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Feeling Judged?

Feeling Judged?

Parenting

Don’t Let Mutual Intolerance Ruin Your Holidays

Feeling judged is difficult at any time, but as we lead up to the holidays, I begin to hear from many therapy and life coaching clients that feeling judged or criticized during family gatherings creates a ton of anxiety. I commonly hear that people feel judged by their in-laws, and also that they feel a great deal of frustration that their own boundaries will be tested. Many of my clients express anxiety and frustration that their in-laws and parents don’t respect their boundaries as parents, disregard their values, and also do intrusive and annoying things during their time together. 

Listen, it’s true: Most of the time we all get to live in our little bubbles. We spend time with our like-minded friends, and we get to control much of what we let into our personal spheres. But during the holidays, we pony up to spend time with people that we may not have much in common with other than the fact of our being related. And it’s stressful.

When we’re in close contact for prolonged periods of time with people who are very different from us, judgment disapproval can easily creep in — often to the point where it disrupts our ability to stay in the present and have a good time. We get upset with them for judging us, and then they get upset because we’re upset (or hold our boundaries and refuse to accommodate their preferences) and before you know it it turns into an ugly conflict instead of the happy holiday gathering you all want. 

So, what to do? How do you spend time with family who may have values at odds with yours, deal with judgment and frustration, and manage to have a good time anyway? 

How to Stop Feeling Judged

On today’s episode of the Love, Happiness and Success Podcast I’m diving deeply into this topic, in order to help you find strategies to stop feeling judged (while you’re staying true to yourself and your values). 

To this end, I’m tackling a listener question. Miss S wrote in with this:

“I recently found your podcast and I am enjoying it very much. I do have a request for a topic that may be helpful to others especially as we near the holiday season. I could use help in dealing with family members who are socially awkward and/or difficult to be around.

During the holidays, my mother and mother-in-law give us a run for our money!

We are exposed to guilt trip galore like accusing us of not spending enough time with them (ie unable to accept that we are adults and have our own lives and have set boundaries), the “inconvenience” of “having” to come to our house for the holiday dinner, not having overnight accommodations that are comfortable, not eating the requested desserts that they bring  & etc.

They are also obsessed with the past as in constantly bringing up family members who have passed away in such a way that it is awkward and not relevant to the conversation.

Despite our requests to not do this, my mother-in-law always calls her other son , who lives out of state, and puts him on speaker during the meal. It is really disruptive, awkward and unnecessary as we all speak to him on our own. Also, she doesn’t see us much so it would be nice for her to enjoy her time with us and call him when she goes home.

Also, my mother-in-law doesn’t like me anymore. I think she blames me for her son not spending as much time with her or his other family members. This is not true , of course, but it’s still off-putting when I can feel her disdain even though I know it’s her stuff, not mine.

I know that I will not be able to change their behaviors but perhaps I can learn to be less annoyed and regain enjoying my holidays. This is so much easier said than done so I am hoping that you may be able to illuminate a path for me.

Thank you for sharing you talent and expertise via your podcast. I have found it very helpful and have shared it with friends and family members, too.”

Listen and hear what I share with Miss S including:

  • Why it’s so important to get clear about your values before heading into emotionally fraught situations with family and inlaws
  • How to decide where to be flexible and where to hold firm in your interactions with others
  • How to let go of your need for approval from others
  • What to prioritize in order to help yourself make decisions and be less reactive
  • The secret strategy to help yourself be okay… even when others are not

 

Becoming Self Aware of Our Own Judgments

The flip side of feeling judged is often an opportunity for US to grow and become more self aware and compassionate. For example, I sometimes encounter people who are feeling very frustrated and judgmental for other people for… wait for it… being so judgmental!

Part of the key skill in learning how to manage feeling judged by others is understanding how we respond when our own values and preferences are not being honored. On this episode of the podcast I also discuss some of the ways that we can become more self-aware of our own judgment and use it to:

All this, and more, on this episode of the podcast.

All the best, 

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

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Dealing With Judgment

by Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby | Love, Happiness & Success

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Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby is the founder and clinical director of Growing Self Counseling and Coaching. She’s the author of “Exaholics: Breaking Your Addiction to Your Ex Love,” and the host of The Love, Happiness & Success Podcast.

