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October 28th, 2008

Subtitled: How to Laugh More, Argue Less, and Communicate Better as Your Family Grows

Kindle edition

Unlike the Gottman book, this is only _mostly_ aimed at "first time expectants" (gotta love that marketing jargon); there's a fair amount in this book specifically about what happens with the 2nd, and even a little about the 3rd, 4th, 5th+ kids. A lot of this is the same old same old: negotiating sex post-baby, negotiating domestic work and child care post-baby, dealing with in-laws. Unlike other books on the subject, these three women/mothers/wives make some fairly concrete suggestions for shortcuts/bandaids in, not _resolving, but managing these issues.

Here's an example: the "five minute fix", in which they suggest wives deliver weekly or more often blowjobs to keep their husbands in a good mood. The theory behind this is it's fast, easy, requires minimal involvement/mess on the part of her and will have a hugely positive impact on his mood.

I bet you can guess what I'm going to say next: I have Issues with this suggestion.

First and foremost is the assumption that he wants sex and she doesn't. Sure, that's probably the common situation, but at the same time, I know marriages in which the high-libido partner is the woman (even post baby) and the low-libido partner is the man. So why can't this be presented as a high/low libido instead of a wife/husband thing?

But let's say I could somehow get past (say, by blue-penciling my edition to correct the gender problems) this problem. There is still a huge flaw in this as a solution. And anyone who knows the generation of women whose kids went off to college in the early 1990s knows _exactly_ what I'm talking about: their jobs were part-time and uniformly pretty horrible and any career they ever had was put on hold for their family, they had to cook, clean, shop for everyone, they had to manage the money (mostly), the social life, the decorating, the parties, the everything. So when they didn't have to do it for the kids any more, everything came to a screeching halt. Dinner was never cooked again -- arguments about food, to the extent they happened, revolved around who was going to make reservations. And not even about where, because she picked. He learned to iron and do laundry. They never threw a party again and they only occasionally went to one. Etc. Mama went on strike, permanently. Most of the husbands weren't able to get it up reliably by then; the ones who resorted to viagra wound up with a shockingly high divorce rate and learned quite quickly that they shouldn't have given up their marriage for more sex.

That's where scheduled, duty, quickie sex gets you. If that looks like a good idea to you, I cannot imagine why you are reading my blog, but I'll give you a couple pointers about what you might look out for in your future.

(1) Some day, your spouse will go on a trip without you. And you'll think it's so damn nice not to have him around that going through the messy process of divorce suddenly seems like a good idea. Even if you're morally opposed to divorce.

(2) Alternatively, someday your spouse's PSA test is going to come back a little elevated. And that "possible" side effect of impotence is going to sound Just Dandy.

I really fucking hate self-help books that advocate that women take care of themselves, and then completely ignore what it means when someone (male or female) doesn't feel like having sex. It means there is something the matter with them (exhaustion, sleep deprivation, too many demands, not enough stuff for them, etc.) and/or something the matter with their sexual partner (too much of a jackass, not enough together time, turned out to be a much less good parent than one had calculated). If you successfully address these underlying problems (and assuming there's no organic problem like high blood pressure or whatever affecting libido and/or performance), you won't need to resort to "five minute fixes".

Don't get me wrong: if _both_ partners want quickie sex and get something out of it, go for it! Schedule it! And it can be oral sex. But the five minute fix is predicated on doing it so he'll be in a good mood, in such a way as to minimize the cost to her.

Some other problems with the book: total dismissal of men doing most of the domestic work/child care. These men _do_ exist, even if they are much less common than the reverse it is important to include them in the discussion because they are _far_ more likely to insist on reasonable boundaries on their domestic work/child care. They _use_ sitters to give themselves a break and they insist that their breadwinner wives respect that. These are solutions _women need to know about_ and _men need to respect_. Men doing women's work have enforced these solutions and hearing about this from _men_ might get through to breadwinner husbands in a way that women have been unable to do. Leaving them out of the discussion shrinks the box.

While there are some worthwhile observations in this book, and it has a mildly entertaining authorial tone (which is kind of impressive -- it's not too often you get three authors with this coherent a "voice"), it's sort of like a really good book about The Servant Problem. They can describe the problem (and it is a "real" problem in that a lot of people are in this situation and aren't happy about it). But no solution proposed to this "problem" will ever "fix" it, because the "problem" is inherent in the situation. Women (and men who are already good fathers) need to quit defending their husbands (and friends/brothers/cousins/coworkers/etc.) as "good guys" when they pull the shit that's described in this book. Beat the crap out of them -- verbally, emotionally, with the assistance of therapists, whatever -- but get them to act like the coparents we expect them to be. Once they _are_ coparents, they aren't a problem any more.

The best part of this book is that embedded in all the horribly retro excuses and descriptions there _is_ a process being described in which men _do_ become coparents. It takes them longer than the mothers (because a lot of what the women are doing buffers the men from the impact of being around babies and small children), but it tends to happen by kid 2 or 3 with just about all of the fathers (who stick around). Those it doesn't work on are correctly identified by the authors as serially taking the D (for divorce) train and continually getting off at the same stop until the money (or gullible women) runs out.

I certainly wouldn't recommend this book to _me_. But I can readily imagine that quite a lot of people out there would get a lot of really good stuff out of this. Think of this as a slightly more positive recommendation than "if this is the kind of thing you like, you'll like this". In particular, if you rolled your eyes about my idealism about sexual relations, you'll probably get a lot out of this book.

ETA: I almost let this go, but I just can't. Another Big Idea in the book is the Training Weekend, a very Oprah like idea that has some merit and some Real Problems. The primary Real Problem is that they make zero mention of the logistics of setting up a Training Weekend (which is basically make the father take the kid(s) for an entire weekend by himself) when mama is breastfeeding (and they mention bottles in this book. A lot. Most of the mentions of breastfeeding revolve around difficulties getting a latch and that Breastfeeding is Painful and No One Warned Us. To which, everyone with me now? If it's painful, that probably means you aren't doing it right.). This seems like a Big Problem to me, especially since Training Weekends aren't limited to post-weaning babies/children.

Words fail. I mean _really_ fail. Wait, no, I might have a couple from the Daily Show the other night: Fuck you y'all.

subject to a judge agreeing to it

Google and the Authors Guild have reached an agreement.

This is really very mind-blowing.

http://ap.google.com/article/ALeqM5iqVCUrW0dSB_-T31NIWXHdPwIuRQD943RC0O0

Toddler Fun: night weaned

Since A. was born, there's been only one night that T. needed to nurse between just-before-bed and getting-up-in-the-morning.

It's a relief. It's a milestone. I just wanted to mention it, so I don't forget.