How to Feel Confident as a New Mom
• Is It Even Possible to Be Confident as a First-Time Mom?
• How to Shift Your Mindset And Become What You Believe
• It’s Possible to Balance Trusting Your Intuition & Searching for Information
• How to Stop Comparing Everything
• Why Leaning on Another Supportive Mama Who Gets You is Crucial
• The Bottom Line To Cultivating Confidence
• Other helpful resources
Is It Even Possible to Be Confident as a First-Time Mom?
“I can’t believe it…. We have a baby!” I half laughed-half cried in the moments right after giving birth to my daughter. I was exhausted and barely able to register how my life had just been forever changed in that instant. The next 24 hours were a blur of diapers, latching, crying, swaddling, belly massages (ugh), and constant check-ups. And even though the hospital room was cold, the bed was uncomfortable, and we really just wanted to be at home with our new little love, a slight wave of panic washed over both my husband and me when they announced that we could be discharged. We caught each other’s eyes, wide and questioning, silently asking, “Wait, what do we do now?”
Fast forward 5 years and 2 more daughters, and life is still a whirlwind of diapers, latching, crying, swaddling, belly massages (“Mom, your belly is so squishy!”), and constant check-ups. (Those boo-boo’s ain’t gonna kiss themselves!) Although I suppose having three kids makes me a veteran when it comes to motherhood, I still vividly remember how it felt to be a first-time mom. The uncertainty, the sleep deprivation (still struggling with that one, unfortunately), the unsolicited advice from everyone (thanks random stranger in the grocery store), the fear of failure, the mom guilt, and most of all, the lack of confidence in myself.
I’d like to give you some free unsolicited advice. (No, I’m not going to say “Sleep when the baby sleeps,” although if you can, go for it!) But let me first preface these insights with a pill that might be hard to swallow: You won’t feel confident as a new mom. I know that’s not what you want to hear, but hear me out. You CAN absolutely fake it ’til you make it. It’s gonna take time… but you WILL make it. You WILL find your confidence. Here’s how.
How to Shift Your Mindset and Become What You Believe
Our minds are more powerful than we give them credit for. When you hit a major transition in life, like creating a tiny human, your mind is doing some pretty heavy lifting trying to navigate all the newness. You’re in the trenches, as I like to call it. It’s do-or-die survival mode. And that puts tremendous stress on your brain. It’s easy for negative, intrusive thoughts to slide into your mental DMs. Especially when the learning curve is so high, you are so tired, and the baby is soooo fussy. It’s easy to feel like you have no clue what you’re doing, which, as we know, is pretty much a confidence-killer.
But there’s this really cool little thing called experience-dependent neuroplasticity, which is just a fancy way to say we can change our brain through our experiences. Our brains are designed to be malleable and constantly rewire themselves. Basically, everything you experience WILL alter the physical nature of your brain.
So, take those pesky negative thoughts: If you constantly focus on your worry, mom guilt, fear, self-criticism… your brain will reshape itself to make you more vulnerable to worry, anxiety, and depression. You’ll find yourself only seeing the negatives of a situation and become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
On the other hand, if you focus your thoughts on giving yourself grace, believing you are a good mom, and knowing it will get easier in time, your brain strengthens those neural connections. You’ll become more resilient, optimistic and have higher self-esteem in the long run. In the wise words of Oprah, “You don’t become what you want; you become what you believe.”
Try this right now:
- Think about something you did well as a mom today. But don’t just notice it; really feel it too.
- Take that thought and dwell on all the goodness in it for at least 20 seconds. (No fleeting thoughts here! And absolutely NO BUTS, unless, of course, your happy thought is that you cleaned a poopy butt really well…) This gives your brain time to fire those neurons and hardwire that belief into your brain.
- Let the confidence boost commence.
It’s Possible to Balance Trusting Your Intuition & Searching for Information
Have you ever googled some seemingly harmless symptoms (albeit worrisome enough to google) and ended up convinced you were dying of cancer? With all the conflicting parenting advice/opinions/facts/hullabaloo out there, it’s no wonder we parents think we are ruining our children for life if we don’t do the RIGHT thing at ALL TIMES. Confidence goes out the window when your best friend says one thing, your mother says another, the internet, best-selling authors, pediatricians, or statistics all say yet another. And then, there’s your gut feeling. It’s so easy to second guess what we feel deeply in our gut because a trusted friend or family member disagrees. So my advice to cultivate confidence as a new mama? Dig into the latest research AND trust your mama instincts at the same time.
