We all can always do a little better when it comes to communicating with our partners. Luckily for all of us, it’s a skill we can learn, not a fixed sign of incompatibility.
Parenting is so hard.
I think one thing that we become acutely aware of once we become parents is that there’s so much we want to show our kids, teach our kids, about the world, about themselves, about fairness, about love….
Today is the 4th of July, a day for celebrating freedom and independence. But when you’re a parent, our experience of freedom changes a little bit, doesn’t it? It’s suddenly not quite so easy as hopping in the car spontaneously and driving for hours and hours.
But, still, road tripping with kids can be done. It just requires a little more planning and different expectations. In fact, our family takes a road trip this time of year every year.
When our babies are small, it can often feel like we’re trying to crack some mysterious code. “Why are you crying? What do you need? What are you trying to tell me?”
Often times, we find ourselves thinking (even if only for a flicker of a moment), “Life will be so much easier when they can get around on their own or tell me what they need!”
….And then, toddlerhood happens and we’re completely eating our words. Toddlers have BIG emotions, don’t they! And very strong opinions! That brings a whole new set of challenges.
Recently, I had a conversation with another mom about that tricky phase many of us go through when we parents are trying to determine whether it’s time to drop a nap in our little one’s sleep schedule. Sometimes babies and toddlers can be really good at sending us a mixed bag of signals--particularly when it comes to naps.
And now that we’re in the full throes of holiday season, I think this topic is especially important since many of us spend time traveling or going to holiday events that also can bring about disruptions to our little ones’ sleep schedules (among other things).
DO WE REALLY LOVE EACH OF OUR KIDS THE SAME?
When I was pregnant with my daughter (our second child), I distinctly remember being really worried that I would not be as in love with her as I was with my son (our first). In fact, my husband and I use to joke that we shouldn't have a second kid because he was so awesome and perfect--there was just no way our second could live up to that. “Our next kid would probably be a total nightmare,” we’d tease.
I don’t know about you, but lately, my Facebook newsfeed is filled with adorable first-day-of-school photos. I love it. You can see the anticipation in their little faces and I completely understand what those moms and dads posting them must be feeling.
This time of year always makes me a bit reflective about transitions. And I can’t help but think about how parenthood is constantly insisting we grow right along with our kids.
Quick--If you had to guess, when do you think our children first begin to notice racial differences?
You might guess that it begins in grade school, when kids are under more pressure to fit in or have had more time to absorb their parents’ perceptions and commentary on different races. But, you’d be wrong. These concepts begin taking shape much, much earlier than that.
Has your baby or toddler hit the “separation anxiety” phase in their development yet? Our littles can start feeling separation anxiety as early as 6 months and usually phases out by age 2, but the peak age range is 8-18 months. It usually looks like clinginess, tantrums or resistance to other caregivers. It often happens when mom or dad leaves the room for a moment, or during bedtime routines, or when a child is dropped off at a caregiver’s place.
Finding childcare for your little ones can be an incredibly overwhelming thing for new parents--especially if you are bracing yourself to go back to work for the first time.
There’s so much to think about just logistically: the research involved, phone calls to make, interviews to conduct, budgeting to figure out, and so on. And when you factor in all the emotions that come with it--The guilt! Oh, the guilt!--it can almost feel like too much to handle on top of everything else you already have to do everyday.
So often in my practice, I see women who are struggling with a loss of identity now that they're a mom. I also see many parents--both moms and dads--who feel like it just isn't feasible for them to continue certain activities. That it would be impossible for them to enjoy it, to focus, or do it the way they want to with a little one tagging along. It can feel very literally like a monkey on your back while you're trying to do your thing. Or, like you can't just lose yourself in the activity because you have this other person to tend to.
Fourth of July weekend will soon be upon us. This is a popular time for many of us to make lasting memories from barbecues to fireworks. For my family, this is typically vacation time and we all look forward to it every year.
