This post originally appeared on an amazing blog that you should all check out: Twinning Babywise. I wrote this guest post for Cole in September of 2016. As I look back at it, I think it's just one of those concepts to always keep in mind and have as a goal to always improve upon. As Caroline gets older, we'll be able to incorporate more and more of these ideas into our typical routines.
Babywise "Couch Time": Making Your Marriage A Priority
One of the basic principles of Babywise, is that if you have a strong marriage, you will be able to provide a sense of stability for your children. This, in turn, will promote healthy behaviors (both emotional and physical). In fact, this is one of the very first topics that is discussed in the Babywise book! The foundation of a great start to Babywise, is focusing on your marriage first.
"A healthy and vibrant marriage relationship is essential to the emotional health of children (as well as to Mom and Dad's emotional welfare). When there is harmony in the marriage, there is an infused stability within the family". (On Becoming Babywise, page 29)
"When a child observes the special friendship and emotional togetherness of his parents, he is naturally more secure because of his confidence in Mom and Dad's relationship." (On Becoming Babywise, page 29)
"When the marriage relationship is beautiful, what impressionable child would not desire to share in its joy?" (On Becoming Babywise, page 29)
Garry Ezzo goes on to describe several action principles that can help to achieve this overarching goal.
1. Continue living- The relationships you had before your baby (as a wife/husband, brother/sister, daughter/son) are still important and worth protecting. Make sure you keep those relationships strong.
2. Date your spouse- Make it a priority to take your spouse. Either continue date nights, or implement it now.
3. Continue loving gestures- Keep the marriage special. Give gifts to one another, and celebrate each other in new or old ways.
4. Practice Couch Time- Sit and talk with your spouse each day, in front of your child.
5. Know what to expect of each other before baby arrives- Discuss your roles as parents, and who is responsible for what items. Things as simple as who will be getting up for the middle of the night feeding are key to discuss.
I remember reading this excerpt from the first Babywise book and thinking that these things would just naturally happen. Some of them do, but others take a back seat at times if you don't focus your attention on them. I also completely agree with the philosophy of putting your marriage before your children. The marriage is the foundation of the entire family. If you keep the foundation healthy, the family will stay healthy. This is not to say that you don't sacrifice for your children. I fully believe that you can put your marriage first and that your children will be happier as a result. I don't know if my parents intended to or not, but they put their marriage first. I can clearly see that, and I had an incredibly happy childhood. I also had high expectations of my marriage and future partner as a result of this upbringing.
Caroline is now almost 2 years old. I think we did a great job of discussing and setting expectations with one another and our new roles as parents ahead of time. We also did #1 very well and simply continued living. While our lives did suddenly revolve around our child, they only did to a certain extent. We still went to the company Christmas party, we still went out and did the things we normally did. When visitors come over they are more than welcome to talk at a normal level instead of whispering in fear of waking the baby that is sleeping upstairs. We live. We had to adjust a few things, but we adapted instead of discontinuing the things we enjoy doing.
Dating is one that took a back seat for us. We never used to have formal dates, so there was no practice that was easy to continue on. Our date nights have become family nights. Mostly because that's what we enjoy. I also think that having family nights enables our daughter to see the relationship that we have as parents. We honestly didn't feel the desire to go out without Caroline for quite awhile. We've been on 2 dates (without our daughter) since she was born. She is now 21 months old. That probably sounds crazy to some of you!
Part of why this happened, is that we don't have built in babysitters that are near by. If we had family close by, we'd probably take advantage more often. We have to find and hire babysitters, and in the beginning it didn't seem worth the effort. Now that our daughter is nearing 2, however, I am starting to feel the need/desire to go out on dates and have adult time without her. I think this is even more of a desire since I am a stay at home mom. Having that adult interaction is something that is nonexistent otherwise! This is something that my husband and I are going to have to start doing for ourselves. Realistically (financially and with our schedule), it won't be weekly, and it won't even be monthly, but every 2-4 months seems more reasonable than what we've been doing! Caroline is too young to know if we go out on dates, so it is not for her sake (yet), but is really for us to get much needed time together. And, as I type this I realize that, while we've had 2 date nights that were out of the house, we've also had a few date nights in (once Caroline was in bed). We like to turn on old music and sit, listen, and sing. Something as simple as that really does count as a date night, since it's what we want to do.
So, if you are like us and don't have family around, get creative with those date nights, but make them happen! I am realizing more and more how important it is to have that connection with your spouse as a dedicated time. If it isn't set aside as a dedicated time, it will get lost in the shuffle of parenting pretty easily!
Couch time. This is one that is easy to never start and even lose track of! Before children, this comes naturally. After children, this actually requires effort! So, let's elaborate on this one and discuss more about what it is.
Couch time as described by Ezzo: "At the end of each workday, spend at least 15 minutes sitting with your spouse discussing the day's events. This simple gesture provides children a tangible sense of their parents' togetherness and fulfills one of their greatest emotional needs- the need to know of Mom and Dad's strong love for each other". (On Becoming Babywise, page 30)
Do you literally have to sit on the couch? No.
The idea is that you dedicate 15 minutes to spending time with your spouse. The key is that you do this in front of your child. Your child gets to see firsthand, that you are a parental team. They get to see that Mom and Dad are a priority and that you have discussions with one another and make time for each other.
I think the big point here is that you make time for each other and show this to your child. As your child gets older, you'll have to set aside a box of toys for them or engage them in an activity near by. They need to be able to see you and hear you for this to be effective.
I really love this concept, but I will admit that right now we struggle to put this into practice. Many of you will relate to this as well. My husband has a busy season at work that lasts from May into September. He works every single day (including weekends), and by the time he gets home it's practically time to put our daughter to bed.
Since we follow Babywise, our daughter goes to bed early. Our "couch time" during this season has become sitting at the dinner table as a family (while Daddy eats, since we've already eaten). We briefly discuss the day's events. Caroline is just starting to talk, so we also try and include her in this discussion. So, while it's Mama and Daddy talking to one another, it's more of a family time than a parent moment for sure.
As my husband's busy season winds down I envision this turning into more of a true couch time. Daddy comes home and gives everyone a kiss and a hug. I love that Caroline see's him come over to hug and kiss me. This goes in line with the whole concept of making your marriage a priority. I can see them playing together for a moment, and then making it a point for my husband and I to sit down together, while Caroline continues to play.
The reality is that these few minutes really do show our children that we are a team. And, if you are going to have success as a parents, you truly must be a team. Couch time, in conjunction with the other action principles mentioned above, will provide a great foundation for this to naturally occur. Just remember that it's ok to make this work for you and fit it into your lives the best way possible. If the only time you have is at the dinner table, make that work! I can easily see a family sitting down together and having family time. Then, the children are allowed to get down, and Mom and Dad can continue to sit at the table together for a short period of time. This seems to naturally flow very well!
As a side note, I also want to mention that I think it's so important for children to learn about real marriages and not fairy-tale marriages. Real marriages are partnerships that are strong, but are not without disagreement. Some of the quotes above seem to read as though you need to show the perfect marriage to your children. I don't think that is the point that Ezzo is trying to get across. I think the main point is that you are showing your children a "healthy relationship". To me this means that, in addition to showing all of the above positive moments, it is ok and even beneficial to show your children that disagreements happen, and even arguments. It is what you do after the argument that is key. Problem solve together, in front of your child. Respect one another and apologize when necessary, in front of your child. Set your child up for success by letting them see the resolution when at all possible.
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