When my oldest daughter was going into her
terrible terrific twos, I had no idea how to handle her meltdowns. I didn’t feel comfortable punishing her for having big emotions. Yet, I watched others around me telling their kids to “stop crying” or sending them to timeout when they acted out or wouldn’t calm down quickly enough. I wondered if I was being too permissive by not following suit. I frantically searched the internet for information on whether I was screwing up my child by lack of discipline. Did I need to toughen up? Implement consequences? Or maybe, just maybe… was my gut telling me something that other parents weren’t aware of?
Enter: Positive Parenting, a parenting style I had never heard of that I immediately embraced wholeheartedly. It presented exactly what I felt on a deeper level, and it had the research and neuroscience of child development to back it up! It taught me things I hadn’t even considered, and I’ve been a better parent for it.
Try this right now:
- Think of an aspect of parenting that you’re second-guessing yourself in.
- Take some time to really look into what research says.
- Take into account what works for YOUR unique situation. It may not feel right or align with your values, or it could add more stress to your family dynamic. That’s why considering what your intuition says is crucial.
- Find a balance between the two and choose the best solution for YOU. (Not your mom, or friend, or pediatrician, or… you get my point.)
** Not sure where to start? I highly recommend reading Parenting Right From the Start by Dr. Vanessa LaPointe or Cribsheet by Emily Oster.
How to Stop Comparing Everything
The more we worry, the less we get to enjoy motherhood. Falling into the comparison trap is hands-down the easiest way to lose confidence in yourself. Her baby is already crawling! Why isn’t mine? She pureés her own organic baby food. She must be a better parent than I am. Her Instagram photos are picture-perfect. My life feels like a hot mess right now. Why can’t I lose the baby weight like she did? You get it. Listen, we’ve all been there.
So my advice? Figure out the things that trigger feelings of comparison, a “compare-snare,” if you will. (Social media, anyone?) Once you’re aware of what’s happening and how it makes you feel, try to minimize your exposure to it. And if that’s not possible because you’re addicted to the dopamine hit of a new like, when you do get triggered, remember that everybody has insecurities. (Even Beyoncé! Or Kate Middleton! Or Michelle Obama!) No one is perfect. Even the “perfect mom” has bad days. So stop believing the highlight reel of people’s lives. (Psst… Their highlight reel is not real life.) It’s only 1% (…maybe 2%) of their life. It’s not fair to compare the worst of yourself to the best of another. Even if it’s really easy to do.
Try this right now:
- Create a mama-mantra that will help you overcome those moments when you’re being held captive by comparison. Something like, “I am enough,” or “A bad day does not make me a bad mom,” or “I’m still learning, and that’s okay.” Something short and easy to remember on the fly.
- Write it down on a Post-it note and stick it on your bathroom mirror for a daily reminder to repeat it often, in good and bad times.
- In moments of stress, simply repeat your mama-mantra and you’ll feel your heart rate slowing, your breathing becoming steady, and your confidence building up.
Why Leaning on Another Supportive Mama Who Gets You is Crucial
Chances are, the people you already surround yourself with probably look similar to you, have a similar upbringing or lifestyle, and have a similar belief system. That’s because we tend to like being around people who are similar to us. However, there may be people in your life who only diminish your self-confidence by questioning your decisions or flat-out disagreeing with them. When it’s a stranger, it’s easier to brush it off. When it’s your own family member, it’s a wee bit harder.
So, for my last but certainly not least piece of advice, I highly suggest that you confide in another supportive and like-minded mama who shares your attitude toward motherhood and all the decisions surrounding it. This is what psych-nerds call consensual validation, and it will absolutely boost your confidence in your own attitude and the decisions you’re making!
Having just any ol’ mama friend/sister or literally your own mother is sometimes not enough. Even though they get motherhood because they are indeed mothers, they’re contributing to your lack of confidence in a big way if they’re opposing rather than supporting your decisions.
Find the mama who has been there and also totally listens to you, encourages you, supports you, builds you up, and pushes you to be the best version of yourself. That doesn’t mean you’ll always agree on everything, but it does mean that she won’t hurt your confidence in the process if she doesn’t agree. Plus, you’ll likely agree on way more than you disagree on anyway (remember that consensual validation)!
Try this right now:
- Think about a mama who just gets you and accepts you for who you are.
- Go ahead and send her a quick text thanking her for being so supportive. If she doesn’t already know, tell her how you’ve been struggling with a lack of self-confidence in this season of life.
- Ask if she has any tried and true suggestions for your specific situation.
- Lean on her.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help. If she’s a true friend, she’ll be honored to guide you through the trenches.
