The Loneliness Of The First-time Father

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Cliched understatement alert: having kids shakes up your life in a big way. But another thing fatherhood massively disrupts is your social life. Here five men discuss the discombobulating effects of dad-life and the isolation it can bring.

“I had no time for anything except for family and work”

I worked for a law firm where you were expected to log serious hours. When my daughter was a baby, of course, I wanted to get home and see her. But leaving work at 6pm raised eyebrows – no one said anything outright – but I definitely felt like I was leaving my colleagues in the shit.

I still used to leave but, to compensate, once the baby was asleep, I’d pull out my laptop and get back to work. Every minute of free-time I had became this mad fucking scramble to catch up.

I’m not saying that my life was particularly balanced before I became a dad, but that first year was hard. I had no time for anything except family and work. Definitely not mates or exercise – I put on 8kg that year!

But I also became aware that I wasn’t managing to keep anyone happy – not my boss or my wife. It started to feel like a lose/lose scenario. Eventually I quit my job and went in-house somewhere instead. I still feel conflicted about it – that job was a big firm with decent money and prospects. Sometimes I think I committed career suicide, but it just wasn’t sustainable with a family.

“Catching up with people can just seem too hard.”

There’s that thing where you arrange to meet a mate in the park. You’ve got a small kid, they’ve got small kids too. And you’re looking forward to catching up… except every time you try to have a conversation, your child falls off the slide. Then one of them needs their nappy changed, someone has a tantrum, it’s time for Bobby’s nap etc.

Basically your catch-up degenerates into toddler crowd-control and with all those interruptions you don’t get to chat to your mate at all. And the whole thing is so unsatisfying and disappointing that, after going through that process a few times, you stop bothering.

That’s definitely what happened with me. It got easier when my daughter turned three and became a bit less demanding (on a good day). But we’ve just had another baby and we’re going through it again. Catching up with people can just seem too hard.

“It was really just the three of us in our little house”

My wife had post-natal depression. It was fairly bad there for a while. She didn’t want to see anyone and certainly didn’t want to have people over – the house was usually a bit of a state and she was super-fragile and slept a lot.

Basically, she withdrew from the world for a while back there and that kind of meant that I did, too. Partly because I was worried about her and wanted to be around, but also so that I could look after my little boy, too. On top of all that though, it was obvious we weren’t really coping very well and I didn’t really want people to see us like that. So our world just shrunk and shrunk – it was just the three of us in our little house.

Was I depressed myself? I don’t know. Maybe. All I do know is it wasn’t much fun.

My son is almost four now and my wife has been back to her old self for years. She talks about trying for another kid, but I’m against it. I don’t want her to go through all that again, but also I don’t particularly want to go though it either.

“Between parenthood and the move it’s been a massive change”

We were living in a one-bedroom apartment in the city when my son was born. Obviously, that wasn’t going to work so we decided to move. But house prices meant we started looking further and further out. Instead of living way out in the ‘burbs, we started to think: why don’t we do the full tree-change?

So we moved to the country where we bought a house that was probably triple the size of what we could ever have got in Melbourne. I work remotely so it was all do-able.

And it’s great having a garden that my boy can run around in. We’ve got a dog now and even some chickens. But we haven’t connected with anyone round here yet. My wife’s met a couple of other mums, but we haven’t managed to integrate into local life. To be honest, COVID hardly made a difference to our lives – we were already living in social exile.

I’m not saying that I regret it. But between parenthood and the move it’s been a massive change. I’ve got my work to occupy me, but I’m not sure how happy my wife is. She’s pregnant again now though so I guess we’ll be here for a while.

“Becoming a dad killed my social life””

Women are just much better at the “dry hang” aren’t they? Think about it: when was the last time you caught up with a mate for a coffee? I’ve always ended up catching up with my mates at the pub or the footy or something. There’s always a few beers involved.

Then we had twins. That first couple of years was full-on and it’s still pretty mad. Naturally, that put an end to Friday nights at the pub and I certainly haven’t been fishing with the boys for a while. All of which is to be expected, I guess. But the twins definitely killed my social life that’s for sure.

We were the first in our social circle to have kids, too, so I think my mates don’t understand that your kids have this schedule with naps and meals or they become feral. My missus catches up with her friends in the park or they come over for coffee. But my mates are more set in their ways. Maybe things will change when they get around to having kids themselves.