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A few years ago I was walking through the grocery store when I encountered a mom and her toddler who was giving her a run for her money. As we were both walking down the aisle, I could hear her whispering, “You can do it, Susan! Hang in there. Just a few more minutes.” 

At first I thought she was talking to her daughter, but then I realized she was encouraging herself in the midst of a hard moment with her child. I thought to myself, “You go girl!” I can remember plenty of hard moments, and just plain bad days with my daughter that I didn’t handle well. Even into a new day I found myself struggling to get over the bad day we had the day before.

Fortunately, I had some moms in my life who were further down the road in their parenting than I was. They didn’t judge me, which I am very thankful for. They did take me under their wing and offer some wise words to help me get over the bad days. Now, I’m passing their wisdom along to you, with a little of my own.

Don’t take it personally.

Believe me, I know it’s hard not to. When they act a fool in the checkout line or look straight at you and do exactly what you asked them not to do, it’s a challenge to remind yourself: it really isn’t about you. However, if you can train yourself to do this, it will be helpful.

Avoid beating yourself up.

We all have bad days, kids and parents alike. When your child is especially challenging, it can bring out the absolutely worst in us and it just goes downhill from there. The natural tendency hours later or the next day is to say, “If only I had…”  or to question your ability to be a good parent. None of this is helpful to you or your child.

Acknowledge your emotions.

Listen, parenting isn’t a walk in the park. Tell me something I don’t know, right? Some stages are more challenging than others. I remember calling a friend after a particularly bad day with my daughter. I was crying, actually sobbing and I said, “I’m an utter and complete failure at parenting.” She point blankly said, “No, you are not a failure. You just haven’t figured out what works yet with your daughter.” Then she talked me down off the ledge. 

There literally may be days where you are asking, “Where do I go to resign?” because you are angry, resentful, hopeless, and exhausted. Believe it or not, it’s very helpful to say those things out loud or to write them on a piece of paper.

Look for underlying issues.

For example, COVID-19 quarantine has had all of us out of sync from our normal routines. As adults, we can talk about how much we don’t like not knowing what tomorrow will bring. But for a child, especially a young child, while they pick up on your stress and anxiety, they aren’t able to verbalize it, so they act it out. Hence your very own child creating their own version of “Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.” A death in the family, something happening to your dog, overhearing you fighting with your spouse—any number of things can bring on a bad day.

Seek to restore the relationship.

Once you have taken a moment (or a few hours) to calm down, find your child and apologize straight up. Don’t add on, “but if you had done what mommy asked…” Just apologize. “I’m sorry. Please forgive me.” You might say, “If that happens again, let’s do things differently,” and calmly talk through a better way to handle the behavior or the day. All of this models behavior you want your child to learn and the skills they need for healthy relationships.

Spend some time together doing something fun.

After apologizing and spending a little time talking about what happened, find a way to spend some calm, easygoing time together. Take a walk, play with blocks, read a book (The Color Monster: A Story about Emotions is a great read), play “I Spy” or make cookies together.

Never underestimate the power of a hug.

Adults and children alike need them, especially after a bad day. Even if you aren’t completely over the bad day, you still want to avoid withholding hugs. Loving, physical touch can be as healing as spoken words.

There will be days when you don’t like your child’s behavior or your own for that matter. However, don’t confuse not liking their behavior with not liking or loving them. Our children need to know that even on their very best or worst day, there isn’t anything they could do that would make us love them more or less. 

For the most part, I am on the other side of the bad days. In the midst of them, I often questioned my Fit Mom Card, and I had a hard time believing there were better days ahead. In case nobody else is saying it to you—you are a good mom. Even on your worst day, you’re a good mom. Stop telling yourself otherwise. It’s a wild ride. We all have moments we want to forget. It is unlikely your child will hold your bad days against you, especially if you put into practice what we have talked about.

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No matter how you slice it, the birth of a child brings about changes that can be challenging. Here are some of the reasons why marriage can be harder after having a baby and how those challenges can make your marriage stronger.

