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How My Life Has Changed After Having Children (But It’s Still Worth It)

How My Life Has Changed After Having Children (But It’s Still Worth It)

While awaiting the birth of your baby, there’s so much to do. You avoid certain foods, take special vitamins, and watch your body morph as it grows this miracle inside. You set up a nursery, buy everything you think you’ll need, and find yourself becoming weepy at sappy commercials or songs. Change is inevitable, but just wait, it doesn’t stop there.

The minute your precious bundle is laid in your arms, your heart explodes exponentially. You didn’t know you could love someone so much. Your whole focus now is on this little human being for which you are responsible in every single way. So naturally, you’ll change. Your routine will change. Your home will change. Heck, maybe even the vehicle you drive has changed. Many of these changes are welcome, some are funny. Others, well, to be honest, are not so welcome — sleep deprivation sucks. But all those changes are worth it when tasked with the joy and responsibility of raising a child. Some changes are obvious, some are not, but here are a few you might relate to.

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Sleep

Oh precious sleep, how we moms miss you. Whether it’s the middle of the night feedings and diaper changes to a sick toddler to a wee one with nightmares, the days of getting a solid night’s sleep disappear for awhile. Naps become your best friend. Some moms are fortunate to have babies who sleep through the night quite well, but to them I say, wait until they’re teenagers and you’re up late waiting for them to make it home safely and by curfew. You will not sleep soundly for days on end until you’re an empty-nester.

Food

When you’re pregnant, you remove some foods from your diet that can be harmful to a developing baby or give you heartburn. If you’re nursing, you avoid certain foods, too. But one day, you’ll catch yourself hiding in the closet, eating ice cream out of the carton. You want to set good, healthy eating examples for your kids, but at that moment, you really just want ice cream!

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Work

Some moms are blessed to stay home with their children and forego the working world for a while. Some moms love their jobs and happily return after maternity leave, while others must work due to their family’s financial situation. No matter what your work situation, it’s definitely changed from the pre-baby years.

If you’re at home during the day, you may find yourself one day loving every second of watching your child grow up and hit milestones. The next day, you’re begging your toddler to please take a nap so mommy can have a break. If you’re at work, there are mornings where you just can’t get enough goodbye hugs and smooches, then you drive to work sad to be leaving your little one behind. Other days, you may find yourself sprinting out the door gleefully, shouting goodbye to your child because you’re about to get some relaxing quiet time in the car on the commute to work.

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Emotions

You will feel like you’ve won the lottery when your baby takes his or her first real bite of food and doesn’t thrust it back out. You’ll cheer like a maniac when your baby takes his or her first steps. You just might be the loudest person in the stands when your preschooler starts playing sports or dancing or whatever activity he or she is trying. You vow that your child is the smartest on the planet when he or she phonetically sounds out a word, then reads a book, then scores an A on a school test, then lands a great score on the ACT or SAT in high school.

Your emotions will run high, but they’ll also run low. When you discover your child isn’t invited with other kids to a party, it will break your heart to see your child so sad. When your child tries out for a team or other activity and isn’t selected, the hug of solace you share tugs at your heartstrings. Every high and low your kid experiences, you will feel a similar way. It’s part of being a parent and wearing your heart on your sleeve. So applaud the positives, be supportive through the negatives, and let your child know that you always have his or her back.

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Success

Parenting successes can be quite comical, to be honest. In those first few days of having a newborn at home, if you are able to take a shower, that’s a big success. But simply knowing that your child is happy, loved, fed, clothed, has friends, interests, and loves life means you’ve succeeded. Don’t get hung up on the little things. There will always be parents who want to parade what they see as parenting successes in front of you. Don’t fall for it. Encourage your child to pursue his or her dreams, whatever age they are, and always been their number one fan. Teach them that success comes with hard work and won’t be handed to them.

Outlook On Life

Becoming a parent also means you’re well aware of the dangers that lurk around your child. You teach them “stranger danger,” how to drive safely, wear a bike helmet, wear a seatbelt, don’t text and drive, don’t drink and drive — the list never ends. But you also simultaneously develop a positive outlook on life in that you see what a wonderful contribution your child will make in this world once they grow up under your tutelage and leave the nest.

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Last Updated on January 15, 2021

7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

The popular idiomatic saying that “actions speak louder than words” has been around for centuries, but even to this day, most people struggle with at least one area of nonverbal communication. Consequently, many of us aspire to have more confident body language but don’t have the knowledge and tools necessary to change what are largely unconscious behaviors.

Given that others’ perceptions of our competence and confidence are predominantly influenced by what we do with our faces and bodies, it’s important to develop greater self-awareness and consciously practice better posture, stance, eye contact, facial expressions, hand movements, and other aspects of body language.

Posture

First things first: how is your posture? Let’s start with a quick self-assessment of your body.

  • Are your shoulders slumped over or rolled back in an upright posture?
  • When you stand up, do you evenly distribute your weight or lean excessively to one side?
  • Does your natural stance place your feet relatively shoulder-width apart or are your feet and legs close together in a closed-off position?
  • When you sit, does your lower back protrude out in a slumped position or maintain a straight, spine-friendly posture in your seat?

All of these are important considerations to make when evaluating and improving your posture and stance, which will lead to more confident body language over time. If you routinely struggle with maintaining good posture, consider buying a posture trainer/corrector, consulting a chiropractor or physical therapist, stretching daily, and strengthening both your core and back muscles.

Facial Expressions

Are you prone to any of the following in personal or professional settings?

