98 – Interview: Relationships when you have young children with Dr. Megan Kaden

Meghan Q Barrett  0:05 
Hey Mama. This is Mama’s Daily Dose, and a special edition of The Interviews. This is an interview that came from the All You Mama Interviews on YouTube. And honestly, I have never learned more about myself and relationships than I did in this 20-25 minute conversation with Dr. Megan Kaden. And offline, she gave me some homework as well that you can follow up on Instagram @MeghanQBarrett, I did a whole follow up on my IGTV there, but if you have relationships with a partner, your kids, yourself…really anybody – you need to listen to this interview. Because Megan really breaks down how to have a deeper connection with your partner, especially when small children are involved, and also how important it is to work on the relationship with yourself. And one thing I find that was mind blowing was that arguing and disconnection are not a “bad thing” for your relationship…that it really is just part of a relationship. But I’m gonna let you hear all of this from Megan because she’s the real expert. So let’s get moving, before we get interrupted.

Hey, Hey Mama friends and welcome to the All You Mama Interviews, where we bring you experts to help you put yourself first without the guilt. I am Meghan Q Barrett of allyoumama.com. And I certainly don’t have all the answers, but I know people with them. Today, our expert is Dr. Megan Kaden. And she is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist specializing in couples and individuals who want to work on their relationships. And I might be signing up soon. Welcome, Megan!

Dr. Megan Kaden  2:18 
Thank you so much for having me. I’m excited to be here.

Meghan Q Barrett  2:21 
Yes, I am so excited. We’ve had a lot of questions in the All You Mama group about connecting with partners… about relationships. And so I’m excited to get some answers for them and answers for myself too. Alright, so I’m going to start with kind of where relationships start…I fee…l and I think that you would agree that it starts with yourself, and that your relationship with yourself is so important. And I know this because I’ve tried it other ways, and it didn’t work. But there’s a there’s a lot of mamas out there that want to work on their relationships with their partner, too. So where should they start? Does it need to start with yourself? Should it start with a partner? Is that something you can work on, like the same time together?

Dr. Megan Kaden  3:12 
It’s a really good question. And the the truth is that most people are more focused on how their relationships are feeling with others, as opposed to their relationship to their to themselves. And like your experience and my experience as well. Most of us try to make it work by focusing on a partner or our kids or relationship with others. And then at some point, we hit a roadblock or an obstacle where something’s just not working. And at that point, a lot of people will often realize, “Oh, I’m completely disconnected from myself.” So the short answer is, it can happen simultaneously. But the way that I think about it, for myself and for my clients is that it’s kind of a fluid moment to moment, day to day process where in any given moment, my priority might be connecting with my partner or connecting with my kids. But in a given moment, I will try to connect with myself first in order to reach whatever goal I’m trying to with my partner even if it’s like having fun on date night, like I you know, in a moment on date night, when we’re driving the car, I will connect with myself by focusing on my breathing, even touching base with how do I feel right now? Am I anxious? Am I feeling pressure about oh my god, I have an hour with my partner and I have to connect with him. Just like knowing how I feel can be the first step in connecting with him.

Meghan Q Barrett  4:41 
Yes, I love that and I am going to start doing that too. Like just kind of like a quick check in…that can make a huge difference.

Dr. Megan Kaden  4:50 
And hundreds of them throughout the day. I do this when I’m in a session with a client. I’ll probably be doing it over a dozen times in our conversation, today, right now, like it happens over and over and over and over.

Meghan Q Barrett  5:06 
And then. So how can I? How could someone or myself take those feelings? Is it just kind of being aware of them? Do you bring that to the situation? Do you vocalize it?