It is with this in mind that I want to talk about the importance of slowing down and just being present with our families. So easily, our lives can become a rapid pace of go-go-go. There’s school and work and extracurriculars and birthday parties. (Don’t even get me started on the holiday season or back-to-school time!) If your littles are too small for this hustle to be your norm yet, consider yourself lucky. And really, that’s all the more reason to enjoy this slower pace now. It doesn’t last. Nothing does, does it? That’s exactly the point.
Parents and Parents-to-be, this is so good: Catherine O'Brien, LMFT was featured on the podcast "The Family Couch", hosted by Mercedes Samudio, LCSW. In it, they discuss what surprised Catherine the most when she first became a mom, how to make sure both parents are connecting with baby (and with each other) and feel supported and empowered, and they even take on the "mommy wars" hot-button issue to help moms move past the judgment and guilt. Catherine gives the top three questions she asks every parent to consider at every stage of their parenting and how to have a plan but also remain flexible enough to change or modify your plans when life throws you curve balls.
There’s possibly nothing worse than an inconsolable little one in the middle of a meltdown. It can be heartbreaking and infuriating at the same time. And if you’re in a public place, it can be downright mortifying at times. For what it’s worth, momma, EVERY mom has these moments. Babies and toddlers don’t care if you’re a celebrity or on the phone or have already had a rough day. So, don’t feel too bad if it happens in public! So, when it happens to you, here are my 7 best tips to calm your child:
Not all of us win the lottery when it comes to kids and car rides. Some parents love driving their babies or kids around because they’re guaranteed to knock out during the ride. Other parents, not so much. If your baby screams as if they’re being tortured during any drive or if your toddler gets carsick, I know how traumatic it can feel for you, momma. I have two kids and they are like night and day when it comes to personalities. Their reactions to car rides….also like night and day.
Like it or not, we live in a technological age. And, while there are definitely some hazards that come with that, there’s no denying the advantages. Since many of us use smartphones anyway these days, I thought it might be helpful to compile a list of apps that might make your life as a parent a bit easier. Now, by no means does anyone necessarily need ALL of the apps listed here. Just pick and choose the ones that suit your lifestyle and discard the rest. And, hopefully, this at least gives you a range of ideas for ways you can use your smartphone to simplify your life as a mom or dad.
I recently had a conversation with another mom and, because we both have daughters about the same age, we began sharing stories about when we were expecting.
She was telling about how obsessed she was with birth plans, natural births, and everything Ina May Gaskin had written about. She told me she watched The Business of Being Born three times on her own, on top of making her partner and all of her other pregnant friends watch it with her too.
She said it wasn’t until she went on maternity leave and was just waiting for her water to break that it even occurred to her to read up on parenting and what it might be like having a tiny human under her care. Before that moment, she hadn’t given much thought to what it might be like after the birth.
Can you relate to this?
Or, maybe you’re like another friend of mine who didn’t stress so much over her birth experience itself, but became obsessed with reading up on parenting methods and the many phases of child development. She devoured everything she could on brain development, separation anxiety, co-sleeping, all the possible birth defects the baby could potentially be born with….you name it. She read about it.
Maybe this is you.
We all go through some version of this when we’re pregnant. We can almost have tunnel vision at times, whether it’s styling up the nursery in the most fashion-forward style or going crazy over baby registries or planning the ideal birth experience (because babies always arrive in exactly the way we planned, right??)
Even the best birthing classes often don’t go much further than this either.
Not to mention, I’m only talking about the moms here. Your other half is definitely having his own experience with this too.
But, do you notice anything missing from these obsessions?
These stories are all very baby-focused, aren’t they? For good reason, of course. But, look closer. These obsessions really are very “me and baby” focused. But no one does this alone. What about those two people that existed even before the baby did? The two people who were many other things before adding “parent” to their life’s resume. You know who I’m talking about--the two whose lives are going to be turned upside-down while that baby is busy being born and growing and changing….
Because I will tell you, the birth is just a flicker of your life. A miraculous, earth-shaking flicker, but still….it’s a mere moment compared to the many years that follow.
