Stronger Couples | Strong Relationship | Mom’s Hierarchy Of Needs

Moms and Dads, is There a Better Way to Fight?

“We brought couples into the lab and had them argue with each other. And we found that how negatively or positively, they interacted with each other, actually predicted their experience of the birth! So, prenatal couples conflict predicted stress during childbirth and the baby’s medical outcomes. Couples are such an interesting target for prevention and intervention. We’re now thinking about how to support relationship quality,” said Dr. Darby Saxbe, Professor and Researcher.

Some couples have grown closer in the pandemic. But most have not. We’ve heard from over 2,000 parents, mostly Moms (97%) who are married or cohabiting. And the loss of date nights and personal space, combined with the rise in housework and childcare, has been a recipe for marital stress.

The gendered power struggle continues to test relationships for many Moms partnered with Dads. Who gets to have leisure? And who gets to do the laundry? It’s tricky to disagree without damaging trust. Particularly when the topic, sharing the work at home, is a well-worn source of tension. So, what can we do?

Invest in Better Communication

“There’s been much more demand on everything from meals to dishes, to just supervising kids in the pandemic. So, the stress on couples has really multiplied,” Darby said. But she’s seen couples get aligned. “There are great approaches to couples therapy. And improved Continue reading “Moms and Dads, is There a Better Way to Fight?”

What Can you Learn From the New Parent Journey to Support Your Mental Health?

“We know that the transition to Parenthood a critical window of change and adaptation. Our hormones, brains, behaviors, sleep and social interactions are changing. And there’s increasing evidence, that those changes are happening for men as well as women. Because it’s not only pregnancy that creates these changes,” said Dr. Darby Saxbe, Psychologist, Professor and Researcher.

Darby has spent the past seven years studying the transition to parenthood. And what she has learned, about the best conditions for new parents, can illuminate the scaffolding we need at all stages of the journey.

Although the pandemic has complicated caregiving, it’s also forcing improvements. So, how can we learn from this time of transformation and put the kind of supports in place that reduce stress and improve our health?

Parenting Expands Your Brain. Literally

Darby said, “When I established my own lab, I wanted to hone in on this idea of new parenthood being a window for neuroplasticity. So, we recruit couples that are expecting their first child. And we explicitly went with cohabiting couples, because we wanted to look at Fathers’ experiences, along with Mothers. Including their brains, stress hormones and the way they interact with each other.” She studies the positive effects of neuroplasticity, the brain expansion and development, that comes with parenthood. And this exponential change, brings both pain and opportunity. Because we’re more vulnerable during this shift.

And You Need the Right Support for a Positive Experience

So, it’s important to increase the support you have. Especially during pregnancy and your child’s infancy. The downside, to this time of cognitive growth, is that we’re also more impressionable to trauma. Like in a pandemic. Darby explained that previous studies from natural disasters, showed Continue reading “What Can you Learn From the New Parent Journey to Support Your Mental Health?”

Is the Mental and Emotional Load Shared in Your Household?

“I need the older children in the family and my husband to step up and help out. I feel like I’ve taken up all the slack and their responsibilities have remained the same. My husband says I just need to ask him for “help” but that just puts it on me to manage everything. I’m frustrated and exhausted and he doesn’t get it.”

“I am literally drowning in overwhelm while my husband is having a great time working from home! Because I’m picking up all the pieces keeping everything together.”

“I told my husband that him “helping” around the house is not enough anymore. He’s an adult and he needs full ownership of at least 50% of keeping our lives together.”

Over 1,800 parents, mostly Moms (98,%) have shared their pandemic stories for our research study. And they’re drained from doing more of everything: housework (78%,) kids activities (54%,) and childcare (73%.) Although they’re overwhelmingly married or cohabiting, in the pandemic, only 30% state their partners are doing more housework or childcare. The gendered division of household labor for Moms partnered with Dads isn’t new. And it’s a corrosive undercurrent for many couples.

The consuming nature of parenting and running a home, has ballooned during Covid. Although the physical work is considerable, the mental energy to plan, triage and react to countless daily choices, adds strain to the situation.

Although some couples successfully divide the work, few share the mental load. And that’s often where the perception gap between Moms partnered with Dads lies. But what if we could make all that hidden work visible? Does it change the conversation between couples?

