Bringing a baby home can be a time of a million emotions and questions, and not always in the good way. Babies change every relationship, and it is important to find positive ways to transition into parenthood. The Gottman Institute has created a workshop, aptly named “Bringing Baby Home,” to help new parents’ transition from party of 2 to family of 3 (or more!).
The Bringing Baby Home workshop was created out of extensive studies at The Love Lab, a research facility run by the Gottman Institute in Seattle, Washington. They did studies over the course of several years of couples before baby and after baby arrived to determine what troubles they were having and to find ways to help them maintain their relationship as a couple while transitioning into their new roles as parents. The results were the “Bringing Baby Home” workshop as well as their acclaimed book And Baby Makes Three.
Kristen Shadle is a LMFT and Certified Bringing Baby Home Educator in the Bakersfield area. She routinely holds workshops to help parents learn to maintain their relationships after bringing baby home, promote positive parent-baby interactions, and reduce the severity of postpartum mood disorders. More information on attending the workshops can be found on her social media outlets Facebook and Instagram at Bringing Baby Home Bakersfield (or just click the links!) or by email at <[email protected]>. She has been kind enough to give us a little snapshot of the workshop in the following blog.
“Becoming parents is as new beginning. For most couples, it is a time of hope, anticipation, and excitement. The secret to successfully managing the transition is to keep your relationship strong.”
Finding out you are pregnant is a time of joy, excitement, anticipation and planning. It is a time of creating a new normal, in your roles, dreams, goals, careers, and relationships. It is a time of hope, growth, and opportunity for families around the world. While the birth practices and customs might differ in different communities, one thing remains the same: the birth of child means the birth of a parent.
As you jump into that role as parent, it is really easy to get lost in midnight feedings and constant diaper changes. While the new child needs our constant attention, research shows our relationships need attention too in order to provide that safe, happy environment for that child. There is a direct correlation that shows the happier the relationship, the happier the children! Further, research has found that the stronger a relationship, the stronger a child’s cognitive and social abilities.
Despite all the planning we do to be prepared for bringing the baby home, it is important to know that most new parents do experience some form of relationship dissatisfaction. In fact, 67% of parents have a significant drop in relationship satisfaction after the birth of a child. Mothers usually experience this drop 4-6 months until about a year after the baby is born while fathers experience that drop late in the first year and into the 2nd year. The key to making it through this rough period is to make your relationship a priority, even after the baby is home.
You may be wondering, what makes that transition to parenthood so difficult? A number of changes come into play, some for both parents and some that are special to each parent.
The good news is, despite all these changes, it is still 100% possible to maintain a happy relationship once the baby is home. Just as you have to learn to be a good parent, you have to relearn how to be a partner in a relationship. By strengthening your friendship, developing an effective way to handle conflict in your relationship, and finding shared rituals of connection, you can set your relationship up for success. Making one small change in your life each day will result in larger changes that will increase satisfaction in your relationship. Or as the Gottmans like to say, doing “small things often” results in larger changes that help build a happier couple and a happier child.
“Bringing Baby Home” has produced six steps to keep your relationship strong:
- Turn towards one another
- When you are interacting with your partner, “turn towards” one another by expressing your needs and responding to your partner’s needs in a positive way. When you are positive with your partner, you will receive more positives in return. This allows you to build an emotional bank account of positive feelings towards one another that will help balance things out when times get rough.
- “Turning away,” or responding to your partner in a dismissive or negative manner, can lead to negative impacts on the relationship including resentment, irritability, or anger
- Increase the positives in your family
- Make Love Maps (asking each other deep questions to continually learn about and stay connected with each other. Check out the app “Gottman Card Decks” for some sample questions)
- Give your partner the benefit of the doubt and assume good intentions, especially when things go wrong
- Accept some personal responsibility for problems
- Every disagreement or miscommunication has two points of view; accept that your partner has a different perspective and maybe something they say makes sense
- This increases the likelihood of finding a mutually satisfying solution
- Make intimacy a priority
- Make sex a priority!
- It doesn’t have to be magical every time. It’s okay to be simple, spontaneous or scheduled.
- Learn to regulate conflict and manage conflicts that arise
- Perpetual Problems: comprise 69% of problems and include issues that came with the person and are not because of the relationship
- Solvable Problems: comprise 31% of problems and are the ones you can work on in your relationship. When a new baby joins your family, solvable problems may arise that were not necessarily problems prior to baby. This is normal! Talk through these problems with your partner and find a mutually satisfying solution that allows you to move forward.
- Find ways to restore balance in your relationship
- Make sure all your needs are being met: physical, social, spiritual, cultural, financial, psychological, emotional
In conclusion, the best way to tackle the transition into parenthood is to recognize that your relationship will change and that is totally normal. How you react to those changes and new “normal” is what will make the difference. Find ways to build your friendship. Make sure to express affection, admiration, and appreciation for and to each other. Create a supportive environment in your home. You can do this! Just remember parenting is a journey, not a destination – enjoy it!
Blog written by WarmLine Member Sabrina Gondeck in collaboration with Certified Bringing Baby Home Educator Kristen Shadle