March 27th, 2017
(written by lawrence krubner, however indented passages are often quotes). You can contact lawrence at: email@example.com
How Not to Hate Your Husband is a book for messy reality, but I can’t shake my frustration that its twin, written for men, isn’t out there somewhere: How to Keep Your Wife From Hating You After Kids. I’m disappointed that on top of doing far more housework and childcare than men, it also falls on women to patiently and strategically negotiate the terms of our liberation. I realize that this is how it has always worked; people work for change on their own behalf. Moreover, the huge and lucrative self-help publishing market has historically spoken to women more than men, and this is a book that comes from that tradition.
The difference today is that men are now more frequently socialized to pay lip-service to household equality. Our culture rewards them for sharing housework and childcare. Yet still we have to ask nicely even when we’ve already asked twice, we have to be strategic in the way we frame our requests so as not to spook them, we have to modulate our tones so as not to seem angry even when we are angry. This is absolutely how reality works in most heterosexual domestic arrangements, and it’s getting fucking old.
Dunn’s approach is sane and proactive, and her primary concern in writing the book was for her daughter’s well-being, so she’s justified taking a levelheaded approach rather than the “burn it down” method that I imply above. If the goal is a healthy and peaceful family life, Dunn’s perspective is functional and realistic, unlike the one I keep peering down longingly, but it pains me a little bit to admit that. Over email, I asked her how she and Tom are doing now that some time has passed since they received all this advice. “Oh god, yes, it is a challenge to keep these practices up,” she wrote:
“I am constantly vigilant on two fronts: one is that I’m paying close attention to the way my seven year old daughter perceives the dynamic in our relationship, which will likely determine the sort of person she ends up with herself. The other is that I’m kind of self-monitoring to make sure that I feel like things are fairly equitable in the relationship. Before, my resentment was really eating away at me, and our relationship, and I don’t want to go back there… It’s ongoing. It will never end. I suppose it’s a kind of management, but it’s relationship management. Which again is not entirely a bad thing.”