In my work as a clinical psychologist, I often work with new parents.
Within the first or second session, I usually ask my clients if they are aware of “The Formula for a Happy Family”, coined by perinatal psychiatrist, Dr. Martien Snellen in his book “Rekindling your relationship after childbirth”. Most people say no, and I share with them this worksheet:
Formula for a Happy Family
- You need time alone enjoying the children
- Your partner needs time alone enjoying the children
- You need time on your own away from the family (work doesn’t count)
- Your partner needs time on their own away from the family (work doesn’t count)
- The couple needs quality time alone together
- The family all need quality time together
All of the above needs to happen, both at home and away from home, at least once a fortnight
My clients usually react well to the “formula”, which ultimately promotes balance. I like to add that the activities should be relaxing, fun or fulfilling; watering the plant that is the family.
So, I decided to practice what I preach last month, and following the ‘formula’ went away to Kakadu National Park with one of my 3 sons for a week. I left my laptop behind, switched off from technology and tuned in to our mother-son relationship amidst the stunning, colourful landscape of the Northern Territory. We swam in secluded waterholes, climbed up rocky gorges and marvelled at Aboriginal art in hidden caves. I delighted in him as he nimbly scaled tricky rocks. He enjoyed spending time together, just the two of us.
On the safari, the question I was most asked by other travellers was – “What about your other sons? Aren’t they jealous?” To which I would answer, “they are enjoying a different dynamic back home – Dad time, dinners out – and less sibling-stress. Plus, I am turning this holiday into a Grade 5 ritual for the others. They will all get their turn!”. And to myself, I thought, I’ve been able to connect with pre-parent self, who loves nature and adventure travel. I enjoyed showing my son this side of me.
On the return home, I realised that I had also reset my mind, which allowed for fresh perspectives with my team and my clients.
And lastly, I had that opportunity to return happy (and energised) to my family, who had also enjoyed their ‘home holiday’.
Our team at Nest are working extra hard to support families in our community. Should you or a family member need support, please feel free to get in contact.