Honest Insights for Expecting Couples
Come join me for Mine, Yours, Ours: Relationship Survival for Baby's First Year to learn all the stuff the books and doctors don't tell you, so you can thrive as parents and partners.
Ah, there’s something about a new year that always feels like a clean slate. Even if you’re not a resolution-setter.
But, if you think about it, each new day is also a clean slate.
I’m a big fan of keeping things simple.
So, even though today I have a really big question to ask you, when you actually put the question to practice in your day-to-day, the answer is really in the small, simple things you do each day.
The big question is: What are you going to do to take care of or connect with yourself, your relationship with your partner, and your baby? Today, tomorrow, next week, each month, all year long?
If this sounds overwhelming, annoying, or disagreeable to you in any way, take heart. In this week’s video, I’m breaking down what exactly this question means and how to take action on it each and every day in very simple, small ways.
How? By making this your new motto: Small Things Often.
Ready to go deeper? Scroll down to watch the video or read the transcript.
WATCH THE VIDEO:
This video previously aired as a Facebook Live. You can follow Happy With Baby on Facebook to catch all their live videos here.
It's a brand-new year, 2019, and whether you're a resolution setter or not, there's something about the new year that makes us think about fresh starts, possibility, hope. The reality with achieving anything is that it comes down to the little things we do each day or at least the things that we do the most of.
Hi, I'm Catherine O'Brien at HappyWithBaby.com. And for example, I haven't really been--haven't really mentioned this publicly too much. You might have caught a few Instagram pictures or posts randomly, but I've been working on a book for most of 2018. Even prior to that, but definitely I have kind of hunkered down a lot it within the last year.
And the way I've been doing most of it is, I do small pieces all the time where I can get 15 minutes in here or there or sometimes an hour, two hours. And that's how I've done most of it is with small bits of time.
Now in maybe in some--in my dream world, I would have taken a hiatus from my practice and gone away off to some little beach town or in a little cottage in the mountains somewhere and said goodbye to my husband and my kids and just, you know, ate, slept, and written my book for a month at a time. And I think I could have cranked it out and it would have been done and maybe it wouldn't have been as great, but it would have been done and I could be on to my next big thing.
But that's definitely not an option for me--and that's just not an option for me or you know maybe it isn't even for most of us, but maybe it's just a lucky few. And honestly I don't think I could have done it that way. I would have missed my family probably after day two and would totally get distracted and I do much better under pressure than I do when I have lots of time on my hand quite frankly.
And honestly I think we can fall into a trap with any goal that it has to be all or nothing. Go big or go home. That we have to wait till everything is ideal till we start working on anything.
So for instance, and I know this one because it comes up a lot in my practice and in the moms that I talked to, it's like losing baby weight. It's so easy for us to think, okay, I'm gonna start this Monday, this month, this new year, and I'm going to eat clean, and I'm gonna work out at least 30 minutes plus a day, and be back in my bikini body within eight weeks. And then when we're on, you know, day one into it and someone offers us, you know, chocolate cake or our kids don't eat their dinner, so then we're eating their leftovers. We're like, "Forget it, we'll try again next week" and then we're disappointed with ourselves.
But what if, instead of trying to do it all at once, we made small changes at a time, that you took one thing that you were gonna do each week and add that on to it?
So maybe the first week you're like, "I'm gonna start drinking more water." They say, drink eight glasses of water a day or half your body weight in ounces of water. Whatever it is you decide to do, but I'm gonna drink more water each day and maybe break it down even smaller, where I'm gonna drink a glass of water when I wake up first thing in the morning. Does that feel more realistic and sustainable? Or what if weight loss isn't even what your body is truly asking for right now?
Dr. John Gottman renowned relationship expert of the Gottman Institute likes to say, "Small things often." I love that phrase. And it's worth putting it on a post-it and hanging it on your bathroom mirror or setting a reminder on your phone that reminds yourself once a day or every other day.
Small things often.
And this brings me to what I really want to talk about today with the new year in mind and with John Gottman's motto of "small things often" in mind:
One of the most important questions that I ask all the couples that I see in my practice and in the workshops that I facilitate is:
What are you going to do for yourself, your partner, and for your baby?
