In the 1983 film "Mr. Mom," Michael Keaton put a new face on the stay-at-home dad who wades into the responsibility - and let's face it, the down-right visceral experience - of taking care of young kids. When the character Jack turns into a house-robe-wearing, unshaven mess who deals hands of coupon poker over morning coffee, you're getting a front-row seat on "new-daddy depression."
Now, a study reveals that Jack's spiral down isn't that unusual, and moms aren't the only ones with post-partum depression. During the first five years of childhood, 25-year-old dads report a 68 percent increase in symptoms of depression, and more than 60 percent say juggling the demands of work and family, not spending enough time with their kids, and changes in sexual relations play a big hand in fatigue and stress.
And while male post-partum depression might not be as hormone-related as mom's, its repercussions are as serious. Bonding with your child during those first years is essential for the child's development, but depressed dads are less likely to play with or read to their kids and more likely to inflict physical punishment.
The solution? We have to stop ignoring this phenomenon, and ante up: This means pediatricians need to pay attention to mothering AND fathering, and offer dads support, which can range from therapy to medication. Moms have to realize there's a real issue here, too. And dads? Take a look at the hand you've been dealt and play your cards smart. You and your whole family will end up winners.
© King Features Syndicate