  1. Unspoken Expectations. You probably have a picture in your mind of what your lives will look like after the baby is born. You might be expecting to split household duties, take turns sleeping, grow closer in your marriage, and agree on parenting decisions. When someone doesn’t meet our expectations however, disappointment and resentment can build. 
  1. Entering the Land of the Unknown. Between the internet, books, experienced parents, and doctors, you try and eliminate as many potential unknowns as possible. And yet once the baby is here, you realize there are some things you just can’t prepare for. Disagreements arise as couples differ on how to tackle these issues that you simply didn’t see coming. 
  1. We’re Changing and So Are Our Needs. Maybe your wife used to like you to open the car door for her. Now, she’d rather you turn on the A/C and get the kids in their seats. Herr needs may change after the birth of a baby. Sometimes she might not be consciously aware of the changes. As your needs change, it’s so easy to focus on meeting your own personal needs after a baby is born that you lose sight of the changing needs of your spouse. How you help, support, and comfort one another looks different. Even how you respond when something triggers your emotions may change. There were times when I was so focused on my tiredness, schoolwork (I was in school), and my job that I resented my wife for not understanding and expecting more out of me than I thought I was fair.
  1. Lack of Intimacy. So much focused energy is on the baby, trying to get rest, work, and everything that comes with a newborn that marital tension can replace marital intimacy. Plus, after carrying a baby for 9 months and breastfeeding, lots of women don’t want any physical intimacy because they are totally exhausted. They want to heal.
  1. Emotional Exhaustion: You are not at your best when you are exhausted… and that’s understandable. A tired and stressed person trying to adapt to change doesn’t respond as well as a rested and peaceful person. Imagine if both of you are suffering from emotional exhaustion. The stage is set for irritability, aggravation, and a short fuse.

These are all challenges that can make your marriage stronger, as long as you don’t avoid dealing with them. It’s possible to address them and work as a team to transition into parenthood well. Here are a few things you can do as a couple:

  • Discuss Expectations. Conversations about balancing work and family are a great place to start. Nighttime feedings. Diaper changes. Household chores and responsibilities. Who will do what and who can we ask to help us? Think of grandparents and family. Talking through what you hope this will look like can help the two of you be on the same page as you navigate your new normal.
  • Remember What’s Important. Your baby doesn’t need perfectly-prepared parents for every situation. They need loving parents who are attentive. Figuring it out together can provide lasting memories. My wife and I have made tons of mistakes when all seven of our children were babies. There are some things you simply don’t know. Gather information, talk to one another, and do your best. When you or your spouse makes a mistake, you learn from it and everyone is better for it.
  • Talk Openly About What You Need From One Another. It’s hard to know what my spouse needs if she doesn’t tell me. I kept opening her car door until one day she said, “I’d rather you turn on the A/C and get the car cool.” I would’ve never known. Talking about our needs helps us ward off the resentment that builds. Trying to read someone’s mind can be harmful. Open communication is the only antidote.
  • Intentional Marriage Time. Do it, even if it’s just for 15 minutes to emotionally connect or hold one another. Virtual date nights are great for just a little marriage time. Don’t forget that your marriage needs both of you.
  • Lean In To Each Other. Lack of sleep is an obvious issue after having a baby, but I’m not going to tell you to get more of it. Sometimes that’s just plain impossible. Here’s what will be helpful to your marriage: Pay attention to each other. Help each other. Look for ways to support one another. In sports, the team that functions as a team in the fourth quarter when everyone is tired typically wins. You are that team. And winning as a team is sweet and exhilarating, especially when you’re tired.
  • Express Appreciation. It’s highly probable that each of you is doing things for the baby and the family that are going unnoticed. Look for those things and express gratitude.

Your love isn’t measured by every right decision you make. In fact, the best gift of love you can give your new baby is a healthy, thriving marriage, not a perfect one. 


***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear someone is monitoring your computer or device, call the hotline 24/7 at: 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***

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There’s a lot that happens when a couple has their first baby

Sleepless nights. 

Endless, life-impacting decisions. 

The world being turned upside down.

Re-creating a “new normal.”

A constant fear of things going wrong.

The steep learning curve for both parents.

The list could go on, and on, and on. And I’ve heard it all… The good, the bad, the ugly, the astoundingly beautiful… And it’s all made me a little worried.

Reality Check

First, let me back up for a second. My husband and I have been married a little over a year, and we are not hoping to have kids for another two years or so. That being said, I’m fully convinced that I was brought into this world to be a mother. You can ask any friends or family. That whole “motherly instinct” has always come very naturally to me.