The Bottom Line To Cultivating Confidence
It is completely normal to have a lack of confidence in something you’ve never done before. Even if you’ve babysat or worked with kids, motherhood is a whole new ballgame. It’s the difference between sitting in the stands, maybe catching a fly ball every once in a while, and being up to bat in a sport you barely know the rules to.
So, give yourself permission to:
- Believe in yourself.
- Trust your intuition.
- Ask for help or support.
- Know that you’re the best mama for the job.
Confidence will come when your decisions yield positive outcomes. You won’t always choose the right thing. Remember, there’s a big learning curve. When you feel like you’re failing, acknowledge and validate your own feelings. Repeat that mama-mantra until you believe it, and confide in your supportive mama friend for a little extra encouragement. You got this.
Other helpful resources:
3 Things I Wish I Had Done Differently After Having a Baby
Help! We Just Had a Baby and Now We Can’t Stop Fighting
5 Reasons Why Marriage Can Be Harder After Having A Baby
Dear Wife, This is What You Should Know About Your Husband After Having a Baby
How to Be a More Supportive Spouse
You want to get a degree. Your spouse wants to lose some pounds.
You want to stop smoking. Your spouse wants to start gardening.
You want to tap into your artistic talents. Your spouse wants to tap dance.
And you, being the committed, loving spouse that you are, want to be fully supportive.
But, if you’ve had any experiences like mine, you know that the effort to be supportive can sometimes blow up in your face. You said that one thing you thought would be encouraging, but somehow you left limping away after a good lashing. I was only trying to help!
And after licking your wounds, you’re left to wonder: How in the world can I be supportive? Is it even possible?
Well, you can be a supportive spouse if you remember a few things:
Goals are emotionally-charged.
Anything we set out to accomplish carries the risk of setbacks and failure. It’s easy to worry we aren’t going to do what we hope. In turn, our insecurities are on high alert. One small word, one slight inflection in your voice, has the potential to make your spouse feel great or horrible. Awareness of this helps you gauge the kind of support your spouse needs from you.
Understand what your spouse wants from you.
Your idea of support may not be theirs. If your spouse asks you to support them, find out what they mean by support. Ask how they picture you being fully supportive. If they share something they want to accomplish but don’t ask for support, ask, “Is there a way I can support you that would be helpful?”
Hear the kind of support your spouse doesn’t want from you.
There’s encouragement, and then there’s accountability. Both are important. But they’re different. Accountability means your spouse wants someone to check in regularly on their progress and acknowledge with them when they’ve fallen short. Encouragement is cheering them and letting them know you are right beside them in their efforts. You’ve got this. I believe in you. You can do this. I’ve learned that encouragement is almost always a welcome way to support my spouse. Accountability… well, that could be a different story. Ultimately, it’s up to them which they need from you.
Others can often say what a spouse can’t.
There are supportive words my wife’s best friend can say that would not be effective coming from me. She can invite my wife to join her at the gym and be okay; it would only make for an awkward rest of the day if I said it. Your spouse still needs you to support them in ways they feel safe. But it can be good to encourage your spouse to add another person to the support staff.
Compliment the positive changes.
I can remember vividly when my wife told me, “I can tell your stomach is looking flatter.” I was ecstatic. That was years ago, and my stomach is no longer flat. But when I am trying to shorten the waistline some, I think back and remember her words. And it makes me want to try even harder.
Words are powerful.
I can really tell your painting is improving! Your clothes are fitting looser! I noticed you haven’t had a cigarette in two weeks! You’re doing great!
Your spouse needs you to be supportive.
But they need you to support them in a way that’s valuable to them. It’s easy to fall into the trap of showing support with the hope of receiving gratitude. (Oh, sweetie, thank you for telling me I missed leg day; you’re so supportive!) But your support is ultimately there to help your spouse be a better version of themselves as they see it.
Now go compliment them on their development of tap-dancing skills!
Other helpful blogs:
Should I Be Upset That My Husband Watches Porn?
So your husband watches porn, and you’re wondering how you should feel about it. Perhaps you’re frustrated and wondering if you have a reason to be upset. Or maybe it doesn’t bother you, and that’s what bothers you. It’s probably hard to know just what to feel or think or do with this.
Pornography can be a complicated issue in marriage. And the truth is, you could be dealing with a whole host of other emotions and thoughts about it.
First of all, it’s okay to feel these things.
I can’t tell you how you should feel (nor should I, nor should anyone).
But here’s what I can do: I can share what we know about how pornography can affect a marriage. Because I imagine that’s the one concern you probably have above all else.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at what some research tells us:
- Married couples who use porn are more likely to divorce than those who do not use it.
