Marriage After Motherhood (or Partners and Parents!)
I always tell my clients, "You'll never love or hate your partner as much as you will after you have a baby." Emotions are high. Sleep is low. It's a big change. So what goes wrong and what can we do to be good parents AND good partners? Whether or not you're actually married, relationship coach Janna Denton-Howes walks us through some of the traps that can befall new parents, and strategies to stay connected during those stressful first years of parenthood.
Resources mentioned in this episode:
- And Baby Makes Three by John Gottman
- Happily Married with Kids: It's Not a Fairy Tale
- Brené Brown excerpt of "the story I'm making up..."
- Janna Denton-Howes and her 30 Days to Wanting It More program
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Hi everyone. Welcome to the Semi-Crunchy Mama Podcast. Here we'll tackle a variety of parenting topics to help you feel less alone and more informed so you can make the best decisions for your family no matter where you fall on the crunchy spectrum. I'm your host and Semi-Crunchy Mama, Stacy Spensley.
Feeling like you're in survival mode instead of cherishing every moment, #blessed, and that you're the only one? Join the Semi-Crunchy Mama Club, a group for online support for moms. Learn more at semicrunchymama.com/group.
Hey everyone and welcome to episode two of the Semi-Crunchy Mama Podcast. Today's episode is about a topic that's constantly being discussed in my Facebook group: how to maintain your relationship after having kids. You do not have to be married to a man or married at all for this information to apply to you. But "Marriage after Motherhood" had the best alliteration. So here we are! I tend to use the gender-neutral word partner, but my guest and I are both married to men and we do talk a lot about our personal experiences, so we do use the word husband in this episode, too. Check out the show notes at semicrunchymama.com/ep002 for links and resources for what we discussed today.
Janna Denton-Howes is a professionally trained marriage coach who's known for her popular program "30 Days to Wanting It More," affectionately called Chief Libido Officer and Husband Whisperer by her participants and coaching clients. She helps married women take sex off their to do lists and brings couples back to each other. Welcome Janna. Thanks so much for being here.
Thanks for having me, Stacy. I'm excited.
I love having you as a guest. I've had you in my Facebook group, the Semi-Crunchy Mama Club, a couple of times to talk about a few different topics. And today, I wanted to talk about marriage after motherhood. I would love you to tell people a little bit about yourself. How long have you been married, how old are your kids, how did you get to be where you are?
Sure. I'd love to. So, I got married when I was 17, which is very unusual, and I've been married for 17 years. I am 34 years old. I have two daughters. They are eight and nine right now. The early days were a little challenging, to say the least, with them being only 15 months apart. I wish I could say I remember a lot about those years, but quite frankly a lot of the memories are kind of foggy. It was a real challenge to have a baby and a toddler, so close in age and it was not planned. So it was a big surprise and a big, big source of stress.
And how long were you married before you had kids?
We were married about seven years, so everyone thought, with the early marriage, we must be pregnant and that's why we got married. But then no, we waited to have kids. My husband is a civil engineer. And so we waited until he had his degree, and then the first one took a year to conceive. And then the second one, well... I didn't get a period between them. So big surprise.
So that's a big change. I mean, I think I was also married for seven years before our first was born. Mine are three years apart, but I think my body was not interested in having them closer together. Which I'm fine with. I know you've done a lot of work on your marriage, but how did your relationship change after your first baby was born?
Oh goodness. With our first baby, I had these grand notions of the snuggly sweet little child. I had no clue what was headed for us and my husband didn't either. Our first was colicky. She was a very, very highly sensitive baby. We didn't know that at the time, but now we do. She would cry consistently every night for four hours, and it was very, very stressful on our relationship. We would kind of just pass in the night, you know, take turns, pass the baton. And then just as we were starting to breathe a sigh of relief and starting to go out a little bit more, come out of our cave, I found out I was pregnant with our second and I was very, very sick and nauseous. We decided it was a good idea to go on a two month trip to South Africa at that time... probably not the best decision of our lives. It was a really, really, really tough time in our relationship as well.
I think just like a lot of couples, you just find yourself surviving, and probably when our oldest was about three years old and our youngest was two, that's when we really started to notice that we had drifted apart a lot. And we started to seek some help from professionals. I remember one therapist in particular saying that, when you have kids under the age of five, it's the most stressful time in your relationship, and there was just something really comforting about knowing that it wasn't us, there wasn't something wrong with us, it was just kind of a general statistical thing.
