Dr. Suzy Goldstein is a Pennsylvania Licensed Psychologist who specializes in working with children and adolescents. She is a partner at Childhood Solutions, a private pediatric psychology practice in Ft. Washington, PA.
Becoming a parent is like nothing else in the world. It's exciting, scary, exhausting, emotional, and can be one of the most fulfilling experiences imaginable! Whether you are a biological parent, adoptive parent, or even a grandparent, the introduction of a child to your family changes you forever. Most likely, if you are reading this, you already know this or you are close to finding out.
To get ready for a new baby, people spend countless hours preparing. They typically choose baby furniture, pick out baby clothing, purchase a car seat, charge the cameras, select potential baby names; anything and everything they can think of to ease the transition of a child to their home. Much, if not all, of the focus is on making their baby comfortable. After all, that's our job as caregivers, to protect, nurture, and guide each child throughout his/her childhood years. However, parents often forget to care as lovingly for themselves and their relationships as they do for their children.
Humans require a great deal of care for the first years of their life. It is natural for parents to focus exclusively on caring for their child. However, as I often see when counseling parents of young children, parents frequently fail to continue to nurture themselves and their relationships. This can negatively impact them in many ways.
Due to the physical demands of parenting, many couples report a significant reduction in sexual activity, physical exercise, isolation from friends and a general decline in their time to be a couple without their baby. Losing the time to care for themselves and to connect with each other can lead to increased tension and reduction in ability to fully enjoy their baby and life itself.
Many parents report feeling as though sacrificing their happiness is worthwhile for their baby. However, a parent's emotional well being is important for their baby's happiness. So the trick is to find a balance between caring for your child, yourself, and your relationships. The time you spend nurturing yourself will in-turn help to nurture your baby! Additionally, demonstrating that you are worthy of your own time, as is your partner, is an important life-lesson that is never too early to start teaching your child. Taking time to care for yourself provides your growing child with a road map for taking the time to care for him/herself throughout his/her life.
Here are some creative ideas for finding time for yourself and your partner:
1. Create a date night with your partner. While your baby is young enough to remain sleeping in his/her car seat, bring him/her with you. Plan on having a meal when your child is ready for a nap. As your baby gets older, ask friends or relatives to baby sit while you two sneak off, if even for an hour! One good trick is asking someone to help you on a week night instead of a weekend. That way, they are less likely to have plans. If you are single, the suggestion still applies. Call a friend and meet them out.
2. Pair with another couple who you know well and trust and switch weekend nights with them. The first night, you get to spend time out without your baby and then the next night you can return the favor! An extra benefit is that the babies get to socialize together while you are out. This also works great during the day for stay at home moms!
3. Carve out time each day to call a friend or relative. With a new baby, time flies. Be sure to stay connected with those you love.
4. When your baby is a few months old, find at least one weekly parent group to join. Call your local community centers, churches, synagogues, and music studios and find out what they are offering for parents and babies. Keep in mind, the point is NOT to teach your child to become a musician or spiritual leader, but to get you out of the house and connecting with other parents.
5. Find new outlets for exercising. Treadmills and pools may no longer be realistic if you are caring for your child and trying to fit in exercise. Try putting your baby in the stroller and walking three times a week. If you start this routine when your baby is young, he/she will be accustomed to it and less likely to complain as he/she matures. If your have a toddler, it's not too late. Bring lots of snacks, books and toys along for your walk! If it's bad weather, go to an area mall and walk. Malls typically open early before the stores are open so you can walk without temptation or traffic!
I would love to hear from you on how you create time for yourself as a new parent! Please email me at Dr.Suzy@BabyMeTV.com and look for your suggestions in a follow-up article.
Also, please post your comments below.