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5 Powerful Parenting Tips

5 Powerful Parenting Tips

Parenting

Feel More In Control

About 5 months ago my wife and I welcomed a beautiful baby girl into the world. We had nine long months to anticipate her arrival. We prepared the nursery, we wrote lists of names, we visited doctors, and we spent time alone together. She finally arrived. In the hospital we snuggled and smiled at her. We definitely didn’t get enough sleep or buy enough diapers. We brought her home days later and it finally hit us. We were parents. We were supposed to move forward with this tiny human in our lives and provide her the kind of life she deserved. We were her source of nutrition, nurturing, and love. What we quickly learned is that being a parent is very different than watching people parent. We felt feelings of fear, inadequacy, confusion, exhaustion and frustration, just to name a few. If you are a new parent, or maybe you’ve been parenting for sometime, and are feeling overwhelmed by all that you are attempting to accomplish, know that you are not alone. After only 5 months I do not claim to know everything, but I have learned at least 5 tips that I feel are powerful tools to help all parents feel happier and more in control.

Have A Weekly Date Night

After having a child it becomes so easy to make taking care of them your sole center of your universe. It becomes easy to put all of your energy into taking care of your child. This shift is natural and important. As you are nurturing, loving, protecting, and watching over your baby, it’s important that you do the same to your partnered relationship. Take time every week to have a date with your partner. I use the term date loosely. You do not have to dress fancy, you don’t have to spend a lot of money, you don’t even need to leave the house! What matters is that you and your partner are being intentional about planning an activity that the two of you can do together (without your child) that will help you maintain the connection that you have. Try to schedule at least one hour of planned time together doing something you both enjoy.

Take Care Of Yourself

Just as it can become easy to stop taking good care of your marriage after having a baby, it can also be easy to stop taking good care of yourself. Make sure that you have time to engage in your hobbies, do the things you love. If you stop taking care of yourself, you won’t have the energy or the stamina to take care of your baby. It may look different than it used to, but it needs to still be a part of your routine.

Work To Tag Team While Parenting

During an intense wrestling match a wrestler who is exhausted from the fight has the option to tag a teammate to replace him in the ring. If parenting with a partner, you have a built in teammate! This isn’t possible at all hours of the day, but when you are both home with your child make sure you are taking turns taking care of your baby. If your child is crying and you can tell that your partner is becoming frustrated or overwhelmed, swap them out. On the other hand, if you’re getting frustrated or overwhelmed, be willing to take 10 minutes for yourself to calm down before you re-engage. If you can tag team your parenting, chances are good that one of you will always be able to handle the difficult moments. My wife’s favorite phrase is “YOUR TURN!” that is when I know it’s my turn to step into the ring. Be willing to seek your partner’s help early. Don’t wait until you are fully knocked down. 

SIDE NOTE: It’s also important to find ways to parent together. Find opportunities for all family members to engage together. Moments where all family members can be present and interact together are so crucial. For example, my wife and I have put a focus on bath time. We sing, we splash, we play together as a family. I am in charge of scrubbing her arms and head, while my wife covers her legs, tummy and toes. We both help with and engage in the process and it’s one of our favorite times. Work within your family to find something as simple as bath time that you can be engaged in together.

Work Hard To Be Present

In our most recent pediatrician visit, our doctor told us that on average 4-month-old babies watch three hours of TV a day. Now they probably aren’t really watching the TV but the point is, my wife and I had to reevaluate what we did with our baby all day. Being present involves interacting, playing, responding to and teaching your baby. When your baby is awake and looking at you, those are your moments to respond. This can infinitely strengthen your bond. Phones, TVs, computers and screens can seriously hinder our ability to connect with our baby. It is too easy to slip away for hours into the virtual world and distract ourselves from reality. This, ultimately, is a choice to disconnect with your baby. Being present with your baby is an important way to find joy in parenting. I would also caution against slipping into the screen-world when you’re finally alone with your partner for the day. It’s incredibly important to be present with your partner as well as your baby.