Yeah, I think there's so much power in knowing that you're not alone. I've talked about in other venues, but I feel like we post a lot about our lives on social media, but we're not necessarily telling the whole story. One of my local events is a monthly mother's circle. The first time I did it, I did a test run for logistics basically to make sure it worked how I wanted it to. And I did it all with friends, so these are people that I'm pretty close to, and the topic was relationships. Everybody talked about their relationship and people were just shocked that others were struggling in their marriages or you know, having all sorts of arguments about things. And they were like, people that we see all the time -- I had no idea you guys were having a rough patch like that. And nearly every single person had the same reaction. So I think just knowing that, even if you did anything to baby-proof your marriage, you just not know what to expect.
We had been working on our marriage probably for about four years up until that point. So we had gotten somewhere in terms of communication and dealing with our sex life in particular, but we were really slammed when we had our first child-- we didn't expect to have a baby with colic. And yeah, we were just thrown for a massive loop. I remember talking to somebody saying, "oh, I'll be a great mom. I don't mind changing diapers." Now I know that changing diapers was probably the least of the struggle you go through. It was all about sleep and no one ever talks about that. So no, I don't think we knew what was coming and I don't think we did anything to baby-proof our marriage at all. Although I really hope I can help some of your listeners who are pregnant or have young kids with some practical solutions for that.
I would love to hear you talk more about why sleep is so important because my oldest was also really challenging. He sleeps better now, but he's still a pretty challenging kid. I have a friend who has a baby who is almost two who is very similar and I told her, my husband and I made a rule early on that nothing we said after 3:00 AM counted -- because we have both said some really uncharacteristic and possibly unkind things thanks to sleep deprivation that we really did not mean. And that oddly helped us a lot. Just knowing that. We had both done it and we were both sorry. I didn't mean it. He didn't mean it.
I think that's brilliant and I think everyone should adopt that because it's important to give yourself a break. You know, you're in a really tough situation. You're so exhausted. You don't know what you're doing. We were talking before we started the recording about all this mom shaming stuff that goes on and we all have these kind of big expectations about working life as parents. Like for me, I was thinking, oh, I'll do extended breastfeeding and cloth diaper. I had all these big grand visions of the type of mom I wanted to be. And then, I struggled with breastfeeding. Co-Sleeping didn't work for me cause I couldn't sleep at all. I ended up getting pregnant and my milk dried up so I had to stop breastfeeding when my daughter was about seven months old, which was not what I wanted either.
There can just be so much like disappointment and reasons you might feel like a failure. And so, yeah, we just need to give ourselves a break and know that you're in some really difficult situations and so many other couples are in the same place. And so, it's never too late. I don't think you can ever become too estranged from your partner. There's always an opportunity to reconnect. But there are some small things you can do to kind of trying to maintain that connection so you don't feel like complete strangers when your kids get older.
Like what, Janna? Tell us what happened.
Okay, sure. It's easy. I think everyone talks about date nights: "You have to go on date nights!" But you need to be more realistic and don't beat yourself up if you can't muster the energy or the resources, time, or money for a big date night.
Plus I find date nights are a little bit pressured because sometimes they are connected to sex and then you might stop looking forward to them socially. Moms might be like, I don't want to have to get in the mood. I just really recommend having some, I like to call them party boat moments. One time we were in Mexico and there's this party boat going around the bay. People were pretty drunk, and I don't drink, but I just figured, I'll just get on the party boat for a moment and leave our issues behind. We won't talk about the budget or how work was or anything like that. And even if that figurative "party boat moment" happens in the kitchen together where you just dance silly or you have a hug or you just look at your partner... it's a momentary break from life so you can connect and be like, "Oh right, you're my friend. We have fun together. I enjoy your company." And if you do have a little bit more time, maybe half an hour or something, maybe your kids are playing in the lawn and you just sit down next to each other, and just protect your friendship time. It's so important to make some boundaries and not bring up issues or be critical at those times. Just remember what it's like to have friendship talk-- ask about each other's day or maybe talk about some goals you might have or other things you'd talk about with your friend.
