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Learning lessons from the book 'How Not to Hate Your Husband After Kids'

Posted April 30

“Have you read any good books lately?” I asked my friend recently as we were out on a walk with our kids.

“Oh!” she said excitedly. “I just read an article about a book I want to read. It’s called ‘How Not to Hate Your Husband After Kids.’”

I laughed out loud at the title. Hate is a strong word, but there have definitely been times after having kids I’ve looked at my husband and thought, “We are so different.”

The author of How Not to Hate Your Husband After Kids” (Little, Brown and Company, $27), Jancee Dunn, explained how when they were first married her and her spouse rarely ever fought. Then once kids were thrown into the mix, they seemed to argue over everything.

“Most of our arguments revolved around the fact that while we both worked full time, I was doing virtually all of the child care and chores around the house,” Dunn said in an article from New York Post. “I felt ashamed that we were fighting so much, which probably wasn’t helped by my social media feed, where every parent with a newborn looked beaming and in love.”

Like Dunn, perhaps we were blissfully naïve when it came to how difficult it would be to make tough decisions for our children’s lives when were first married.

My husband, Brad, and I were raised in wonderful, loving households that both taught similar values, but there are some significant differences in how we were raised that have caused some disagreements.

For example, on our second date we were driving past a run-down childcare center in Bountiful when I wrinkled my nose and said, “I don’t ever want to send my kids to daycare.” I then went on to elaborate for quite some time while Brad sat quietly listening.

Finally I looked over at him, wondering why he hadn’t made a peep at which point he smiled slowly and said, “My mom owns two daycare centers.” My mouth dropped open. I thought at any moment he’d look over at me and say, “Just kidding!” He didn’t.

In fact, he went on to explain how lucky his mother was to start a business where her kids could come to work with her, and what a blessing that daycare center was to his family and the community. He talked about all the life lessons he learned while attending daycare and preschool, and then later helping to take care of the facility with his family.

He told me all about how his mother’s entrepreneurial spirit influenced him and how proud he was of how hard she worked, both at her own business, and at home. I felt awful for my comment. For the first time, I was able to see a different perspective on a touchy subject.

One of the reasons I married my husband was because I thought his view of the world would complement mine. I liked the different perspective he brought into my life, and even though we disagreed on many things, we agreed on the big things.

But the moment we found out we were expecting our first baby, those different views suddenly seemed insurmountable. We had so many decisions to make, and suddenly not a clue of how we were going to agree on anything. Should we live close to my family or live close to his? Should we have a home or hospital birth? If we end up having boys (we have four), then should they be circumcised? I mean, there are some things you just can’t compromise on.

My biggest issue was trust. I thought, “Shouldn’t I stand firm and make him do the things I feel good about? If I give in to what my husband wants, does that mean he is controlling me?” Sometimes I would get so tired of trying to argue my point that I would say, “OK, let’s just do what you think is best,” and then resent him later.

After the babies came, the roles were reversed. My husband felt I was making all the decisions, and then getting mad at him for not being more involved. I would say things like, “Why in the world would you pick that outfit?” or “Don’t even try to give the baby a bottle.”

My sweet husband was so patient with my “maternal gatekeeping” as Dunn calls it, that most of the time, he would be the one to say “OK” and let me take the reins. I wanted — no, desperately needed his help — but only if he did it “my way.”

“When a mother does this, it puts off a hesitant or insecure father — and who isn’t hesitant at first?” says Dunn.

Parenting is hard. It's so hard. But it’s 10 times more difficult when you and your spouse aren’t on the same page. There has to be mutual respect and mutual trust.

In her book, Dunn discusses ways to let go of the need to control the way a partner parents. I think this is probably similar to the suggestions and theories I put into practice while reading “The Surrendered Wife”, but focusing more on surrendering parental control. (I need to brush up on my surrendering skills anyhow…)

Letting my husband parent the way he feels is best, not only validates him as a father, but also allows me to let go of the stress that comes with feeling like I have to think for six people.

I believe that differences between husband and wife can actually be used to complement a marriage if both are willing to listen to the other person and compromise. If two people can find a way to weave their opinions together with mutual trust and respect, it will result in a stronger family bond. I can’t wait to read Dunn’s new book — and I bet my husband can’t, either.

Carmen Rasmusen Herbert is a former "American Idol" contestant who writes about entertainment and family for the Deseret News. Her email is carmen.r.herbert@gmail.com.

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