The One Book I’d Recommend All New Parents Read

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Maybe it was her honest explanation of the story of the first post-baby fight she had with her husband over who was going to empty the Diaper Genie, or it could’ve been when my heart ached for her as she sat crying in the therapist’s office as her husband explained how he’d been feeling by her words lately. Either way, by the time I was done reading How To Not Hate Your Husband After Kids by Jancee Dunn, I wished I had read it sooner, and I knew that this was a must-read for all new parents.

Choosing to live your life with someone for the long haul is a major commitment. There is a lot to consider when you’re thinking about marrying someone let alone having children with them. If we are fortunate enough to find someone that we’d like to spend the rest of our lives with, we often have hopes that who they are today will be who they are forever. Sometimes, in those early years, it can be so difficult to think of scenarios where you’re so angry with them you could scream, you imagine hitting them over the head with a pillow, or you take an extra long shower to keep you from saying something snarky.

And then you have kids.

And then, you’re tired from being up with your baby all night, and they ask if you’re good to watch the kid(s) while they go to play basketball with a few friends. Or you both get home from a long day at work, and you ask if they can help with dinner, and they say, “In a minute, I’m so tired,” and goes and sits on the couch and turns on the evening news. I believe that you can often see someone’s true personality come out, for better or for worse, after having kids. This isn’t to say that people can’t change or learn new behaviors, but oftentimes what you may have let roll off your back before is now unavoidably right in front of your face.

 

By the time I was done reading How To Not Hate Your Husband After Kids by Jancee Dunn, I wished I had read it sooner, and I knew that this was a must-read for all new parents.

 

There was a time during the first year of motherhood that my husband couldn’t brush his teeth without me criticizing him. I was annoyed by everything he did, and truthfully, I was resentful of how much freedom and downtime he seemed to have when I felt smothered and overwhelmed by our lovely yet clingy baby and everything that came with him. I loved our son more than anything I’d ever imagined, but I had no idea what I was doing or how to communicate the help I so badly needed. 

How can I stop being so mad and resentful and start asking for what I need while also improving our marriage?

This was the question that was swirling around in my head and ultimately the question that led me down a path of searching for a parenting and marriage self-help book. While I’ve always enjoyed reading personal self-help books, I was never much into books about pregnancy, motherhood, parenting, or marriage. Picking up How To Not Hate Your Husband After Kids was kind of a big step for me and was a little sign to myself that I don’t have all the answers and that maybe someone who’s been where I am can give me a little bit of insight into what I’m currently dealing with.

 

Source: @rcitystyle

 

I finished the book in three days and immediately told my husband to read it next. I’ve also referenced this book on several occasions during therapy sessions where my therapist also agreed that it is a really funny yet honest telling of what can happen in a marriage. We also agreed that it does a good job of sharing what people can do individually and together to improve the relationship once kids are involved too.

It doesn’t matter if you’re a newlywed or you’ve been married with kids for years, I think everyone can benefit from giving this book a try. At the very least, you’ll be able to relate to some of Jancee’s stories, thoughts, and feelings and get quite a few laughs out of it too. 

Jancee Dunn

How To Not Hate Your Husband After Kids

"Part memoir, part self-help book with actionable and achievable advice, 'How Not To Hate Your Husband After Kids' is an eye-opening look at how the man who got you into this position in this first place is the ally you didn't know you had."

Before you purchase the book or borrow it from your local library, I thought I’d share a few major themes from the book that helped me see things differently.

 

Partners need to be more involved

From reading the title of the book, you probably would have guessed that this was going to be a major theme throughout the book. One of my favorite things about this book is that while Jancee uses a lot of her own stories throughout the book, she also puts in the leg work to talk to professionals in sex, relationship, marriage, and family fields to help her back up her thoughts and findings by science. 

In one chapter, she explains how partners contributing to chores can positively impact their spouses and marriage overall.“When [spouses] take on their fair share of household responsibilities, their partners are happier and less prone to depression, disputes are fewer, and divorce rates are lower,” Dunn said. Thankfully there are scientific studies to bring this point home, but unfortunately, this isn’t news to many mothers. Ask any mom if they wished they had more help from their spouse, and I’d bet you’d get a resounding “Hell yes!”

