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I’m sure we can all agree—fighting stinks.

But, unfortunately, it’s inevitable in a marriage. You’re dealing with shared finances, heavy work loads, (never-ending) laundry, dishes (ugh!), creating children, maintaining children, not to mention making each other—and yourself—happy.


It’s a lot. You and your partner should be equally prepared to communicate effectively with one another in order to tackle small issues and those bigger, more important issues and decisions that come up.

“Fighting” can actually be productive as long as some general, agreed upon few rules are followed. So, how can a couple really “fight fair”?

Dr. Anne Brennan Malec, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and author of Marriage in Modern Life gave us her best tips:

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1. Create a safety zone.

Every couple needs to create a conversational safety zone with agreed-upon rules that both partners try to follow. Set yourselves up for success when discussing complicated or contentious issues by proposing a day, time, and agenda. Make sure that the time and place works well for each of your schedules. First thing in the morning or as soon as your partner arrives home from work may not be the best time. It might make sense to meet for lunch or coffee outside of the house and away from the kids to keep the focus on the agenda.

2. Engage in active listening.

When talking with your partner, engage in active listening, or use what is called the “speaker/listener technique”, which can be very effective in slowing down the conversation and preventing conflict escalation.

The rules are pretty simple. Each partner takes turn being the Speaker and the Listener. Whoever is the Speaker starts by expressing his or her concern in two to four sentences at a time. Then the Speaker checks in with the Listener to make sure that he or she understands what the Speaker is trying to convey. The Listener can ask questions for clarification and should paraphrase what the Speaker is saying. Partners continue in this manner until the Speaker feels heard and understood. Then the partners switch roles and continue the conversation.

By focusing only on what the Speaker is saying, the Listener is discouraged from being reactive or worrying about how he or she plans to respond. Concurrently, the Speaker must organize his or her thoughts and focus on communicating clearly and authentically.

3. Limit the time spent on discussing an issue.

When practicing the “speaker/listener” technique, set a timer, say 30 minutes, and see how far you can get in the conversation. When the time runs out, agree to either add more time or continue the conversation on another day.

If one of you starts yelling or getting angry, table the discussion for another time. Work on managing your anger instead of taking it out on your partner. By stopping the conversation, you are showing your partner that you acknowledge your temper and would rather continue the conversation at a time when you are more clear-headed. Just be sure to agree to a future time and place to continue the discussion before walking away.

4. Don’t drag other arguments into your current argument.

Make sure you stick to the agenda and do not let the conversation drift into other areas on which you disagree. If after engaging in active listening and thoughtful communicating you still cannot agree on a particular issue, it may make sense for partners to take turns in making the final decision, like in the game of basketball when the referees decides which team gets the ball based upon the possession arrow. In order for this to work, it must be fair and the decisions should be comparable in nature.


Dr. Anne Brennan Malec is the founder and managing partner of Symmetry Counseling, a group counseling, coaching, and psychotherapy practice located in downtown Chicago. She has been instrumental in Symmetry Counseling’s growth and success, and what started in 2011 with just six offices and five counselors has expanded to include over 20 professionals and 19 offices in two Chicago locations. Dr. Malec, who had an earlier career in business, made a significant shift in 2000 when she began her training in the fields of Marriage and Family Therapy and later, Clinical Psychology.

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My official title at home is Mom, but my unofficial title is CEO of Family Operations. Parenting is a team effort, sure, but I tend to take on the largest share of responsibility for keeping everything in the household afloat. It's theoretically possible to tackle the daily demands of motherhood, marriage and work as an army of one. It's also highly unpleasant. The key to preserving a shred of sanity? Learning to delegate.

Accepting or asking for help is something many moms, myself included, struggle with, but the most effective corporate CEOs do it every day without guilt or apology.

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Delegating seems easy enough in the instances when handling something yourself isn't an option. If you work full-time, for example, then, of course, you need outside help with childcare. If a pipe bursts in your house, you hire a plumber. If you forget you volunteered to make cookies for the school bake sale, you turn to the good folks over at your local bakery and call it a day.

Delegating gets trickier, however, when you know you're able to take on a certain task, but only at a significant cost to your already limited time and energy.

One of the biggest traps I fall into is the idea that "If I can do it, I should do it." That attitude often leaves me feeling overloaded, frazzled and generally frustrated. For instance, I have three kids who need to bathe on a semi-regular basis. I am usually home in the run-up to bedtime, and I spent years feeling as though I should be an active participant in bath time while also getting dinner on the table and trying not to snap at everybody.