But for my husband… not so much. Although we both want kids someday, the timeframe and the number of kids differ just a little bit (or a lot, depending on the day). Even though we don’t have kids yet, the conversations around our future kids have already caused some division between us. And it’s caused a little bit of fear for the day that we do become parents.

And as we watch friends around us start to have kids and we hear the stories they share about all the challenges that come with starting a family, our fear has only grown…

“Wait, WHAT happens during delivery??”

“Are you SURE you want to go through that?”

“When we have kids, you can’t ________ anymore.”

“Why don’t we wait till we’re 40 and just adopt?”

“We’re cranky enough in the mornings on 8 hours of sleep.”

“There are very few parts of parenting that sound like a good thing…”

These are just a few pieces of conversations we’ve had about our future. The fear is real. And it’s for good reason.

But the desire to have kids is also real. Very real. So how do you balance the fear of parenting, the fear of having kids, the fear for your marriage—with the desire to have kids? Well, I can’t fully answer that for you. That’s something you and your spouse are going to have to work through together. But I can give you a few tips on how to have that conversation!

Here are a few questions to ask each other before having a baby:

  1. What are you most fearful about when it comes to having kids?
  2. In what area do you think having kids will cause us to have the most conflict?
  3. Is there anything we can do now to work on that area before we have kids?
  4. What tendencies do you see in me that might be a problem for you once we have kids?
  5. How will we share responsibilities so that one spouse isn’t totally overwhelmed?
  6. Are you willing to start our routines completely from scratch?
  7. How can we work together as a team and rely on each other’s strengths?
  8. What are your top 3 expectations of me as a parent?
  9. What roles did your mom and dad play in your life growing up? Are there ways you want to be like them? Not be like them?
  10. What are things I can do right now to help us both not fear becoming parents?

Prioritize Your Marriage

Having kids rocks your world. I don’t know that from experience, but I’ve been told that what seems like a bajillion times, so it must be true. Kids are a lot. They come with new responsibilities, new challenges, and new things to argue about.

And if you let it, being a parent might overtake being a spouse. But the key is to always prioritize your marriage first. Yes, kids require a lot. But they grow up. And after they’re grown, you’ll still have your spouse by your side.

So, choose today to strengthen your marriage. Actually, choose every day to strengthen your marriage. And the rest, even babies, will fall into place—a wonderful place.

***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear your computer or device is being monitored, call the hotline 24/7 at: 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***

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Dear Wife, 

Congratulations on the birth of your new bundle of joy. You and your husband have started a great new chapter in your relationship. I’m sure you have fantasized about having the best family and you are probably looking forward to seeing how great a dad your husband will be.

That’s why I decided to sneak away from my wife and 7 kids and write to you. I want to help you help your husband be the great dad that he is. You see, if you’re anything like my wife and countless other wives I’ve talked to, one of the reasons you married him is because you thought he’d be a great dad. So here are a few things that are good to keep in mind as the two of you join together to raise your new little one.

He wants to be a great dad, too. It just may look different.

The definition of being a great parent may be different for the two of you. And that’s a good thing. When he doesn’t do things the same way you do it doesn’t mean he’s not interested in being a great dad. It’s just different. Notice the things that he does and the way that he does them and be grateful. We change diapers differently. As long as it’s on there well, it’s good. We may put the baby to sleep differently. The way he tests the milk to make sure it’s warm enough may be different. Is the final result a warm bottle? That’s what matters. He wants you to know that it’s important to him that the baby properly wears a diaper, sleeps peacefully, and has warm milk to drink. His path to those results may look different.

Often the strength of the connection between dad and baby takes some time to grow.

Jerrold Shapiro, professor of counseling psychology at Santa Clara University in Santa Clara, Calif., said that it is not uncommon for fathers to experience a delay in bonding with their children shortly after they are born. The baby has been in your womb for potentially 9 months. Your body has released oxytocin which strengthens your bond with your baby. The baby was a part of you.

Lots of guys are more visual. Some may not be as much of a doter when the baby is born. I was jealous of the bond my wife and our first child had in the first few months. When I didn’t have the same desire to hold the baby for hours like she did, I began to think something was wrong with me as a person. I questioned if I loved my child. But then around the 5 or 6-month mark when the baby’s face got more color, she could make facial expressions and talk (at least that’s what she was doing in my mind), I couldn’t get enough of her. Don’t expect him to be like you in his affection for the baby. 

