“Mateship” is a concept that’s as fundamentally Australian as drinking cold beer or sniggering at England’s top order. Long associated with the WW1 Diggers, it’s an idea that suggests men offering resolute support for one another during tough times. Plus the distribution of really dumb nicknames.
But catching up with your mates is also a vital part of life. Countless studies show that hanging out with friends will make you happier, healthier and more resilient. Owen Sharp, CEO of the Movember Foundation, explains why it’s particularly important for dads.
“Babies change everything. Everything becomes bigger, brighter, louder and more heightened. The ups, and sometimes the downs. Any parent will tell you that while it’s one of the toughest challenges you’ll face – it’s also the most rewarding.
Parenthood is a huge life change for both mum and dad but, until recently, it hasn’t been acknowledged just how those challenging those early months can be for new fathers.
Movember Foundation has worked with thousands of men over the years and we know that fatherhood is one of the key transition points in life, when men become more likely to suffer from poor mental health.
Twice as many men become depressed in the first year after becoming a dad than that of the general population. That’s why supporting new dads through this major life transition is a key priority for Movember.
One of the factors that we know can really help dads adjust in this time of huge change is having close male friends to talk things through with.
Your dad mates are the ones who will really understand the big changes that being a parent brings. They get why you can’t drop everything and come to the pub with 15-minutes notice any more. Or why the idea of an all-night poker game isn’t that appealing. They understand what it’s like to get up every hour with a baby who doesn’t sleep. And they are the ones who you can ask the dumb questions that you’re afraid to ask anyone else.
Having a friend who you can turn to, who has been through the same situation and can tell you to hang in there, can really help you through the tough times.
They also know what it’s like being the only dad at the playgroup or being called the ‘babysitter’ when you’re simply looking after your own kid.
Friendships are a vital part of a healthy life – for both men and women. The Harvard Adult Development Study, shows that relationships have the biggest influence on our long-term health and wellbeing. Having people to rely on keeps your brain healthier and reduces both emotional and physical pain.
When we invested in the Healthy Dads Initiative, through beyondblue, back in 2014, we discovered that spending time with mates helped dads stay resilient during those chaotic early days of parenting, when you’re still trying to find your feet.
That’s why we encourage guys to make a conscious and consistent effort to spend time with their old friends, as well as finding ways of making new ones.
It’s not easy to find the time, especially for new dads, but it’s time well spent, not just for you but also for your relationship with your partner and your kids.
It’s always good to start with something you already like doing – in my case, I am a huge US sports fan – especially NFL – which opens the doors to meeting new people who share the same interests.
Whether it’s taking up cycling, going surfing, brewing beer or fixing cars, you’re more likely to form strong friendships with blokes that you already have something in common with.
Taking a few hours break from family life to catch up with your friends isn’t selfish. It allows you to disconnect from everyday pressures, have a laugh, realise you’re not the only guy in the trenches, and recharge your batteries.
Ultimately, that’ll make you a happier and healthier man – and that will make you a better dad too.