Parent Hacks is one of the sites kicking off the MotherTalk blog book tour for Babyproofing Your Marriage: How to Laugh More, Argue Less, and Communicate Better as Your Family Grows. I was immediately attracted to the premise: three wives-and-mothers interview moms and dads to gain insight on what "married-with-children" really looks like, and then propose practical solutions to help parents make the journey back to couplehood. No therapist making proclamations from on high. Sounded promising.
For the most part, the authors make good on their promise. This book scores points for its real-world assessment of married life with kids, and for its balanced portrayal of both men's and women's Mars/Venus approaches. In fact, many in the midst of "baby shock" will (and should) come away from reading this book with great relief that they are not alone their post-kid marital struggles. The authors are spot-on in many of their observations, and give good, simple advice on how to stop scorekeeping, start communicating, and generally be happier. You've heard it before: listen, appreciate and acknowledge, and have more sex.
Speaking of sex (I just felt the faint draft created by thousands of heads leaning closer to their computers), Chapter Four, "The 'Sex Life' of New Parents," was well worth the read for the eye-opening look at just how differently the, uh, change in intimacy after kids arrive affects men and women.
BUT I can't give this book a perfect 10. For as much as Chapter Four hit it out of the park, other aspects of the book fell several yards short of the goal post. Why? For one, the infernal sports analogies when addressing fathers. I get it. The authors were trying to speak men's native tongue. And while I appreciated the effort, the effect came off as patronizing…no, matronizing. Perhaps I'm biased since my husband is more iPhone than end zone, but I felt different treatment of dads was in order. I did enjoy the pull quotes from moms and dads telling their stories, though. Hearing those voices sometimes made up for the chatty analogies.
I also felt the book painted the differences between men and women in broad strokes, sometimes bordering on stereotype. To be fair, having kids has put me face-to-face with basic gender differences, both between my son and daughter and between my husband and me. The way we communicate, the way we react…it shocks me at times just how much we play to type. (Remember this wonderful discussion, inspired by another book tour?) But I still felt the book oversimplified these differences, and the tired stock characters of Exhausted, Misunderstood Mom and Unappreciated, Under-sexed Dad were too close for comfort.
Despite my gripes with its tone, though, Babyproofing Your Marriage is a worthwhile reality check for people feeling bewildered by the changes parenthood brings to marriage. If nothing else, this book is a great conversation starter, which is just what many couples need most.
More: Marriage and relationship hacks