We love our husbands, and they love us. Sharing the joy of parenthood with them has been one of life's most beautiful and profound experiences. So why on earth did we find ourselves so often at odds after the babies came home? Our pre-baby marriages were really good, maybe even great. So why weren't we talking the way we used to? Why were we bickering? Why were we infuriated by our husbands' inability to find the sippy cups? Why were our husbands seriously distraught that our enthusiasm for sex had dwindled to "folding the laundry" levels? Were we normal? Or was something seriously wrong?
We wanted some answers, so we started talking; first to each other, then to more friends, and then, well, things sort of got out of hand, and we wound up with Babyproofing Your Marriage. Basically, we wrote the book we wanted to read, but couldn't find. There are so many good books out there about marriage and parenting, but there wasn't one that addressed this specific time in a relationship, and why it can be such a challenge. There wasn't one that spoke to us in a real way, rather than a professorial way. There wasn't one that gave the guys a say in the matter. And there certainly wasn't one that told us what we could do about it.
This book started out as a conversation among the three of us and our husbands and has grown to include hundreds of men and women around the country book clubs, church groups, captive fellow passengers on airplanes, and total strangers in the checkout line. Everyone had amazing stories and gems of wisdom to share. That's why we are excited to be a part of this online community; it's yet another place where people can share their stories about marriage during the early parenting years.
We want to keep the conversation going. So many voices all saying effectively the same thing lets us know that we are not alone. For the three of us, this realization changed our marriage dynamic for the better. It took the all-too-personal sting out of arguments with our husbands. When you realize everyone else is in the same boat, it changes the conversation in an instant. "Why are you doing this to me?" becomes "What are we going to do about this?"
Like all of you, nothing matters more to us than our families. We're all trying to get it right on so many levels - for our kids, for our spouses, for ourselves. It's not easy. But it's not impossible, especially if we know where the other side is coming from and what they really need. We hope -- like us -- this book will help you find some answers.
Stacie, Cathy and Julia
1. The Global Conspiracy of Silence
Most of us are totally unprepared and painfully ill-equipped for parenthood. No one warns us about how hard it can be, or that a little strain in the marriage is completely normal. The seasoned moms don't pull the mom-to-be aside at the baby shower and say, "your sex drive is going to go MIA," or "your husband will drive you nuts because he just won't get it," or "the sleep deprivation will bring you to your knees, girlfriend." Instead, they say, "Cute booties!"
There's no real information making it through to the fathers-to-be either. They're even more clueless than the women.
Did you get any advice about adjusting to life/marriage after kids? Did any words of wisdom make it through the iron curtain of secrecy? Or were you just as clueless as we were? Why do you think people don't talk about it?
2. The Great Mom / Dad Divide
"I feel like my husband just took a couple of days off of work and then things pretty much got back to normal, or at least he wanted them to get back to normal." Denise, married 4 years, 1 kid
My wife's maternal instincts whiplash the whole family. I feel like I spend half my time depressurizing her. It's just too much." - Toby, married 9 years, 2 kids
Men and women can react to parenthood quite differently. No matter how delighted a couple is with their growing families, these differences can lead to conflict. Many mothers of small kids told us that their husbands just don't get it. "It" being the volume of work involved in caring for the kids and the degree to which her life has been upended by motherhood. Men, on the other hand, told us that motherhood can bring out control freakish tendencies in their wives. As they see it, this can cause their wives to be hypercritical and under-appreciative of their work, home and parenting efforts.
What do you think? Grand Canyon or Seamless Groove? What has your experience been?
Hear what the authors had to say here. Click on this link for an author interview on the topic:
3. What's the Score? The Post-Baby Battle of the Sexes
"I'm always in the doghouse. That's the baseline. I walk in the door at the end of the day and say "Hi, Honey, I'm home. I'm sorry." Chris, married 8 years, 2 kids
"Am I supposed to gush over what a fine job he did emptying the dishwasher? What does he want, a gold star?" - Leslie, married 8 years, 3 kids
When we become parents, domestic responsibilities explode. Financial pressures increase. The pace is relentless. Not surprisingly, we start to argue about the division of labor in our homes. Scorekeeping is an endless tit-for-tat war between husband and wife -- an eternal debate over that most fundamental of all philosophical questions: "Who's on bath duty tonight?"
Do you and your spouse argue about who has it tougher? What do you keep score about? Who's winning? And, more importantly, do you think you can stop the warring?
4. Midnight Chicken and Other Fun and Games
Ever played Midnight Chicken? You know, that time-honored game of "who will blink first," where each parent pretends not to hear the screaming baby down the hall? What about tricks to dodge the poop, like claiming you just can't smell it? Are you having an affair with your best friend? Do you meet them for a drink on the sly just to buy yourself an hour of freedom? What about the escape attempts? One man told us he actually scheduled a fake business trip to avoid the mayhem at home for 48 hours. Bad Dad or Creative Genius? You tell us.
How resourceful are you at trying to outwit your spouse? Did either of you resort to any elaborate ruses to survive the baby-induced mania?
5. The Hound-Dog/Ice Queen Vortex
"Yes, I'm too tired for sex. I'm too tired after the kids go to bed to even wash my face, let alone... And what about my books? What about me?!" - Carla, married 9 years, 2 kids
"I'm scoring like a third-rate British soccer team -- once every fifth Sunday." - Peter, married 8 years, 3 kids
After having children, women tend to minimize the role of sex in their marriages. They experience a seismic shift in desire and ability. Men, however, still want sex, and the emotional outlet it provides, as often as possible. The wife's supply cannot meet her husband's demand. For most couples, it's an equation that just won't add up, no matter how they do the math.
Girls, since you had kids, has your sex drive gone MIA? Do you feel like sex is, at best, another chore on your to-do list? Do you feel your husband's efforts at romance have been reduced to a Ten O'Clock Shoulder Tap at the end of a long day?
Guys, now that you have a kid or two, do you feel like your wife has pulled a Bait and Switch on you in the bedroom? Are you wondering what happened to your sex life?
6. Marriage: A Wilted Houseplant
After kids, because we're so busy, the marriage can slip into autopilot. Destination: who are you and what are you doing in my bed? Like a houseplant, it needs a little watering, in order to thrive. Untended, it can die of neglect.
Yeah, that sounds great, and we all know, deep down, how important it is, but it's just not all that easy. How do we take care of the kids, the house and the job and still have time and energy left over for each other?
Hear what the authors think. Click here for an author interview on the topic.
7. Turf Infringement
With grandparents and other extended family members all jockeying for a piece of the kiddie action, many couples told us they'd come into conflict over the interactions they have with their respective families. Turf Infringement can cause serious problems in the fledgling nest.
Does your spouse Recognize the Pecking Order? Does your nuclear family come first, or does your significant other put their family ahead of you? Are you married to a Mama's Boy or Daddy's Girl who needs to Cut the Cord?
8. Mothers for a Saner Life
"Damn you, Martha Stewart!" from Babyproofing Your Marriage.
"We drive ourselves so hard, but we feel like we are never on top of everything. We focus too much on what isn't right instead of all that is right. Why can't I say, 'Oh, everything's so great?' I keep saying, 'Let it go, let it go,' but I can't really let it go." - Margot, married 7 years, 2 kids
Are you pining for perfection? Do you feel bad because (circle all that apply): the house is always a mess/you haven't booked the moonbounce for your kid's birthday party which is still six months away/you haven't lost those 15lbs yet?
Can't we all just lighten up? How often are you able to say, "Good enough is good enough?"