Dr. Megan Kaden  5:19 
You know, there’s some discernment that goes into that, you know, in a given moment, I may not vocalize everything. But this goes to one of the other questions that I think we may be getting to later about making the implicit versus explicit. What I mean by that is saying out loud, what does relate to the moment, like if you know, my husband, Marcus and I are going on a rare date. If we have like childcare, and we’re going on a date, and I know that we both have an expectation that we’re going to connect, that we’re going to talk, that we’re going to have fun that we’re going to relax, you know, there’s like kind of a lot of pressure put on that hour. And if I know that we both have that in mind, I will say something like, “Hello, I realize I’m feeling a lot of pressure to connect, I really want to connect with you. And I’m feeling some anxiety about oh my god, am I gonna be able to be present enough to do this?” And even just verbalizing that, instead of just thinking… it can release some of that pressure, and even open the door to him being like, “Oh, my God, me, too.” And then there we are connecting about that. Yes, yeah. I mean, it doesn’t mean I’m sharing every single feeling I have with a client necessarily, or with my kids. But I do this with my kids, too.

Meghan Q Barrett  6:48 
I’ve been a little more aware with my kids. And I try to as well, which I’m sure you’re familiar, since you have two young children…my son is three and a half and so he doesn’t have that range of emotions right now. So it’s like, I’m sad, or I’m happy. And that’s kind of what he understands at this point. So trying to teach him the other emotions within that broad range too.

Dr. Megan Kaden  7:17 
Yeah, well in you modeling that, modeling the words and modeling, noticing yourself and sharing it with the people around you, including him can be such a great skill for him to learn. So that over time, he will be able to say, “Oh, Mom, I realize I’m really feeling nervous about going to preschool…”or whatever it is.

Meghan Q Barrett  7:42 
It’s great work on feelings for both of us. It’s great work all around. Yeah, yeah. So I want to go a little bit more into this…making the implicit, explicit, but also in the way of like, the love is in the details kind of thing that, especially when we’ve been with a partner for a while, we have children with the partner, we kind of have these expectations in our head. And we may not say things out loud, or like you know, “Oh, hey, he knows I already love him.” How do you feel about that? How can people show that a little bit more? And what would be…what do you get out of it? Really?

Dr. Megan Kaden  8:30 
Mm hmm. I mean, one of the benefits of being in a long relationship, one that’s working, you know, reasonably well is that we feel secure, hopefully, right? I know, we don’t always but we hopefully feel somewhat secure in the relationship. I’m not leaving this person, this person isn’t leaving me. I know, that’s not the case for everybody. But that’s sort of what we all want on some level, I think. But what can come with that security is taking for granted that the person knows how we feel, the person knows what we want, person knows what we need. And so we stop saying that stuff out loud, and then bring kids into the picture. And we’re so focused on survival and getting the kids needs met, that we stop explicitly saying a lot of those things to our partners that maybe we said in the beginning. So one of the ways I use this day to day, or try to you know, I’m practicing this stuff, too. It’s not easy. It’s not. It’s not always intuitive. And it takes like daily reminders for myself to even do it. So I just want to put that out there like me saying this stuff does not mean that I have it all together or that I know…

Meghan Q Barrett  9:45 
No one’s perfect! We can we can all agree on that. We’re, we’re all going through crap, especially with the kids.

Dr. Megan Kaden  9:52 
Yes. So I try to you know, going back to this moment of no noticing how I feel, if I’m feeling something, and it’s relevant to the people around me, I will try to say it out loud. And that includes positive things. Like I mean, just yesterday, Marcus and the kids and I were outside. And like the birds in our yard are really loud. And it was a moment I don’t often feel really relaxed with my kids. I’m often, you know, stressed or like, try to keep them out of the road or just like, you know, keeping them around. Yeah. And I noticed, I’m actually relaxed. And so I said out loud, I am really loving being outside with all of you. I feel so relaxed with you right now. So it seems like such a minor moment. And it was in some ways, but it’s the kind of thing that could just like fly by, because I’m sure like five seconds later, I was not relaxed.

Meghan Q Barrett  10:59 
So enjoy it while it’s there.

Dr. Megan Kaden  11:01 
Yeah. And to even try to amplify it by making it relational with the people that I’m experiencing it with…makes Marcus feel like I’m liking him more, makes my kids feel like I’m liking them more. Yeah, it’s just sort of like connects all of us in a very simple kind of mundane way.