It may take him some time to figure out his role and when he does, he may take that role very seriously.

When our babies were born, my wife’s attention was wholeheartedly on the baby and recovery. It seemed as though she could hold the baby forever and do nothing. What was I supposed to do? I was unsure of myself at first. I wanted to be like her. And then I finally figured out my role, which may be different for your husband. However, I realized that I had to help my wife get her rest. I had to regulate how many people visited and how long they stayed. I had to make sure that the other parts of life got whatever attention it needed. And I became vigilant. This is new territory for both of you. The adjustment period takes time. Be patient with him and be thankful. 

He can’t relate to you not wanting sex.

My doctor told us we had to wait 6-8 weeks before we had sex after the baby. Not having sex and not wanting to have sex are 2 different things. He probably doesn’t get how you aren’t the least bit interested in having sex. He may ask, get grumpy, or even drop hints. I don’t know what he may do. Your husband may be one of the “great” husbands that simply waits patiently without complaining. (If so, know that you’re the envy of my wife and many other wives.)

My encouragement to everyone else… is just be patient with him. He’ll probably try and be sensitive. He’ll try to understand. He may do good for a couple of days and then his desires may awaken again. He doesn’t—and he can’t—understand. His body didn’t go through what your body did. Never has, never will. Don’t hold that against him. Be patient with him until you’ve recovered enough. Give grace. Consider alternative ways to stay physically intimate during this season. (If this becomes an issue that creates serious tension, talk to a trusted married couple who has children or bring in the professionals.) 

Having a baby did not make him a mind reader.

At some point, you may have some resentment for what he is or isn’t doing. He may not move quickly enough to change a diaper. He may not adjust his work schedule as much as you’d like. It may seem as though he’s making you carry a disproportionate amount of the load. The easy thing to do is to build resentment or begin to look at him with contempt and disdain—and next thing you know your marriage is filled with tension. Your husband wants you to know that he can’t read your mind. And there’s a good chance that he isn’t good at catching a hint either. He needs you to talk to him, be open with him, tell how you’re feeling, tell him what you need. Be specific. (Read this blog from a new mom who expected her husband to be a mind reader.)

He has thoughts on parenting as well.

I have met wives who thought they were just naturally the best parent ever.. And they wanted to make sure their husband knew it. According to Pew Research Center, 53% of Americans in 2016 said that mothers do a better job caring for a new baby. Your husband brings more than just his good looks and sexy body to the family. He may or may not have as many thoughts and opinions as you, but he has the ability to work as an equal parent. He needs the opportunity to contribute his thoughts on parenting the child, and he really wants you to work together. Value him as a parent.

Your new baby is a celebration and representation of the love you share and your togetherness. According to research, many couples cite children and parenthood as a major source of disagreement in their marriage. Let these nuggets help your marriage grow stronger as you raise your precious little one together. The best thing you can give your newborn is a healthy, stable marriage.

 ***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear your computer or device is being monitored, call the hotline 24/7 at: 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***

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COMMUNICATING WITH YOUR SPOUSE SHOULD BE FULFILLING, NOT FRUSTRATING.

With the right tools, you and your spouse can have the best communication ever!

This easy-to-use virtual 5-day course guides you and your spouse to have the best communication you’ve ever had! This course includes exclusive access to:

  • 5 downloadable relationship-enhancing PDFs
  • Videos full of easy-to-use communication tools
  • Questions to ask each other to spark a deeper connection
  • Fun activities to guide you through each of the concepts discussed

ADD TO CART

It was 3 AM. Our two-week-old son, Strider, was crying for the third time that night. To say we were exhausted was an understatement. We were full-blown zombies ready to eat each other alive.

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“Jacob was 10 months old when I went with my mom and a friend to high tea,” says Joy Groblebe. “My mom barely dipped her finger in pistachio ice cream and put her finger in Jacob’s mouth. I went ballistic because kids can’t have dairy until they are a year old. When baby No. 2 came along, she was eating strawberry popsicles at six months.”

Talk with just about any mom or dad about being a first-time parent. Many of them will actually laugh out loud as they think back to those early years.

