How not to hate your hubby af­ter kids

Au­thor’s nappy bucket wake-up call may help you too

Saturday Star - - LIFESTYLE - MIA GEIGER

JOUR­NAL­IST Jancee Dunn en­joys a happy home life with her hus­band and young daugh­ter. But it wasn’t al­ways all smiles and sun­shine. The cou­ple’s con­tent­ment be­came strained soon af­ter the birth of their child.

Re­sent­ment fes­tered – over whose tur n it was to empty the nappy bucket, who was sup­posed to make din­ner, who got cov­eted time to them­selves. The pres­sures of rais­ing a child es­ca­lated. Stress grew.

Dunn de­cided to do some­thing about their sit­u­a­tion be­fore they be­came an­other di­vorce statis­tic. She em­barked on a jour­ney to im­prove her mar­riage, seek­ing out ther­a­pists and other re­la­tion­ship ex­perts, as well as delv­ing into re­search.

The cul­mi­na­tion of her ef­forts is her new book, How Not to Hate Your Hus­band Af­ter Kids. A for­mer Rolling Stone writer, she in­cor­po­rates her straight­for­ward, hu­mor­ous writ­ing style as she shares pri­vate mo­ments of be­ing a wife and mother, along with ad­vice.

We spoke to Dunn to find out about her ex­pe­ri­ences, how life has changed for her fam­ily and what tips she can of­fer other moms.

Q: Do you think a lot of women can re­late to the ti­tle of your book?

A: A lot of my friends who used to tell me in­ti­mate things had kept this as­pect of their lives a se­cret. One friend said: “Oh, Sean and I didn’t talk for two years af­ter the twins were born” and I had no idea. I thought ev­ery­thing was fine. I’ve asked women: “Hey, do you get as up­set with your hus­band as I do?” The force of their an­swers blew me away. They went on for days.

Q: Did you aim your book at new moms?

A: I wrote it with an eye to­ward new moms and I kept think­ing how naive I was when I was preg­nant. I thought about my­self and other preg­nant women I knew.

You don’t have these ba­sic con­ver­sa­tions with your mate. When I was preg­nant it was a dreamy time. We would walk up and down the street and talk about names. That was fun. And how you are go­ing to dec­o­rate the nurs­ery is such a won­der­ful con­ver­sa­tion.

But we didn’t have the most ba­sic con­ver­sa­tions about who, af­ter I went back to work, would take care of the baby when she got sick.

We hadn’t talked about whether re­li­gion would play a role, what roles the grand­par­ents were go­ing to have, what we would do on week­ends, who would do what chores around the house.

Q: What spurred you to em­bark on this project?

A: I can re­mem­ber a spe­cific time we were squab­bling about emp­ty­ing the nappy bucket. Some­thing as ev­ery day as that and the anger I felt for him be­cause he wasn’t pitch­ing in – I was stran­gled by the force of my anger be­cause we did have a placid mar­riage be­fore that.

I re­mem­ber think­ing: “Wow! I could ac­tu­ally maybe kill him.” I looked at my hands and they were clench­ing.

Ra­tio­nally I knew that I was reel­ing from hor­mones and lack of sleep and the fact our lives had turned up­side down, but I couldn’t con­trol my anger.

I thought: “This is not good, I’ve never had this kind of anger be­fore.”

Q: What was be­hind some of the emo­tions?

A: I felt like I was on the job 24 hours (a day). I felt like I never had a men­tal break. I was in charge and did it well. I be­came more and more re­sent­ful.

Q: You men­tion “ma­ter­nal gatekeeping” as some­thing to be aware of. What is that?

A: You de­lib­er­ately shut out your part­ner and there are many dif­fer­ent ways. When I started to key into what I was do­ing, I was prac­tis­ing ma­ter­nal gatekeeping all day long.

Even when I SMSed other moms about an is­sue at school and my hus­band would ask what’s go­ing on, I would say: “Oh, don’t worry about it.” That’s ma­ter­nal gatekeeping.

Or I would say: “That’s not how she likes her toast.” Let him make the damn toast, who cares? It’s a way to tell him he’s do­ing it wrong and I know bet­ter: “This is not how she dresses, this is not how she wears her hair.” Who cares?

Q: How can moms avoid ma­ter­nal gatekeeping?

A: To be aware of “what does it cost me”. What does it cost me if the kid is wear­ing stripes and plaids? If he makes din­ner and there is not a veg­etable, it’s okay. If there is a school mat­ter, in­volve him, CC him, talk to him about it. Give him the ben­e­fit of the doubt that he would be interested.

Q: You also men­tion “loos­en­ing your stan­dards”.

A: Your child is hap­pier with a re­laxed mom rather than an up­tight mom who is up un­til mid­night mak­ing la­dy­bug cup­cakes for the kin­der­garten party. When you (stop) be­ing a per­fec­tion­ist, you can fun­nel that en­ergy else­where. Things don’t need to be per­fect.

Q: The power of say­ing “thank you” is an­other tool you dis­cuss.

A: It has a re­cip­ro­cal ef­fect. If you say”thank you”, the other per­son starts do­ing it. Oh, thank you for sit­ting with the baby while I took a shower, thank you for clean­ing up – things you don’t have to thank them for, I would say: “Thank you.”

Then he started do­ing it back. It’s amazing, how he would say: “Oh, thank you, that was a great din­ner” and I would blos­som inside.

Stud­ies show that if you thank a part­ner, your re­la­tion­ship mea­sur­ably im­proves. One thing I hear over and over from moth­ers is that feel­ing of be­ing taken for granted, of feel­ing invisible, like you’re a stage­hand. When some­one thanks you, you feel vis­i­ble.

Q: You and your hus­band spent a lot of ef­fort try­ing to re­solve dif­fer­ences.

A: It’s not easy but we are the grown-ups, we have to act like grown-ups. We can’t act like squab­bling tod­dlers. The heat is out of our fights. We dis­agree but we work it out. The goal is not to vent and yell at each other. We have a goal now and it is to work it out. – The Wash­ing­ton Post

Re­sent­ment fes­tered in jour­nal­ist Jancee Dunn’s mar­riage soon af­ter the birth of their baby and the pres­sures of rais­ing a child es­ca­lated – a sce­nario she found many new moms ex­pe­ri­enced but kept se­cret.

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