- Watching porn can create unrealistic pictures in people’s minds about how sexual relationships are supposed to function. This can affect relationships negatively. It can decrease the viewer’s perceptions of real-life intimacy because they compare marital sex with what’s on the screen (i.e., porn stars).
- Viewing porn can lead to sex becoming more about one’s own physical pleasure and less about the emotional aspect of sex in marriage.
- Pornography can create a vicious downward cycle; if something isn’t going well in the marriage, a person might turn to porn. But then, turning to porn can make marital problems even worse.
- Pornography consumption is linked to decreased intimacy, less satisfaction in marriage, and infidelity. Not to mention an increased appetite for porn that depicts abusive, illegal, or unsafe practices and a higher rate of addictive behavior. (Just to be clear, the research gives strong evidence that porn is, indeed, addictive. Keep reading for more on this.)
- According to the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, over half of divorce cases involved “an obsessive interest in pornographic websites.”
- Viewing pornographic material increases the risk of developing sexually deviant tendencies, committing sexual offenses, and accepting rape myths.
- Evidence shows that pornography affects the brain, much like a chemical addiction. It releases endorphins that cause an increased need for more arousing and shocking material. Over time, to get the same feeling or “high,” you have to get a heavier dose. Some studies indicate the chemicals released in the brain from watching porn are two-hundred times more potent than morphine and at least as addictive as cocaine. That’s pretty powerful stuff.
- Watching porn also causes mirror neurons to fire in the brain, causing the viewer not merely to respond to the image on the screen but to put themselves in the main character’s place.
Unfortunately, these are just a few of the negative insights researchers found.
The bottom line is that pornography is easy to access and can cause severe marriage rifts. Yes, you’ll find many misconceptions out there from mainstream media about how porn isn’t all that bad. Some counselors even encourage couples to use porn in their relationships for various reasons.
I personally prefer to err on the side of good solid research, which suggests that, overall, couples should avoid porn for the sake of marital health. I encourage you and your husband to let the science and research about porn inform your feelings, reactions, and conversations about porn in your marriage.
If you’d like to learn more about porn or want more information to help you move forward together, these blogs can help you out:
- My Spouse Wants Sex More Than I Do
- 10 Things Every Married Couple Needs to Know About Sex
- How Often Should We Have Sex?
- How Porn Impacts the Brain
- 9 Warning Signs of Porn Addiction
- Resources for Dealing With Porn Addiction
***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 that 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.***
1Perry, S. L., & Schleifer, C. (2018). Till Porn Do Us Part? A Longitudinal Examination of Pornography Use and Divorce. The Journal of Sex Research, 55(3), 284–296. https://doi.org/10.1080/00224499.2017.1317709
2Zillmann D, Bryant J. Pornography’s impact on sexual satisfaction. J Appl Social Pyschol. 1988;18(5):438-453. doi:10.1111/j.1559-1816.1988.tb00027.x
3Perry SL. Pornography and relationship quality: Establishing the dominant pattern by examining pornography use and 31 measures of relationship quality in 30 national surveys. Arch Sex Behav. 2020;49(4):1199-1213. doi:10.1007/s10508-019-01616-7
4Maas MK, Vasilenko SA, Willoughby BJ. A dyadic approach to pornography use and relationship satisfaction among heterosexual couples: The role of pornography acceptance and anxious attachment. J Sex Res. 2018;55(6):772-782. doi:10.1080/00224499.2018.1440281
5Laier, C., & Brand, M. (2016). Mood changes after watching pornography on the Internet are linked to tendencies towards Internet-pornography-viewing disorder. Addictive Behaviors Reports, 5(C), 9–13. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.abrep.2016.11.003
6Schneider, J. P. (2000). A Qualitative Study of Cybersex Participants: Gender Differences, Recovery Issues, and Implications for Therapists. Sexual Addiction & Compulsivity, 7(4), 249–278. https://doi.org/10.1080/10720160008403700
7Stack, S., Wasserman, I., & Kern, R. (2004). Adult Social Bonds and Use of Internet Pornography. Social Science Quarterly, 85(1), 75–88. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.0038-4941.2004.08501006.x
8Manning, J. C. (2006). The Impact of Internet Pornography on Marriage and the Family: A Review of the Research. Sexual Addiction & Compulsivity, 13(2-3), 131–165. https://doi.org/10.1080/10720160600870711
10Wright, P. J., Tokunaga, R. S., & Kraus, A. (2016). A Meta-Analysis of Pornography Consumption and Actual Acts of Sexual Aggression in General Population Studies. Journal of Communication, 66(1), 183–205. https://doi.org/10.1111/jcom.12201
11Allen, M., Emmers, T., Gebhardt, L., & Giery, M. A. (1995). Exposure to Pornography and Acceptance of Rape Myths. Journal of Communication, 45(1), 5–26. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1460-2466.1995.tb00711.x
12Love, T., Laier, C., Brand, M., Hatch, L., & Hajela, R. (2015). Neuroscience of internet pornography addiction: A review and update. Behavioral Sciences, 5(3), 388-433. doi:http://dx.doi.org.proxy.lib.utc.edu/10.3390/bs5030388
13Ponseti, J., Bosinski, H. A., Wolff, S., Peller, M., Jansen, O., Mehdorn, H. M., Büchel, C., & Siebner, H. R. (2006). A functional endophenotype for sexual orientation in humans. NeuroImage (Orlando, Fla.), 33(3), 825–833. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neuroimage.2006.08.002
Sometimes life just seems to be getting harder. For many, most days feel like slogging through thick fog and it’s really hard to see the road ahead.