Mind the Gendered Gap

“I’m doing all the emotional work of parenting (my spouse does only non-emotional tasks like grocery shopping and lawn mowing)…)

“…My personal routine has been overshadowed by helping/dealing with everyone else. If I try to work out, I’ve got kids hanging all over me, when I’m trying to work during nap time my husband wants to chat always preceded by “I know you’re busy but, just real quick…”

A recent Morning Consult survey echoes the stunning Continue reading “Is the Mental and Emotional Load Shared in Your Household?”

Come Back Stronger After Leaning Out or Back In from Your Career Post-Kids

“I had read Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In and the counter points by Anne-Marie Slaughter. So, there was this conversation happening,” said Donielle Buie, Human Resource Leader and Work/Life expert, “And I agree, we need to change policy. But I kept thinking to myself, there’s a woman right now who’s got two kids and is ready to quit her job! She can’t figure out how to make this all work. And I didn’t feel like people were talking about that enough. Or how to make these decisions related to career and family. So, that was my foray into the work/life space.”

Almost half of Mothers take time out of the workforce due to childcare. But Donielle has done what few have. She downshifted, opted out and then came back, professionally stronger. Millions of Moms are deciding to lean into, out of or back from, their careers through Covid. And historically, women don’t fare well when they opt out. But Donielle’s journey is a masterclass on how to navigate the care and career fit.

What About Parental Leave?

Donielle experienced the reality of navigating leave with her first child. “It was like, you had a baby? Here is a $5,000 stipend on top of disability. I worked at a small company so, they gave us dollars on top of short-term disability. But didn’t have a more formal extended leave policy. Even with that, I took unpaid leave because I wanted to be home for 6 months,” she said. “I thought, we should have parental leave because people had kids. Why don’t we have a better policy? Then as we started thinking about having a second, it was sort of like, okay how in the heck are Continue reading “Come Back Stronger After Leaning Out or Back In from Your Career Post-Kids”

Free Yourself from the Soul Crushing Disputes About Who does What

How Gamification Can Save Your Marriage…And Your Sanity

“I love you and I don’t want to break up our life. I really want to stay married. But you have to start looking at my time as valuable,” said Eve Rodsky, Entrepreneur & New York Times Best Selling-Author, to her husband. That conversation changed her life. Eve, like many Moms, was overwhelmed managing a schedule with no room for error or downtime. She said, “It was the unfairness of watching him every night be able to just get into the bed and watch a documentary, finish a PowerPoint deck and workout, while I worked in service to our household until midnight.”

In the US, Moms partnered with Dads still choreograph and do most of the housework and childcare. In our pandemic study, although men are stepping up, only 30% of respondents cite their partners are helping out more. So, conflict between couples continues to rise. Without onsite school or childcare and the bulk of housework falling onto Moms, like caged tigers, we’re eviscerating anything that limits our sleep, sanity or solvency. But there aren’t many options. Adjusting expectations at work is difficult for most. So, sharing the household and childcare if partnered, is the most promising, albeit Continue reading “Free Yourself from the Soul Crushing Disputes About Who does What”

What Parents Enjoy About the Pandemic

Gifts? From Lockdown?

“I would love to continue a career where I worked from home. It simplifies things and I feel much calmer. I’m also so much closer with my children now!! I’m treasuring this time.”

“We have saved money. I found spirituality in meditation. I learned how to take care of my kids without access to entertainment activities.”

“…Spending more time in my local environment (which is beautiful) and we really got to know our neighbors.”

“More time for me and less time in the car taking kids to activities. More time to help kids focus on what they need to be doing. Our family has really benefitted from this situation.”

Over 1,300 parents, mostly Mothers (96%) have shared the pandemic’s impact on their lives anonymously since March. And Covid-living, often without childcare, mental healthcare or self-care, is overwhelming.

So, when they were asked about the pandemic’s surprising rewards, some parents were at a loss to find anything good from this time of grief. One surveyed parent responded, “Absolutely nothing. I liked my old life.” But for most, the crisis has come with some unexpected treasures.

More and better time with family continues to be the most frequently cited benefit of the new situation. As painful as it has been, Covid has forced some positive changes that surveyed parents want Continue reading “What Parents Enjoy About the Pandemic”

What Couples Do to Strengthen Relationships in Lockdown

The pandemic has forced impossible tradeoffs. As fragmented parents search for hidden bandwidth, the strain on couples has grown. Maintaining spark through the happy chaos of life with kids is difficult. But to completely revamp home life and face Covid as a team, often under the watchful gaze of children, is a herculean effort.

