This book gave me so many “ah-ha” moments that after a hundred pages I started to feel like an idiot. Why did I assume that so many of these little “life after baby” marital frustrations had only ever happened to me? How Not to Hate Your Husband After Kids made me feel like I was part of a larger group called ‘mothers who try to do it all and feel secretly guilty that they can’t and wonder how everybody else does it.’ What a relief to know it wasn’t just me.
Dunn weaves her personal stories in with interviews from experts in fields as diverse as couples’ counseling to organizational gurus on a quest to save her sanity and her marriage from the hole that it had fallen into post-baby. She is largely successful and gives plenty of tips that readers can incorporate immediately into their lives.
But, I was bothered by the, what I interpreted as, straight-up manipulation of her husband. Yes, Dunn is simply following expert advice, but reading about her self-satisfied crowing as she changes some of his more irritating behaviors felt disrespectful. I mean, husband Tom is going to read this book. I would feel devastated if my spouse wrote those sorts of things about me for millions of people to read and dissect. Granted, he was clued in that things were being recorded in a tell-all book, but still.
“When I was six months pregnant with my daughter, I had lunch with a group of friends, all of whom were eager to pass along their hard-won scraps of parental wisdom. … ” … get ready to hate your husband,” said my friend Lauren. … Wrong, I told her calmly. I listed various reasons why our relationship was solid… But my friend Lauren was right.” locs 115-140 ebook. We joke about how babies change lives but it’s not really funny, is it. It is a legit problem that marital happiness decreases because of less sleep, less money, less time, less sex… no need to go on.
Dunn begins her efforts to change her situation when she realizes that she’s reached a breaking point. “Our daughter is now six, and Tom and I still have endless, draining fights. Why do I have the world’s tiniest fuse when it comes to the division of childcare and household labor? I am baffled that things have turned out this way.” loc 158. In cringe-inducing honesty, Dunn admits to being verbally abusive to her spouse. My stomach actually churned when I read the sorts of things that she’d call him during fights. That part of the memoir made me very glad that she decided she didn’t want to live like that because I know that I wouldn’t have wanted that either.
I learned a lot about “maternal gatekeeping,” a pernicious practice where a mother discourages fathers from interacting with their children because of an internal belief that she knows better how to do EVERYTHING. And also, I learned about the importance of blocking time on weekends for personal rejuvenation and rest. “And must we be compulsively busy every second of the day, briskly doing something “useful”? Nonstop activity can be addictive, but it’s a mistake, warns the University of Houston’s Brene Brown, a mom of two.” loc 1697. Word. Everybody needs to chill out, calm down and unwind.
We also need to appreciate each other more. At the end of the day and on the other side of all of the experts, Dunn comes to a dozen important realizations. One of which, appreciation, seems to be the magic bullet for most of her formerly-insurmountable marriage woes. It isn’t a new message but it is one that is worth repeating.
Recommended for parents of all ages, How Not to Hate Your Husband After Kids contains wisdom for just about every troublesome situation that one may find themselves in after children. Let’s hope the book can live up to its title.
Thank you to NetGalley and Little, Brown and Company for a free digital copy of this book. And thank you for reading!