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“How Not to Hate Your Husband After Kids” – A Book Review

March 8, 2023
the cover of the book "How not to hate your husband after kids" by Jancee Dunn

Hello, this is the first book review by curious dada on my wife asked me to read this book for her for 2 reasons:

1. because we are struggling with our marriage after kids, and we desperately looking for some tips and strategy to improve our marriage. 

2. It’s hard for my wife to read due to sleep deprivation (imagine reading when you get woken up by your baby every hr or so)

Since I am doing this for my wife, I figure it might be beneficial to share this on the internet because I think more couples like us could benefit from the advises from this book. 

If you are interested, here’s the video version of this review:

Since I am not a professional writer or doing book reviews regularly, I will structure my review in the same sequence as how I normally process information from a book:

1. Read: A high-level summary of the book

2. Think: What I think of the book and top takeaways for me. 

3. Action: How I incorporate some of the advice from the author into my everyday life to find out if I could benefit from her insights.

Read: The author Jancee Dunn is a mother of a 6 years old girl. This book is about Jancee’s journey exploring the struggles she and her husband, Tom face after having Sylvie. It offers practical advice from the division of labour in parenting and household chores to intimacy and emotional support through her extensive research and interview with relationship experts. 

The book is humorous and provides actionable recommendations for couples who share a similar struggle as Jancee and her family. Her recommendations are actionable and accessible (she generally provides both paid and free alternatives). Since this is a vast topic, I also really appreciate Jancee offered additional resources and names of the subject matter experts on sub-topics. For example, she recommends “The Five Love Languages” by Gary Chapman for improving communication, “Simplicity Parenting” by Kim John Payne to cover the topic of toys (it’s a huge sticking point for us) and “The Art of Possibility” by Rosamund Stone Zander and Benjamin Zander for changing your perspective on challenges. 

Think: Here are my 7 takeaways from Jancee’s book for couples who are struggling with their marriage after kids to work together, without being stuck in endless arguments or feeling overwhelmed with chores and finding the love that united you guys before kids. And I also discovered what truly matters to me in the long term: to be mindful and learn to manage the distraction from the immediacy of everyday activities.

  1. Clarity is vital: Jancee suggests that wives in particular need to be clear and specific about what they want and need from their husbands, rather than expecting them to read their minds or pick up on subtle hints. Clarity reduces the potential for misunderstandings and frustration and helps their husbands understand how they can best support them. 
  2. Nobody likes being told what to do: She explains that when wives try to tell their husbands what to do, it can lead to resentment and defensiveness, which can harm the relationship. Jancee suggests that instead of wives telling husbands what to do, wives should express how their husbands’ actions make them feel rather than criticizing or blaming them for their behaviour. Since you are talking about your feelings, they cannot challenge you on that, unlike accusations which often lead to endless arguments. 
  3. Learn from the FBI: Jancee explains that the FBI’s Crisis Negotiation Unit uses a technique called active listening, which involves giving the other person your full attention and trying to understand their perspective. This is best used to deescalate an argument (especially in front of our kid(s)) by using the principles of active listening in our relationships by being fully present and engaged when our partners are speaking and trying to understand their perspective before jumping to conclusions or getting defensive. 
  4. Delegate and loosen up your standards: Jancee suggests that wives should loosen up and move away from the expert (the wife) and apprentice (the husband) dynamic that can develop in many relationships. She suggests that instead of maintaining these rigid roles (like how to dress our son for school, what goes into his lunch..etc), couples should work together as equals, sharing the responsibilities and decision-making in all aspects of their lives. (instead of husbands constantly asking wives what to do in the expert/apprentice dynamic)
  5. Rules of fight club: Jancee shares that it hurts her deeply when she and her husband argue in front of their daughter, Sylvie, and she believes that it can be damaging to children’s emotional well-being and sense of security. Jancee explains that when parents argue in front of their children, it can create a sense of fear and insecurity for kids, as they may feel caught in the middle or responsible for the conflict. This can lead to anxiety, stress, and even behavioral problems. Jancee suggests that instead of arguing in front of children, parents should try to model respectful conflict resolution, such as taking a break to calm down and then coming back to the issue with a solution-focused approach. Parents can help children develop essential skills for their relationships and future interactions by showing them how to handle conflict healthily and respectfully.
  6. Make household chores as automatic and streamlined as possible: Jancee explains that when household chores are constantly on our minds, it can create a sense of overwhelm and stress, which can spill over into other areas of our lives, including our relationships. Jancee suggests strategies such as delegating tasks, setting up reminders, and creating routines for tasks such as laundry, grocery shopping, and cleaning. She also emphasizes the importance of letting go of perfectionism and accepting that things won’t always be perfect, but that it’s important to stay on top of the most important tasks.
  7. Self-Care: Jancee argues it’s vital for moms to let go of these feelings of guilt and recognize that taking care of oneself is not selfish but rather an essential component of being able to care for others. She suggests that moms make a conscious effort to prioritize activities that bring them joy and relaxation and to communicate their needs and boundaries to their partners and families. Prioritize self-care is a crucial component of maintaining a healthy and fulfilling relationship.

Action: Jancee provided a lot of ideas to help our struggles, which is already worth the price of the book. We started to automate our household chores, as suggested by Jancee. We are using the first letter of weekdays as a mnemonic device to help prioritize household work. 

M – Monday = Meal Planning and grocery shopping for the week ahead.

T – Tuesday: = throw old/useless stuff away, tidy up, and tackle any other tasks that have been piling up.

W – Wednesday = Washing, whether it’s doing a load of laundry, washing dishes, or cleaning the bathroom.

T – Thursday = Together time/Lunch date/Dedicated Time for talking

F – Friday = Weekend planning and catch any loose ends that we missed for the week. 

We are also incorporating other strategies. For example, my son is now the one who decides what to wear for school (with my guidance, or else it’s going to be his last Halloween custom everyday :|) Please feel free to contact me below if you have any questions or would like to be notified for my upcoming book reviews. I am more than happy to share and elaborate my experience navigating fatherhood.

Here are some parts from the book I noted down:

Page 46: “…women still fear being judged, says San Francisco psychologist Joshua Coleman. “If little Shaun shows up to preschool with torn jeans and peanut butter on his face, people don’t think, ‘what is his father thinking?’. They’re saying ‘What is his mother thinking?'” (this highlight gender equality requires more work, it needs cultural shift)

Page 99: “Each spouse has his or her own needs, and the marriage has its own needs. The relationship is a third entity.” So you’re thinking not “What would be good for her?” or “What would be good for him” but “What would be good for the marriage?” And this invites a more cooperative, teamwork kind of attempt at resolution.

Page 103: “….Kids don’t require focused, minute-to-minute attention in order for them to grow and learn – that in fact they can learn from crawling around on the floor at Dad’s feet.

Page 163: Parents almost always guessed the five-start big event or vacation that took meticulous planning and buckets of cash. But Ellen Galinsky a researcher on what children think of their working parents, says that instead, kids specified the small, everyday rituals and traditions that said, “We’re a family. “

Page 171: Chores teach children that their contributions to the family are necessary and important, and – life lesson alert!

Page 240: Know that eventually it’s going to be just the two of you again…

Page 253: Say “Thank you,” and say it often. Voicing your gratitude takes almost no effort, and to my mind, it’s nearly impossible to thank someone too often. A simple “thank you” renders you visible and takes away the feeling that you’re a stagehand, silently engineering the props while the others have all the fun.

All the best!

Curious Dada

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