Over 1,200 parents shared their pandemic stories since March. The majority are Mothers (95%) who are either married (85%) or live with their partner (7%.) And lockdown continues to challenge relationships.

In the spring (March – June 6th) about a third (36%) felt they were doing ‘terribly’ or ‘not as well as usual’ as a spouse or partner. By the summer, it jumped to almost half (48%) and by the fall (September – November 6) it climbed to 52%. Dr. Yael Schonbrun, Clinical Psychologist, Author and Couples Therapist, shares strategies for the most commonly cited relationship trials of Covid.

Be Generous with Self-Compassion

Yael explained, “Self-compassion offers a raft through the roughest life waters and is available to each of us, even when nothing else is. It involves three Continue reading “What Couples Do to Strengthen Relationships in Lockdown”

Social Distance Does not Make the Heart Grow Fonder

Are Couples Closer or Farther Apart? It’s Both

“(I need) a more supportive spouse who understands that just because I’m working from home doesn’t mean I get to be responsible for all of the housework and childcare. My job still needs to get done.

“… I wish I had a support system. Dealing with everything on my own and walking on eggshells around my husband is hard emotionally.”

”…I love that I am working less and bringing in less money, and my spouse isn’t complaining about it.”

“Spending more time with my daughter and spouse. Bonding with spouse over how to relax.”

Over 1,200 parents shared their pandemic stories since March. The majority (92%) are Mothers (95%) and either married (85%) or live with their partner (7%.) As they continue to work without childcare, breaks or diversions, most crave more “time,” “sleep” and “quiet,” preferably “alone” for their wellbeing. And with their villages at a social distance, they expect hands-on solidarity from their partners.

Every marriage has its fault lines. And with the pressure of home becoming the default office, school and play space, it can feel like a sanctuary or cage. Overall, surveyed parents report more conflict and resentment. Yet, surprisingly, some couples are thriving in Continue reading “Social Distance Does not Make the Heart Grow Fonder”

The Details of How to Make Personal Change Stick

A Book Review For Pathways to Possibility by Rosamund Stone Zander

I read and listen to books about everything from bravery and acceptance to productivity and leadership. I’ve been in the slow but intentional process of self-renewal for years. Recently, I discovered Pathways to Possibility by Rosamund Stone Zander. It’s the companion to one of my favorite books, The Art of Possibility that she co-authored with her husband, Benjamin Zander.

The best of cognitive science teaches that our thoughts affect our feelings. And ultimately, our happiness. Self-help can be heavy on the ‘why’ but light on the ‘how.’ It’s rare to find details about internalizing big ideas. Adopting new routines is not the same as resetting one’s internal Continue reading “The Details of How to Make Personal Change Stick”

Self-Care Is the First Thing to Go in a Crisis

Nearly 400* parents shared anonymously how the pandemic is affecting their lives. This is the first in a series of updates with results.

“With the lack of childcare, I have no time to work or take care of our apartment. I earn a lot less than my husband and work for myself in an industry that has slowed down, so I have taken on the vast majority of the extra childcare and schooling. With only one kid and a small apartment with no yard, this feels like a full-time job! I love parts of it but would enjoy it more if I got breaks. The timeline is overwhelming.”

“My son is 3 and he DESPERATELY misses school and doing things with us. Both my husband and I work full time and cannot take shifts. We feel like terrible parents and terrible employees. For 14 hours a day. Every day. There is no break, nothing to look forward to, no sanity.”

We’re responding to epic change while doing more of everything. There’s more housework, childcare and involvement in activities for our kids. And more required to stabilize our work, families and communities. When the pandemic disrupted life, we didn’t know how long it would last. So, we eliminated self-care to make space for the added responsibilities. Unfortunately, COVID19 is just one of many threats to our wellbeing.

Establishing habits that support our mental and physical health can take years! In this crisis, it’s hard to even think about self-care but it’s critical to manage the stress that also harms our health. Most (61%) surveyed Moms report doing ‘terribly’ or ‘not as well as usual’ caring for themselves.

The Pressure is Unforgiving

When asked ‘what’s been the hardest?’ in this pandemic the list of concerns is long and varied. Moms worry about everything from their own Continue reading “Self-Care Is the First Thing to Go in a Crisis”

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