Cherish The Good Moments

With a brand new baby we can often fall into the routine of nap, eat, diaper change, nap, eat, diaper change… etc. It’s easy to remember the tense moments (or maybe hours) of screaming and the lack of sleep. Those difficult moments can sometimes overshadow the joy that can be felt in parenting. As parents, even when times are good we may find ourselves worrying about the tense moments that may be right around the corner. We don’t let ourselves fully enjoy or cherish the moments that make it all worth it.

Recently I had the opportunity to go to an event with my family and some of our friends. It went late into the evening passing our daughter’s regular bedtime. She started getting fussy and none of our typical tricks to keep her happy were working. She was tired and cranky. I put her in our baby carrier and left the event to roam the halls. She quickly relaxed and fell asleep. As she slept on my chest, I was overcome by the love I have for her. I thought about her vulnerability and her complete trust in me to keep her safe and meet her needs. To feel her vulnerability, her trust, her sense of safety, and her reliance on me in that moment was incredibly powerful. I held her and pondered on the special relationship that exists between a parent and a child and felt so lucky and grateful to have such a relationship in my life. The longer I held her the more grateful I became for her and the deeper my love for her grew. After that experience I felt more patient with her, I felt more willing to engage with her in a positive way. The 4 A.M. wake up call didn’t feel as disheartening after our evening together. The difficult moments are still there, but they seemed less powerful after I spent time cherishing the good.

Above All Else…

I’m going to provide one bonus tip here, and it’s possibly the most important: give yourself grace. You’re going to make mistakes, you’re not going to be a perfect parent. You’ll miss your child’s cues, you’ll get frustrated, sometimes you’ll make things worse instead of better. Don’t expect yourself or your partner to be perfect! Be willing to ask for help, you won’t know it all, don’t be ashamed that you don’t know it all. Learn, grow, and love. Love yourself, love your partner, and love your baby.

If you are feeling overwhelmed by the transition into parenting, whether you had your first child a week ago or 10 years ago, and would like to talk more in depth about how to parent effectively or how to keep your partnered relationship strong I would love to spend more time with you to get to know your personal struggles better. I am confident that parenting should be a joyful experience and if you are lacking that joy please reach out for support to help you find ways to bring that joy into your life. 

All the best, 
Hunter Tolman, M.S., MFTC

 

Hunter Tolman, M.S., MFTC is a kind, friendly and relatable marriage counselor and therapist who is devoted to strengthening families, helping couples heal, and empowering individuals to grow. He practices emotionally focused couples therapy, and has a compassionate — yet practical — approach to fostering positive change.

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How to Keep Your Relationship Strong After Having a Baby

How to Keep Your Relationship Strong After Having a Baby

Parenting

Becoming Parents, Together.

Welcoming a new baby into the world can be one of the most exciting and joyful times for a couple… and also one of the hardest. It’s unfortunately very common to have marriage problems after baby. As marriage counselors and family therapists we often see that most couples spend so much time and energy preparing for the birth, and how to take care of their newborn, they neglect to think about how they’ll keep their relationship strong after baby.

The relationship issues they experience after having a baby can therefore catch them by surprise, and feel all the more challenging to resolve in the stressful weeks and months following the birth of a child.

Just like we encourage couples getting married to get premarital counseling to prevent future problems, we encourage pregnant couples to proactively prepare their relationships for life-after baby. Today, we’re here to help provide some guidance for preventing relationship problems after having a baby, or for healing your relationship if it feels like things have gotten harder since becoming parents together.

Common Marriage Problems After Baby

Many couples report relationship issues after baby. Why? It’s because having a new child to care for together is uniquely stressful, and it requires you two to work together as a couple in a different way than you ever had before. Furthermore, you’re likely both feeling depleted, sleep deprived, and overwhelmed. Plus, when your baby needs something, it feels like an emergency!

In this emotional, hormonal, and circumstantial pressure-cooker frustrations flare, and resentments simmer, particularly when things are feeling out of balance between you and unspoken expectations are going unmet.