We used to do dates because we'd have a friend that would sometimes watch the baby for an hour or two, but we'd go out during the day because he was such a bad sleeper that he wouldn't go to sleep without us. And it was so stressful that we wouldn't relax if we went out at night. So we went out for brunch or for coffee.
Yeah, absolutely. I mean, you might need to get pretty flexible. I think the key is not to put more expectations on yourself. You don't want it to become another to do thing that you're failing at. But also I think there's this big media message, cultural message that it's all downhill after having kids. You know, watch any show and it depicts this terrible thing that happens to relationships after kids and we don't have to subscribe to that. We don't have to take that on. My kids are around the 10 year mark right now and I'm thinking about them becoming teenagers. There's also the cultural script that goes on about teenagers, all their terrible blah blah blah. But I don't have to subscribe to that. So I think you can see your marriage as one of fun and you can see that having children will actually enhance your relationship. You can sit together and just giggle at the cute things the kids are doing or roll around on the bed with your kids in there and just have fun as a family and it's possible.
What about getting over resentment? Because I've heard from a lot of moms that chores come up all the time and that there's an unfair division of labor. A lot of times, even if they're just on maternity leave, Dad goes back to work and suddenly, there's this weird gender role thing that happens even if it wasn't true before. Studies have shown this and so Mom gets resentful and it often seems like we have to be the bigger person and just get over it. Moms are having a really hard time doing that. Do you have any suggestions for that?
Oh man. First of all, I just want to say I totally get it. I went through that majorly. I stayed at home with our kids until they ended up going to school, and that's when I started working. There's not a cut and dry, easy solution. Iif it feels hard, it's because it is hard. But, I'll say the way that we've dealt with this with housework in particular, and then I can talk about my strategy for getting over the resentment. So, on Saturday mornings, we have sex and then after that we do housework and we have divided up who does which jobs. So, my husband takes care of the kitchen and the living room. We both do laundry. I do the bathrooms and the bedrooms. We do the work at the same time. We've been doing it this way for three or four years now.
That was huge, huge shift because I didn't feel like I was the one nagging all the time that jobs needed to be done and wondering why I was the only one thinking about this. That brings up another point: that equality is all about each person is getting what they need to feel comfortable and happy in the relationship, not that you're doing exactly the same thing. So it's important to really thinking about what your strengths are and what are your husband's strengths are. I find a lot of the time that women's strengths are managing the household, knowing what needs to be done, thinking about what's coming up on the calendar. And sometimes when you just own that strength and put it to good use in your relationship and also see that your husband has other strengths, then you feel less like you're being taken advantage of and more that you are providing something really great in your relationship. So yeah, scheduling a time to do all your house work together is a great one. What do you do Stacy, in your relationship?
It's funny, we actually did a book club in my Facebook group about with a book called How Not to Hate Your Husband After Kids by Jancee Dunn. The title's a little clickbait-y, but I actually thought the book was really helpful. One of the things she suggested in the book is actually something that we had done a few years ago before kids because I work from home and my husband works out of the home-- and so he'd come home and be like, "Well why didn't you do this?" And I'd reply, "Because I was working. Just because I was at home doesn't mean I was here to clean. I was here to work and have to make my own lunch." He does not. So, we wrote out a giant master list of basically all of the household tasks that need to happen and then we divvied them up.
We each chose what we actually wanted to take on. So a lot of those household responsibility, mental load, home management tasks, like paying the bills, were things that I chose to do. And so having me choose to do that versus having me be the default person who handles all that stuff was just a much better mindset for me. It also helps me acknowledge all the things he does, since he does all the yard work because he likes it and I don't care. I mean I kind of care, but like it doesn't bother me if it's not done. And he actually really enjoys it. And so giving him that ownership and having me acknowledge that just because it's not an important task in my eyes doesn't mean he's not adding to the household and doing that task was really helpful for us. The other thing is that we have been married for 11 years, and we do not commingle laundry, which always surprises people. Some people don't commingle money for certain reasons. When we were engaged or maybe we'd just gotten married and I had a lot of things going on and I just needed him to move my laundry from the washer to the dryer. And he put my bras in the dryer! Those are not inexpensive! And he told me it's too much work to read the read the labels, so I decided that if he will not do my laundry, I will not do his laundry. And so I don't do his laundry. And it's worked. It works for us.
