today than we did a few years ago. If we do nothing more than just ‘hold on,’ very likely the depression percentage for new fathers will go up.
My advice – increase your investments. I don’t mean in your retirement account or your bank account. Increase your investment in the relationships around you. Why? Well, there is a lot of research available stating friendship is important. Tom Rath of the Gallup Organization makes several points in his book, Vital Friends. He found that only 30% of us report having a best friend at work. But if we are lucky to be part of that 30%, we are seven times more likely to be engaged in our job. He says that “People with at least three close friends at work were 96% more likely to be extremely satisfied with their life”. In his book Bowling Alone, Robert Putnam came to the conclusion that if you are a smoker and a loner then your life expectancy will be increased more if you find some friends than if you stop smoking. In the end, it is this support network that helps us break out of those 'funks' we find ourselves in and guides us back to the important things in our lives. A support network empathizes with our struggles, reminds us that suffering never lasts forever, and offers timely encouragement. Do we really need any more studies?
So when you open the paper today you probably will not see any headlines like "Dad’s Unite in This Crisis" or "National BFF Day for Dad’s Declared by Congress." (fyi . . BFF is a well known texting acronym for Best Friends Forever) Mostly you are going to see headlines about things that feel largely out of your control. What can you control? How about how often you take the time to stop, talk, and listen to friends? How about taking ten minutes to tuck your kids into bed and read them a story or talk about their day? How about whether you eat lunch alone at your desk or at a table with someone from your office?
In a year or two or three, things will get better. In the meantime we all need to have a few dinner parties (or potlucks), share a family meal, go to lunch with a friend, have a game night . . . and connect with friends. Don’t be Rambo . . . .
About the Author
Scott Patchin is the author of the Mom’s Choice Award book So You're Gonna Be A DAD - Now What?
He lives with his wife and four children in Michigan. Visit his website www.momentsforfathers.com to review some of his other thoughts on fatherhood. His book is available through his website or Amazon.com, in both print and Kindle formats.
Copyright © 2008, 2011 Scott Patchin. All rights reserved.