No mom is an island. Despite the fact that we are surrounded by children all day, mom-ing can be a lonely task.
In the busyness of our daily lives, it's easy to take our children for granted—running out of the house with only a cursory wave or kiss or picking up our children from school without getting off the phone. The same can happen with partners. We start off feeling like Prince Harry and Meghan, but now it's closer to Al and Peggy Bundy. Those former deep soul-gazing conversations have been replaced by tag teaming diaper blowouts and catching up on work and television after the kiddos go to bed.
It is incredibly normal for our relationships to take the back burner in our hectic lives. But, a loving relationship supports your mental health, reduces your risk of heart disease, and even lengthens your life span. So the investment into your relationships is totally worth it.
If you find that you've started to lose touch with your partner or your children, it may be time for a little connection reset. So I have a challenge for you: For the next week, let's try to be extravagant with our love.
If it sounds impossible between this meeting or that school pickup, try these hacks to make it happen.
1. Center yourself before you greet your family.
We bring home a lot of baggage that distracts us long after we walk in the door. Before you welcome your family, do a mini–mindfulness exercise:
- Identify an object (ideally something natural, such as a flower or tree).
- Set your phone timer for one minute, and simply look at the object, pretending it's the first time you see it.
- Really think about the object. If it's a flower, what color is it? Are all the petals the same color? Do any look discolored or uneven? Can you smell it? Is it moving in the wind?
Focusing your attention on something neutral helps you turn your attention away from frustrations so that you can turn it to your loved ones.
2. Greet your family like you haven't seen them in ages.
In The Mayo Clinic Guide to Stress-Free Living, Dr. Amit Sood asks, "Can you greet your loved ones at the end of each day as if you're seeing them for the first time after 10 days?" Just try it. Something so simple can make all of the difference.
3. Compliment them.
Tell your children and partner that you love them and are proud of their hard work. Explain why you're grateful for them, or tell them that you respect their good behavior and support. Be as specific as possible, as frequently as you can.
4. Do a weekly 'board meeting' with your partner.
A good girlfriend started doing this with her husband every Sunday at a time when they were feeling disconnected. After the kiddos are in bed, they each share six things they're thankful for. They then go over the calendar for the week, and end with six dreams that they each have for what's ahead.
No judgments allowed, just free space to share their wishes and goals. She told me "it created intimacy for us after nine years of marriage that we didn't even realize we were craving."
5. Learn how to say yes when it's inconvenient.
Your partner tries to embrace you, but you brush them off while you're doing dishes. Or your child wants to play, but you're busy sending an email.
Dr. Richard Kannwischer, head pastor at Peachtree Presbyterian Church, taught what researcher John Gottman calls "bids for connection:" Tiny, subtle invitations to engage. To meet a bid, you must respond on the requestor's timeline, not yours. Which means it's not always convenient.
Say 'yes' if you can stop what you're doing. But if you can't, thoughtful response will still nurture the relationship. Instead of a distracted, "I'm busy," try, "I love playing with you, and I wish I could right now. I have to finish one thing. Can we promise to play in 30 minutes?" This sets the expectations up without brushing off loved ones.
These may seem like small practices, but I promise they can make a world of difference. So get out there and have an extravegant love-filled week, mama.