Now I believe this is a question we need to be asking ourselves every day, every week, every month, every year.
And I know this can seem like a huge ask. We already have so many things we have to do, right, but I cannot stress enough the importance of and being intentional about this. Because when we don't, this is where problems can start to form.
So let's break it down.
And first of all, the order is definitely very important. So number one, self. Number two, partner. And number three, baby. (Or child, kid, teenager--wherever you're at in life, this applies to you.)
This order probably feels kind of the exact opposite of what is natural or maybe even intuitive, and it might even feel like the opposite of what is right, especially when you're in that new parent, new mom mode. But we've all heard the analogy of putting--we have to put on our own oxygen mask first before we can help anyone else, let alone help our child. So let's start there.
Let's start with taking care of ourselves.
And I know this can seem impossible, but truly it's the little things that we do. Especially in new parenthood, new motherhood, it might be things like washing your face and brushing your teeth.
Now even experienced moms can forget to prioritize their bedtime routine and accidentally nod off while putting their kids to bed. I am so definitely guilty of that. And recently, someone told me that every time you don't wash your face, it adds seven days to your skin. So you look like seven days older than you would have had you washed your face. That has actually been helpful hearing that to get me to do it because even if you one night a week you didn't wash your face, that'd be like a year--it adds a year of life to your face. So I've been trying to work on that one.
Anyways, lighting a candle, or bringing in a houseplant, or even finding some pretty stones from outside. Science backs me up on this one: bringing natural elements in to our space is good for our mental health, whether it's a flickering flame, or greenery or something you found on your favorite trail or on a beach somewhere.
If you're gonna bring in a plant, let's be real, something low-maintenance, right? As new parents, we don't need things that are another task for us to do, unless it does bring us joy and we enjoy doing it.
But whatever you do, don't save the good candles for a special occasion. I'm definitely a big believer in this and making every day special. It's taken me a long time to get to that place, but definitely burn the good candles now and then get some new ones when you run out.
The third one is checking in with your breathing. Is it long, deep, slow, and smooth? Or is it short, shallow, quick, and broken up? Can you slow it down by taking just a couple counts? Can you pause in between the inhale and the exhale? Can you just let out your breath and let it be the way it is without changing it, but just pay attention to it for a minute or two?
Now, the key to taking care of yourself is simply asking yourself what you're feeling and what you need, then doing the best you can to meet that need in some way.
It doesn't have to be perfect. It's the attention and the prioritization that matters, not doing it perfectly. Did you hear me? It's not doing it perfectly. It's the intention of it. That means taking care of yourself today might simply mean forgiving yourself for not being able to give yourself what you need right now.
But then, what are you gonna do tomorrow to give yourself what you need?
Number two is taking care of your partner.
And now you definitely might be questioning why this one comes before baby. Believe me, I get this a lot and the reason is simple, but I'm gonna save that for later, so hold tight, okay.
First I just want to explain what I mean by taking care of your partner because I think that can also make some people a little bit annoyed, like "I'm taking care of a baby, I don't need to take care of my partner." But taking care of your partner just means doing little things to connect with each other.
Again, it's the small things often.
Do you make every effort to go to bed at the same time? And maybe this isn't every night, but maybe once a week you go to bed at the same time. Now for me, I go to bed much earlier than my husband because I get up earlier and plus I need more sleep than he does, but about once a week we go to bed at the same time and we lay down and I always say, "Let's watch a show together". And we turn on a show and within five minutes, I'm sound asleep and then he probably reads a book or something like that. But it's the intention of it that matters. And it feels good to know that sometimes we do go to bed at the same time.
Do you also greet each other when you come home? Do you stop what you're doing and look each other in the eye and say, "Hey, how was your day?" and give each other a kiss? Now that doesn't take a lot of time. In fact, it usually takes less than 30 seconds. But it's the intention of noticing each other when you come through the door that can be really important.
And when your partner comes home and they need to unload about their day, instead of being annoyed about them always complaining and minimizing it and getting frustrated with them, maybe you can stop and reframe as being grateful that you're the person they want to come home and share their day with.
Do you notice the efforts that they make at home and at work and acknowledge it? The small things that maybe don't matter and you feel like they should be doing, but acknowledge it and say, "Hey, I noticed you're doing those things." It can make a huge difference too.
