Posts tagged with books:
Hello. We had a baby a few months ago. Do you have any suggestions for books about keeping the marriage on track after a baby? Also, can you keep the name anonymous? My husband is very private. Thanks!!
I wish I had more for you. I wish I could list 10 books that helped but I can’t. I can give you just one really good recommendation: All Joy and No Fun by Jennifer Senior. (My review is here.) The portions about why couples can fracture post-baby was the first time I read anything that mirrored my own feelings and experiences.
(I’m going to go off on a tangent here for a second so feel free to skip.)
- I’m always careful to toe the line between privacy and openness here on my blog and this post is no exception. Marriage dynamics post-baby are very tricky. I think that’s why no one talks about it. Well, almost no one. You see a million “DH is a deadbeat, I’m divorcing him tomorrow!!!!” posts on mom message boards (Babycenter, ahem). But if you look to other online communities—Instagram, Facebook, whatever—you’ll hardly ever see anyone write anything of substance about marriage post-baby. And you’ll never, ever see a prominent mom blogger discuss it unless they mention it briefly and then tritely wrap it up with how they are still so in love, and the partner is so supportive. Somehow protecting a brand is synonymous with perfect marital happiness. Other difficult, private things can be discussed, but the marriage relationship must never be examined thoughtfully. The result of this is a lot of women that look they are in perfect marriages with perfect guys that do perfect things to support their perfect home and perfect clothes and perfect meals. I used to read these blogs and go I HAVEN’T SHOWERED IN 5 DAYS HOW CAN YOU MAINTAIN THIS FLAWLESS FACADE. And I still don’t know how they do it. I don’t.
- However, I’ve determined that there may be a “type” of marriage that can navigate the first year of the first child with a minimum of external tension. That marriage is a more traditional one. In a heterosexual partnership that adheres to traditional gender roles PRE-BABY, there is already an expectation that the male will do traditionally male things and the female will do traditionally female things. And post-baby, the traditionally female things will include the bulk of childcare. (Maybe all the childcare.) It probably also includes cooking, cleaning, organizing, doctor’s appointments, shopping. It may also include bills and finances. In this case, in this more traditional marriage, there is a clear expectation of what is expected from both parties long before the baby is born. Therefore, it’s no big surprise when baby arrives and Mom assumes the bulk of childcare. Dad is comfortable with his role, Mom is comfortable in her role. Tension is minimal because the expectations of child-rearing have been established for a long time. Maybe since the couple met.
- So where does that leave other partnerships or marriages? In our case, my husband and I both worked full-time. We evenly split household duties, chores and responsibilities. How post-modern of us! How progressive!
- But, holy shit, when Isobel was born, it’s like the world was turned completely upside down. I think Brandon expected to assume more of the childcare than he could do or that I would let him do. (That last one is key.) For my side, I expected him to anticipate and complete every single possible task that could be related to childcare on any given day. (DOESN’T HE KNOW THE BABY NEEDS A BATH) Then, I’d want to do those tasks myself anyway because I could do them faster, better. I was angry at myself for not giving him more space to carve out a place in the household and I was angry at him for not insisting on it. We were both frustrated at the traditional marriage/gender roles that we slipped into, almost immediately.
- There are some extraneous things that really affect the way this plays out. Maternity/paternity leaves, for example. Brandon used vacation time to take almost two weeks off. I took a very short maternity leave and then juggled baby and full-time work from home until she was about 12 months old. Two weeks wasn’t enough time for dad to grow accustomed to the schedule and rigor of newborn care. Additionally, it’s difficult for Dad to wrap his brain around helping with a 3 am feeding when he’s got to be up at 6 am for a 12 hour work day. If we had started Isobel in daycare when she was an infant (which I would absolutely do if we ever had a second child), I think that could have helped with some of the issues that arose. I was trying to be a hero to too many people and I ended up being nothing but a failure to myself.