  • Bruxism (tight, clenched jaw or grinding teeth)
  • Frowning and/or furrowing brows
  • Avoiding direct eye contact and/or staring at the ground

If you answered “yes” to any of these, then let’s start by examining various ways in which you can project confident body language through your facial expressions.

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1. Understand How Others Perceive Your Facial Expressions

A December 2020 study by UC Berkeley and Google researchers utilized a deep neural network to analyze facial expressions in six million YouTube clips representing people from over 140 countries. The study found that, despite socio-cultural differences, people around the world tended to use about 70% of the same facial expressions in response to different emotional stimuli and situations.[1]

The study’s researchers also published a fascinating interactive map to demonstrate how their machine learning technology assessed various facial expressions and determined subtle differences in emotional responses.

This study highlights the social importance of facial expressions because whether or not we’re consciously aware of them—by gazing into a mirror or your screen on a video conferencing platform—how we present our faces to others can have tremendous impacts on their perceptions of us, our confidence, and our emotional states. This awareness is the essential first step towards

2. Relax Your Face

New research on bruxism and facial tension found the stresses and anxieties of Covid-19 lockdowns led to considerable increases in orofacial pain, jaw-clenching, and teeth grinding, particularly among women.[2]

The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research estimates that more than 10 million Americans alone have temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ syndrome), and facial tension can lead to other complications such as insomnia, wrinkles, dry skin, and dark, puffy bags under your eyes.[3])

To avoid these unpleasant outcomes, start practicing progressive muscle relaxation techniques and taking breaks more frequently throughout the day to moderate facial tension.[4] You should also try out some biofeedback techniques to enhance your awareness of involuntary bodily processes like facial tension and achieve more confident body language as a result.[5]

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3. Improve Your Eye Contact

Did you know there’s an entire subfield of kinesic communication research dedicated to eye movements and behaviors called oculesics?[6] It refers to various communication behaviors including direct eye contact, averting one’s gaze, pupil dilation/constriction, and even frequency of blinking. All of these qualities can shape how other people perceive you, which means that eye contact is yet another area of nonverbal body language that we should be more mindful of in social interactions.

The ideal type (direct/indirect) and duration of eye contact depends on a variety of factors, such as cultural setting, differences in power/authority/age between the parties involved, and communication context. Research has shown that differences in the effects of eye contact are particularly prominent when comparing East Asian and Western European/North American cultures.[7]

To improve your eye contact with others, strive to maintain consistent contact for at least 3 to 4 seconds at a time, consciously consider where you’re looking while listening to someone else, and practice eye contact as much as possible (as strange as this may seem in the beginning, it’s the best way to improve).

3. Smile More

There are many benefits to smiling and laughing, and when it comes to working on more confident body language, this is an area that should be fun, low-stakes, and relatively stress-free.

Smiling is associated with the “happiness chemical” dopamine and the mood-stabilizing hormone, serotonin. Many empirical studies have shown that smiling generally leads to positive outcomes for the person smiling, and further research has shown that smiling can influence listeners’ perceptions of our confidence and trustworthiness as well.

4. Hand Gestures

Similar to facial expressions and posture, what you do with your hands while speaking or listening in a conversation can significantly influence others’ perceptions of you in positive or negative ways.

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It’s undoubtedly challenging to consciously account for all of your nonverbal signals while simultaneously trying to stay engaged with the verbal part of the discussion, but putting in the effort to develop more bodily awareness now will make it much easier to unconsciously project more confident body language later on.

5. Enhance Your Handshake

In the article, “An Anthropology of the Handshake,” University of Copenhagen social anthropology professor Bjarke Oxlund assessed the future of handshaking in wake of the Covid-19 pandemic:[8]

“Handshakes not only vary in function and meaning but do so according to social context, situation and scale. . . a public discussion should ensue on the advantages and disadvantages of holding on to the tradition of shaking hands as the conventional gesture of greeting and leave-taking in a variety of circumstances.”

It’s too early to determine some of the ways in which Covid-19 has permanently changed our social norms and professional etiquette standards, but it’s reasonable to assume that handshaking may retain its importance in American society even after this pandemic. To practice more confident body language in the meantime, the video on the science of the perfect handshake below explains what you need to know.

6. Complement Your Verbals With Hand Gestures

As you know by now, confident communication involves so much more than simply smiling more or sounding like you know what you’re talking about. What you do with your hands can be particularly influential in how others perceive you, whether you’re fidgeting with an object, clenching your fists, hiding your hands in your pockets, or calmly gesturing to emphasize important points you’re discussing.

Social psychology researchers have found that “iconic gestures”—hand movements that appear to be meaningfully related to the speaker’s verbal content—can have profound impacts on listeners’ information retention. In other words, people are more likely to engage with you and remember more of what you said when you speak with complementary hand gestures instead of just your voice.[9]

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Further research on hand gestures has shown that even your choice of the left or right hand for gesturing can influence your ability to clearly convey information to listeners, which supports the notion that more confident body language is readily achievable through greater self-awareness and deliberate nonverbal actions.[10]

Final Takeaways

Developing better posture, enhancing your facial expressiveness, and practicing hand gestures can vastly improve your communication with other people. At first, it will be challenging to consciously practice nonverbal behaviors that many of us are accustomed to performing daily without thinking about them.

If you ever feel discouraged, however, remember that there’s no downside to consistently putting in just a little more time and effort to increase your bodily awareness. With the tips and strategies above, you’ll be well on your way to embracing more confident body language and amplifying others’ perceptions of you in no time.

More Tips on How to Develop a Confident Body Language

Featured photo credit: Maria Lupan via unsplash.com

Reference

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