RSS

Monthly Archives: March 2011

Shocking Realization: I Married Pa Ingalls

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be married to your childhood celebrity crush? If you’re as old as I am, you may have fantasized about Bon Jovi, Rick Springfield or even Patrick Swayze. But who embodied the ideal husband or perfect family for you?

I grew up in the Seventies in the Midwest, a time before cable television. My youthful obsession was the prime-time series Little House on the Prairie. I read all the books and I was seriously smitten with Michael Landon. I did not realize until recently just how much I must have admired him.

Our three little girls have just discovered the wonder of this show, and anxiously await Friday movie nights so we can watch a few more episodes. While watching the first season again in adulthood, I came to the awesome realization that I had fulfilled my childhood fantasy life. Not only do my three girls look remarkably like Mary, Laura and Carrie, but my husband and I eerily resemble Charles and Caroline Ingalls.

Often in parenthood, we put all our time and energy into our children with very little thought left over for how we got these children in the first place. My “baby Carrie” turned three years old this month, so I guess I’ve had a little more time to devote to my partner, who as it turns out, is the manifestation of Pa. He is loving but firm with the girls, an extremely hard worker, amazing at remodeling and woodworking, plays folk tunes on his guitar and is a fun-loving, affectionate spouse. He is also kind enough to read my blog posts, so I imagine he is completely embarrassed right now.

But, let me be clear about my role as Ma. I still love my (unnaturally) pretty shade of blonde hair and brightly painted toenails. I do not make clothing for myself or my children, with the minor exception of a few Halloween costumes. What I do relate to is her resilience, views on motherhood, devotion to God and family, tireless work ethic and her ability to withstand the misguided arrogance of Mrs. Oleson with dignity and grace.

I wrote last week about how lack of sleep during the baby years can negatively impact your marriage. And recently, my friend and marriage researcher, Lori Lowe, wrote a fascinating post called The Formula for Unhappiness is U = I – R about how our earliest memories about relationships play into our current state of happiness or unhappiness in our marriage.

The amount of unhappiness equals images minus reality. This can be measured for relationships, careers and even how we feel about parenting. If we created an image in our minds during childhood that has not become a reality in adulthood, our happiness decreases.

I have to say that I did not consciously create this life that so closely matches my ideal family image from my youth. My husband admitted that the Ingalls were such a huge part of his childhood that he also unknowingly carried this image into adulthood. We both manifested a life that conjures up happiness for us. We have even joked about wanting to live “off the grid”, the modern equivalent of living on the prairie.

Our realization has been joyful and even divine. We are so grateful for all the stages of our lives, even the less happy struggles when we were not living as we truly desired.

So, what images did you create in your mind during childhood? If you are currently unhappy in your partnership, can you attribute it to lack of sleep (see link above) or a large gap between your images and your reality?

Has motherhood turned out the way you imagined or are you simply recreating your own reality from childhood for better or worse? And most importantly, do you have a plan to lessen the gap between your ideal images and your current reality?

Grace and Peace.

Advertisements
 

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Fussy Babies Lead to Marital Dissatisfaction

While most first-time parents are prepared to some extent for the sleepless nights with a new baby, I’m guessing that the ensuing relationship discord comes as a huge surprise. Research published last year by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine reveals that marital dissatisfaction in first-time parents is directly related to daily sleep duration. In other words, less sleep equals less marital satisfaction.

Having survived our two very fussy babies and one easy one, I can certainly attest to the relationship strain that occurred during those years. My girls all had digestive problems and two had a severe dairy protein intolerance. I could not consume any dairy food while nursing them and they were also sensitive to soy proteins. One of the unfortunate side effects of an upset stomach was the inability to sleep for long stretches.

My husband and I had been married for five years before embarking upon our parenting journey. Yet, that first year left our tensions raw and exposed. Three children and nine years later, we can laugh about our first years and the drastic changes in our married life.

But not all marriages make it through the transition to parenthood. In another study of marital satisfaction, 45 percent of men and 58 percent of women reported a decline in marital satisfaction during the first year of parenting.

The American Academy of Sleep Medicine offers these tips to help new parents get a good night’s sleep:
  • Breastfeed your infant. This will help prevent sleep-disrupting problems such as ear infections and diarrhea.
  • Reserve the bed for your own sleep.  Put your baby to sleep in a nearby bassinet, cradle or crib.
  • Try your best to keep your baby on a consistent schedule. Both you and your baby will be able to sleep better.
  • Take naps when your baby is asleep.
  • Make caring for the baby a team effort. Create an “on-duty” and “off-duty” schedule to share tasks with your spouse or other caregiver. This will give both of you opportunities to rest.
  • Recruit family members or friends to help care for the baby when he or she is awake. Use these breaks to get some sleep.
  • Ask family and friends to help with meals and household chores. This will give you more opportunities to nap.

In addition to these tips, I would add a few of my own from our years in the trenches:

  • Make a new date night ritual with your spouse. Carry out a favorite meal, eat in your home wearing your pajamas and snuggle up in bed for the sole purpose of sleeping. Allow each other to take long naps on the weekends, without judgment or resentment.
  • Become friends with your breast pump. I hated to pump, but after enduring our first baby who would not take a bottle, I quickly changed my ways for the next two. Because of our dairy and soy problems, formula was not an option. But pumping in the morning allowed me to express enough milk for a full bottle. This allowed my husband to give a full feeding at night so I could go to bed earlier.
  • Talk about how you are feeling. For moms who give up a career outside the home or cut back on freelance hours, you are dealing with the loss of your old identity. Your spouse may be dealing with new challenges, but mostly his life is still about getting up and going to work. New moms often lose friends and business associates (I was promptly released from a long-term client immediately after giving birth.) It’s important to work through these changes together to avoid feelings of resentment. If you’re not sure about how to discuss these feelings without arguing, seek out a trained pro-marriage counselor.

Most importantly, keep your experience in perspective. The baby year is literally just one year in what should be a long and supportive partnership. But during that one year, make sleep your top priority. Lack of sleep not only kills a marriage; it can also kill a job, a friendship and cause a multitude of health problems. So, seriously, shut off the computer and get your sleep!

Grace and peace.

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,