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It probably surprises no one that I read a lot of books about parenting. But this this is the book that, a year into parenting, helps me every day. It’s made be a better mom and wife, and it’s made me a lot happier as an individual.
Before M was born, Nick bought a bunch of books for me and downloaded them onto my phone. He was preparing us for lots of late nights holding her. I laughed when I saw that he put “How Not to Hate Your Husband After Kids” by Jaycee Dunn on there. I had no intention of reading it.
Nick and I have always had type of relationship that I think kinds of lends itself well to the shock of parenting. We’re used to not spending a lot of time together. We’ve always been able to go through hard things, like a 6-month deployment, and then find each other again.
Because of this, I wasn’t worried about how our relationship would be after M was born. We have been through extremely stressful situations together, like moving across the ocean, preparing for a deployment, and the uncertainty of military life. I feel like all of that prepared us well for becoming parents in the sense that we already know how to communicate and deal with each other under stressful situations.
One day I was holding M while she napped, and I was in between books. I can honestly say that I didn’t feel like Nick and I were having any big problems. And I say this because I truly think everyone will benefit from reading this book, even if you don’t “hate your husband.”
But there were definitely a few things that I knew we could work on. A few resentments starting to creep up. I decided to give it a shot.
I was instantly hooked. It reads more like a memoir than a self-help book, which made it more palpable for me.
This book talks about so many different topics, from fighting fair to dividing up chores to sex. There are a lot of things in the book that might not apply to you – like, Dunn talks a lot about controlling her temper, which didn’t apply to me, but the methods she used seemed really helpful.
There were lots of important things you can get out of this book and I’m not going to summarize all of them. I am just going to share a few key things that really resonated with me, and how we’ve implemented some of her advice.
I expect if you read this book you will take away completely different practical advice for your marriage, which is why I really encourage all parents to read this book.
I finished reading the book in February, but I purposely waited a few months before writing about it on my blog because I wanted to see if the changes we made were effective and sustainable before raving about the book. They are both!
Dunn spends a lot of time talking about disparities in household work, in everything from the emotional labor of buying presents and sending cards to the physical labor of cooking and laundry and making grocery lists.
Even if both spouses are working full time outside the home, guess who ends up with the bulk of all of this? The woman, of course.
I could spend an entire series of blog post just talking about this. One thing that I took from this is that if I am constantly making lists and telling Nick what to do, not only am I still doing all of the work of figuring out what has to get done, but I also have to tell Nick to do it and follow up on it. I needed him to just know what to do and when to do it.
Nick and I talked about all of this and made a huge list of things that need to get done in the house – from making doctor’s appointments for M to sending presents to scrubbing the bathrooms. We divided up everything in a way that felt fair.
For example, one thing that we decided would be fully on Nick was introducing solid foods to M. Nick researches recipes, writes lists of food to buy, and prepares all of her meals. Before covid, he took her to swim lessons. He did everything from researching swimming lessons and signing her up to getting swim diapers, packing her bag, and taking her. I didn’t have to think about swim lessons at all.
Now everyone knows who does what. I know that Nick is going to take care of M’s food and he knows that I am going to make sure we have all of our groceries and household supplies. He doesn’t have to think about ordering toilet paper and I don’t have to think about what food M is going to try next. This has been hugely liberating.
And, it’s given Nick ownership over things in our household instead of just being told what to do by me. It feels a lot more equal.
We also divided up cleaning and created a cleaning schedule. Much of the chores around the house are now practically on auto-pilot because we know who does what. Before we did this, I was starting to feel resentment about cleaning and laundry because I didn’t feel it was fair. Now, I don’t even think about it. Less emotional labor, less physical labor (for me!), and zero resentment.
If I am burnt out and not happy and resentful, Nick sure isn’t going to be happy because I am sure to take it out on him. Nick was not used to doing more around the house, but it has made us both a lot happier.
Steve Jobs was known for wearing the same thing every day to help minimize decision fatigue. Dunn talks a lot about how streamlining can make everything easier. Based on her recommendations, we created a few different routines to put certain things in our life on auto pilot.
We started cooking the same dinners each week. On Tuesdays, we have salmon, on Wednesdays, we have chicken curry and veggies, and so on. And for our lunches, we’ll eat the same thing for a few weeks and then switch.
This has made my life so much easier, especially now with covid. I don’t have to think about what we’re going to eat next week, look up recipes, and make a new grocery list each week. That is a huge amount of time that I am saving each week. I have a master grocery list that I just work off of each week, adding things as I need.
We have really tried to simplify our lives. We don’t over-schedule ourselves. We leave lots of empty space on the calendar so we’re not rushing around (pre-covid – not we have all the free calendar space in the world).
Dunn talks a lot about giving each other time to do things on their own, and how important it is for moms especially to have time away from the house completely, like on a girls trip. My girls trip this year got cancelled, but I’ll definitely be taking that advice once things with covid get better.
Nick has been home a lot during covid. When Nick is home, or on the weekends, some days, we trade chunks of time. I’ll spend time with M while Nick does whatever he needs to do. And then he will spend some time with her while I can do whatever I need to do. This is how I am able to have time to blog and how I was able to start my Etsy Shop. We also use this time to do our chores or whatever we need to get done.
I personally am the type of person who absolutely needs alone time. Even if I am just cleaning, being alone for a little while does wonders for my mental health.
It’s easy for me to huff around, complaining that I am doing everything, and getting annoyed at Nick for not doing something he didn’t know I wanted him to do. But Dunn argues that we don’t need to be martyrs. If you need help, ask for it. If your spouse is annoying you for whatever reason, tell them. If you need time alone, tell your spouse. You’re doing everyone a disservice if you don’t.
So you’re probably wondering what meal prep and cleaning schedules has to do with making your relationship better. Being more organized, having more time, and having alone time has made me a happier person. All of this has given Nick and me so much more free time to spend together. We actually have time in the evenings now to reconnect. We don’t feel like we’re constantly treading water.
I feel like I am spending a lot less mental energy on things that have become streamlined, giving me more time to enjoy my relationship and my baby.
I also have time to focus on me. To feel like myself. To be myself. This has been huge.
I will say, this book was tailored for heterosexual couples and spends a lot of time talking about the differences specifically between men and women. I think that the things that I personally got out of the book could apply to any relationship, but I can’t really say because I only have my perspective.
Still, I highly, highly recommend this book. For me, it has truly been life-changing.
What life hacks have helped you since having kids?