As a first-time parent, you are probably highly motivated to raise your child well. Since your child does not come with an “owner’s manual,” you rely on friends, family, books, the internet and your own ideas about what is appropriate and what to expect from your child.

While resources are helpful, there is no cookie-cutter approach that works magic with every child. It is easy to fall into the trap of trying to be the perfect parent and being uptight all the time. Not only does the baby pick up on this, it is exhausting for both mom and dad.

Cut yourself some slack and cut your child some slack. Instead of trying to be perfect, most experienced parents will encourage you to do your best and be good with that. You will make mistakes; everybody does.

Here are some additional words of wisdom from parents who have “been there, and done that”:

  • Relax. Babies do best with calm, confident parents. It gives them a sense of security, serenity and peace.
  • Sleep when the baby sleeps. No child will remember whether the house was clean or whether the laundry was in drawers or a pile on the couch, but they will remember that you played with them and spent time with them.
  • There is no “perfect” or even a “right” way. Don’t beat yourself up for what you (or others) assume to be a mistake. In general, just lighten up and have fun with it. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. Enjoy the journey!
  • Avoid judging others’ parenting or saying “I will never do that.” Each child is uniquely created and responds differently to parenting … what works on one of your children may not work with the next.
  • Love, hold and snuggle them as often as you can because they will be toddlers, preschoolers and then teenagers in a blink!
  • Respect your children and they will respect you.
  • Pray for and with them.
  • Recognize that as little humans, they’ll have bad days just like you do.
  • As tempting as it is to want to buy stuff for your child, they quickly forget all the things you buy them. They’ll remember the time and experiences they have with you for much longer.
  • Keep your marriage first and your child second.
  • Surround yourself with people who will encourage you, give you a break when you need it and listen when challenges arise.

The birth of your first child can be exhilarating and intimidating all at the same time. Taking these wise words to heart will help you avoid unnecessary meltdowns and encourage you to enjoy your child.

Don McKenna attended a First Things First fatherhood class when he and his wife, Missy, were expecting.

“I saw a billboard about it and thought it looked interesting,” says McKenna. “I convinced a friend who was also expecting his first child to go with me. It totally was not what I was expecting. Hands down, it was the best thing I could have done in preparation for becoming a father.”

McKenna assumed the class would be about how to change a diaper and feed his baby a bottle. Instead, he encountered a group of guys who were just as fearful as he was about becoming a father.

“The class was a relief for me,” McKenna says. “First off, a guy taught the class. On top of that, we got to talk about our fears and concerns. Had we not done that, I think I would have been intimidated. Being more comfortable about caring for Brooks – not feeling like I was going to break him if I held him – gave me the best opportunity to bond with him from the moment he was born.”

McKenna says the class helped him understand the different parenting styles most moms and dads have. He was able to talk with his wife about his style being different, but not wrong.

“I wanted to do some things with our son that made my wife nervous, like the time I wanted to take him as a 2-year-old for a ride on the tractor,” McKenna says. “She was worried he would get hurt. Instead of telling her how stupid it was for her to be concerned, I took small steps to show her that I was just as concerned as she was for his safety. I put a helmet on him and we rode around very slowly. When she saw him giggling and having a good time, she relaxed a bit. I think I am definitely more patient with my wife and my child as a result of the class.”

The experience was so worthwhile, McKenna recruited six guys for the class. He also went with them.

“Anytime I find out a couple friend is expecting, one of the first things I tell the guy is you really need to take this class,” McKenna says. “It will give you great perspective on fathering and the importance of being involved in the life of your child.”

Although the class helped prepare McKenna for his new parenting role, he got an extra benefit. It also helped him in his marriage.

“It is important to me and Missy to raise Brooks in an environment that will help him thrive,” McKenna shares. “One of the things I learned is our marriage can’t take a back seat while we are raising our son. We have to be intentional about taking care of our relationship because that is what gives Brooks the stability, confidence and security he needs to grow and develop. Being a parent has been a humbling and amazing experience,” McKenna says.

Looking back on the last few years, McKenna wouldn’t trade his time with his son and how they have grown as a family.

If you want to learn more about preparing for fatherhood, check out our classes here.

1. Do not feel guilty when you leave the kids to go to work—being “present” during the time you are around is what matters most!