Many women report feeling disconnected from their husband after having a baby, often due to feeling overwhelmed, overburdened, and because it’s difficult for their partners to know how to support them — physically, emotionally, and in terms of practical help. Men too can experience disconnection from their partners after the birth of a child, often due to feeling suddenly secondary to this new little being who needs so much care and attention.

Having a new baby requires couples to renegotiate boundaries, establish new ways of doing things, and enter brand new emotional territory together — all while sleep-deprived and stressed. It’s a a new chapter that involves a great deal of personal growth work, both for each partner individually, and as a couple. It’s no wonder that many couples struggle as they make their way forward, together.

Relationship Changes After Baby

In addition to the new challenges couples face around how to work as a team to care for their baby, they may temporarily lose many of the fun bonding activities they once shared. Many couples need to rebuild their sexual relationship (slowly!) after the birth of a child. It’s also generally much more difficult to spend time alone doing fun things than it was in the past. (You’ll find very few brand new parents at a weekend-music festival, for example).

However, strong couples learn how to find new things to enjoy together. While having time alone is still important (date night, anyone?) it’s extremely helpful to find ways of having fun and connecting around your parenting role too.

Building a Strong, Happy Family  — Together

The good news is that through preparation and communication, couples can not just avert marriage problems after baby but enter a new era of strength and satisfaction in their relationship. Yes, things change, but many couples report feeling more deeply committed to each other and their new life as a family together in the months and years after their first child.

The early stages of new parenthood require working out kinks, and learning how to work as a team in a whole new way. Having a happy marriage after parenthood means learning new ways of communicating, connecting, and enjoying life together.

Because this transition to parenthood can feel so challenging for many couples, we’re devoting a whole episode of the Love, Happiness and Success Podcast to supporting you through it. Marriage and family therapist and parenting coach Jessica Small will be sharing her tips for how to not just keep your relationship strong after baby, but set yourself up for success in the years to come.

Listen now to get Jessica’s advice for how to:

  • Prepare your relationship for a baby
  • Have crucial conversations that will help you work through issues as they come up
  • How to support each other emotionally after having a baby
  • Practice practical strategies to make things easier for both of you
  • Keep a compassionate mindset
  • Create a happy new chapter for your marriage

We hope that this information helps you successfully transition from being a happy couple to a happy family!

Sincerely,

Jessica Small, M.A., LMFT and Lisa Marie Bobby, PhD, LMFT

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How to Keep Your Relationship Strong, After Baby

by Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby | Love, Happiness & Success

Music Credits: Twinkle Twinkle Little Rock Star,   “Blister in the Sun” (New Wave Lullabies Vol. 1,)

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Jessica Small, M.A., LMFT is a couples counselor, premarital counselor, therapist, and life coach who is passionate about helping individuals, families & couples create more fulfilling lives and relationships, and to function at an optimum level of health and happiness.

In addition to working with private clients, Jessica leads our Online Postpartum Support Group.

Learn More About Jessica

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More Relationship Advice

Parenting Two Under Two: Strategies For Success

Parenting Two Under Two: Strategies For Success

Parenting

Jessica Small, M.A., LMFT is passionate about helping individuals, families & couples create more fulfilling lives and relationships, and to function at an optimum level of health and happiness.

Jessica is also the facilitator of the Postpartum Support Group that meets Mondays online at 9 AM MST. 

From One Mom to Another…

Yes, I’m a marriage and family therapist but I’m also a mom. I was 6 months postpartum with my first baby when I found out I was pregnant with my second. This was not exactly a planned event and I am a consummate planner. Needless to say, I was overwhelmed and terrified. I felt like I was just getting my parenting sea legs and was suddenly going to be thrown into a momentous storm.

So I did what any person would do, I panicked and then consulted the internet, asking “how to survive two under two?” My babies are now 1 and 2, and we’re all okay. I can confidently say we made it through the first year, and I learned many things along the way.

While the one thing I know to be consistently true is that nothing is consistent and that the next year will bring a whole new set of triumphs and challenges, there are a few tips I have for living (not just surviving) with two under two.

