You put your best foot forward when it comes to career, kids and clients, but in the stress of balancing work and family, romantic connections with the most important partner in your life often take a back seat. Yet neglecting the “roots” of it all — your romantic relationship — often leads to even greater stress. In this issue of Working Mom 3.0, writer Stephanie Taylor Christensen explores how being a little more like the girl you were can improve your success as a stay-at-home working mom.
Most of us remember our first date. My husband and I had ours on a sunny Sunday afternoon in the fall. We laughed, talked and got to know one another. I was charming and funny. He was thoughtful and attentive. Given that it was a “school night,” we both had stressful jobs to face the next day, but none of it seemed to matter. We didn’t sit and complain about our bosses, our exhaustion, money stresses or lack of time. So why do we allow our relationship conversations to focus on those topics when we enter a life of kids, career and family?
Naturally, there is a “breaking down of the walls” that happens once you enter parenthood with a partner, and there is a beauty in finding the trust and intimacy to be honest. But when you hit a brick wall at work, you don’t continue the pattern. Instead, you hold a brainstorming session, attend a seminar, seek advice or change your scenery in order to find a new approach.
Your relationship is no different. In fact, you may find that you can usher in a whole of new era of success as a stay-at-home working mom by revisiting the ways of the days of old.
Break the pattern
Just as trying a new place or location can rekindle a spark, so can altering your interaction. Psychologists term this a “pattern interrupt.” Basically, it is a response that is so unexpected and out of the norm that it breaks the tension and potential for mounting conflict. If your partner acts grumpy after a trying day, and your patterned response is to return the moody behavior, be mindful and break the cycle. Instead of being negative, bring awareness to the needs your partner is trying to express, and offer comfort and support. You may be surprised how the favor is returned — and the conflict is resolved — when you bring understanding to the situation.
Put on your dating hat
Do you remember what you were like when you were dating? It’s important to remember anniversaries and special moments — but it’s even more important to remember the way you actually behaved in those early days. Psychologist Michael Cunningham explains that “when you’re dating, you’re hypervigilant. Once there’s a commitment, you feel entitled to relax.” Coupled with the stress of marriage, career and kids, that relaxation can be any number of things — from your personal appearance to letting fly with your biting tongue. Replicate the woman you were on that first date once in a while. It might renew the spark you shared when life was a little simpler and less stressful.
Ask for appreciation
When you’re working with a difficult client or boss who doesn’t seem to appreciate the work you do, you’ll generally find a way to communicate your concerns and your thoughts on improving conditions before pandemonium ensues. The same approach is true for your partner. Regardless of how close you might be, no one can read your mind. Take a cue from back in those early days of dating, when you told the “story” of yourself to one another to build a solid connection.