Monday, May 14, 2012

Keeping your relationship with your partner strong during your children's pre-school years -and beyond!

This is another post that is a collation of everyone's thoughts and ideas from the Conscious Parenting group, Dunedin meeting that was held recently.  The above title was the theme and there was a big turn out for this!  Not surprising really as it's the one thing that will have the biggest impact on us and our children either positively or negatively!

So how do we keep it in the 'positive' category?

Here are some ideas from all the Mums (there were no Dads there unfortunately):

  • Have a hug and/or kiss whenever you part and meet again - even if you're grumpy.  It really does make a difference.
  • Touch each other regularly.  In a nice way of course.  Just to stay connected.
  • Some people say 'I love you' everyday.  Other thoughts on this is that if you say 'I love you' it can imply that there's an alternative to that!  Sometimes people feel that they have to say 'I love you' because they haven't felt they have been showing/feeling it enough.  When you feel like you need to say 'I love you' it can remind you to show it or make time to feel it together.  Different schools of thought - do what works for you!
  • Tell each other something you are grateful for at the end of every day.  There is always something and it's a nice way to finish the day.
  • Try a weekly (or monthly) 'date night' - this might be swapping a back rub or having a peaceful dinner together when the children are asleep, or watching a movie together or something like this.  It doesn't need to involve going out and leaving your baby with a sitter!  This can be more stressful/worrying, than fun for many!  Another suggestion was to at least have a computer/phone free evening once a week.
  • Have a regular family cuddle - before bed or before getting up in the morning or when ever it works for you.
  • When you have a partner working from home, create clear boundaries around what it 'work time' and what is 'home time'.
  • Attempt to make time for yourself (both of you), each other alone and as a family.  All this time is important and finding a balance that works for you is key.

Many people struggle with how to split the jobs (that feel endless!). Here's how some couples do it:
- Mum does input (feeding, putting nappies/clothes on), Dad does output (cleaning nappies/clothes).
- Mum who wakes at night to feed/tend to baby sleeps in in the morning and Dad gets up with the baby.
- Mum cooks the evening meal, Dad does the dishes.
- Dad does preparing for bed (PJ's, books, teeth etc) and Mum does putting to bed or vice versa.

Dealing with difficult times:

  • Everyone argues.  In fact to argue as adults, constructively (not destructively) in front of children is healthy.  It can teach children how to deal with anger and frustration by talking things through in a calm (as calm as possible!) way.  My husband and I have 'discussions' every now and again about things and our 4 yr old tells us to stop arguing.  He's right we are arguing.  We explain that we're feeling frustrated and we're talking to try to understand each other.
  • Some people need to have some quiet time to reflect on the discussion and try to see it from the others perspective.  Then come back and talk about it.
  • Many Mum's felt like they (the couple) had made a decision on how they would manage an aspect of the parenting and feel frustrated when Dad questions it again.  It seemed that the 'full time' Mum often lead the way when it came to the philosophy and practice of the parenting.  Normally because they feel it is their full time job and they are the ones who have done the reading and talking to others to help them decide what is best for their child and them.
  • It was considered important to make sure that 'Dad' was in agreement and 'on board' with the chosen parenting technique rather than just nodding in agreement and resenting it later.
  • When a parenting technique was questioned and discussed again it was often about revisiting why they had choose to do it this way and often nothing changed.  Though there were definitely times that adjustments were made so that everyone coped better.
  • Some women encouraged their partners to talk with friends (who were parenting in a similar way) about their concerns and frustrations.  Just as we do at meetings!!!


There were smiles and sighs of relief as some women talked about their disgust at the idea of having sex!  It is normal not to want sex after having a baby!  Hormones are fully in 'mothering a dependent' mode and not in 'yeah lets make more' mode.  Mum's often feel 'touched out' from the constant contact with their babies, including breastfeeding and just feel like some space rather than more contact with another.  Not to mention just feeling plain tired at night!

Many felt that they were not being a 'good wife' if they didn't have sex often and put pressure (or felt pressure that wasn't there) on themselves.  Others (in some cases the same women!) felt that they needed a bit of pressure - or at least a request or suggestion to encourage them to have sex.  "When we actually did have sex, it was enjoyable and we commented that we should have it more often.  Then another month goes past!"

Many women (at the meeting - I'm always referring to those of us at the Conscious Parenting meeting last week!) did enjoy sex when they had it, but it was the thought of it, the planning that now had to go into it especially when you're co-sleeping, and the time that could have been spent sleeping!

Here is a youtube clip of Dr. Gottman talking about his relationship research.

If people don't feel like watching that they can google "gottman
relationship research" or "Gottman four horsemen" and they'll find
lots to read.

And a link to the Dan Savage's podcast with the breastfeeding question.You can choose to ignore the advice to wean!!!  Apparently, as I haven't heard it yet.  It was suggested that you listen to it together.

A note about Dan Savage. I'm a big fan (from Robin), but his podcast is uncensored and is about sex of all sorts, so be forewarned, it might not be to
everyone's taste.

If the thought of conceiving again is putting you off and you've 'finished' your family Dad having a vasectomy might help!  Hasn't helped us yet, but we still have a co-sleeping, night feeding toddler in between us!

Talk, talk, talk!  Don't bottle things up and feel resentful.  Plan the time you need either for yourself, partner for themselves, together and as a family.  Compromise on the little things - even the big things if it's necessary! Remind each other that it is the hardest time.  Both tired, new experience, overwhelmed.  Try to appreciate each others roles and responsibilities.  When your baby is a bit older job sharing is fantastic for this!  Both work and parent full time/part time if you know what I mean.  Then you get the best of both worlds.  Have to make it work in our culture when you can't 'progress' in your career when you're only working part time, both financially and 'moving up the ladder'.  If you can do it for even a short while, it is a great insight for both parents. 

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