Yeah, I think that's so great. You know, sometimes we get in this real rut of what what we think we're supposed to do and what things should look like in our relationships. And I think there are so many more creative solutions out there if we just look at our own reality and do what's best for us. If that means separating your finances or separating your laundry, it doesn't really matter.
Right! And then on occasion, when I sometimes fold some of his laundry, mostly because I needed it out of the dryer so I could do diaper laundry, he feels super loved because he knows I hate folding laundry and I don't do his laundry. So the combination of those two make it like a giant bouquet of flowers for him.
I love cleaning bathrooms. I've always loved cleaning bathrooms. I find it very satisfying. I love going into a bathroom that's dirty and cleaning it and I just love the shiny, sparkly everything. And so I do bathrooms. My husband doesn't like doing bathrooms because he has arthritis in his back and so it's really difficult for him to lean down and be cleaning. I hate putting away groceries, hate it. I don't know why. I just don't love the whole concept of figuring out where are things going to go. I have to clean out the old stuff out of the fridge. I just hate all the decisions I need to make. So my husband happily puts away the groceries. Isn't that great? I love it. You can complement each other. You don't both have to do exactly the same thing.
And I think that's why the master list worked for us -- because we both picked what we don't mind or even like doing. And then there were definitely things on the list that neither of us wanted to do, but somebody has to. I'm totally one of those people who stopped scooping cat litter while pregnant and never started again, but don't tell my husband, you know? But then again it's like when we felt like at least we had the choice, it worked a lot better.
Yeah, absolutely. Did you want me to give that little tip about resentment?
I believe personally that when you have resentment, it means that you have an unmet need in your life and we are all responsible to get our own needs met. Take ownership of that. So when you think about what you're feeling resentment about, maybe that's something that happened in the past, like I wanted to further my career, but we got pregnant and now I'm this mom and I'm way behind all my other colleagues, for example. Well, what was that need that went unmet? That need was intellectual stimulation or career advancement or being out in the world and being seen as successful because we all know that moms aren't necessarily celebrated enough in our culture. I am responsible for taking ownership of my needs, so you can do is make a different choice now. So what's if it's in the past? It still happened, and people do better when they know better. So maybe at the time you didn't know that your needs were your responsibility and you didn't have the knowledge or assertiveness or whatever you needed to make that decision at that time. But now you can think, okay, this is a need I have. How am I going to go about making it happen? And I know this is kind of the high road and it's so much easier to just point the finger. Generally speaking, we're talking to mostly moms here, and you'll find that your husband is much more open to being supportive and encouraging if you make a request rather than blaming or criticizing. What do you think, Stacy?
Yeah, I think when you're at home with a kid all day, sometimes you can get stuck in that mental loop. I really love what you said about how, when you have resentment, you have an unmet need. I think that really clicked for me. I hear the complaint from moms a lot that they get angry with their husbands when he is laying there sleeping "like a jerk." Right? And it's because you're exhausted and why should he get to sleep if you don't get to sleep? Or the other one is when your husband gets to walk out the door and go to work and be an adult and speak in full sentences and pee alone and we don't have that freedom anymore. And it's not that we don't love our kids, but oh my God, it's like going to the grocery store alone is like a vacation for us.
Yeah. You know, I often say that men are actually really, really good at getting their needs met, but we often will shame them for that. So, you know, my husband will go off and do his soccer practice every week and we complain about it or we roll our eyes. But they're actually modeling something that you can do as well. I can't tell you how many times I've been coaching a couple and we've been doing this same kind of thing with the wife, you know, what are your needs? How can you take ownership of them? And she's saying, I'm exhausted. I don't have any time for myself. I don't know what I do cause I have no friends because I've been stuck at home for all these years and, and we're trying to figure out what, how she can get those needs met. And her husband is sitting on the other side nodding furiously. Like, please go get your needs met, go out of the house, leave, I can do bedtime, it'll be fine. And the wife is still having such a hard time because she's feeling guilty or feeling like it's not productive enough or she's just totally out of practice of thinking about what would bring her joy, what would she like to do? I have one couple who's husband is away a lot in their marriage, but we've been able to sort out how they could get a little extra support for her. It's about her just having freedom. She doesn't have to be meal planning or folding laundry during that time. It is just two hours for her to leave the house.