Perhaps you or someone you know is really struggling at the moment and you’re wondering if the sadness is due to a single life circumstance or if something bigger is going on like depression or some other mental health issue.
First, let me just say, you’re not alone! We’re living in a moment in time where everything—marriage, parenting, work, socializing with friends, even the most normal things—seem more difficult than they should be for many people.
Second, regardless of whether you or someone you care about is sad or dealing with something else, the good news is, help is available.
Sad? Depressed? How do you know the difference?
Glad you asked!
Feeling sad and down about things like job loss, finances, marital issues, a child giving you a run for your money, or a breakup is normal for a period of time. But, when you:
- Can’t seem to shake those feelings and you begin to feel hopeless and desperate;
- It feels impossible to think clearly;
- Making a decision seems out of your reach;
- Work is consistently challenging;
- Things that used to bring you joy in life don’t anymore;
- Food doesn’t interest you or you are eating way more than normal; and
- You’re either not sleeping enough or you are sleeping all the time and still feel like you don’t get enough rest.
These are like blinking caution lights warning you something is not right. There are some things you might be able to do to help move you to a different place, though.
Here Are 5 Ways to Work Through Depression
1. Surround yourself with a supportive group of friends.
Not necessarily people who are experiencing the same thing you are, but people who seem to be mentally and emotionally healthy right now. Ask them to walk this road with you and help hold you accountable for changes you’re trying to make.
2. Create a new bedtime routine.
Lying in bed watching television or scrolling through social media doesn’t count as rest. Stop all screen time at least an hour before you plan to get some shut-eye. If silence makes it hard for you to sleep, download a white noise app or purchase a white noise machine. Maybe you could try a simple fan in your room. Don’t use your bed for anything other than sleeping… and well, those things that you typically do in bed (like sex). Otherwise, keep your bedroom as kind of a safe place where your body knows it’s time to relax and rest.
3. Get moving.
Exercise has been shown to be one of the BEST ways to combat depression. According to the Mayo Clinic, regular exercise releases feel-good hormones that can make you feel better about yourself. It also can help you get out of the negative thought cycle that feeds depression. Exercising on the regular can give you more confidence, it’s something you can do with others and it is a super positive way to cope with and manage depression. Don’t forget, being outside, getting enough vitamin D, drinking plenty of water, and fueling your body with healthy foods are all powerful weapons for fighting depression.
4. Pay attention to how much news and negative information you take in every day.
Remember, the motto for the newsroom is, “If it leads, it bleeds.” Their whole goal is to be sensational to draw you in. The more you are drawn in, the more it will affect you. It’s a vicious cycle. Your brain doesn’t know it’s the fifth time you’ve seen information about the plane crash, murder, latest political blunder, or car wreck. All of this impacts you mentally and physically whether you realize it or not. Put a time limit on how much news you watch. The same applies to social media.
5. Eliminate as much stress as possible.
Think through all you have on your plate. Is there anything you can let go of for a while to reduce the stress in your life? If you can’t let go of certain activities, can you ask others to help you?
In addition to doing all of these things, be bold and ask for professional help. Plenty of counselors are providing telecounseling and Zoom sessions right now. If you don’t know where to look for help, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration hotline is 1-800-662-4357.
If you’re worried about someone you care about, don’t be afraid to step up and say, “I see you. How can I help?” Guiding them through all the above is a great place to start if they’re open to your support.