But why? I have a perfectly capable husband who is home most evenings, and two of my kids are old enough to handle turning on a shower and opening a shampoo bottle. I'm sure bath time in some houses is full of laughter and bubbles, but at my house, it usually turns into whining and splashing as I think longingly ahead to the hour when all the non-grownups will be in bed.

This was clearly a situation that called for delegating, and I finally got over my irrational guilt and did just that. Everyone gets clean just fine on their own (or with the help of another competent adult), and I am happier every evening because of it.

When Facebook experiences a technical glitch, Mark Zuckerberg could likely write the code to fix it, but instead he delegates. Shonda Rhimes could conceivably come up with every new romantic plot twist in Grey's Anatomy, but she has a Shondaland empire to run, so she delegates. There is no reason the rest of us should behave any differently.

Once I stopped equating "can" with "should," and once I started accepting a helping hand and figuring out alternative solutions, I was able to devote more time and energy to the parts of parenting that are the most meaningful to me and my kids. To be clear: that doesn't mean I now simply delegate all the hard, exhausting and painful stuff—or even most of it. But I'm less often sidetracked by the things that really aren't that important. Slowly but steadily, I'm getting better at sharing the load.

Moms are CEOs of a nonstop, extremely demanding and unpredictable operation. By opening up a little bandwidth, we're able to remember that it's also the best job in the world.

Life

Winter is here, mama, full of snow days, toasty fireplaces and yummy hot cocoa. But the colder temperatures can bring an onslaught of hair issues, like split ends and hair breakage. Your hair can actually accumulate a lot of damage in this season. Sure, most breakage is from the cold temperatures, but wool hats and scarves can also leave your strands pretty wrecked, too. Add in an itchy scalp that follows because of the lack of moisture in the air and you're in need of a little hair care.

So if you're making seasonal swaps with your skincare, home decor, and kid essentials, follow suit with your hair routine. That's why we asked Linsey Barbuto, artistic director and founder of Perlei salon, and Judy McGuinness, stylist at Mizu Licari Hair salon, for their top tips mamas can use to protect hair from the winter elements.

Here are their go-to tips for healthy, frizz-free, shiny locks:

1. Skip parabens + sulfates

We always make sure to protect our little ones from harsh ingredients, so why shouldn't we protect ourselves, too? When choosing a product to use on your hair, whether it be a shampoo or a styling product (a good go-to is Oribe shampoos and conditioners), always check the label, says Barbuto. If the product contains parabens (a preserve used to keep cosmetics fresh), sulfates (chemicals used as cleansing agents) or phthalates (chemicals used to soften solvents in cosmetics) stay away. Some studies have suggested that these ingredients are hormone disruptors, and many have been linked to cancer.

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2. Create a washing routine

Not all hair is created equal so the overarching rule of washing your hair twice a week might work for some, but it can be damaging for others. To determine the right amount of washing for your mane, identify the type of hair you have. "Here's my rule—if you have curly and coily hair, wash it once a week; if it's frizzy, wash it every three to four days; if you have fine hair, opt for every other since it gets super oily," says Barbuto.

Editor pick: Eufora urgent repair shampoo

3. Avoid using a bath towel to dry your hair

Wrapping your hair tightly with a bath towel causes stress and damage to your hair. The friction can cause breakage, knots and eventually lead to split ends. But, if you've been using a towel, don't stress it—simply switch to an old t-shirt or a microfiber towel instead, says Barbuto. And, if you must use a bath towel, pat, don't rub your hair.

Editor pick: Aquis hair towel

4. Try a nourishing hair oil

Simply put, hair oils coat the outer cuticle of the hair shaft, leaving it protected from harsh winter elements. "I've played around with a few different brands, but end up going back to Oribe's gold lust oil to preserve my hair," says McGuinness. It's not too heavy, can be used on wet or dry hair, and prevents and helps to heal damaged ends."

Editor pick: Amika glass action universal elixir

5. Use a hair mask weekly

For busy moms, a shower can feel like an indulgence, so why not add in some hair love?

"Simply run a generous amount through your dry hair, focusing on the ends," says McGuinness. "Wait 5 minutes then hop in the shower and shampoo and conditioner as usual! I've found this to be the easiest way to treat my blonde ends, without feeling like I'm wasting time." McGuinness' pick? Jess & Lou's 5 minute resq hair therapy.