And I’ll tell you something else: Babies are going to grow up whether you read the books or not.
But, what about your relationship? It’s almost never mentioned, but your relationship is the key to that first year going smoothly or going frustratingly haywire. No one talks about how difficult it can be to listen to your partner talk about their day when you’ve barely gotten any sleep or how to ask for a break to take a shower when they’re just sitting there enjoying the morning paper.
It might sound trivial now. You might think, “But my partner is so helpful at home now, I’m sure that will still be the case once the baby’s here.” Or, you may think, “It’s just not real for fathers-to-be until the baby arrives. He’ll step up.” Or maybe it’s, “I’m sure I’ll be tired and cranky in the beginning, but I’ll get the hang of things.”
Yes, all of that might be true. But, statistically, 92% of couples report relationship dissatisfaction that first year when baby comes home.
That tells me that even the most saintly of partners can get frustrated at times, can feel misunderstood sometimes, can feel like the spark is gone at times.
And sadly, this is best-case-scenario. Factor in postpartum depression, relationship troubles, work stress, or any of the above, and you could have a very different situation on your hands. (Don’t believe me? Check this out. And this. And this.)
The good news is, it doesn’t have to be like that. It just takes a little preparation and open dialogue. Join us for our upcoming class, “Mine, Yours, Ours: Relationship Survival Guide to Baby’s 1st Year” --a 2-hour class I’ve been running for several years now with my husband, Rick. Together, we’ve helped hundreds of couples navigate this transition with effective communication, empathy and humor.
What couples are saying about this class:
Really helpful and on track with what we are experiencing as new parents! ~ C.J.
Great speakers, thoughtful listeners, liked that you showed the upside of parenting and not just the challenges. ~ J.L.
It was very helpful having both perspectives (mom and dad). The group was open with their personal concerns and that provided comfort and support. ~ LB
We thought we knew how to communicate, but by listening all of our concerns it forced us to really recognize what we need to prioritize. ~ A.P
Friday, July 29, 2016, 6:30pm 8:30pm
@ Herself Moms, located at 151 N. Sunrise Ave. Suite 907, Roseville, CA 95661
Facilitated by wife/husband team, Catherine O'Brien, M.A., LMFT (Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist, Certified Gottman Educator, and Mother) and Rick Heyer, JD, (Educator and Father).
This class meets one time only for an engaging “power hour” that is all about what that first year of parenthood will be like for both you and your partner and how to stay connected throughout the ups and downs.
In this class, we’ll discuss:
How each partner’s concerns are different through this transition and what each parent brings to the table.
Effective communication skills, so you can hear and be heard even if you’re working with a shorter tolerance or attention span.
How to develop your own Postpartum Plan for creating harmony within the relationship and work as a team and why it’s so important to do this NOW.
The importance of understanding moods and emotions that come with the birth of your baby, from both a biological and situational standpoint.
And, not least of all, how to keep sex and intimacy lit up in your relationship, even when it feels like timing has put it on the back burner.
*Special Bonus* This class also includes a FREE 20-minute consultation with Catherine to review & tailor your very own Postpartum Plan!
$99 per couple. Space is extremely limited:
This class routinely sells out, so don’t wait!
I had a mom ask me the other day, "How do you talk to your partner when you are crabby?"
This is a common complaint or concern that I get when I'm working with couples in my practice here in Sacramento
OMG, moving with kids is not easy.
I remember a time when I could be moved and unpacked in one weekend….Oh, the good old college days!
It is definitely not the same with a husband and two kids. The end of 2015 was exhausting. We sold our home and moved into our new place. And, of course, the holidays are always a busy time. But, I can finally say we are all sleeping happily in our new rooms.
My daughter loves her older brother.
She really adores him and I love to watch their sweet interactions together. Whatever he does she wants to do. This includes doing silly things, eating foods, making their beds, showing off some recent talent. This also includes wanting to play with all his toys--something he’s not always a fan of.