Enlivening Ourselves

Dear Dr. Norquist:

As a new mother of an adopted 6-month-old, I wonder how other couples work out differences in child rearing? For example, I want to stay home with my child but my husband wants me to work. I want to raise her using intuitive attachment parenting and he wants to use the method that lets her "cry it out." This is causing a great deal of conflict in our marriage and I am wondering how we can communicate about this. We have waited a long time for our daughter and were fortunate to be able to adopt her as an infant. Now all I want is to be with my baby, but he still wants me to keep working. What should we do to find compromises in our approach to raising our daughter and find peace again in our marriage?

Dr. Norquist responds:

It sounds like there are many significant differences between you and your husband with regard to how to raise your daughter and how your new roles as parents should affect your daily lives. Integrating a child into your relationship and learning the dance of how to parent together is no small feat for couples. This integration happens over time. The amount of change that has to be integrated by both of you is significant. These new demands can feel depriving to one or both partners. Since you are experiencing such strong and diverging beliefs regarding this issue, I’d suggest you engage the services of a third party to help you come to some agreement on these issues. This could be a marriage and family counselor, a counselor from your church or synagogue, a psychologist or a therapist. What’s important is that you work together to understand each other’s needs, and to establish parenting styles and values that can unite the two of you.

Dear Dr. Norquist:

My mother and grandmother were always worrying about something. My grandmother worried out loud, whereas my mother kept her worries inside, and eventually developed cancer. I used to think it was silly for them to worry so much but over the past few years, I’ve noticed myself in the mirror looking serious and worrisome, and I even find myself expressing my worries to my kids. I certainly don’t want to burden them with my worries. They deserve as carefree of a childhood as I can give them. What can I do to stop worrying.

Dr. Norquist responds:

Worrying is a mental habit. Doesn’t it seem to be born of some kind of magical belief that if we worry about something, maybe it won’t happen or maybe we’ll be prepared? Worrying is a kind of mental reflex we engage in, in an attempt to have some control over our lives. This mental habit is like an addiction; we engage in it in an attempt to feel better and only end up digging a hole for ourselves. After awhile it becomes a part of our usual experience of being in the world. We can even start to feel like something is amiss or something could go wrong if we are not worrying.

To change a habit, you must first become conscious of it. Practice catching yourself engaging in this habit. Find a mental stance where you can observe your thoughts and recognize that this is all only the dance of the mind. From this detached, observing-of-your-thoughts place, consciously choose to let these thoughts go. You could see the thoughts as clouds passing by, or you could see a gust of wind coming and blowing them away. If it feels right to you, you could surrender your worries to God, or to the universe. The point is to practice letting go. Be patient with yourself during this process. You’ve probably exercised this worry habit at least a million times. It is not going to disappear overnight. Consistent practice is the key. If you are not able to let go of the worries, then give yourself a prescribed period of time each day (30 minutes or so) that you can devote to your worrying habit. When your worries come up, write them down and then mentally move on, knowing you will have a set time period later in which to worry to your hearts delight.

(Dr. Sallie Norquist is a licensed clinical psychologist in private practice and is director of Chaitanya Counseling and Stress Management Center, a center for upliftment and enlivenment, in Hoboken.)

Dr. Norquist and the staff of Chaitanya invite you to write them at Chaitanya Counseling and Stress Management Center, 51 Newark St., Suite 205, Hoboken, NJ 07030 or www.chaitanya.com or by e-mail at drnorquist@chaitanya.com, or by fax at (201) 656-4700. Questions can address various topics, including relationships, life’s stresses, difficulties, mysteries and dilemmas, as well as questions related to managing stress or alternative ways of understanding and treating physical symptoms and health-related concerns. Practitioners of the following techniques are available to answer your questions: psychology, acupuncture, swedish and therapeutic massage, naturopathic medicine, hypnosis, yoga, meditation, Bach Flower Remedies, spiritual & transpersonal psychology, Art Therapy, reflexology, Reiki, Shiatsu, Cranial Sacral Therapy, Alexander Technique, and Jin Shin Do. Ó 2000 Chaitanya Counseling and Stress Management Center


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