Do you let them know that when you're asking to sit down at the table together for dinner, that is you trying to connect with them, so that they can recognize it as that and not as something else and more things and tasks that you're putting on them to do?
Now I also want to explain what taking care of your partner does NOT mean:
It doesn't mean having sex with your partner because you feel like you owe them or that they need it and you're just really not in that space right now.
And it doesn't mean doing it all and being the perfect partner and parent ever.
And it doesn't mean avoid avoiding the hard conversations because you don't want to tarnish what should be a pleasant night or an evening.
So now we're down to number three, taking care of baby.
And I'm going to explain to you why you and your partner come first: it's because when you and your partner are putting your relationship first and your relationship is healthy and solid, everything with the baby gets so much easier. And I repeat, when you and your partner are okay, the baby will also be okay.
This means--and mom's I'm gonna have to call you out on this one for minute--this means letting dad have his time and his tasks in helping with the baby. And I know this because this is a concern I get from a lot of new parents is seeing dad struggling or even sometimes mom struggling, your first inclination is to go and scoop the baby up and take care of it and to say, "Let me do it." And this is definitely gonna hurt the three of you in the end.
For one thing, it's squashing dad's confidence. (And I'm gonna use "dad" because let's say like 95 percent of my experience is it's usually dads.) It's also not letting him feel bonded with his baby. And for another, it definitely can be squashing your time for what could potentially be a break for you, which is then further draining your own well. And for another, if dad isn't bonding with baby, that also means that baby isn't bonding with dad.
So there's this organization in California called First5California.com, if you want to check out their website because they have a lot of free resources, and they talk about development and they put money towards different programs throughout the state. But they have really great commercials and one of their commercials that I recently heard on the radio is, it says, "Talk, read and sing to your kids." And I really love that.
And that's one of the things I think that I has been easier for me to do. Like I'm not a big reader to my kids. I did when they were little, but my husband actually takes a lot of time to read to them each night. But I am like a big singer. I love to sing to them.
I love to sing songs where I insert their names into whatever song is on the radio or I make up my own lyrics to them getting out of bed or things like that. And sometimes they rhyme really good and sometimes they're terrible. Sometimes I sing really loud and off-key and sometimes I sing a little bit better. And occasionally my son will say, "Mom, you're such a great singer" and other times my daughter will tell me to stop because I'm embarrassing myself. So you know it goes both ways.
I think this is such a good reminder that it doesn't take a lot of time and these are things that we can insert into our day quite easily.
If you can talk to your baby when you're just doing things like household chores. You're washing dishes, you can tell them what you're washing. You can, you know, talk to them about what's happening. It doesn't have to be specific stories or things for them, but it's important for them to be around and involved in our daily activities.
You can sing songs. You don't have to be a great singer. They don't care. They just like being sung to most of the time.
And you can always read stories. Check out the library and get books there. Or there's also--at least I know in our neighborhood, we seem to have a lot of those like "Little Libraries" and there's always different, you know, kid books or, you know, sometimes older books of course. You have to check what's appropriate or not, but easy way to find other books to read too, so it doesn't have to cost a lot of money.
What can even be better is when both you and your partner can spend time with baby together. And I think it can be so easy for us to just be passing in the breeze as parents, especially if both parents are working, but that time as a family is so important. Can you just take five minutes out of your day for it today? Because as good as these are for baby, I bet these are even better and sweet memories for you and your partner that you will definitely hold on to later.
So until next time, you guys, take care.
If you're in the Sacramento area and are expecting a new baby soon or even if you just had one, we'd love if you came and joined us for our upcoming workshop, Mine, Yours, Ours: Relationship Survival Guide to Baby's First Year.
In this workshop, we dig deeper into issues like this one, but also so much more, like improving your communication skills with your partner, addressing your fears around parenthood and how it's going to change your life, managing visitors, and also managing household tasks. We even discuss sex and intimacy and what it's really like after baby.
I co-host this with my husband, so you'll definitely get perspectives from both sides of parenthood and it's really a lot of fun.
If you're not in the Sacramento area and this sounds like something you'd be interested in, please contact us at HappyWithBaby.com.
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