Two Under Two: How To Make it Work

Help your oldest kid first

I remember reading this same piece of advice over and over again and it always seemed backwards to me. I thought my newborn would be so helpless that they would need my attention immediately while my older one was a bit more self-sufficient and could wait. However, in practice, I found this advice to be gold.

With the exception of any safety/imminent threat issues I attended to my older child first and once I got her settled, I was able to fully attend to my baby. My older child was generally easier and quicker to serve and once she was settled I had enough time to fully give the baby what he needed.

Trust that you have enough love and time for them both

I was afraid that having a second child so soon was going to mean I was going to miss out on my first. I was nervous that I wouldn’t have enough love or time for them both and that my first child was going to get lost in the needs of a newborn.

One of the many things having children has taught me is that love is infinite, endless and brutally intense. Love can expand far beyond the reaches you could ever expect and there is always room for more. You can trust that your heart will make space for your growing family, it always does.

As for time, I would be lying if I said that having two children did not create limitations on my time, but that was going to be true no matter what the age gap! What I found was that I became more intentional and present with my time. Because I was afraid of not having enough of it, I was more thoughtful when I did have it. I started to cherish the baby’s morning nap because it gave me space to give my oldest my full attention.

I also reminded myself that it’s good for kids to learn to not be the center of attention, to have to entertain them self, to share, to practice patience to realize that the universe has many people in it and there is enough love and space for them all.

Find a routine that gives you a break

Nap time is one of my favorite times of the day. It is a much-needed break from parenting. I love my kids but I also love the break from them, it is like coming up for air after being submerged by the endless needs of others.

When my second baby came I vowed to get them on a schedule that allowed me this break. Although it took some time, I aligned their naps so that most afternoons I get at least an hour break (here are some parenting tips around sleep schedules, if you’re interested). That break is my haven, my time to reset, check out, get a task done or read a book. That break is imperative to my survival.

Be kind to yourself

The day after I brought home my son from the hospital my daughter fell off the bed. I was holding the baby and saw it happen but couldn’t get to her in time. She cried. I cried. We both survived. Things happen. Be kind to yourself.

Breathe

Honestly, of all my tips, this one is the best. Breathe. When both babies scream you’re entire drive…breathe. When you’re overwhelmed and exhausted…breathe. When your one child poops in the tub that both children are in…breathe (and yes, this did happen). Focus hard on that breath and say to yourself “this too shall pass.”

It always does.

You’ve got this.

Sincerely,
Jessica

PS: If you are in the thick of parenting babies, toddlers or both, and are looking for more practical tips and emotional support – I hope you consider joining our online postpartum support group. We laugh, we cry, and recently washed hair is absolutely optional. 😉

 

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Parenting

Jessica Small, M.A., LMFT is passionate about helping individuals, families & couples create more fulfilling lives and relationships, and to function at an optimum level of health and happiness. Jessica is the facilitator of our Online Postpartum Support Group: New Baby, Happy Life where she shares more practical tips for new parents.

 

Sleep Makes Everything Better

 

By day, I am a marriage and family therapist. I love helping new moms and dads make the beautiful and often challenging transition into parenthood. However, my after-work hours consist of practicing what I preach in my parenting coaching and family therapy sessions as a mom of two littles myself. One of the most valuable lessons I can share with new parents is to prioritize sleep for both you and your children!

Sleep Training Can Be a Lifesaver

When my daughter was 4 months old she went from waking a manageable one time per night to waking up every 2 hours. I thought I was going to lose my mind! I was exhausted, sleep deprived, and overwhelmed by this new pattern. I decided it was time to sleep train.

I packed her up, went to the library, and checked out several books on sleep training. It was a Wednesday when I decided to make this life change and my plan was to start sleep training by that Friday. On Friday evening I skimmed through the rented books and decided sleep training was imminent.

Within a week my little one was sleeping through the night and I was reclaiming my sanity.

When You Educate Yourself You Can Teach Your Kids

During pregnancy, I went to many classes but not one of them talked about sleep, even more importantly, infant sleep. It had never occurred to me that good sleep habits are TAUGHT, and parents are the teachers.

Teaching your baby the habits of good sleep is a lifelong gift. Think about how often people talk about sleep, how great they feel when they get it, and how destroyed they feel when they don’t. Sleep matters.