Photo by Inzmam Khan from Pexels
How to Be a Supportive Parent
When I became a parent, I was not prepared for the “surge” of protectiveness that took over my body. I felt like it was my job to protect my child from all sorts of hurts, disappointments, fears, and sadness. I may have unknowingly included their father and other family members, too. Did they wash their hands before holding my child? Are they following my parental instructions to the letter of my law? Why is he playing so rough with them? Learning how to moderate my “Grizzly Bear Mom” tendencies helped me become a more supportive parent.
Research has shown that being a supportive parent has far-reaching benefits for your child. Being a supportive parent helps your child be better equipped to handle stressful situations, be able to handle their own emotions, be capable of regulating their behavior, and get along with others.
Here are a few steps you can take on your journey of being a supportive parent for your child:
1. Be as empathetic as possible.
Being able to empathize with your child means you can place yourself in their shoes. And consider: How tight are the shoes? Do they have holes in the toes? Be aware of a situation they experience that mirrors one from your childhood. If your childhood experience or trauma becomes the focus, your child will feel unheard and marginalized. Now is not the time to help them learn to build tough skin. When you empathize, you become a soft place for your child to land when experiencing difficulties.
2. Enjoy being a student of your child.
Becoming a student of your child means you enter their world. You learn about the topics they’re interested in even if it holds no interest to you. Your child may be interested in: Sports (baseball, soccer, lacrosse, football, tennis), Music (instruments, singing, producing videos), Art (drawing, painting, photography) Animé, Video Gaming, Crafting, Animals, or a myriad of other topics. Dig deeper and say things like: Tell me what you like about… The key here is to remember that your child is a separate person from you. Children feel seen and valued when parents ask about what they like.
3. Be open and askable.
For many parents, showing support means doing something (also known as having the “fixer syndrome”). Here’s the BEST thing your child needs you to do for them: Listen, Listen, Listen. Listen to understand, listen for more information, and listen to identify emotions. You can also give your child space to process what they’re feeling. As you become more open and askable, you’ll have to guard your reactions, especially when your child shares difficult situations with you such as being bullied, picked on, or teased by others. Believe it or not, your child is very aware of your feelings and will shut down if they feel like you’re upset. Probing statements like “tell me more” allow your child to share on their terms without feeling like they’re being interrogated.
4. Make time to connect.
Create intentional time where you both engage in an activity they really enjoy. Making time in your schedule to play them, watch something with them or even allow them to teach you something new will demonstrate your support to them. Children feel supported when they know they are cared for, encouraged to grow, and feel a sense of belonging in your family.
As you work through these key steps to becoming a supportive parent, remember it’s all about process, not perfection. There will be days you’ll miss a step or two. Becoming a supportive parent is about seeking to understand your child’s world, including their feelings, fears, and frustrations without making the situation about you. When you create this connection with your child, you’re actually creating an environment of support and helping them feel like they belong. Ultimately, you’re preparing your child for LIFE.
Image from Unsplash.com
What to Do When Your Spouse Isn’t Supportive
I know how you feel. I get a really big, life-goal idea in my mind about every two weeks. And when I drop my best-laid plans on my wife as if it’s a slam-dunk, somehow she just doesn’t see it the way I do. And that’s when things can blow up.
Let me suggest some things I have learned:
I have learned that letting my mind go too far down the decision-making trail before I make my spouse aware of what I’m thinking is not a good thing.
In my mind, I’ve often already walked down the road to success. I’ve already imagined how wonderful this decision will be. And I’ve already anticipated that my spouse is going to react by being completely supportive and on board. The issue lies in the already. What I often fail to do is invite my spouse with me on this road before my mind is already made up. And that’s unfair to her. It’s as if I’ve already made the decision for her.
I have learned that my spouse might have some ideas that change my direction. And that is a good thing.
When she gives me reasons as to why something may not work out the way I see it (and dang it, they’re good reasons), it feels like a total disregard for my dreams and aspirations. The truth of the matter is that my spouse (the person who I’ve partnered with to walk down this road of life, I have to remind myself) does indeed support me and wants what’s best for both of us.
And this is backed up by research. Marriage researcher and author Shaunti Feldhahn found that with couples who labeled themselves as “happy” or “mostly happy,” an extremely high number of partners said they care about their spouse, want the best for them, and are “for” their spouse, even during painful times and arguments.
✸✸ At the end of the day, decisions such as these aren’t just a me thing; it’s a we thing. And her input to this decision is extremely valuable, sometimes resulting in a better outcome than I had imagined. ✸✸
Finally, I have learned that my relationship with my spouse actually gets stronger when we struggle over a decision together.