Meghan Q Barrett  11:19 
Yes, this. I just thought this totally reminded me. Have you ever heard of the book – “How to Not Hate Your Husband After Kids?”

Dr. Megan Kaden  11:29 
I have heard of it. I haven’t read it.

Meghan Q Barrett  11:31 
I read it when my son was about a year I, I usually suggest it to people when they’re children…their oldest is about a year because I feel like you’ve kind of had some time to process and relate to it. But there was a story about how the woman was just so upset that her husband was not taking out the trash, that she just kept letting the trash build up and build up and build up but never said like, “Hey, can you take out the trash?” So it dawned on her like, Okay, I’m gonna ask him instead of being upset about it. And so she’s like, I’m going to ask him, and then I’m going to say thank you, when he does it. And so she did that. And then she said, she said it twice and said, Thank you twice, and then never had to ask again, just kept saying thank you. And I was like, that is like, lightbulb that even if you’ve been with someone for 20 years, or something, they cannot read your mind. You know, and you can’t read their mind. So I think about it even in like, little ways like that, of just asking for things, and then also showing gratitude for it.

Dr. Megan Kaden  12:39 
Yes, that is such a powerful example. Because it’s one of those things that that happens every day of our lives, right? Like those little mundane tasks that no one really wants to do. But someone has to do that, often become invisible, when they’re done. They’re visible when they’re not done. And then they’re invisible when they’re done. The one thing I would add to that is, so the thank you can go a long way. But adding to it something like I feel so I feel so loved by you, when you take out the trash… or I feel so cared for, or I feel so like… whatever. However it makes you feel. Sharing explicitly what the impact is on you in that connection, when he takes out the trash or whatever it is that he’s just done. I feel closer to you, when you take out the trash, whatever it is, like sharing the impact is… it kind of takes that even a step further in terms of building that connection or maintaining that connection with him.

Unknown Speaker  13:41 
Yeah, that’s much more than like just, “Oh, hey, thanks…” Like it has much deeper connection to that….

Dr. Megan Kaden  13:49 
It’s like the difference between saying good job to your kid, or I love how you use so many colors in that painting.

Meghan Q Barrett  13:56 
You know, it is crazy how much I see like, okay, the way that I talk to my kids is the way that I need to speak to people in general… and the people I have relationships with and be like, more direct and give more information to. And talk about how I’m feeling because I’m, I’ve been more aware of that with my kids, but not so much other relationships in my life.

Dr. Megan Kaden  14:24 
Yes, right. Isn’t it so interesting. It’s like we, we strive to be our best selves with our kids. And then forget about the surrounding people.

Meghan Q Barrett  14:34 
Yes! Carry it all over. Okay, so the next one that I have is kind of, I think a lot of moms can relate to this. And I feel like there can be a lot more arguments and things when you have kids because just your patience level is so… I’ve told my husband before like he comes home and I’m like, “I’ve used up all my patience for the day, like I just want you to know, there’s….it’s it’s zero.” So that, like I found we’ve had more arguments, more disagreements, and I feel like sometimes that’s a reflection on our relationship. But I know you’ve kind of talked about the breakdown of relationships, like how there’s different areas of it, and that when you’re disconnected sometimes and you’re arguing or you have these disagreements, it’s not necessarily a bad thing.

