Q3: Often, men (dads) seemed to be neglected in the equation of achieving parenting (psycho-emotional) wellness. Why is that so – is it true that they are less susceptible to post-natal and parenting blues?
Post-natal blues by definition pertains only to mums. However, while less likely than mums, dads are vulnerable to parenting blues or even depression. In general, due to societal expectations, the responsibility of child care and parenting still falls on mums. We have tax relief to help working mothers and much longer maternity leave and this is testament that mothers are expected and more likely to sacrifice their careers to care for their child.
In most circumstances, it is natural that the child forms a much stronger attachment to mums than dads because of the child birth process and breast feeding. As such, the stress and responsibilities that falls on a father is much less. However, societal expectations are shifting. These days, the demands for a dad's involvement in child care and parenting is increasing and we are seeing more fathers who are finding it stressful and having difficulties balancing work and child care, and consequently getting blue.
Q4: Lastly, what can parents do to alleviate fears and anxiety? Is the attitudinal approach the best way to prevent it? Any tips?
As a society, we may want to be more cognizant of the difficulties new parents may face, particularly in this age of small nuclear family with little or no support from extended family. Much has been done to alleviate the financial aspects, as well as to provide longer maternity and paternity leave.I believe as a society we can still do more to educate and support parents.
Other than attitudinal change, maintaining healthy family dynamics and a strong couplehood will improve support to the parent, allow them to talk about their fears and anxiety and prevent feelings of isolation. Mum and Dad must continue to spend time with each other and go "pak tor". Improving parental relationship will help with improving the care of the child and there is no need to feel guilty for leaving the child behind. Mum and Dad must also have their alone time so that they can have time of the stress of care and continue with their hobbies and meeting up with peers. The other spouse must recognise the need for alone time and not begrudge the other party but instead take turns to do so while the other cares for the child. Commonsensically, parents do need to sleep well, eat healthily, exercise and manage the stress from their career in order to keep these fears and anxiety at bay.
If the blues, anxiety and fears are serious, in that they affect the parent's ability to care for the child or to work, he or she should seek professional help and treatment Postnatal depression and Anxiety disorders can be effectively treated with medications and therapy. Denial of the conditions and leaving them alone can have dire consequences.