And, the outcome of the decision normally comes out better than what I had originally anticipated. The very act of wrestling through the decision itself brings us closer together and makes us feel more valued, and solidifies us as a team.
So what do you do when you have a big idea and you want your spouse to be supportive? Here are some steps you can take:
1. Take some time to consider the implications of your idea.
Remember that this decision doesn’t affect you alone. It affects both your marriage and your spouse.
2. Don’t think of it as a decision made, but an idea to be considered.
So you want to change jobs, or go vegan, or cut way back on the kids’ sports schedules? It helps you be more open to the feedback of your spouse when you label this as an idea to be explored rather than a decision that’s already iron-clad in your mind.
3. Reframe how you bring your idea up to your spouse.
“I’ve decided I want to change jobs and work from home permanently, and I’m going to start looking next week. Isn’t that exciting?” See how that sounds? Decision already made.
Notice the difference here: “I’ve been thinking of what it would look like to change jobs and work from home. I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately, and I have some ideas. I don’t know what this might look like in the end, and I’d like your help in thinking about this.“
Framing your idea so that you are open to feedback makes it more palatable, inviting, and open for discussion. And consequently, it can make a big difference in how supportive your spouse’s response is.
4. Be prepared to approach the idea at a slower pace.
When you’re excited about an idea, it’s difficult to not want to see it happen right now. But when you are bringing your spouse in on the decision-making process, be ready to take some time. It might take more than one discussion. Great decisions are rarely made in a short amount of time. Embrace the process that you and your spouse get to embark on, and allow it to make your connection to each other stronger.
5. Bring your spouse in on the decision-making process.
Invite your spouse in on the discussion. Ask them what they think, if they see better ways of approaching the idea, and what different scenarios may look like. For example, what does it look like to quit your job now versus quitting your job in one year?
Be ready to approach your idea in ways different than you originally had thought. Your spouse may take it and add caveats, as what if we did this…, or even right out reject the idea as you see it playing out. Keep in mind that you are a team and this is a decision that affects both of you.
✸✸ Relationship researchers Scott Stanley, Howard Markman, and Susan Blumberg suggest establishing some ground rules for these kinds of discussions, such as allowing one person to speak their full mind without interruption and then clarifying what you think you heard. If the discussion gets heated, take a time-out for 20 minutes and reconvene with calmer emotions. ✸✸
And if your spouse is still not supportive…
This is a very real possibility, no matter how well you’ve presented your idea. If that’s the case, take a deep breath. Understand that even though your spouse doesn’t support your idea, it doesn’t mean they don’t support you as their partner or your marriage as a whole. Circumstances also change with time. It’s possible your big life-goal idea may present itself to be a better idea in the future.
Remember that you are a TEAM.
- Don’t let this issue or idea divide you.
- Don’t think in terms of who won and who lost.
- Do not let your relationship become adversarial.
- Don’t look at your spouse as the enemy of your idea or dreams. (You might not be on the same page—yet.)
- Be on guard that anger and frustration don’t turn into bitterness or resentment—these will wreak havoc on your marriage.
And one thing you can count on: if you’ve presented your idea in a way that invited open feedback and scrutiny from your spouse, they’ll be much more likely to be supportive of the idea when that future opportunity comes about.
For more help with your marriage, click here.
***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.***
By nature, I believe we as humans are caring and kind. We like to help and be there for others when they celebrate and when they go through tragedy. For example, we buy gifts when people have babies, get married, retire and reach other various milestones. And we bring food when others suffer the loss of a loved one or lose everything in a natural disaster. We sit close to those who are suffering from a terrible disease like cancer, in the midst of grief or going through a divorce. That’s how we love, comfort, support, and uplift.
Loving and caring for others who continue to face many of life’s celebrations and trials has become difficult since the pandemic. Our hearts begin to hurt because of the weddings we miss and the families we can’t mourn alongside. We grieve over the showers we can’t attend and the relief efforts we are limited in assisting after natural disasters.
The core of our humanity seems to be stripped away from us because of the need to quarantine and stay safe and healthy. Sometimes, if you’re like me, you begin to wonder, is it worth it? Is what I’m giving up to “stay healthy” worth it? What’s the point of being a friend when you can’t do all those things that friends do? I don’t want to miss the birth of my cousin’s baby or the funeral of my neighbor’s son. What do I do?
How to Check In
That’s where we have to be creative. Here are some ideas to support, encourage and love those that are facing life-altering events during this time of quarantine.
- Arrange for meal delivery and share virtual meals—We love to take food to those who are experiencing life-changing events. Instead, have the food delivered to them. Then, use a video app to eat together while you share in their grief or their excitement.
