When my clients talk about the joys and challenges of new parenthood, a common theme comes up – isolation. There’s no secret about it – Togetherness looks completely different after baby.
Before baby, we can plan for togetherness with our partners – activities, dates, vacations. We can anticipate opportunities to connect with one another. For new parents, the thought of planning feels unattainable. New parenthood often feels like we are surviving moment to moment and the day is filled with what baby needs.
Unfortunately, the relationship that led to baby in the first place is not getting the attention it once did. The emotional and physical labor of caring for a baby doesn’t always allow us the space to connect with our partner in pre-baby ways. And yet, the feeling from many new parents I work with is that caring for a baby would undoubtedly feel less isolating if they could just feel more connected to their partner.
When I facilitate a +baby group or a parenting consultation, this topic is always high on the discussion list. We talk in depth about creative new ways to intentionally connect, without adding more items to the to-do list. Here are three ideas that can create closeness with each other post baby –
- Create tech free time – While all the consequences of technology are still being explored, articles such as “The phones we love too much” are making it clear that even having a phone out, when there is a risk that a notification will buzz or ring gets in the way of opportunities to connect and talk to each other. Consider creating tech free times when you can focus on a shared experience rather than sidelining away into a text message, email, or social media rabbit hole. I encourage partners to start with a one hour block of time and then build from there.
- Make time to touch – Study after study shows the importance of human touch for well-being. In her book Touch (2001) Dr. Tiffany Field says that touch is the first sense to form in the womb and one of the most powerful senses for people of all ages. Building in simple, daily touches with your partner can serve like little bridges of connection throughout the day. Even when you both are too tired to sit and have a long connecting conversation, you can physically connect intentionally. Ways to build in touching your partner can be as simple as holding hands in the car, a hug when you and your partner reconnect after being apart, or even sitting close with legs touching while on the couch.
- Create opportunities for a shared experience – Think about all the opportunities you had to share experiences pre-baby. We know that time becomes such a precious resource after baby, and quality adult-alone-time is hard to come by, so it’s time to get creative. Lean into what your focus is now – your new family. When you, your partner, and your child are together, try to view your new life from a bird’s eye view. You can say “Can you believe that we are doing this together? We get to raise a baby together?!” Take a minute and reminisce about how you both have grown “It was just us for so long, and now there’s three of us.” Noticing aloud what your experience is and how it has shifted creates an opportunity to see the experience as a family, instead of as an isolated person.
Photo credit Brandi Sellers-Jackson