Archive for the ‘family changes’ Category

Absence Makes the Heart Grow Families #2

July 13, 2010

Back in March, I made a post about how my husband and I had decided to start trying to get pregnant.  Since then, I’m please to say that we were successful in our mission for pregnancy!  However, I wrote that last post as if to say that there are two phases 1) Not having a child and 2) Having a child.  Not realizing what a transition phase this would be – I completely left out the changes that happen during the pregnancy!  A few humorous ones that come to mind are:

1) Suddenly my husband cares more about what I eat than I do!? i.e. “Honey, I don’t think the baby likes cookie dough.” 🙂

2) My husband benevolently decided that he would be willing to share his “man” room with the baby, i.e. the baby’s room is also the “man” room.

3) Running a yellow light is no longer just running a yellow light its “endangering the baby!” 🙂

Turns out I’m not one of those “glowing” pregnant ladies that has everything wonderful to say about pregnancy – in fact, I’ve become down-right witchy at times! 🙂

While I take a few jabs at my husband and myself for a little humor, I say these as a representation of so many other things that are gently changing in our lives.  Getting used to the thought of sharing life as we know it with another being is chief among them.  While the arrival of the baby is the major transition point, the pregnancy also offers challenges.  After looking at several websites – I’ve developed some tips of my own (3 for guys and 3 for gals) to help maintain a healthy marriage while you’re experiencing this thing called pregnancy.


1) Remember that some things you say are actually irrational…and its ok to laugh about that. 🙂

2) Your husband/significant other  could have a hard time understanding what you’re going through, so be patient as he learns.

3) If your husband/significant other does become a little ‘overprotective’ of you, take that as a sign of his love for you and the child you’re bringing into the world.   (Research shows that this is actually pretty normal.)


1) Try to be understanding that your  wife/significant other  is going through many changes, many of which she has no control over.

2) If you don’t normally do much inside the house, know that helping with just a few things will give you big gains with your lady.

3) Get as involved with the pregnancy as you can; the more you show her you care, the less anxious she might be for the future.

I won’t pretend to have all the answers to your pregnancy woes, I’m only part way through after all, but at the very basic – try to remember the reasons you originally connected with your partner and that should help center what can be a very chaotic time in your life.  🙂

Charlsey Mahle

GRA, Alabama Community Healthy Marriage Initiative

Thanks to the following websites for some of these great tips, and to Michael Shipley for his article “Tips for men by men: How to really help you wife through pregnancy”.

Absence Makes the Heart Grow…

March 24, 2010

     I know what you’re thinking…the end of that phrase is FONDER!  Well, in my case, I’d like to say that “Absence Makes the Heart Grow Families”. 🙂  My husband, recently sent to the middle east for work, wrote home just two weeks after leaving to randomly tell me in an email “When I get home, I’d like us to start trying to start a family.”  Which brought me to the thought – what is it about being thousands of miles away that suddenly made him want to start a family?   Now, as men sometimes do, he said this very casually and nonchalant as if it’s like planting spring flowers or something.  To me, my heart started racing, my mind raced even faster, and after this flood of thoughts – I was elated!  But, there’s a reason that the thought of trying to have a child with my husband was calming at the same time.  Since we were married in 2006, we have taken the time to talk about many topics in a marriage, such as parenting, finances, religion, household roles, parents-in-law, etc.  We’ve done, what they call in the military, “war-gaming” the idea of having a child.  It means to think about something from every possible angle.  While I don’t advocate that there is ever a perfect time for children, talking about it ahead of time could eliminate surprises before you’re standing there with an infant and a “poopy diaper” wondering who’s going to change it.  

     There are many sources out there that list topics to discuss before having a baby, but I’ve compiled what I think are the most important below….so that, if one day you and your partner decide its time to have a child – you too can approach that adventure with elation, not anxiety! 🙂

1. Religion and spirituality – what roles will this play in your marriage and your parenting?

2. Parenting roles – who will take on what responsibilities in the household and with the child once the little one arrives?

3. Marriage adjustments – how will your marriage change as you now have to split your attention and affection with an additional family member?

4.  Support network – who will you rely on for emergencies when caring for the child?

5.  Number and frequency – how many children do you want and how far apart will they be?

6.  Finances – are you financially stable enough to be able to take on the expenses of a new child?  What budget changes need to be made if not?

7. Parenting styles – what do each of you believe about how a child should be raised.  Who’s the disciplinarian, one or both?

8.  Other options – what is your plan if you are unable to conceive – adoption, medical options, etc.

For more topics to discuss and further information on the ones listed above…please visit:

Charlsey Mahle


Auburn University

How’d She Turn Out So Well: Success Despite Hardships

September 29, 2009

Have you ever wondered how a person achieves success despite growing up in rough conditions?  This idea has completely astounded me for about 8 years now.  You run across someone who may have been abused, not had a mother, had a bad home life, had addiction in their family, dropped out of high school or even had a child at a very young age…and yet despite those stressful things – they have overcome them and achieved a very successful life.  Now, some people define success differently, but I say success is getting to where you want to be in life.  It doesn’t have to mean you’re filthy rich – maybe it  means you’ve gotten an education, raised a great family or gotten that cool job you always wanted.  More than just success, it seems like these people are even comfortable with sharing their hard times with others.  The point is that somehow, despite bad circumstances and stressors in their childhood and adolescence, they made good choices that brought them where they are.

Some research tells us that intelligence, attractiveness, personality and personal qualities can lead to success and better outcomes despite a rough upbringing.  Other research suggests that it’s your environment, your parents, grandparents and other role models that provide the outlet for successful development in light of difficult stressors.  Even further, and perhaps the most interesting research tells us that our relationships – both friendships and love relationships can help us cope with our hardships.  Best friendships and long term supportive partnerships provide the comfort and outlet for sharing that has been shown to help people become more adjusted despite their past or current circumstances.