- Another thing that really contributed to the traditional gender role tension—and is something that I almost never see discussed—is the way that breastfeeding changes the childcare dynamic. I breastfed for about 8 months (though I was only nursing in the morning and before bed by the last few weeks). I would breastfeed again. But fuck, I wish someone had told me what to expect. I don’t know what I was thinking, but for some reason my brain did not process the fact that I would be assuming the bulk of the night wakings and feedings. I had intermittent trouble with my supply and struggled to stash enough away for bottle feedings at night (which Brandon could have helped with). I also waited a long time to give a bottle in general. It was just long enough for both of us to have accepted that if the baby cried at night, I would go. And frankly, I was so highly attuned to the crying, that even if he’d helped, I would have had trouble going back to sleep. It was a very fragile, sensitive time for me. I had difficulty sleeping, difficulty waking, difficulty moving through my day. It was a fog. Anyway, my advice to moms who are breastfeeding or planning to breastfeed is that they establish ahead of time a list of tasks that the partner can accomplish since they may not be taking the night shift much at all. This could include: Making breakfast, keeping on top of the laundry, 15-20 minutes for Mom in the morning to shower, running errands for Mom before or after work (or during lunch break). If you are able to stash enough breast milk so dad can assist with a bottle at night, get earplugs, use an eye mask and kick him out of bed to do go it. Every single night. That might get you an extra 2-3 hours of sleep per night. That is A LOT. These are all things I wish I’d thought about before giving birth, because by the time the issues were actually happening, we were both too tired and overwhelmed to make logical, helpful decisions in ways that would have been beneficial to us both.
- It was really difficult for me to ask Brandon for help. It was difficult for him to ask what I needed help with. This stalemated the situation and created a vicious cycle of inactivity and resentment and echoed a lot of what I read in All Joy and No Fun too. We both just wanted a few minutes to ourselves. The difference was that I felt I had to ask permission or ask for assistance in order to take that time. Ugh, it’s a mess, huh? I noticed that I sometimes thought of Brandon more like a babysitter (“Can you watch Isobel for 30 minutes so I can go get a pedicure?”) instead of my husband and her father (“I’m going to go get a pedicure, there is a bottle in the fridge, Bye!”). This was frustrating for Brandon too. When we look back on this time, we’re both irritated by how little we communicated about our frustrations and how easily we slipped into tired cliches. (They’re cliches for a reason, I guess.) He didn’t like that I would be like, “Are you sure you’re okay to watch her while I go to the grocery store for 10 minutes?” He’d think, well, she must not trust me to be a very good dad! And I’m thinking to myself, I wish he’d noticed we needed groceries! Finding a way to reconcile the way we used to split household responsibilities with all the new childcare responsibilities was challenging.
- I don’t have a magical piece of advice that can string all of this together. But what I can tell you is that although I don’t know the specifics of your situation, I can sympathize with your general question. I’ve been there. We’ve been there. It was difficult for us to translate an equal marriage (in terms of us having a dual-income household that we held equal responsibility for) into equal parenting. The silver lining here is that once we pushed through the difficult months and sat down to discuss our individual issues, our relationship improved. A lot. We felt stronger and happier for having had to navigate through this major life change together.
- I hope you’re still reading given that I kind of blacked out and just typed 10 paragraphs. :/
- You’ve got this. Now go for a pedicure!
hey! I’m going on vacay next week and am looking for some good beach reads. I’m not picky—anything good that has stood out to you lately? Thanks :) — alexash
If you like politics, I’m reading HRC by Jonathan Allen and Amie Parnes right now and it’s great.
If none of these strike you, check out my best books list for 2013 here. (The links to my best books for previous years are at the bottom of the post.)
Any recent beach read suggestions?
Don’t know yet if I’ll post whole reviews of these, but I’ve been mentioning over on Twitter how I am completely engrossed in the MH 370 shitshow. That spiraled into a general aviation book hunt and I just finished with a summary of aviation disasters so basically I’m never going to stop reading about airplanes. ANYWAY.
(You should have seen when I was obsessed with submarines. And—as I’ve pointed out to Brandon—at least I’m not reading about serial killers…anymore.)
I had a few people ask on Twitter what books I’ve been reading so here is a short list if you’d like to venture into the abyss with me:
- Fly by Wire by William Langewiesche - This is very well-written, not too technical. It gives a great overview of fly by wire aircraft and intertwines general aviation history/the origin of fly by wire aircraft/etc. with the story of the Hudson River landing in 2009.
- Understanding Air France 447 by Bill Palmer - This is a highly technical account of the Air France 447 tragedy. I was fascinated by how technical it was—and I’m glad I read it after Fly by Wire.
- Black Box by Nicholas Faith - Overviews and analysis of some of the most complex and notorious airplane crashes.
We (by “we,” I mean just me but it sounds better to say we) also watched the TWA Flight 800 documentary on Netflix a few days ago. If you like conspiracy theories (WHO DOESN’T), you are guaranteed to lose at least a few additional hours post-documentary scouring the Internet for more information.
P.S. By the way, here’s the submarine book I read in the 7th or 8th grade that started everything. HAVE FUN.