There’s a page in the classic Seuss book Hop on Pop that reads:
Dad is sad.
Very, very sad,
He had a bad day.
What a day Dad had.
Even Dads get the “baby blues.” But now a new “meta-analysis” study in the U.S. has claimed to find evidence for “postpartum depression” in one out of ten new fathers, despite their not experiencing all the hormones associated physically with the birth process.Several websites published stories relating the results of the study (which was less a study and more an analysis of several previous studies). A few theories regarding the cause of male postpartum depression appeared as well.
One theory has it that modern (Western) society expects more of fathers, that they have to be more involved in the raising of the baby and even (gasp) “abstain from alcohol.”
Another has it that younger fathers in particular are not ready for the changes in lifestyle they will encounter, and “have not been trained properly in parenting.” The solution, according to this one, is “how to parent” lessons by trained healthcare officials. (Sounds similar to what I’ve seen in Japan…although the sessions are basically only for women.)
Buried in the CNN article you can find the following info:
The US has the highest rate of father postnatal depression (14%), compared to 8% in European countries. Two possible reasons: “U.S. has comparatively stricter family-leave policies in the workplace than in some European countries,” and “There’s a known problem with men seeking help for depression and a documented stigma with mental health.”
I would also add that another possible reason is there no longer being a three-generation family structure in modernized countries, new parents are at their wits’ end trying to rediscover the art of parenting on their own, with little to no help from society.
Grandparents are an amazing resource and stabilizing influence that simply can’t be duplicated, no matter how many “experts” visit the house. Modernized societies have seen the influence of the extended family gradually disappear, and the number of mental health problems increase. It seems more than a simple coincidence to me.
When I was a baby, both sets of grandparents lived within walking distance. Now, they live in Florida. Our own baby can only see her maternal grandparents about once every two or three months. She has yet to see her paternal grandparents. Fortunately, we can easily contact both sets of grandparents by telephone for advice on parenting, but it would be an even bigger help to us mentally and emotionally if we were able to visit and be visited on a regular basis.
I have to wonder whether the researchers who conducted the study into father’s postpartum depression considered the physical proximity (and emotional closeness) of the grandparents. My sense is that couples who feel they can rely on their own parents for child-rearing advice and parental “backup” will probably be less likely to fall into postpartum depression. Or, if they do suffer from depression, would at least have someone to discuss things with.
No doubt there are other factors as well. High on my list is a willingness to talk about things with my spouse. This more than anything, I believe, is the most important factor in avoiding the “baby blues.” Last year was tiring, and this year is exhausting, but having a partner who listens and offers candid advice, criticism, and support is all I could ask for.