Research shows that sleep is a critical component of good health, both physically and mentally. We need sleep to function at our optimal level.

Here are three reasons to prioritize your baby’s sleeping skills

When baby is sleeping, everyone is sleeping!

  • Teaching your baby to sleep through the night means that you, the parents, also get the sleep you need. People who are severely sleep deprived often experience increased symptoms of anxiety and depression.
  • Parents who are in a serious need of sleep may find that they are lacking in other ways as well including distress tolerance, emotional regulation, and general self-care.
  • Parenting is a hard job (not to mention any other employment/roles you may hold) and it is critical that you, as a parent, are getting enough sleep to manage it all.

 Teaching good sleep habits also teaches babies how to self soothe.

  • Self-soothing is a fundamental developmental skill. At some point, babies must learn how to calm themselves down from a state of stress or irritation independently of their primary attachment figure.
  • This is a skill they will utilize throughout life. A study published in the Journal of Behavioral Sleep Medicine found that one of the factors that determine an infant’s ability to sleep through the night is based on their ability to self soothe during the first five months of life.
  • Self-soothing may come in the form of sucking on their thumb, pacifier, stroking a security blanket, rubbing their eyes, playing with their hair etc. When a baby is able to self soothe, they are able to fall asleep without being held or rocked AND are able to put themselves back to sleep during the middle of the night without needing mom or dad!

 Knowledge is power.

  • Understanding baby sleep cycles, sleep cues, and positive sleep associations give you, the parent, back a sense of control.
  • When I talk to parents who have little ones that are not sleeping they share a sense of powerlessness, defeat, and frustration. They want their baby to sleep, they want to sleep, but they are unsure of how to make it happen.
  • Understanding the basics of sleep and the sleep teaching strategies provide a framework to operate from. It will help you dispel the myths that might be negating your progress (e.g. babies that sleep during the day, don’t sleep at night- THIS IS NOT TRUE!!!) and it will give you a roadmap for how to manage the sleep regressions that will undoubtedly come even after your baby is trained.
  • Once you have a handle on your baby sleep needs, sleep will come.

Remember, you are the parent, you can do this! May the sleep gods be with you.

Warmly,

Jessica Small, M.A., LMFT

 

P.S. If you need more support please join our Postpartum Support Group! It is a fantastic way to connect with others, learn new skills and strategies for managing this new job you are learning, and getting some extra support.

 

Relationship After Baby: Three Ways to Prepare

Relationship After Baby: Three Ways to Prepare

Parenting

Jessica Small, M.A., LMFT is a Denver Marriage Counselor, Online Couples Therapist, Premarital Counselor and Life Coach at Growing Self Counseling and Coaching. She specializes in helping individuals, couples, and families create health and happiness, and flourish —  together.

How to Have a Great Relationship After Baby?

Plan Ahead.

 

As a Denver marriage counselor, online couples therapist, licensed marriage and family therapist and married mom of two I know that bringing a new baby into the family is truly one of the most amazing life transitions. We spend countless hours preparing for our new little member by creating a perfect nursery, talking about a birth plan and reading book after parenting book, but often we forget to think about our relationship after baby. It’s vital to prepare your marriage for a child, too.

How Does Having a Child Change a Relationship?

Let’s face it, having a baby requires a major adjustment in our relationship, including the way you communicate, work together as a team, and even show each other love and affection. I should know, I have two children…under two years of age! (But that’s another blog post.)

Making space for a third, or fourth member of the family brings growing pains in a marriage and often it is the one area that gets overlooked. This is a problem, because your relationship after baby can need some TLC too. It’s important to strengthen your relationship before welcoming a new child, so that you both have the most positive experience possible.

We increase our ability to have a smooth transition from a family of two to a family of three or more only if we plan for it. Here are a few tips to help you successfully navigate the path from partners to parents.