Dr. Megan Kaden  15:31 
Yes, okay. Yeah, I hear where you’re going. This is the, I share this with all of the couples that I work with a relationship when it’s going well, should be 1/3 connection 1/3 disconnection and 1/3 repair. Generally, the disconnection happens automatically. That’s sort of the easy one, what that will happen when even if we’re not trying the connection, especially once we have kids can take more effort. The repair part though, is what I spend, I would say 95% of the time that I spend working with couples and individuals is learning the skill of how to repair. That’s the one that most of us are not taught. And we’re not… it doesn’t just happen, like the connection, especially in the beginning of a relationship happens automatically. And like I said, the disconnection happens automatically, that’s sort of like it can be an argument or it can be disagreement, a misunderstanding, or even just like a subtle, misattunement, where someone says something and the other person is just like… walks away… Or like there was some miss there, we don’t know maybe exactly what it was. But I’m kind of counting all of those in the disconnection. And then the repair is where we can really make a difference in our relationships. This sort of builds on that making the implicit explicit concept that when you feel like there was an overt disconnection, or a more subtle one, to just acknowledge it to your partner, and it can be like, “you know, I know we kind of missed each other on that, can we come back to it later when the kids are sleeping? Or? I know I really misunderstood what you were saying…and there’s some tension. Can we talk about it later?” Or, “Can we can we take five minutes to talk about it now?” Just acknowledging that there was… my husband and I call it a blip. It’s the smaller ones, we call them a blip… we had a blip. Can we try to reconnect? And there are a lot of different tools for repairing. But the acknowledgement that there was a misfire can go a long way and kind of creating a safe moment between the two of you that there’s a, it opens the door to a desire to reconnect?

Meghan Q Barrett  18:02 
Hmm. Well, I think that’s big, because I think, in a lot of relationships that I’ve seen throughout my life is that it was just like, “okay, there’s this blip, or whatever happens, and then it’s just like, okay, we’ll move on.” And it’s never addressed. So even just bringing that up and being like, “hey, this happened. Yeah, let’s talk about it…” like, that can go a long way for the connection too and get back to… seems like a full kind of circle of like – connection, disconnection, repair and kind of keeps going around and around.

Dr. Megan Kaden  18:35 
Yeah, and when couples get really good at repairing, it’s it can be very fluid, the repairs can happen pretty quickly. And then you’re back to connection. And the disconnects don’t necessarily feel like that big a deal or that destabilizing and they don’t really last very long. So it can sort of, you can kind of move through that cycle even faster as you get good at the repair. But it doesn’t mean the disconnects don’t happen.

Meghan Q Barrett  19:03 
Hmm. Okay, all right. So kind of going off of that the main question we got from the All You Mamas is about date nights. And what I take that as, is more of this connection, like trying to get some kind of connection because as both a psychologist and a mom of two young children, you know, that like during the day, you can’t give 100% attention to anything else, when your kids are around, including your partner. And by the end of the day, like I said before, my patience level is about zero, and I’m exhausted. So what are some other ways to really connect with your partner? Maybe small ways, dates, whatever it may be.

Dr. Megan Kaden  19:52 
Yeah. I I always like to think of this as the connection has to happen. It’s a combination of tiny little five second moments. And then I am a big fan of date nights, but not calling them “date nights.” Because when the pressure is high the connection is not, right? It’s like, it’s the ripe environment for a blip or an argument when the pressure is so high that you’re like, “Oh my gosh we have to connect.” So, I mean, what we’ve been talking about around making the implicit, explicit and having these day to day moments when the kids are around, have eye contact with your partner, even like a very brief moments of physical touch, where like, maybe you walk by and you like, you know, touch his shoulder, or give them a quick hug, or even just eye contact, looking at each other and saying, “Hi, how you doing? We okay?” Like a 10 second exchange that just says, like,” I see you I know, things are crazy over there…” But yeah, and then, I mean, I really think scheduled time together, taking the date night, title off the table. Yeah, a little time together is so important. Just knowing that you’re going to have that time together in a regular way. I know it’s really hard. You know, it can be hard financially, if you don’t have family or caregivers that can help with kids. If there’s any way to build in regular scheduled time together, even if it’s 30 minutes, even if it’s 20 minutes, is really, really important. So that you both know, okay, we have that time on the calendar. Yeah, that’s coming soon. My husband and I tried to do it weekly, and we try to do some daytime. Because like you’re saying, by the time, eight o’clock comes around, if our kids are sleeping, we usually want to be sleeping. So that’s not really the ideal time for us to connect, we almost feel like we’re wasting our kids sleep, if we are trying to hang out when they’re sleeping. I don’t know if that sounds crazy or not…

