40 Weeks to Forever
The Mental Load of Motherhood
Partners prepare for pregnancy, labour, and breastfeeding, but how do we prioritize the new baby while maintaining a healthy marriage? Parents often neglect their partners in favour of taking care of the baby, but that shouldn't be the case. Communication is vital if you want to maintain physical and emotional intimacy. In this episode of 40 Weeks to Forever, Dr. Tracy Dagleish shares the importance of dealing with the mental load of parenthood with your partner. Listen as Dr. Tracy builds on her 15 years of experience as a couples therapist and shares practical tips for healthy communication with your partner. Remember: your partnership should still be a priority alongside the changes that come with the new baby. If you want to discover how to enjoy the parenting experience while being the best partner, this episode is for you! Here are three reasons why you should listen to this episode: 1) Learn about the importance of onboarding your partner in parenthood. 2) Find out how to deal with resentment in your relationship through healthy and intentional communication. 3) Discover practical tips to understand differences and effectively communicate your needs.
[01:50] Parenthood and Spousal Relationship
- Research has shown that marital satisfaction decreases after three years of marriage.
- Priorities and demands have changed, and your attention moves to your dependent new little being.
- There must be intentionality in building connection and intimacy in the relationship during this time.
- Sit with your partner and talk about the small things you do together. Then, incorporate these rituals into your daily routine.
[03:51] Respecting the Differences in Parenting Experience
- Always ask yourself, 'Would you speak to your friend or co-worker the way you speak to your partner?'
- Dr. Tracy emphasizes the importance of having compassion for each other. Give your partner the same kindness you give yourself and other people.
- Both your parenting experiences are dynamic and natural. Never tell your partner that they never help out.
Dr. Tracy: "It's also important to recognize that when it comes to [parenthood], it's not going to be equal between you and your partner, but you need to find a way to find what feels fair."
- Acknowledge that your partner’s experience of the world is different from yours.
- Be sure to vocalize your concerns to understand your parenting experience better.
[07:24] Dealing with Resentment
- Feeling resentment means that you or your partner has unmet needs.
- It is crucial to address resentment because it can slowly erode the health of your relationship.
- Motherhood can be overwhelming — especially when you’re not communicating with your partner and don’t have an agreement regarding your plans.
- Communication is important. You have to have an agreement and plan with your partner.
[11:29] Effectively Communicating Your Needs
- Relationships have complex dynamics because of differences in upbringing, experience, and culture.
- Have a values-based conversation with your partner and discuss the values you want for your family.
- Do not carry the mental load. Instead, be fair and onboard your partner.
- According to Dr. Tracy, sitting shoulder to shoulder instead of across each other can help foster communication. This position makes your partner feel you are working together.
- Celebrate your partner. Remember not to put the blame. Instead, make a plan and decide how to move forward together.
[14:22] Eve Rodsky’s CPE Method
- Eve Rodsky, in her book Fair Play, shares a system for people looking to couples looking to find balance in their domestic life.
- In dealing with partner issues, Eve recommends the CPE method: conceptualization, planning, and execution.
- Resentment often builds up in women when they feel their partners only execute tasks instead of completing them.
- Learn to step back and trust that your partner will fulfill their roles and complete their tasks.
Dr. Tracy: "[If I] over-function, the only space that is left for my partner is to under-function. And if I step back, then that means he's going to learn and grow. So, I don't have to carry all of it. And on top of that, then he gets to build the relationship with our kids."
[20:04] Supporting Your Partner and Child’s Relationship
- Dr. Tracy shares that it is essential to acknowledge that children have different relationships with each parent.
- Understand that it is not going to be perfect all the time, but that is good enough.
- Have a conversation with your partner and identify what matters most for you. Having this kind of conversation is essential, but not in front of your kids.
- Your children need to see you as a strong parenting team. This will enable them to share feelings and learn boundaries.
- Let your partner have a unique relationship with your child. Understand that they will learn to develop that with each of you.
[25:01] Understanding Differences in POVs
- Learn each other’s non-negotiables and be in understanding positions. Practice being good listeners. Listen to understand and not argue.
- Dr. Tracy recommends having a bridge conversation where you see the situation from each other's perspectives or lenses.
- Communication with your partner may not be a one-time conversation. You may have to peel back every layer of the onion.
- Remind yourself that not you won't resolve every relational issue right away. There may be recurring problems that show up repeatedly.
- Understanding breeds empathy and relationships need more empathy.
[30:10] Tackling Postpartum Intimacy
- Postpartum intimacy makes mothers desire closeness from their partners. It is a part of birth processing and emotional recovery — even for non-birthing parents.
- Do not push for sex if one of you isn’t ready, even if your OB-GYN gives you the clear.
- You will experience many changes in the first few years of parenting. Focus on other ways to build intimacy with your partner.
- Reassure your partner that they are still your person and that you want to be intimate with them.
- Have a conversation with your partner about what intimacy can look like — may it be emotional or physical intimacy. Broaden the definition of intimacy in your relationship.
[34:27] Making Time for Each Other
- Making time for each other is challenging if you have a child interrupting constantly.
- Dr. Tracy shares that it is practical for partners to schedule sex so that you can focus on being intimate.
- It is also vital to have a regularly scheduled time for communication when you can build emotional intimacy.
- The meeting can offer an opportunity to deposit into the Love Bank. Listen to the full episode for what that is and tips for facilitating your conversations!
Dr. Tracy: "It's also about emotional intimacy. Can you and your partner make sure you spend 10 minutes on the couch at least once a week, talking about how grateful you are for each other?"
[40:39] Dr. Tracy's Advice for Parents-To-Be
- Start your communication before the baby arrives. Discuss how you deal with struggles and how each partner can help.
- Remember that you are both ready for the baby you will have.
- Learn to trust that challenging moments are going to pass. Take things slowly.
- Take a lot of pictures in good moments.
About Dr. Tracy
Dr. Tracy Dagleish, C.Psych is a psychologist from Ottawa, Ontario, with over 15 years of experience working with women and couples. She is also the owner of Integrated Wellness: a mental health clinic that provides assessment and treatment services for various emotional, cognitive, or behavioural issues, as well as couples and sex therapy.
She hosts 'I’m Not Your Shrink,' a podcast designed for women. Dr. Tracy also contributes to popular media sites, including Motherly HuffingtonPost, PsychCentral, Circle Around, and Bustle.
If you want to know more about Dr. Tracy and her work, you can connect with her on her website, LinkedIn, or Instagram.
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