So what do you say it is?  Is it inner strength?  Relationships? Intelligence?  What gets people to the point that they can overcome rough life circumstances?

I’ll leave you with a great example…but before I tell her name – I’ll describe her upbringing so you can make your own premature judgment of what she became:  This girl was born in small town Mississippi…with a weird name.  She was sexually molested as a child, her parents divorced before she was 6, she lived with her grandmother for 5 years, lived with  her mom only for 2 and later moved in with her very overbearing Dad.  She did drugs as a teenager and gave birth to a baby prematurely.

I know…you’re thinking – dang…this girl must be screwed up?  Who is she…did she live?  Or, if she did live…she’s still on drugs.  People, I’m talking about the only Billionaire woman in America – Oprah Winfrey?!

So how did she do it….how do “they” do it…how do you do it?  I’ll contest that Oprah’s key relationships – both with her best friend Gayle King…and her life partnership with Stedman have helped her to get to where she is.  Don’t get me wrong – those aren’t the only things that got her to where she is…certainly hard work, determination and personality helped, but those relationships most likely supported her in being able to see past the adversity to what she could become.

Charlsey Mahle

Graduate Research Assistant

Alabama Community Healthy Marriage Initiative


December 24, 2008


For the second year in my life, I am sharing a combined Christmas with my biological family and my stepfamily. My father and my stepmother are both widowed, both have five children (four of whom, on either side, are married), and a growing brood of grandchildren. All told, there are 37 of us celebrating the holidays together, which theoretically is a recipe for headaches, chaos, divisive differences, and hard feelings. I am happy to say, however, that so far things have been relatively harmonious (with a family this size, chaos was inescapable, but otherwise we’re happy). Like many of you, I have also had miserable holidays that I’d just as soon forget. The difference, I think, comes from five virtues that, if applied, can make this time of year a delight instead of a chore.

  1. Acceptance– Peace at home requires genuinely welcoming all family members (and guests), regardless of political, theological, or lifestyle differences. In fact, if you can take it one step further and find a way to respect others’ choices and see the value in them, so much the better. I have a cousin who broke off from our family’s shared religion. He married someone of a different faith, and experience with others in similar situations led him to expect his family to ostracize them. To the contrary, his parents and siblings have been certain to make him, his wife, and his beliefs welcome in their home, and they’ve not had to compromise their beliefs in doing so. What could have been a divisive factor has instead turned into a real-life application of love and acceptance that has brought the family even closer together.
  2. Charity– The holidays, for many, are a time of great joy. For others, they are a time of despair. Taking time to connect with those who are lonely or otherwise suffering (even and especially within your own family) spreads holiday cheer not just to them, but to you as well.
  3. Pull Your Weight– Help with the decorations. Offer to do the dishes after a family meal or take out the trash. If something is needed at the store, offer to be the one who braves the winter cold to get it. Helpfulness not only lightens the overall stress at home, it also increases feelings of warm regard. Best of all, a helpful attitude is often contagious!
  4. Embrace the traditions– Even the things that made you roll your eyes when you were younger can become cherished parts of your holidays, if not for the events themselves, then for the sense of unity they can provide. Short on traditions? It’s never too late to start new ones. Go see the lights. Watch a holiday movie. Exchange gifts, Secret Santa style. Read the classic holiday stories. Make gingerbread houses. The possibilities are endless.
  5. Be flexible– Some traditions, however, are outgrown or replaced with new ones. Let it happen. Happy families successfully balance stability with change. This applies to factors other than traditions, as well. Perhaps your family has picked up new members through marriage or adoption, or lost some through divorce or death. You may have stepsiblings or stepparents who bring with them their own ways of doing things. That’s just fine. You may have to adapt; just keep in mind that families come in many types and forms. Perhaps some family members can’t make it back this year. Roll with the punches, and make the best out of your situation. Being able to “go with the flow” could spare you unnecessary hard feelings.

From all of us at ACHMI, Happy Holidays!

Jonathan Decker, Master’s student, Marriage and Family Therapy

From Bah Humbug to Happy Holidays

December 4, 2008

Most of my friends would not describe me as the person who eagerly awaits the holiday season. On the contrary, they know that in the past, I have really dreaded the holidays due to the many transitions that my family has endured over the past several years. My family, like so many others, has experienced multiple divorces, deaths, and other family transitions that dull the cheerful glow of the holiday season. I know I am not the only one who has wished to sleep through Thanksgiving and Christmas and then, when we wake up, it’s January.

However, we all know this is not possible.

Thanksgiving this past week was the official kick off of the holiday season. Much to my surprise, I found myself looking forward to Thanksgiving and seeing my family. Now that Thanksgiving has passed and time is on the super speedway towards Christmas, I have found that I am anticipating this holiday as well. Inquiring minds may want to know what has accounted for this change in perspective regarding my “bah humbug” attitude towards Christmas.

I used to spend my time mourning over times passed and wishing for things to go back to how they used to be. I can imagine that there are millions of people who are currently struggling with this same problem. However, I recently realized that I will never be satisfied if I continue to long for times that have passed because it is simply not possible to go back and relive the “good ole days.” I have learned to appreciate the people who are in my life who really love me. Don’t get me wrong, I have always loved and appreciated them but I have developed a new sense of gratefulness for my family in realizing that I must appreciate them now.

Therefore, I encourage you to be appreciative of the family that you have right now instead of focusing on the one that once was. We only get one family, so let’s enjoy them (with all of their craziness and flaws) to the fullest. Happy Holidays!

Ashley Anders, M.S., Graduate Research Assistant

Alabama Community Healthy Marriage Initiative