Definitely. I know there are things that I've said to moms that were big "aha's" for me and my own relationship after having kids. My husband worked a lot of hours when our oldest was little and it's just the way that it was. So, the first couple times I left the house alone, it was like, okay, are you okay? Like do you know where the milk is and where the diapers are? Because again, he wasn't home with the baby all day, so he wasn't familiar with that. But it's not like we live in a 5,000 square foot house, so you can figure it out. Nobody gave me a manual either. When my husband leaves for work in the morning, he doesn't say, "Hey Stacy, I'm going to go to work. Do you need me to prep food for the kids? You need me to finish anything?" No, he just picks up his keys and walks out the door and trusts that I will keep them alive, but a lot of times we don't give them this same benefit ourselves. I've said sometimes it's harder for me to leave the kids home than to bring them with me.
Oh my gosh. I think I shared this in one of the videos we did in your Facebook group, but I had a distinct moment, I can still remember it. It was one of the first times my husband took out our toddler and our baby at the same time, so he had our baby strapped in a carrier to his chest and he had the stroller out for our toddler and it was quite cold outside. And all I could think about was that they were not dressed warm enough. He doesn't have snacks. What? Where's he going to go? What happens if this happens? You know, a million things and scenarios are going through my head instead of just being like, this is awesome. I get an hour to myself. I'm going to go take a bath. I'm going to read a book. I was so stressed out about his experience. Luckily I just stopped myself for a moment and thought, if I die, he's going to be their 100% parent and he's going to be okay. And those kids are going to be healthy and they're going to be loved and they're going to be just fine. They might temporarily be a little cold. He might have to double back and get a snack if he's forgotten it, but he is 50% of the parent and he'll do just fine. I'm so glad you brought that up. That's just such a great shift to make.
And I have to give him the credit that I have made those mistakes before, too. I've not packed enough snacks or I forgotten the socks or the jacket, but he wasn't there to see it.
So it's not like I don't make mistakes, it's just that I just made them earlier and I was alone so no one called me out.
Yeah. So they're going to have to make their own mistakes too and learn from trial and error as well.
The other thing I've heard is that toddler communication skills work for everyone. You can just use different words. It's like when your toddler is in one of those phases where they're asserting control over everything they can. I don't care which spoon my toddler uses so long as he eats his food with it. I don't care if he has the red spoon or the blue spoon, they're both valid choices. So I ask him, do you want the red spoon or the blue spoon? And he can pick, that's totally fine. It's the same with my husband. He isn't always home all the time and so he doesn't always know my workflow. So instead of telling him the dishes are dirty and giving him a blank stare, expecting him to do something about it, I'm like, "Hey, do you want to wash the dishes or watch the kids?" Both have to happen and I'm not going to do both of them.
Right. And it's just about being really articulate. I think women can be very vague in our requests, you know? Obvious to us isn't obvious to them. Like you're saying, the dishes are dirty. That's not a request. It's a statement. It's a fact. But in our minds we're saying: "The dishes are dirty. Can you please go wash them?" But we're just forgetting the last little bit there. And I think that often happens because as women, we feel a little conflicted about making requests, and maybe it's because we have a funny relationship with our needs.
Or maybe we feel we don't want to be nags or we feel like our husbands should just read our minds. I think we usually just need to take it one step further and be really articulate and clear about what we're looking for. And generally speaking, I find men love solving problems and they love making us happy and they love being the hero. And so if you invoke that in them, they're so, so happy to go ahead and do it.
My mantra is, "My husband is not psychic." Yes. Again, 11 years of marriage and I have to remind myself he knows me, but he cannot read my mind. He does not know what I want unless I tell him and ask.
Yeah. I had a friend who had some people over and their car got stuck in the grass outside. So she came in the house and told her husband, "They're getting stuck in the grass. Their car got stuck." And he just looked up and said, "okay." and went back to his work. And she was frustrated and felt resentful, like, why isn't he getting up to help? Why do I have to do it? Why can't he be considerate of other people? And then it clicked and dawned on her-- she never asked him to go out and help them get their car unstuck in the driveway.
Let me change gears a little bit. I feel like you probably get this with your clients a lot. You mentioned there's this disconnect between being a partner and being a parent, because they are completely different roles and they're always changing. So, trying to navigate that learning curve of being a new parent while still balancing being a good partner is really hard for a lot of people, myself included. And I had a really high needs first baby and my husband was working a lot of hours and I finally just looked at him and said, you know what? I feel like I can be a good mom or a good wife, but not at the same time and the baby can't do anything for himself. And so I have to choose him right now, but it won't be like this forever.