2. Set up a few daily rituals to do with your children, like story time, bedtime snuggles, bath time, or preparing breakfast together. This way, they feel secure and confident that you will always be there for those special moments, even if you are working for the majority of the day.

3. Every child develops at a different pace; it is not a competition. So don’t worry if your child is not the first to walk, potty train, talk, or read; they will do it all, eventually!

4. Always speak to your children the way you would want to be spoken to. Teaching good manners at a young age sets the stage for being good humans.

5. Encourage your children to do things for themselves, like getting dressed, helping prepare meals, et cetera. This way they gain a true sense of independence at a young age.

6. Don’t fret about leaving your children for a romantic getaway with your spouse every once in a while. Maintaining a strong, healthy bond in your marriage is essential to being the best parent.

7. Do not hide anything from your children. Be open and honest with them, as you will want them to feel safe to have open communication with you.

8. Teach your children to live from love and not from fear, through your own actions, so that they grow up with the strength and motivation to fulfill their dreams.

9. A happy mother makes for happy children, so always make time for yourself. It’s important to carve out this “me time” to be the best version of yourself.

10. Remember that we are all human, and are constantly learning, so there is no such thing as the perfect parent. Simply be the best you can be, always keep an open mind, and never pass judgment on others’ parenting. We are all different, and that is what makes the world so great.

11. There are things you aren’t going to know, and that no blog, class or book can adequately prepare you for. But, don’t worry. You WILL figure it out and be and amazing parent.

Read the original article here:

https://www.vogue.com/article/tips-for-first-time-parents

It’s your first child. Naturally, you’re going to be highly motivated to pull out all the stops, learn all the tricks and be the “perfect” parent. Since your child doesn’t come with an owner’s manual, you’ll more than likely rely on friends, family, the internet and your own ideas about what’s appropriate and what to expect from your child.

Dr. Kevin Leman, author of First-Time Mom, says many first-timers who are trying to be great parents push their firstborn a little too hard. There’s a tendency to approach parenting from the perspective of raising the perfect child. Unfortunately, the child often gets buried underneath those high expectations and can feel as if they never measure up.

“Your firstborn child is already going to be highly motivated,” says Leman. “Instead of using conditional love and asking them to continually jump through new hoops, choose to be a nurturing, encouraging presence.”

Leman identifies 10 traps first-time parents often fall into:

  • A critical eye. Be aware of your standard of behavior. When is the last time you had a perfect day? Children are the same way. Training takes time and the standard is not perfection. Accept your child as he is and recognize that he is not going to excel at everything.

  • Overcommitment. Children want to be a part of a family and they want to identify with their home. When you choose to live an overcommitted life, you are training your child to identify her heart with what is outside the home.

  • Not enough Vitamin N. First-time parents often fall into the trap of thinking that they can make their child happier and better adjusted by what they give to their child and the experiences they provide for their child. Vitamin N stands for No! Too often, giving our child things becomes a substitute for being their parents.

  • Lack of Vitamin E. One of the biggest myths today is the concern over self-esteem. Instead of telling your child how wonderful she is just for being a child, you want to teach your child to think in a constructive, positive manner. Esteem comes from accomplishing something and from giving something back. If a child learns how to do something and her parents comment about what a great job she did, she recognizes that the most significant people in my life – my mom and dad – notice what I’ve done and what I’ve accomplished and recognize that I have a role to play.

  • Playing the competition game. Human development is not a race. Early development does not guarantee that a child will be above average her entire life. Instead of comparing your child, enjoy him.

  • Overexcitement. As a first-time parent, you will go through many trials and anxieties for the first time. Babies do best with calm, confident parents. It gives them a sense of security, serenity and peace. Your baby will take his cues from you. Don’t treat minor instances like they are life and death occurrences.

  • Over-discipline. As a first-time parent you may not be as familiar with age-appropriate behavior. As a result, you’re more likely to over-discipline your child. Your goal is not to control your child, but to be in authority in a healthy way. One mother told how her 9-month-old walked up to the couch and grabbed some decorative pillows. The mom said she told her daughter not to throw them on the floor. The child looked her straight in the eyes and threw them on the floor. Instead of recognizing this as age-appropriate behavior, the mother viewed it as intentionally defiant behavior on the part of her child.

