“Crying on the Bus”: First Time Fathers’ Experiences of Distress on Their Return to Work
2. Materials and Methods
“It was scary, possibly the most scary experience that I’ve ever been through especially looking back now, it was so close to losing both of them.”Mark, pp. 26–27
“So, I’ll go home then at four o’clock in the morning, and I think all that happened so quick and then you’re almost left on your own to deal with it really…Just sort of difficult really, feeling separated from your wife …not seeing her and then to go home but then all of that stuff to happen and then to see the sights that you’ve seen and the emotions that flood through.”Alex, p. 12 and p. 15
“Two weeks of paternity leave… is ridiculously short.”Ethan, p. 19
“I found that almost ridiculous that the man doesn’t get any time off; a week, two weeks, but it’s definitely not long enough to get used to it. Even if they did extend it to a couple of months maybe just to get used to this change in your life and then you could go back to work at least…I get two weeks and I’m thrown straight back into work and the biggest change of my life, I don’t know what I’m doing at all at that point and then I just go back to work …I’ll see you tonight for an hour.”Iain, pp. 29–30
“Everything got on top of me, I had to go back to work and leave the baby crying… she’s absolutely screaming…I can’t just not go to work, as much as I’d love to stay here and help you, I can’t, because I’m only allowed two weeks, that’s all you’re allowed.”William, pp. 24–25
“I’d not really thought about coming back to work and kind of knowing that I will miss a big chunk of his life because I am at work, I’m out of the house most of the day and thinking about, is this what it will be like for me, not forever, but for the long-term future, and I’m out of his life for more time than I’m actually in it.”Iain, p. 27
“I remember… crying on the bus on the first day. So, a combination of just being sleep deprived and really not wanting to be there when I was at work, I felt pretty rotten.”Frank, p. 16
“I think I’ve been lucky in that my boss, my manager at work is very understanding, kind of put me in a quiet corner for those first few weeks back.”Frank p. 2
“Certainly, in the last year my work has been pretty flexible, I think, in terms of allowing me a little bit more leeway of coming maybe slightly later and maybe not working, not exactly working all my hours in a week, things like that they’ve been quite good with.”Alex, p. 14
“I felt like I was abandoning my duties. If the baby’s crying her eyes out at ten o’clock at night and I’m up at four I’m like ‘will you see to the baby’ and you can see in her eyes she’s like kind of ‘what’? And you feel so guilty but what can you do, you know what I mean, you’re not given much choice but to live that kind of life…That feeling you can’t help somebody even though it’s part of your job as well, but you just can’t help.”William, pp. 25–26
“No, you can’t be a dad because we need you to be working here and obviously you shouldn’t be trying to do this anyway, why bother with that kind of thing … yeah it’s really frustrating when you want to do things to be a better dad but you’re kind of impeded from doing that.”Ethan, p. 23
“It wasn’t literally like this, but I’d come home from work and she’d basically hand the baby to me and just be like can you just take her and fine, no problem, absolutely fine, like I’d go to work, it would be intense because it was Christmas, but I’d come home and my actual job would start. That’s how I kind of see it now, it’s significantly more tiring being at home than it is being at work.”Fred, p. 44
“It’s about managing a little bit of work to still keep a job but most of your time devoting your energy towards him for those or supporting Ann for those twelve months and that’s what my family has needed and, yeah that’s the way I’ve viewed it essentially and so my career has probably been secondary.”Alex, p. 18
“I feel like if I did act stupid and got sacked or quit then that’s having an effect on the baby because she’s not going to be able to have the things she wants and that’s not a good role model.”William, p. 28
“I dunno, losing a little bit of that identity about, you know, I’m kind of, kind of known at work as the film buff and someone to talk to about those things and that is kind of slowly going and people are saying, oh have you seen this film and I’m like, what’s that?”Albert, p. 3
“Don’t know if that’s just me with anxiety, or whether that’s more normal… what everyone goes through. It’s hard to tell. Cos with blokes as well, a lot of blokes keep their feelings to themselves. It’s very rare that you get the truth about what blokes are feeling, cos they like to put up a wall, as protection for themselves whereas women are a lot more emotional between each other.”Neville, pp. 37–38
“Maybe just talking to other dads, maybe some erm, some kind of session for that, I dunno, that might be useful. Erm, yeah, new dads talking to existing dads.”Albert, p. 25
“I felt there were a couple of times specifically relating to some of the bad, the worries you know and the emergencies …there were a few times, I think just after that, those occasions when I would have quite liked to have been able to talk.”Frank, pp. 8–9
“Well from the moment you find out right through, you know somebody you could, even just pick up the phone or go and see, right from when you find out to a few months afterwards.”Mark, p. 17
Strengths and Limitations
5. Conclusions and Implications for Workplaces and Workplace Policies
- Actively promoting access to flexible working for both fathers and mothers.
- Education and awareness raising to promote parental wellbeing in the workplace and encourage an environment which is supportive and inclusive.
- Training for all levels of management and human resource departments in how to positively support new fathers in the early weeks of parenting.
- Dedicated and protected paternity leave to replace shared parental leave.
- Transparent workplace-based psychological support or mental health champions for new fathers, which aims to endorse and validate their feelings of distress and exhaustion but also their joy and pride in their new father roles.
- Workplace peer supporters for new fathers.
Institutional Review Board Statement
Informed Consent Statement
Data Availability Statement
Conflicts of Interest
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Hodgson, S.; Painter, J.; Kilby, L.; Hirst, J. “Crying on the Bus”: First Time Fathers’ Experiences of Distress on Their Return to Work. Healthcare 2023, 11, 1352. https://doi.org/10.3390/healthcare11091352
Hodgson S, Painter J, Kilby L, Hirst J. “Crying on the Bus”: First Time Fathers’ Experiences of Distress on Their Return to Work. Healthcare. 2023; 11(9):1352. https://doi.org/10.3390/healthcare11091352Chicago/Turabian Style
Hodgson, Suzanne, Jon Painter, Laura Kilby, and Julia Hirst. 2023. "“Crying on the Bus”: First Time Fathers’ Experiences of Distress on Their Return to Work" Healthcare 11, no. 9: 1352. https://doi.org/10.3390/healthcare11091352