Are You Enemies, Sidekicks, or a Team?: Defining Your Relationship with Your Parenting Partner

You see your child in front of you with that bottom lip stuck out. They are asking to do/for something that you have already said “No” to multiple times in the past. You try not to fall victim to those sad puppy dog eyes. You quickly glance around the room to make eye contact with your partner. Do you…

A. Find them no where in site, and therefore have to go by what your child tells you they said.

B. Find them not to far away, but completely ignoring your desperate stares.

C. Meet their gaze and know they are going to back you up no matter what you say.

Or D. Some rendition of one of these or a combination of one, two, or three of them?

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If you answered A.

You may be enemies. This probably isn’t the first time they’ve been m.i.a., and it probably won’t be the last either.When your partner is no where to be found it is hard to feel supported or appreciated. It also isn’t real conducive to that whole “united front” idea. If this is your relationship it is important to work on two things…communication and appearances. You have to have very open and reachable communication with your partner. If they aren’t going to be by your side when making a decision, they at least need to know what decision they are suppose to be supporting. This is where appearances comes in. You want it to appear to your kid(s) that you are both on the same page with any and all decisions being made. Any sign that one parent is out of the loop, you might as well be bleeding into a tank of sharks…those little monsters will sniff that out and take advantage.

What To Do: 

  • Be aware of any permissions your child(ren) may be asking for
  • Have an open line of communication
  • Do NOT waiver on any agreed upon decisions

If you answered B.

You may be sidekicks. Your kid(s) probably know that they will hear, “Ask [insert other parent]” instead of actually getting an answer. Someone in this parenting dynamic is the boss, and someone in this dynamic is probably disengaged from the relationship and/or family. This can be dangerous because not only is there a lack of support, but there is a lack of care. One parent is left making all the decisions and feeling like they are in it alone, while the other doesn’t even know what decision is being made.

What To Do:

  • Practice making eye contact
  • Ask how you can help or ask for help
  • Set aside time to engage with spouse/family
  • Do NOT defer to the other parent

If you answered C.

Congrats! It sounds like you are already acting as a team! Your kid(s) recognize that an answer from one parent is as good as an answer from both. You put on a united front that shows teamwork and consistency. No one parent is taking on the burden of being “the bad cop”, and all parties are being shown mutual respect.

What To Do:

  • Continue being consistent
  • Discuss decisions with each other before coming to a final conclusion
  • Do NOT argue in front of the child(ren)

If you answered D.

Consistency isn’t your strongest attribute. Sometimes your partner is a dependable ally and sometimes they are your worst enemy. Either way, you are probably craving the same stability your kids are searching for. Being inconsistent can create resentment and an unstable environment for a couple and family. A lack of dependability leaves one partner unsure of what to expect and reluctant to share their needs. If you don’t know what response you will get you are more likely to avoid any communication.

What To Do:

  • Practice consistency with small tasks/decisions
  • Prioritize with partner what really needs their full attention
  • Do NOT flake on decisions that have been set

 

At the end of the day, your relationship with your spouse and family is affected by how you choose to parent. Attending couples and/or family therapy can help you gain insight on how to make improvements that will make parenting easier and more rewarding. If committing to weekly sessions is not suitable for your schedule, look up local parenting workshops and parent groups that may lend the support you are looking for.

“Coming together is a beginning; Keeping together is progress; Working together is success.” ~Henry Ford

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5 Reasons to Take Maternity Leave Early

So you found out you’re pregnant? Congrats! Now it’s time to start planning how the next 9 months are going to look. Trust me, you don’t want to just “go with the flow” for this one.

pregnant sweater

As the next few months go by you will realize just how hard it is to work and be pregnant. Now times that by 10, and you’ll find out how hard it is to work and have a newborn. If your lucky enough to be in a work place that is supportive of your new role as Mommy and provides an adequate amount of maternity leave, DO NOT take it for granted!

Maternity leave is the break you need and the break you deserve! You may feel the need to work until the baby is literally falling out of you, BUT I highly recommend against it. Taking as little as a week or as much as a month before your actual due date can be so beneficial to you, your relationship, and your future child. Here’s 5 reasons why…

1. Making Your Home Baby Friendly

You may have bought everything you needed or had family and friends contribute to what inevitably turned into a giant pile in the nursery. That pile isn’t very useful if it’s still a pile at 3AM when your changing a crying newborn’s diaper. Taking leave early gives you time to organize and sort through that pile. Some things that may need to be done with this pile before the little one arrives:

  • Organizing different diaper sizes. You’ll only be using Newborn or Size Ones for the first month or two. The rest can be stored away for later use.
  • Cutting tags off of clothes and washing them. This takes longer than you would expect. If you read the tag on these tiny clothes carefully they always recommend washing first before putting them on precious baby’s skin.
  • Disinfecting and deep cleaning your home. Sterilizing new bottles and pacifiers can save a lot of time when the little one starts going through bottle after bottle in the first few days. In addition to this a deep cleaning and disinfecting of your home in general can be helpful.
  • Making sure the pile has everything you need. While sorting make sure to check off all the items you have and what you may still need to run out and get before the big day.

2. Making Time for Your Girls

black girlfriends
Although your friends may be super supportive of you starting your family, many times single or childless friends can feel that they are getting pushed out of your life by this new little human. Use your time off to make brunch dates and enjoy some time with your girls. You may not be able to drink, but you can still enjoy a good laugh! In addition to spending some quality time together, you can also have them help you with things that need to get done around the house or run errands with you. Kill two birds with one stone!