  • Under-discipline. The flip side of over-discipline is letting your child do whatever they want without any consequences. With firstborns in particular, you need to lay out exactly what the age-appropriate rules are and follow up. Since firstborns don’t have an older sibling to model behavior, you must be specific about what you want them to do.

  • Letting other people raise your child. It is too easy to give into your parents’ or in-laws’ advice. As a first time parent, it may take you awhile to assume your role as a full-fledged adult. You are the parent. No one knows your child better than you. Be responsible for the decisions you make in raising your child.

  • Allowing your child to be the center of the universe. Up until age two a child’s favorite word is “mine,” which is totally appropriate. Past this age, teach children how to share and interact with a variety of other children. Teach your child to be aware of other people and not just selfishly barge ahead.

Looking for more? Check out this episode of JulieB TV on this topic!

Jake and Lou Anne used to live in a loft and have people over all the time. But once they decided to have a family, they moved to a house in a quiet neighborhood. And, their friends came over significantly less often.

“It was definitely a dramatic change for us,” said Lou Anne. “It was hard to give up our two-seater convertible, but we knew it wasn’t a family car. We had hoped we could keep it and add a family car, but since we couldn’t predict our expenses after Cara’s birth, we traded it in.”

Their daughter arrived in October of 2005. Even though she was an “easy” baby and had a great temperament, she still rocked her parents’ world.

“We were pretty on-the-go kind of people before Cara arrived on the scene,” said Jake. “That has come to a screeching halt. Lou Anne and I really enjoy each other’s company and spending time with our friends. It has been an adjustment just trying to figure out how to have time together, much less work in our friends,” Jake said.

While Jake says the changes in their life have truly have been just that – changes, not sacrifices – many couples know that bringing home that new bundle of joy can cause everything from joy to total frustration. Even when you know that life is going to be different, going from spontaneous and carefree to a schedule and being responsible for someone else can throw a good marriage into a tailspin.

In her book, Childproofing Your Marriage, Dr. Debbie Cherry says there are two major threats to the marital bond when couples have their first child: lack of time and lack of energy.

Intimacy can be greatly affected by:

  • feelings of grief at losing couple time,
  • sensing disconnectedness from your spouse,
  • feelings of jealousy about the amount of time and attention the baby receives, and
  • the loss of energy from caring for the baby.

If a couple does not recognize these threats and deal with them openly, they may begin to feel even more alone and isolated from each other.

“You really can’t measure the love and joy that comes with having a baby,” Jake said. “At the same time, I think it is really important for Lou Anne and me to have time together. We consider personal time, couple time and family time equally important.”

The couple spent the first year trying to get in the groove of how to do all three.

Time is a precious commodity, especially for new parents. Things that you used to take for granted – like afternoon naps on the weekend, taking your time in the bathroom, sex, watching your favorite sitcom or grabbing a bite to eat – become things that practically have to be scheduled into your day.

If you are a new parent, Cherry offers several helpful suggestions for you:

  • Develop a couple-centered, not a child-centered relationship. For the first time in the relationship, couples have to choose who really comes first. Starting here and now, determine that the couple comes before the children. If children are number one, their never-ending need for attention will eat up everything you have to give, and the rest of your life will suffer because of it. Love your children, provide for them and meet their needs. But remember that one of their most important needs is to have parents who really love each other.
  • Become co-parents, not compulsive parents. Moms and dads alike can fall into the trap of believing they are the only ones who can adequately care for their baby. Somehow they forget that many parents have come and gone before them and have learned to capably care for these helpless little creatures. Becoming a compulsive parent creates isolation and will eventually lead to parenting burnout. Breaks and daily support from each other are a must for parents.
  • Talk to each other every day. Check in with each other regularly. Talk about changing expectations and needs, and division of labor. Discuss your disappointments and fears about parenting. Communication involves both talking and listening. Be the best listener you can be if you want your spouse to continue to share his or her deepest thoughts, feelings, fears and needs.

“I think one of the most important things we keep in mind is that we are on the same team,” Lou Anne said. “I really depend on Jake. We try hard to be respectful of each other and to mind our manners. When you start stepping on each other’s toes, then it becomes a matter of ‘that’s not fair,’ and things go downhill quickly. Cara has been a blessing. Our goal is to keep our marriage strong so we can be a blessing to her through the years.”

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