- Virtual Photo Albums—Simply going through digital photos to walk down memory lane and using the “share screen” function that many video apps have promotes the bonding and connectedness we desire.
- Drive-By Parade—Gather some of your friends safely. In your own cars, parade in front of their home with signs of celebration.
- Gift-Giving Through Online Registry—Help loved ones set up online gift registries and purchase the gifts electronically. (Don’t assume everyone, such as your soon to be 70-year-old grandmother, knows how to set up an online registry.)
- Electronic Greeting Cards—Find a ready-made one or design your own. You can send these directly to their smartphone. A sympathy card or one of celebration can offer timely words of encouragement.
- Prepare A Virtual Trivia Game Night—Create trivia facts centered around the person being celebrated (TriviaMaker is a good app).
- Mail a Handwritten Letter or Card—There’s still something that makes me feel special when I receive a letter. Knowing that someone took the time to handwrite something themselves—everything about that says that I am important. Emails or texts can’t match the feeling of a handwritten letter.
- Attend Events Virtually—Knowing that you took the time to attend an event, whether it’s a wedding, funeral, or party, tells your loved one that you won’t let social distancing stop you from sharing in their moment.
- Leave comments on their social media feed when appropriate. We know what it feels like to read our social media comments and feel the love and support of those who couldn’t be with us physically. It uplifts the spirit.
- Call. But Use Video Calls As Often As Possible—Be available to listen. Allow those you love to vent, blow off steam and complain. You may not be needed to fix anything. Just being a listening ear goes a long way.
- Note: When someone crosses your mind, call them then. Don’t wait—I can’t tell you how many times someone has called me at the perfect time when I was dealing with something. And they often started with, “I was just thinking about you and thought I’d call to see how you were.”
- Record And Electronically Deliver A Special Video Message—You may be providing a keepsake that your loved ones will treasure forever.
Encouraging, loving and supporting others does make us feel good. It uplifts us and helps us feel meaningful and full of purpose. Ultimately, we have to remember that it’s not about you—it’s about the person on the receiving end.
A virtual meal or handwritten letter may not feel as satisfying to give right now. However, it can still help your loved one’s big life moments bring them the joy and peace they may need. That’s one of the special perks of having you in their life.
Valuable Relationships Make You a Better Person
Can valuable relationships make you a better person? We’ve all heard someone’s “value” calculated as their Net Worth, but what about cultivating the value of your Network? I’m talking about your true friends, accountability partners, and mentors. People that know your goals and will help you achieve them.
Those valuable relationships don’t happen by accident. We have to be open to them. We have to be intentional. We have to invest. Often, when I need those kinds of people in my life the most, my instinct is to go into hiding. I run the opposite way.
I find ways to build taller fences, not longer tables.
- This isn’t where I point out that according to recent research, Americans report being more lonely than ever – but they do.
- This isn’t where I point out that social media Friends, Followers, Shares, Likes, and Upvotes aren’t the true measure of your Social Capital – but they aren’t.
- I’m not even going to say that old-fashioned, healthy, Rugged American Individualism has often changed us into unhealthy, Radical American Individualists – but it has.
- I’m just going to quote something my father drilled into me: “Show me your friends and I’ll show you your future.” He was onto something.
It’s easy to surround yourself with people that always agree with you or always take your side. I get it. I do it. That can feel good. It also feels good to have people in your life that you can have fun with and be yourself. But who in your life is helping you be the best version of yourself?
Who is truly helping you be the best spouse or partner, the best parent, the best person that you can be? Who in your life has permission and is willing to confront you and say the hard things? (You know, those things that sting a day or two, but you know they’re true.)
Community, true Social Capital, is more important than ever:
- I never once got a job solely based on an application. It always involved someone I knew and built a connection with before I even knew a new job was even a possibility.
- My wife taught me the value of finding married couples deeper into the season of life we were in or heading toward and risking getting real with them.
- The best thing we did as parents was to connect with other parents for coffee or dessert just to talk about parenting stuff – especially parents with kids heading out of the stages that our kids were heading into.
- I’ve never regretted cultivating relationships- real friendships- with a couple of guys that I could be honest and transparent with, knowing that in return they would ask me the tough questions about the kind of husband, father, and man I am.
These kinds of people and couples and parents that become valuable relationships can be difficult to find. Maybe the best way to find them is to first work at being that kind of person for other people.
I could not begin to tell you my Net Worth. It probably isn’t much. I’m positive it isn’t much. My Network though – priceless. Where are you investing?
Looking for more resources for healthy relationships? Click here!
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