Editor pick: Briogeo don't despair, repair! deep conditioning mask

6. Back off on the heat

In the summer, it's much easier to just let your hair dry naturally, but there are a couple ways to get the benefits of no heat in the winter as well. "I like to take a shower at night and air dry my hair before bed. If necessary, in the morning I'll quickly run a large curling iron through my hair to give a little undone texture," says McGuinness. "Once you're happy with your style, apply dry shampoo to extend your style. Each day add in a bit more, massaging in with your fingers to absorb excess oil." Her current favorite is Dry Bar's detox dry shampoo—"a little goes a long way, and I don't have to wash my hair for at least two or three days," she says.

Editor pick: Cake Beauty the 'do gooder volumizing dry shampoo

7. Maintain haircuts

Even if you're growing your hair out, it's important to get a trim or dusting to remove split ends about every two months, says McGuinness. This keeps the split ends from traveling further up your hair shaft, leading to a bigger cut in the future.

8. Swap shampoo for a cleansing creme

Instead of using a shampoo, try a cleansing creme instead. "It doesn't have to be for every wash, but every time you choose to use a cleansing conditioner in place of regular shampoo, it adds much more moisture without stripping the hair at all," says McGinness. Try Oribe cleansing creme for medium to thick hair, and R+CO analog cleansing foam conditioner for fine to medium hair, says McGinness.

Editor pick: AG Hair texture cleansing cream
Life

Parenthood has a way of making table talk out of otherwise taboo subjects. Case in point: You will likely keep a subconscious log of your child's bowel movements for several years—and for good reason. Although constipation is relatively common with up to 30% of children experiencing it, parents who understand the triggers and best treatment methods can help reduce discomfort and avoid recurrences.

When trying to find relief for constipation, the very first step should be determining the cause, says Dr. Latha Vrittamani, MD, a pediatrician with Stanford Children's Health. The challenge here is that there are multiple possibilities, including both physical and psychological triggers.

That said, the majority of pediatric constipation cases Dr. Vrittamani sees at her Bayside Medical Group practice are associated with three transitions: when an infant is starting solids, when a toddler is toilet training and when a child is starting school.

Unfortunately, as diets become more processed and lives become busier, research shows rates of constipation are increasing among the general population—and the issue can compound when a child begins to associate pain with going to the bathroom.

"When there is constipation, try to tackle it early because chronic constipation comes from not intervening at the right time," says Dr. Vrittamani.

Here is what parents should know about pediatric constipation so there can be peace at potty time once again:

Identifying constipation

For the most part, constipation is easy to identify: A child is uncomfortable while unable to pass a stool, experiences minutes of straining and pain while attempting a bowel movement, or goes three or fewer times per week with hard, dry stool. Other side effects may include a distended belly or, in more serious cases, vomiting, fever or bloody stool—which Dr. Vrittamani says are good cues to call a doctor.

Although some children are more prone to constipation due to genetic causes, dietary or psychological factors can be the difference between relatively easy bowel movements or chronic struggles. A smaller number of constipation cases may be related to other causes, such as spinal abnormalities, Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) or other conditions diagnosable by a physician.

But there are some misconceptions about constipation that can throw off parents. It's common for breastfed newborns, for example, to go days between stools and they may even appear to strain in order to have a bowel movement because of immature abdominal toning. The difference in these cases is that the babies don't experience the more tell-tale signs of constipation, such as belly distention, irritability or hard stools. (It is best to trust your own gut if you're concerned or call your family pediatrician!)

Dietary causes + cures for constipation

More typically, constipation challenges coincide with the introduction of solid foods—especially as highly starchy, processed or dairy-rich foods enter the baby's diet. Some culprits may even be surprising, such as apples, sweet potatoes and bananas. Rather than banish these foods from the home altogether, Dr. Vrittamani suggests "mixing and matching" at mealtime with foods that can help keep the digestive system moving along.

A few good examples she points to include…

  • "P- fruits," such as prunes, plums, pears, peaches, papaya and pineapple
  • Avocado
  • Berries
  • Lentils
  • Flaxseed for babies over 8 months
  • Brussels sprouts or broccoli
  • Prune juice

If diversifying your child's diet isn't working or you're eager for a short-term solution, Dr. Vrittamani also suggests offering small amounts of a concentrated apple juice. Even in a small dose, the pectin naturally found in apple juice can help stimulate the digestive system—and the encouragement to drink extra fluid can help, too. In fact, limited fluid intake is a commonly overlooked cause that may contribute to constipation. But, thankfully, it is just as easily fixed by encouraging water consumption throughout the day. (A good reminder for us all!)

A few more remedies include…

  • Moving baby's legs in a bicycle motion or encouraging older kids to play.
  • Taking a baby's temperature rectally, which can loosen stools.
  • Giving your baby a warm bath.
  • For older children, drinking warm lemon water.
  • Offering a probiotic supplement or food, such as yogurt.

