Connie and Tony came to the office for their 9 month old son well child visit. Oliver was fussy from teething, but otherwise was doing well and meeting his milestones. The parents spoke of being exhausted from frequent waking which has strained their once harmonious relationship. We spoke about ways to improve the situation, and the parents were given a ‘prescription’ to go on a date once a month, just the two of them.
Nowadays, many families embrace the model of Attachment Parenting (AP) which focuses on forming strong healthy connections and bonds between parents and their children. In honoring our children’s emotional and physical needs, parents help build a foundation for a lifetime. In trying to be devoted parents, sometimes though, the parent to parent bond and connection becomes neglected.
According to AP, parents are encouraged “to treat their children with kindness, respect and dignity, and to model their interactions with them the way we’d like them to interact with others.” Unfortunately, while attending to daily activities, many couples struggle with finding time to consider one another’s thoughts and feelings. It is a common tendency to take each other for granted. As a child’s first role model is usually the parents, it is important that the parent relationship also display acts of kindness, respect and dignity for one another.
There are many joys that come with a new baby. Everyone’s emotions run high as life adjusts to breastfeeding, bonding, lack of sleep and sex. Once baby comes, the relationship is now forever changed. Naturally an infant requires love and attention, but after the excitement settles, many parents are left in a state of confusion as their roles and relationship become re-defined, again and again.
From reading the latest research to attending classes, expectant couples spend many hours preparing for birth and baby. It seems that we prepare more so for our newborns, than for our relationship which is meant to last a lifetime. Compared to the past when young parents had support from family along with deep-rooted customs and traditions, many contemporary couples take their vows without any preparation or guidance. Nowadays when difficulties arise, we possess few resources, and it is not surprising the divorce rate is nearly 50% (divorcerate.org). When baby is born, couples may encounter new challenges regarding finances, religion, household chores, raising children, gender roles, and family values. Although there may have been discussion beforehand, a couple may not really know how he or she may respond until becoming a parent.
Attachment Parenting and child-rearing philosophies help guide parents and offer resources for the well-being of our children, as well as for the whole family. They are meant to be adapted to meet the family’s needs. One of the important lessons we can learn from our children is that many things in life do not go as originally planned. It is important that parents remain flexible, strive for balance, and enjoy the experience.
Ultimately, children learn by modeling nearly everything from their parents. According to the ancient proverb, “Give your children two things: roots and wings.” Being a parent is an immense responsibility, yet is extremely rewarding to participate in building a foundation for the next generation with the aim of raising children who act with kindness, respect and dignity for themselves and others. For this reason, your relationship as a couple is important for you, but also for your children.
Everyday Tips for Marriage
1. Communication. Slow to anger, quick to listen. Listen more than speak. Consider the 95/5 rule: offer positive comments 95% of the time and constructive criticism 5%. As human beings, our tendency is to point the finger and blame others, especially our spouse. We often place unreal expectations of how our spouse should or shouldn’t make us feel on a daily basis.
2. Consideration. Charity begins at home. Psychologist Hugh MacKay writes,” What makes a life worth living? “A life worth living is a life lived for others.” This concept is based on a fundamental principal found in many faiths that we should treat other people the way we would like to be treated. Consider your spouse, and pay attention to his or her needs.
3. Intimacy. To have and to hold… Men and women are ‘wired’ differently in many ways, including their hormones From lack of sleep to breastfeeding, for many couples especially women, sex no longer takes precedence in the post partum period. However, after baby is several months old, it is important for both parents to compromise. Remember, sexual intimacy helps to unite the couple.
4. Courtship. Rekindle your relationship. Go on a date on a regular basis (i.e. once a month). Consider a marriage retreat, or weekend getaway. Share babysitting duties with like-minded families. If you are short on funds, skip dinner or a movie and go on a daytime hike.
5. Compromise. Set realistic expectations, and remain flexible.
6. Take care of yourself. Take an exercise class, go on a walk or hike. For inspiration, spend a minimum of 10 minutes a day (even up to an hour) for prayer, meditation, or reflection. When one feels good, it helps to recharge, refuel and rejuvenate all aspects of life, including relationships.
7. Don’t overextend yourself. Learn to say no.
8. Ask for help. If difficulties persist, seek help with friends and family. Many couples have had success ‘working-it-out’ with a therapist, minister, or other professional.
9. Homeopathy in the Post Partum Period (and Beyond). Holistic medicine can strengthen a mother or father’s constitution and address complaints from mood swings, fatigue, to on-going complaints – all of which can affect our relationships. Following a nine month pregnancy, birth and breastfeeding, it is usually mom that is most physically affected. Due to the dramatic change in hormones and lifestyle, along with lack of sleep, there are many remedies choices for her, and the whole family. For example, the following remedies, Ignatia and Sepia,may be useful in the post-partum period.
Natrum muriaticum is useful for the parent who suffers quietly, and keeps her feelings to herself. She tends to be overly responsible and avoids company. She may have difficulty crying and may experience long periods of sadness. There can be a craving for salty foods, lemon and ice cold drinks.