3. Spending Time with Your Spouse

This is the last time it will be just you two. Soon a third life will make its way into the picture and change things forever (whether its changed in big ways or small ways is up to you). Partners are often the most affected by a new baby, as much as we’d like to think it is ourselves who are affected most, and it can be a difficult transition for them.

We spend 9 months growing a life inside of us and starting our relationship with our little one, but partners don’t get this same connection. Often times partners don’t start feeling the real transition until they get to hold their newborn for the first time. That means before little one arrives they are still focused on the two of you as a unit. This is the perfect time to capitalize on that!

Spend some time together as a couple and do something that you did when you first started dating or something new that you’ve wanted to try (Couples massage anyone??)! Really tune in to your partner and discuss your hopes and fears of the future quickly approaching. Establish some ways now you can stay connected when the baby arrives and promise to check in with one another as this new journey begins.

4. Refocusing on Yourself

alone sea

You have probably spent a lot of time focusing on the baby, family, friends, your home, and other things in the past few months. Utilize your maternity leave to take some time for yourself to relax and refocus on your needs. This is the one time you’ll have a vacation strictly for yourself.

Whether you are at home most of the day or decide to head out to your favorite park or beach, do something by yourself. Take some deep breaths, write a journal entry, or just think about ways you can be aware of your very being. Imagine where you were a year ago and how far you’ve come. The feelings that overwhelmed you at the beginning of your pregnancy and how you’ve managed to make it this far. Think of the values you want to hold close as you move forward and what activities or hobbies you want to keep up with as a mom.

You can take one day to do this or spend a little time each day centering yourself and preparing yourself for the next stage in your life. Whichever route you take, make sure you are staying true to who you are and who you want to be.

5. Mental Preparation for the Biggest Gift of Your Life

You can plan and prep for everything that seems important when it comes to bringing home a new baby, but nothing can truly mentally prepare you for the shift that will take place when that creature growing inside of you (or inside someone else) becomes a human that needs your care, love, and support for the rest of your life. Taking that extra time to seek out a therapist and explore some of the fears, anxieties, joys, and other million emotions that you’ve been feeling is one of the best ways to use your time off. Getting appointments scheduled when you have plenty of time on your hands and building a relationship with a therapist that cares will make it a lot easier to continue seeking this type of support after the baby arrives.

Building rapport is the first step with any good therapist and knowing that you have someone to turn to who gives an unbiased ear will be a tremendous stress relief in those weeks and months after delivery. Maternity leave isn’t all about getting a break from work. At it’s core, it’s really all about taking care of yourself in a very delicate time of your life. Whether pregnant, using a surrogate, or adopting maternity leave is a time to become in tune with yourself and the life you are bringing into the world.

 

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Your Baby just did Something Amazing, and You Didn’t Even Notice.

Being a new mom is hard and with the world constantly telling you what we should and shouldn’t [do, watch for, feed, say, practice, look for]  with your new bundle of joy it only makes it harder. I spent so much time the first few months of my darling daughter’s life Googling every little thing she did and completely freaking out about my ability to mother her (and 95% of the things I was over-exaggerating about were completely normal “baby stuff”) .

I constantly had my phone in my hand. Every minute I spent on my phone was a minute I lost connection with my little girl. I really noticed the impact this was having on her when I noticed her interaction with her dad.
cell laptop

My partner would give undivided attention to her whenever he was home, and she just seemed…happier. They would engage fully and she had no complaints. Now this may seem obvious, “Duh. Of course a baby is going to want attention. And of course you shouldn’t be on your phone.” But it isn’t as obvious as you may think.

Becoming a mother means changing your entire lifestyle. No longer are you able to stay constantly connected to friends and family the way you once were. I use to spend days calling, texting, Snapchatting, Instagramming, (etc., etc.) with my friends and loved ones. I no longer had time to just meet up for drinks or chat on the phone for 2 hours. My friends started feeling neglected and I started feeling alone.

Being at home alone for weeks with a newborn was not as entertaining as I thought it would be. Once the baby came home I had to be on “Mommy Duty” 24/7. I would be thirsting for attention when my partner came home from work. And was ecstatic that I had someone to talk to and interact with on an adult level. (My poor fiancee.) When he wasn’t there, being on my phone was the only way to interact.

So, what’s the solution?  You shouldn’t ignore your child, but you also shouldn’t ignore your own needs. Well, being intentional is the key. I became very intentional about how I wanted to socialize.

In the mornings before the little one awoke, I would make calls to my best friend on the East Coast. It was a little early for me (definitely not a morning person), but it worked for her schedule and allowed for me to get my day started with the thing I was craving most, social interaction. During nap times I put the phone on speaker and talked to my mom while I washed up dishes or folded laundry. Once little one was old enough for visitors, I invited over a friend or two to spend some time at the house with me in the evening (sometimes we even snuck in a glass of wine or two if the little one had nodded off to sleep).

These “strategies” if you will, allowed me to put down the phone and interact with my darling when she was awake and still satisfy my craving for adult conversation. I no longer felt lonely and I no longer had to follow my poor fiancee around the house like a puppy dog in need of some lovin’.

Being intentional about your needs allows you to take care of yourself and those around you without getting burned out. Some good old fashioned self-care is always the answer.

 

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