I’ve heard this same complaint from many new moms and even a few new dads who admitted to me that he feels neglected now that the baby is born.Â Yes, they are happy to have a baby, they say, but they just don’t feel like they get any attention from their wives anymore.Â I sense a sheepishness as the man says this because he feels bad that she is tired all the time and he knows that she is doing the best she can to take care of the baby… but he’s at a loss because she had no energy left for him.Â I suspect the man feels like he is between a rock and a hard place because he doesn’t feel that he has the right to complain.Â When he hints at it or mentions feeling neglected, he knows that it makes is wife feel exasperated because she doesn’t know where she can come up with the energy or time to give to him and there seems to be no solution to work this situation out.
I’m here to tell you that there is a solution where everyone can feel loved, supported and taken care of.Â There are a few things that you and your spouse have to realize and put into action for this to happen.
First, you both need to adopt the mindset that it is no longer all about you or me, it is about we.Â What I mean is that everything you do is no longer just for yourself (which can work in a couples relationship) or for even just for you and the baby, but now every action needs to support and benefit the family team. For instance I wake up at 5:15am to make my husband breakfast– knowing that he is fully capable of doing it for himself, but if I do it, it makes him feel nurtured, well-fed and keeps him going at work which benefits the family as a whole. And then he will have the energy and motivation to support me by doing things that helps me and that ultimately serves the whole family.
Some couples start off, each focused on trying to get their needs met. When you come from that frame of mind, you are in “take” mode rather than “give” mode. You also set up a dynamic where each of you are sort of at odds trying to get what you can from the other… and in order to make each other happy, you have to compromise something that you feel makes you happy. With that dynamic, someone is always going to be somewhat unhappy. Some people say, “Well, I’m willing to give 50% if my spouse gives 50%.” What works better is if each of you wants to give 80%, then there is always an overlap of giving and everyone feels supported.
Thinking of yourselves as a team really helps. When we know everyone is pulling for the team, we don’t question the motivation of our spouse’s actions because we know it is to benefit the family somehow. That does mean also that you make sure to take care of yourself physically, emotionally and mentally so that you can be a healthy team player. So for instance when my husband comes home, I don’t get upset if he needs some transition time before he can help me out or discuss something. And if he needs to take a nap, then I honor that because I know he is honoring his body to stay healthy. I also will let him know when I need some time to take care of myself… which brings up another important relationship dynamic.
Many women want/expect a man to instinctively know what they need/want. This expectation is unrealistic because men instinctively think like men, not like women. Therefore, it is unfair to expect a man to think like a woman which is what you are asking him to do (or be a clairvoyant and read your mind). The solution to this is to realize two things about your man… he wants to make you happy and he likes to win (at any game or anything he does). So why not make it a win-win situation and spell out for him what you want/need. He will be so happy that he doesn’t have to play guessing games (where he may lose) and risk the chance of making you unhappy. What is guaranteed to make it a lose-lose situation is if you expect him to think like a woman or read your mind which leads to the guessing game… and the more he guesses wrong, the more irritated and unhappy you become which makes it a lose-lose. For example, I tell my husband what I want for my birthday or Christmas. I’ll even cut out the magazine picture and tell him where he can buy it and how much it will cost. This is a big relief for him because he doesn’t have to search around and feel the pressure to be forced into buying something he is not even sure that I will like– again, he doesn’t want to lose and wants to make me happy. So yes, I lose the spontaneity or being surprised by the unknown gift. But to me, it is totally worth losing the surprise and instead have everyone feel like they’ve won.
So those are the main points that make up the foundation for a supported relationship. Now here’s where you can add the whipped cream and cherry on top–
Once you have those relationship dynamics in place, you will feel like you have more energy to give to each other. Then you can find things to do for each other that don’t take a lot of time or energy, but really make that person feel loved, nurtured and cherished. One thing I do for my husband every morning before I make him breakfast, is I give him a brief back rub and scalp massage. I know that it is something that he cannot do for himself and helps him to start his day off feeling loved and nurtured. And I also know that all of this will make him feel like he wants to support me in any way he can to make my life easier.
Another challenging thing is that happens after the baby is born, is that both of you feel under demand 24/7. If you were a couple for a length of time prior to having a baby, you were used to your relationship being a certain way with time for each other and time for yourself. It can be shocking for both of you to have to change the dynamic of your relationship and also lose your quiet time by yourself. Each of you may try to get some of that back which tugs at the relationship and can feel like a “tug of war”. Suddenly you realize you’re fighting when having a new baby is supposed to be such a happy, loving time of your life.
My husband and I may have had an easier time with this because we had not been a couple for very long before having a baby… but we still did feel the 24/7 pressure. We talked about this (fyi– I think it’s very important to lay things out to discuss in a non-blaming non-critical way to find a solution together) and we decided to give each other at least one day a week where the other person could feel care-free by not being responsible for the baby or the household for several hours. This can happen once the baby can either take a bottle or can go for hours between nursing times. (For us, our baby was around 8 or 9 months when my husband could take him and be without me for hours. If the baby can be bottle fed, it can be even earlier). We call these “free days”. With his free days, he might go to a movie, surf, kite board or just stay at home to relax. Doing things at the spur of the moment and just when you feel like it, is freeing.