While partner involvement has gotten better over the years compared to the family structures of the ’50s and ’60s, there is still a great deal of room for improvement now. Dunn goes on to say that sometimes the imbalance of childcare and household responsibilities can come from “the pull of traditional societal expectations” and that she feels a “baseless fear” that makes her not want to be too demanding on her husband.

I think many of us feel this in our own way, and it all boils down to setting expectations, learning to ask for more help, and understanding that to have a happy and healthy home that the family does need both parents to be involved.

 

Sex can be a good reset button

I was talking to a girlfriend recently, and we both were jokingly venting about how sometimes we can’t fathom being interested in sex after taking on most of the household and childcare duties all day. For some reason, this isn’t something that women are comfortable talking openly about, but I have to imagine that this is something we all experience at one time or another throughout our life. Dunn sums this up perfectly: “We have fallen into a pattern in which he tries to capitalize on a moment when we are finally alone, and I, after a long session of tending to a child, shut him down, viewing sex as just one more thing I have to do for someone.” 

Bingo! 

Feeling “touched out”—an increasingly popular phrase among mothers explaining feeling tired of being climbed on, tugged on, hugged on, etc. often by children—is another reason why sex can sometimes feel like a dreadful to-do list task. This is why partners getting more involved is the first hurdle to overcome. 

When talking to my therapist about my feelings around sex and intimacy after having our son, she said that there is an argument to be made for maintenance sex—that is, being intimate just so that you don’t go too long and get out of the habit of tending to that part of your own needs and the needs of the relationship or marriage. After giving this theory about maintenance sex some thought and consideration, I decided that she’s right. Something feels off within me, my husband, and my marriage overall when we haven’t connected intimately and haven’t had sex in a while. 

I really enjoyed the chapter where Dunn and her husband put a little extra effort into their sex lives. Without giving away too much detail, they agree to increase their eye contact, nonsexual touch, and ultimately engage in a “sexperiment” for seven days. Hearing the effort that was put in each day and the positive result they got to on day seven has made me think about intimacy and sex differently. Yes, we are parents, but we are human beings first, and sex and intimacy are normal needs to have. How we have those needs met will differ but learning that about your spouse and making time for them in that way is all a part of marriage.

 

 

Anger often isn’t the true feeling

Sometimes when our spouse asks us what’s wrong, we quickly respond with “I’m angry with you,” and while that feels true at the moment, there is often something much more real and concrete going on underneath those feelings.

Jancee decided to pay a very steep $800 for five hours to take her husband to one of the best couples counselors in Boston, Terry Real. Real’s (no pun intended) cutthroat approach to helping them get to the root of their problems and see the true meaning behind their feelings was the most insightful part of this book for me. When talking about anger in the relationship Real said: “Humiliating and ridiculing have no place whatsoever in a healthy relationship. There’s a world of difference between assertively standing up for yourself and aggressively pulling him down.” He concludes by saying, “[S]tarting today, you have to tell him what he could do to make you feel better by using the phrase ‘What I’d like you to do now is…’ rather than just pounding him into the ground.”

When I was reading this, I realized that my anger and resentment were often more about feeling overwhelmed by all my responsibilities and needing more help around the house. Not getting (and truthfully, not asking for) that help would build up over time until I became what I like to refer to as a shaken pop bottle that is about to explode. 

What Real talks about in this chapter ultimately boils down to seeing who our partners truly are and choosing to be vulnerable and ask for help from the heart. It may not seem like it, but when your spouse sends you a text saying, “What’s for dinner tonight?” (as you’re busy wrangling the kids and have a million other things on your mind), remember they’d likely be more willing to help out if they truly understood what the lack of help is doing to your overall happiness.

Jancee Dunn

How To Not Hate Your Husband After Kids

"Part memoir, part self-help book with actionable and achievable advice, 'How Not To Hate Your Husband After Kids' is an eye-opening look at how the man who got you into this position in this first place is the ally you didn't know you had."

If you’re on the brink of hating your spouse now that kids are involved, know that you’re not alone. At one time or another, we’ve all been there—some of us more than we’d like to outwardly admit. Do yourself a favor and get your hands on this book; you’ll likely learn a thing or two that will improve your circumstance. And if nothing else, you’ll have fun laughing at Dunn’s honest truths about her love life.

 

Read More: 10 Ways to Spice Things Up in the Bedroom After the Kids Go to Sleep

 

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