Meghan Q Barrett  22:10 
No, I’m there. with you.  It’s like my kids go to sleep. I’m like, Okay, it’s time for me to go to sleep now. But I I do like that you said, you know, like, the scheduled time. And it doesn’t have to be a tton of time …because I kind of talk about that a lot, too, with moms of just like, get it if it’s like, two minutes in the morning, five minutes, whatever it is like something is better than nothing. So ,if you schedule in five minutes with your partner, yeah, that five minutes is way better than zero minutes, and you’re going to connect a lot more than if you did nothing.

Dr. Megan Kaden  22:47 
That is absolutely true. And in my opinion, and from my experience, frequent, a frequent short block is better than an infrequent longer block. So two minutes every day, as opposed to two hours once a week is I think more effective, especially when you have young kids.

Meghan Q Barrett  23:09 
Yes, I completely agree with that. And it’s like, and it seems manageable. You know, like, two minutes or, I guess everyone can find two minutes in their day, right? But if you’re like, we need two hours, that’s like, “Whoa, there! That’s a little much for me.” It can feel daunting. How would you do that? You’re like, what are we going to do for two hours? Right?

Dr. Megan Kaden  23:33 
We can’t afford it or whatever the situation?

Meghan Q Barrett  23:36 
Yeah. So many other things pop up. All right, well, I have like, a bunch of other questions for you. But we’re gonna start wrapping this up, I may have to just email a couple of them and have and post those up. So the question I asked all of our experts is, what is one piece of advice you’ve received, that has changed you or your life?

Dr. Megan Kaden  24:00 
I love this question. And you had prepared me for this. So I have been talking about it for the past few days. So many different answers that I want to share. But this is the one that I landed on. Focusing on impact over intent for my own behavior, and actions and communication. This applies to my parenting. This applies to my relationship with my husband, my relationships with family members. I may have intended to say something in a certain way or I may have intended to say something that sounded loving or kind or supportive, but if the impact on the other person… if it didn’t lamd that way, then there’s something for me to repair. And there’s something for me to learn that I am not… my goal for myself, this is sort of my growth area… I don’t want to be attached to, “Well, I meant it this way. So that’s, you know, you have to take it that way, or you should have taken it that way.” I don’t want to be attached to what I was trying to do. I want it to be attached to learning how I’m actually impacting the people around me, and then being flexible enough to change. Because I want the people around me to be to feel loved and cared for and free when they’re with me. And if they’re not feeling that even unintentionally, I want to change how it landed.

Meghan Q Barrett  25:30 
That’s a great one. I love it.

Dr. Megan Kaden  25:32 
Really? What do you connect to?

Meghan Q Barrett  25:35 
Just like, you know, I mean, I say it all the time that basically everything comes back to you. Like, the one thing that is a constant in your life across all relationships, everything that you do is – you. So if you want something to change, you have to change something within you. So me saying like, “Oh, well, that’s not the way that I meant it.” That’s not changing anything. And it’s also not getting the intended impact, as you said that I wanted. So really, no one in this situation is happy. No one’s coming out on top here. But if I if I take responsibility for that and change that, and then I get the reaction or the impact that I want, then all of us would.

Dr. Megan Kaden  26:26 
Exactly.

Meghan Q Barrett  26:29 
Well, I so appreciated this and all of you mamas can find Megan at Megan Kaden. Or sorry, excuse me @DrMeganKaden on Instagram and Megankaden.com. Go check her out she’s got some awesome things on her Instagram too. I know her practices full right now correct?

Dr. Megan Kaden  26:54  
That is correct. Yes, but my waitlist, I am accepting people.

Meghan Q Barrett  26:58  
I might, I might be getting on that waitlist. But I want to wish you All you Mamas to have a great day free of mama guilt because you deserve it. And I will see you at the next interview. Have a great day.

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