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On being present with your growing family

There is something chilling about where the world is going with social media: we are constantly hunched over with our heads down, not making eye contact or small talk with actual people because there’s a wealth of possibly “more interesting” things right in the palm of our hands. Then there’s the added pressure of doing everything “right”, and stressing about how we are going about our day-to-day makes us forget to be in the moment. Here are some tips on how to stay present with your family:

PHOTO BY: Jenna Christina, San Francisco Bay Area, CA

Let go of trying to be the perfect parent

The more time you spend stressing out about whether you are doing things perfectly or how you’re “supposed” to do them, the less time you will spend being present and observing—and figuring out!—what works for you and your baby.

(Hanging out on baby forums may drive you nuts!)

PHOTO BY: No Cheese Please, Leiden, the Netherlands

Let go of expectations of your baby

If you get too focused on what your baby “should be” doing at x weeks old, you spend your time worrying about the future instead of enjoying the present. The most important gift you can give your baby is to be there for them and see what clues they are giving you to what they need—they will grow at their own pace.

Bond with your baby

Bond with your baby by singing to them, looking them in the eyes while feeding them, massaging them, and just talking about things that are happening around them. If there are older siblings in the family as well, incorporate them into baby activities in ways that are safe for them and baby.

PHOTO BY: Antonina Mamzenko, London, UK

Have phone-free time

We all know we should have time away from screens because they distract us from the people that we are with in that very moment – but it’s so hard to do! The easiest way to accomplish this is to make it a habit – set aside regular chunks of time when you don’t look at your phone. If someone calls you while you are spending quality time with your family, you can choose to call them back later. Emails, Instagram notifications, texts—they can all wait. I have recently taken away notifications on almost all my apps so that I can’t see the phone light up.

Hold space for feelings

A while ago, one of my very best friends had a miscarriage, and she told me and another friend a couple weeks after it happened. Our reactions were fairly typical: “Don’t worry; it’s common with first babies” and “Just get back in the saddle!” But it wasn’t until I told some friends about difficulties I was going through that I realized I didn’t want them to react in similar, although well-meaning, very generic ways. I just wanted a space to share my feelings. So I got in touch with my best friend, apologized for reacting in an unhelpful way, and promised to be there for her emotionally. If you or your partner are having a hard time, hold that space for each other without trying to fix it right away or rationalize what happened. Once you feel heard, it is easier to figure out if there is anything that can be done to fix the situation.

PHOTO BY: Slice of Love Photography, San Francisco, CA

Saying “no” gives you more space for “yes”

Whether you have been invited to a social gathering or are being pressured to host guests who want to see the baby, if you don’t want to do it, learn to say no. A simple yet firm “We can’t make it work” is enough. People have a tendency to be able to tear down any excuses we make up. “We’d have to find a babysitter” will lead to “You can bring your baby!” or “My niece can babysit!” and you’ll end up attending an event you didn’t want to go to in the first place. Once you can say no to things you don’t want to do, you’ll have room to say yes to yourself, your partner, your baby, and whatever it is that you want to be doing instead.

Model the behavior you want to cultivate in your family

Say hi, goodbye, thank you, please, and I love you. Tiny little babies can already sense what goes on in a room, and your partner and any older children will also feel important and valued when you pay them even this tiniest bit of attention that costs you nothing.

Take care of yourself

If you are not taking care of yourself, it will be difficult for you to be who you need to be for a tiny human being.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help.

WORDS BY: Jenna Christina, Bay Area documentary family and newborn photographer

You can find the original version of this article in a pregnancy and newborn guide by Bay Area professionals along with other articles about new parenthood.

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