As mothers, we have a harder time totally letting go, especially mentally. The thing you have to realize is that your child will be healthier with a mother that is happy and not stressed/worried, so letting go is actually a way of taking care of your child. Also you have to surrender to the way your husband takes care of your baby and realize that the child will survive if it is not done how you know is best. Your husband is self sufficient and will figure out his own way. If you respect his way of care-taking and realize that it makes your child more adaptable (just as long as the child is not in danger), then your husband will not feel second-guessed and probably will take more pride and initiative in taking care of your baby… which in turn helps you.
All this said, each family has its own set of dynamics and the two of you can decide together your team rules. Your team can look and act very different from mine and still be a winning team. The main thing is to start by getting on the same team and back each other up as team players. It might amaze you at how supporting and ready to help your husband becomes… and how supported, loved and nurtured you all feel. Good Luck, I’ll be routing for your team!
I think almost everyone gets depressed sometimes. Iâ€™ve experienced short-term and long-term depression and yea, it never feels good.
Some quick ways to snap out of light depression is to do something different.
Get out of your routine and do something active and exciting. For me things like hanging on to the edge of a cliff gets me out of my head and in touch with my real self. Your gut fear strips away all the B.S. and youâ€™re left with survival instincts and whatâ€™s in your heart. Iâ€™ll tell you later why knowing whatâ€™s in your heart is important.
So if rock climbing is not your thing, something new like going to a new dance class, a cooking class, learning a new languageâ€¦ or even hiking a new trail might do it. Doing some new activity that is stimulating actually stimulates chemicals in the brain (dopamine) that are the â€œin loveâ€ chemicals. And thatâ€™ll help you get out of your funk.
Another simple, yet underrated thing is breathing. When Iâ€™m depressed, my breathing gets shallow. When Iâ€™m happy or excited or both, my breathing is big and really fills my lungs and nourishes my body. Thatâ€™s one reason why exercise helps depression (as well as the endorphins that come after the workout) because youâ€™re probably breathing deeper than if you were just sitting around. Breathing helps to quiet the mind and gets you in touch with emotions stored in the body. A yoga breathing technique that my teacher Ross Rayburn showed me actually makes me feel euphoric for a little while. It has to do with breathing in through alternate nostrils. First in through the left and then out through the right, then in through the right and out of the left while alternately closing off each nostril with your thumb or fingers.
I think depression has its purpose.
When Iâ€™m depressed, I believe itâ€™s my brain or my wiser-self sending me a message. All I have to do is check in with myself and listen. Sometimes the message is not what we want to hear, so we ignore it and the depression goes on and on. We look at some superficial things and tend to place blame on those things because itâ€™s easy. But it usually is some core issue that youâ€™re not paying attention to and your higher self is saying, â€œHey! This is not good for you!â€ And that depressed feeling is an uneasiness within, knowing that you are actually lying to yourself.
So if depression is so painful then why not face the truth?
Ok, yea, the truth might be painful, but if you face it and admit the truth to yourself, you can act on that truth and clear the pain sooner than later. And you can finally be free of that long-term, never-ending all over sick feeling of depression.
How do you find the truth?
Thatâ€™s where the heart comes in. Find a way to connect with whatâ€™s in your heart. Sometimes itâ€™s getting out of your head and being still for a while. Sometimes that means slowing down and not busying yourself with distraction (activities, lust, drama). Thatâ€™s a scary thing to ask yourself to do most of the time. Our instinctive fear is that once we slow down, what weâ€™re running from can catch up to us and what will happen then? The fear is so much bigger than the reality of the result that we usually never even give ourselves a chance to slow down to check that out.
In Charlotte Kaslâ€™s book If the Buddha Dated she tells you how to make friends with your fears. She calls it the â€œthen whatâ€ exercise. Hereâ€™s her example:
â€œIâ€™m afraid of getting involved, I might get left.â€
â€œThen what (if you do get left)?â€
â€œWell, Iâ€™d be alone.â€
â€œIâ€™d be lonely.â€
â€œIâ€™ll scream and cry and Iâ€™ll be mad.â€
â€œThen Iâ€™d probably get tired and go to sleep.â€
And she points out that the intensity of fear thins out. Your mind may go blank or itâ€™ll start to seem funny because we see how melodramatic our thoughts can be, which is very separate from our true essence of what is in our heart.
When you strip away the fear you can reach the truth. But then how do you know if itâ€™s the truth?
The truth will ring true because youâ€™ll feel a sense of relief when you find it. It may not be a happy thing, but youâ€™re finally admitting it to yourself and now you can do something about it!
BE BRAVE! FACE YOUR FEAR! ITâ€™S SO WORTH IT! DEPRESSION DOESNâ€™T HAVE TO RULE YOUR LIFE!
Angeline Chew-Longshore is a television news and print journalist specializing in wellness, personal growth, sexuality and womenâ€™s issues.
Â© 2006 Angeline Chew-Longshore