One: Identify Your Support System Before Baby Arrives

As the age old saying goes, “It takes a village, ” and I honestly believe that it does. The first couple of months of newborn life can be challenging. No matter how many books you’ve read or classes you’ve taken, parenting is the true definition of on-the-job training. Not only are you trying to climb the learning curve of this new job but you’ll be doing it on very little sleep. It is imperative that you have a support system that you can rely on when you’re tired, overwhelmed, worried or downright terrified that you’re doing it wrong (don’t worry, you’re not).

Figure out who is your individual support and who is the support for you as a couple. I cannot stress enough the importance of support for new moms specifically. Being postpartum coupled with the sometimes challenging experience of breastfeeding (if that is your choice) can be especially hard, and being able to lean on others that have gone through it, is life saving.

Encourage your friends and family to check in on you two, accept any and all offers for meals, cleaning, a break for a nap or a shower, and know who you’re going to call when you just need a minute to cry/vent/complain etc. Remember that asking for help is the truest sign of strength and not weakness. Being willing and able to know when you’re at capacity and need to tap out can assist in avoiding symptoms of depression and/or care fatigue.

This will help both of you as individuals, and as a couple. Having someone to support you both in taking “time-out” together can help sustain your relationship after baby. Also, having support to prevent either of you from becoming so depleted that you don’t have anything left to give to your partnership is very important.

If you don’t have a natural support system with friends and family to lend a hand, consider making your own — Ideally, as part of your pre-baby prep plan. Check out in-person or online postpartum support groups for emotional support. You may also consider finding opportunities to connect with other young families in the same situation who would welcome the opportunity to trade childcare from time to time.

Two: Employ Your Empathy

The practice of cultivating empathy for both yourself and your partner is one of the most important tools you have. Let’s be honest, sleep deprivation is an actual tactic used for torture. So when you are feeling highly irritable, overly emotional and that your brain closely resembles a fried egg reach for your empathy.

What’s empathy? Empathy is understanding how another person feels, and having compassion for them (as opposed to criticism or judgment). When you’re adjusting to a new child, neither of you are at 100%. You’re both going to make mistakes, say the wrong thing, or do something that will annoy each other. This is the time to give each other a pass. [For more on this topic check out “Empathy: The Key to Communication And Connection”]

Remember that it makes sense that you’re feeling on edge, or that your partner seems more easily agitated. Remind yourself that it is only temporary. You will sleep again, your distress tolerance will come back, your ability to think clearly will re emerge but in the meantime you will practice patience with yourself, and those around you.

Be thoughtful about the fights you choose, allow space for tears, and be gentle with your words for both yourself and your other half. Ideally, begin intentionally cranking up the empathy in your relationship well before baby arrives so you have lots of practice being more tolerant of each other before stress and sleep deprivation shorten your fuses.

Three: Negotiate Your Roles Before Baby Arrives

One of the biggest challenges of any transition is a renegotiation of roles. Bringing another person, albeit a small one, still brings along a whole new set of tasks. Your relationship after baby can look very different in terms of who does what around the house. Before baby is born, spend some time with your partner considering how you are going to split those tasks up.

Questions to ask each other before baby comes:

  • Will one person be solely responsible for night feedings and diaper changes or will those tasks be divided?
  • Will both of you be responsible for washing bottles? Or will one person be the keeper of all things milk?
  • How will you make sure that you both are getting time to take a break and check out of parenting duties, even if only for 10 minutes?
  • If you have pets in your home, consider who will be in charge of their needs while you’re adjusting to the needs of baby.

Remember that these roles can always be renegotiated as you go, but starting off with an initial idea of what household roles and responsibilities will look like will decrease the chance of a 2 AM screaming match about who should be changing a dirty diaper. Tackling the responsibilities of parenting together will also help keep feelings of resentment at bay and protect your relationship after baby arrives.

In my experience the first two months are the hardest part of the transition. At about 8-10 weeks it feels like a fog lifts and suddenly you re-emerge into the world of the living, but the initial weeks can feel like a whirlwind. Having a plan with your partner will at the very least give you a road map of ways to navigate the sometimes treacherous path so that you can spend more time enjoying your new baby, and become a stronger couple (and family) in the process.

And… congratulations!

Jessica Small, M.A., LMFT

Growing Self Counseling & Coaching
Growing Self
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