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How to Babyproof Your Marriage
Stacie Cockrell, Cathy O’Neill and Julia Stone, co-authors of the bestselling book,  Babyproofing Your MarriageBabyproofing Your Marriage
Stacie Cockrell, Cathy O'Neill and Julia Stone are three wives, mothers and good friends, all muddling through the early parenting years together, who couldn’t find the humorous, down-to-earth book they needed to help them make sense of their post-baby married lives. They couldn’t find it, so they wrote the book they wanted to read and now have written this no-nonsense article for readers of MetroplexBaby.com and our partner, BigCityMoms.com. Moms and dads, here's

HOW TO BABYPROOF YOUR MARRIAGE

There is no doubt that our children are our greatest joy and that we love being parents more than anything in the world. But parenting little ones can be pretty tough on a marriage. Are you and your spouse enduring the inevitable challenges of early parenthood? Do you see things differently now that you have kids? Are you keeping score over the division of labor? Has managing the demands of the in-laws and outlaws become a bit of a challenge? What about activity in the bedroom? Has it come to a grinding (sorry) halt?

It might be time to Babyproof Your Marriage and take some simple, but wildly effective, actions to make sure that being parents doesn’t mean sacrificing being a couple. Stacie Cockrell, Cathy O’Neill and Julia Stone, co-authors of the bestselling book, Babyproofing Your Marriage, share their top tips for preserving your coupledom after you have kids:

1.

Realize You Are not Alone: Relationship hiccups are completely normal when you’re parenting small kids. So don’t panic! Most couples no matter how happy and secure their relationship may be, find the early parenting years a challenge. Chances are, any arguments you’re having with your husband are the same arguments being played out in thousands of homes across America! The realization that these issues are universal, rather than personal, can change how you deal with it. “Why are you doing this to me?" becomes “What are we going to do about it?”
 

2.

Accept the Great Mom/Dad Divide. Men and women react to parenthood in different ways. We’re wired differently. Moms can get compulsive as a Mommy Chip kicks in causing us to focus on caring for offspring to the exclusion of all else. Meanwhile many dads develop Provider Panic, especially if they’re the sole breadwinners. Often this means they don’t seem to notice whose turn it is to do the dishes. These not-always-complementary instincts can set the stage for some serious marital conflict. Dad thinks his wife has turned into a control freak. Mom thinks her husband just doesn’t get it. It’s important to be aware of your own parenting instincts and realize that occasionally, you may have to keep those instincts in check a little bit. It also helps to hold your nose and occasionally  ignore a few of your partner’s incomprehensible actions.
 

3.

Get Some Sleep. Sleep deprivation can become a way of life. It can turn the sanest of women into bottle-wielding shrews, reduce grown men to tears, and cause both of you to turn marital molehills into mountains. Don’t underestimate the impact that sleep deprivation can have on your relationship. Your ability to deal with everyday stresses and your partner’s formerly-endearing quirks, gets dangerously low when you’re trying to get by on a wing and a prayer and a thirty-minute nap. Help each other get enough sleep. Resist the urge to play Midnight Chicken -- you know, the late night battle of wills where each parent pretends to be asleep and blissfully unaware of the screaming down the hall, in the hopes that their other half will get up and tend to the crying baby. Split up the night (for example, Dad does feedings until midnight, Mom goes to bed early and gets up after that) so that both of you get a solid block of sleep. Occasionally, take turns doing all-night baby duty and give your partner the ultimate gift - an entire uninterrupted 8 hours of shut-eye.
 
4. Try a Training Weekend. If you think you have a husband who ‘just doesn’t get it,’ try this foolproof method to get him engaged:  take off for 48 hours and let him man the kid and house ropes on his own. No backup. No dialing 1-800-Grandma. You’ll catch a break and he’ll gain new respect for what it takes to care for a baby. This technique will also let him bond with the baby on his own terms. A lot of guys complain that they’re relegated to the powerless role of Assistant Mom. When you hand over the reins, your husband gets a chance to be the father he wants to be. Have Training Weekends early and as often as the baby changes and enters new phases. A little continuing education is always a good idea, for both of you.
 
5. Stop Keeping Score. With a baby in the house the workload explodes.  It’s hardly surprising that most of us start arguing with our partner over who has it tougher. “I did seven loads of laundry and you didn’t do any.” “Yeah, well I did all the cooking last week ..” You both end up feeling resentful and unappreciated.  It’s a tit for tat war that no one wins. Rip up the scorecards, hand in your Martyr Badges and Divide and Conquer. Make a list of everything that must be done, from nightly bath duty to earning a living and divvy it up.  
 
6. Remember The Three A’s:  Appreciation, Acknowledgement and Affirmation. Just pick one and run with it. Saying "good job" won't kill you. Most people are simply looking for a little validation. They’ll happily run that extra errand, wash that extra load, or work that extra hour if they know their effort is appreciated, rather than taken for granted. So instead of saying, “You put the baby's dress on backwards,” try, “You’re a great Dad," and see what happens.
 
7. Manage the In-Laws: Everyone wants a piece of the kid action. As a couple we can find ourselves in a Family Tug of War as parents and in-laws jockey for top billing. But when Grannies grab and family members overstep the mark we need to make it clear to them that our partner comes first. Establish the Pecking Order and create appropriate boundaries. And if you’re a Daddy’s Girl or Mama’s Boy it’s time to Cut the Cord and put on your grown-up shoes once and for all.
 
8. Bridge the Sex Gap.  Most couples with young children experience a disconnect in the bedroom. A woman’s sex drive often goes MIA. Most men, however, want sex just as much as they always have, baby or no baby. Try to reach across the gap. Guys need to pay attention to romance and stop the Ten O’Clock Shoulder Tap. Girls should try to reacquaint themselves with the girl they used to be. Try a “dad on duty night” and relax with a bath and/or glass of wine. You’ll be a lot more receptive to the idea of sex if you’ve had a chance to get out of Mommy Mode.
 
9. Help Each Other Have It All: Naturally, your free time gets squeezed when you become a parent. But it’s more important than ever to do the things that recharge you. When we don’t have a little time to ourselves, we start to feel worn out and we can become damn difficult to live with. You don’t both have to be ON all the time.  Figure out an off-leash strategy with your partner. For example, he takes the kids on Saturday morning while you go to yoga, and you do the same for him on Sunday so he can get in a jog. Give each other some Get Out of Jail Free Cards on a regular basis.
 

10.

Make Time for Each Other. Try not to let your adult relationship be defined solely by being parents. Put a little distance between yourselves and the kids. Start with the local pizza place and work your way up to a weekend away. Your relationship is the lynchpin of the whole family. Where there’s a healthy marriage, there are happy kids.
 

For more on Babyproofing Your Marriage, go to www.babyproofingyourmarriage.com.


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