December 27, 2019
Series: Brilliant Activities for Birth Educators - "It's a Date!"- Maintaining Relationships Post-Baby
By: Sharon Muza, BS, CD/BDT(DONA), LCCE, FACCE, CLE | 0 Comments
This month’s Brilliant Activities for Birth Educators is an idea that educators can use to remind parents of the importance of remaining connected and working on maintaining a positive relationship with each other when a new baby is welcomed into the home. A thorough childbirth educator also dedicates time to helping families transition after the baby is born. This time is just as important as the labor and birth experience. To read the entire Brilliant Activities for Birth Educators collection, follow this link.
During my childbirth classes, I make sure to address the time after the baby has arrived and families are settling in to the “new normal”. Sleep is in short supply, stress is high and the demands of caring for a new baby often mean that any energy and time that would normally be dedicated to nurturing and caring for the parents’ relationship gets short shrift if it gets any attention at all.
I like to share the research of Doctors John and Julie Gottman and the Gottman Institute. These researchers have dedicated their careers to providing the tools that couples need to build and maintain strong relationships while growing their families. In the evidence-based Bringing Baby Home workshops taught by educators around the world, and through the Gottman book And Baby Makes Three, couples learn tools to stay connected and strong through the addition of a baby.
This “It’s a Date!” activity stresses the importance of strengthening and maintaining the relationship during the new baby transition. The original idea of the “date contract” comes from longtime Lamaze educator and Passion for Birth trainer Ann Tumblin, and I have since modified it to include the “lucky red envelope.”
According to The Seattle Times:
“Red envelopes or hongbao in Mandarin and lai see in Cantonese are small red and gold packets containing money given to children, family members, friends and employees as a symbol of good luck. In Chinese culture, the color red is associated with energy, happiness and good luck. The red envelope itself is considered lucky not necessarily the money inside.”
When to do this activity?
I do this activity when I am talking about postpartum adjustment and life with a new baby, typically toward the end of an 8 week series class.
How long does this activity take?
I would allow about 8-10 minutes for the entire activity including facilitation, individual work and group discussion.
How to conduct this activity
In the discussion on the transitions to parenthood, I share some brief tidbits from the Gottmans about how 70% of couples are more dissatisfied with their relationship one year after the addition of a new baby. (Gottman J., and Gottman J., 2008) I talk about the importance of making time for nurturing the relationship post-baby just as much as they did before baby. I hand out the play money and the lucky red envelope. “I wish this was real money that I can give all of you – to use in the future!” I also discuss the “lucky envelope” tradition. I invite each family to write on the back of the play money the answers to the following questions:
- How old will your baby be when you go out on your first date without baby?
- Where will you go?
- Why will you choose to go there?
- What will you do?
- Who do you think will watch your baby while you are gone?
- How many times do you imagine checking in on your baby while on the date?
- How easy will it be to talk about something other than your child?
- How long will the date last?
- Other points to consider?
Finally, I ask both partners to put the money with their personal date details inside the lucky envelope and both sign across the seal on the outside. Now it is a “contract.” I suggest that they put the red envelope in a conspicuous place or common area of their home to remind themselves of their plans for their planned date, and even more importantly, the significance of working on their relationship as they transition to parenthood.
We discuss as a group some barriers to relationship building with a new baby in the home, and popcorn ideas to move those barriers out of the way.
What do families say about this activity?
I believe that during the activity, families are a bit stunned by some of the facts about hurdles to maintaining the relationship and the increased dissatisfaction reported after the baby comes. Where this activity come full circle is during our class reunion once all the babies have arrived. It is at this event that families share the challenges they have faced and the significance of the “date contract” when they have had an opportunity to recognize the shift in their relationship post baby. Time and time again, they share how they appreciate the “lucky red envelope” as a gentle reminder to make time for each other and their adult relationship in a positive and healthy way.
As in everything childbirth educators do in class, the key is to make it memorable enough that families will recall the information when they need it down the road. Whether that is during labor and birth or in the early months of parenting. This activity provides for great thought and discussion when we do it in class and is the gift that keeps on giving once the new family is home and needing some simple reminders to take care of their relationship with each other along with the new baby. Would you do this activity in your childbirth classes? Do you think you would modify it in any way? Let us know in the comments section below.
Gottman, J. M., & Gottman, J. S. (2008). And baby makes three: The six-step plan for preserving marital intimacy and rekindling romance after baby arrives. Harmony.
TagsParenting Childbirth education Postpartum Relationships Brilliant Activities For Birth Educators Series: Brilliant Activities For Birth Educators Sharon Muza John Gottman Julie Gottman