If the constipation persists, a physician such as those at Stanford Children's Health would be able to offer advice on the proper course of treatment. Dr. Vrittamani says this should always be done before drastic, potentially dangerous steps are taken.

Specifically, she would advise against…

  • Stimulating laxatives
  • Milk of magnesia
  • Changing a baby's formula preparation to include more water
  • Switching to a low-iron formula
  • Mineral oil for children under age 2

Common psychological triggers

Although dietary changes may benefit anyone struggling with constipation, the cause isn't always dietary in nature: Especially in situations like toilet training or going to school for the first time, a child may end up "holding it in" out of fear or anxiety. This can be avoided or minimized by reading a child's cues about how he or she is feeling before sending the child into uncomfortable new territory.

Looking at potty training, parents should look for readiness signs, such as vocalizations about wet diapers and an interest in using the potty that is encouraged with books and videos on the subject. "What is important is for us to realize that when parents do start toilet training they want to do it in a way that is non-threatening so the child is involved in it," says Dr. Vrittamani, adding parents should use "encouragement rather than punishment" and employ non-food rewards.

Like the rest of us, children are also beings of habit, so it can help to create a routine out of potty time. Dr. Vrittamani suggests encouraging a child to sit on a toilet after breakfast each day for no more than 10 minutes, but without distractions from books or videos.

For school-aged children, the same kinds of stress may contribute to constipation, which can be compounded by anxiety about cleaning themselves or having to tell a teacher when they need to go. "All of this becomes a self-esteem issue eventually," says Dr. Vrittamani, explaining parents should work with children before school on having bathroom confidence and independence.

Just as constipation triggers can vary from child to child, the right solution may require a bit of time and experimentation to pin down. But with these best practices in mind for a solid starting point, you can minimize the struggle—and hopefully prevent constipation from making a return to your home anytime soon.

This article was sponsored by Stanford Children's Health. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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It's finally 2020. It's hard to believe but the old decade is over, the new one is here and it is bringing a lot of new life with it. The babies born this year are members of Generation Alpha and the world is waiting for them.

We're only a few days into the new year and there are already some new celebrity arrivals making headlines while making their new parents proud.

If your little one arrived (or is due to arrive) in 2020, they've got plenty of high profile company.

Here are all the celebrity babies born in 2020 (so far):

Ashley Graham is a mama! 🎉

A new chapter is unfolding for model and podcaster Ashley Graham, who just announced she and her husband Justin Ervin have met their baby.

The baby arrived Saturday, according to a post made on Graham's Instagram Stories.

"At 6:00pm on Saturday our lives changed for the better," reads the Story. "Thank you for all your love and support during this incredible time."

Graham previously announced that she and Ervin were expecting a son. They initially announced the pregnancy on their ninth wedding anniversary.

Congratulations to Ashley and Justin!

Cameron Diaz and Benji Madden just welcomed a baby girl! 🎉

Surprise! Cameron Diaz and Benji Madden are ringing in the New Year as first-time parents!

"Happy New Year from the Maddens!" reads a birth announcement posted to both Diaz and Madden's Instagram accounts. "We are so happy, blessed and grateful to begin this new decade by announcing the birth of our daughter, Raddix Madden. She has instantly captured our hearts and completed our family."

Raddix Madden is the first child for Diaz, 47, and Madden, 40.

The couple say they won't be posting any pictures of their daughter on social media as they "feel a strong instinct to protect our little one's privacy."

Congratulations to the Maddens! 🎉

Dylan Dreyer of 'Today' is a mom of 2! 

Today meteorologist Dylan Dreyer and her husband Brian Fichera, welcomed their second child, Oliver George Fichera, the first week of January 2020. Oliver joins his big brother Calvin to make the family a foursome.

Dreyer is still recovering from birth but her voice was on TV this week when she called into her show with an update on her new family. "I feel good," Dylan told her colleagues. "I just feel so happy and so blessed."

Caterina Scorsone of 'Grey's Anatomy' now has 3 girls!

Caterina Scorsone of Grey's Anatomy has so much to be thankful for in 2020: She's now a mom of three! The actress announced the birth of her daughter via Instagram, noting that her baby's name is Arwen.

Arwen joins big sisters Eliza, 7, and 3-year-old Paloma, who has Down syndrome. Speaking on The Motherly Podcast last year, Scorsone explained how Paloma's diagnosis made her "whole concept of what motherhood was had to shift."

It is likely shifting again, as any mama who has gone from two kids to three knows.

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