Oh, this is so hard. There's not a cut and dry answer to this because on the one hand you're so right. I mean, there's so much to learn and I think as mothers we just feel a lot of pressure. I don't know, maybe it's just me, Stacy, but I felt a lot of pressure to be a really good mom, to have it all together, to have a snacks packed and cook nutritious meals, and to do all of the things I thought I should do. And it was a lot of pressure on me. And at the same time I felt really isolated and really lonely. And I'm sure there were feelings of depression and anxiety -- we all experience that during times of transition. When it comes down to it, the best thing we can do for our children is to give them a good, healthy, happy marriage between their parents. And how do you find that balance of learning how to be a parent and at the same time staying connected with your spouse and doing those friendship moments I was talking about and keeping your intimacy level up and, and all of those things? So I don't know. Do you have any other more thoughts about this as I just shared that?
I mean, obviously there are so many different factors that go into it. If you're both working outside of the home or not, for a stay at home dad, this would be completely different situation. I think for us a lot of it was my husband's work schedule. We had kind of a big "aha" moment where he ended up changing departments so that he could have more consistent days off and see the kids more often because we were pregnant with our second and I was like, I cannot have a second baby and not see you for two to three days at a time.
Yeah. That's so tough.
But again, it took both of us realizing what was going on for things to change. And I think, like with so many things in relationships, we're not always mad about what we think we're mad about-- it's that resentment because of the unmet need. Right? It's, I didn't realize what I was really upset about. And so once we figured that out, then we knew what changes we needed to make to fix that issue.
Yeah. I always encourage couples to assume good intentions. Your spouse is not malicious. They're not out to get you. You may feel hurt, it may feel devastating in the moment. You may feel like they are out to get you. But I have yet to see any individual intentionally harm their spouse, intentionally say things to make their blood boil, or to make them feel abandoned or anything like that. So, if we can all just have a healthy dose of understanding and compassion for ourselves as we're going through this... I mean, it's tough man. When your kids are under five, it is tough. You are exhausted. And I'm preaching to the choir here. We all know about that. It's also important to see our husband as somebody who's just trying his best and maybe he's working a lot, but that's because he really loves you and he wants to provide for his family and he sees that as really important role that he has to play. And he's really trying to make you happy. But he might not know you're unhappy because you might not be telling him very much. He might feel devastated by how upset you are, so he's trying to spend a little bit less time at home because it's so painful to him to see you so upset. So there's almost always something more under the surface. Whenever I hear one person's story and then I get to meet their spouse, it's always so enlightening to me to see, you know, they were not evil, vengeful monsters. They're just human and having their own human interpretations of what's going on in this situation and reacting to that.
You definitely nailed it because that's exactly what was happening. In our case, my husband was working a ton because he was feeling a lot of pressure to provide. And when I realized that, and I knew that, but when I finally acknowledged it, I said, "I love your strong work ethic, but when you're trying to provide for us, I need less overtime and more time at home helping me because I'm exhausted." Yeah. And he was just floored because he was working his butt off. He was in the wrong place for me. And he wasn't helping wrong on purpose, but more money was not buying me more time.
Oh, I'm so glad that you figured that out and you were able to have that conversation. Could you imagine if you hadn't and you hadn't shared that with him? You would have just been both very miserable. So, good job.
I wish I'd figured it out little bit sooner. But in my defense, I was really tired. We don't have family here. It was just me and a kid who wouldn't sleep. So, what are some of the, the biggest traps you see that people fall into after kids?
Well, I think I've alluded to some of them, so I'll just summarize them a little bit here. So the first one is no time to just be friends with your spouse, where you don't have issues you're trying to work out or be co-parents or household managers together. Even if you have to set the timer for 30 minutes and turn off the phones and just have a chat like you would with a friend. So that's one trap: no friendship time. And the second trap is pouring all your energy and resources into the kids. I mentioned before: your kids really need a good marriage. I don't want to go into all the statistics about what happens when kids don't have a good marriage to fall back on with their parents. But the research is staggering in terms of the emotional and intellectual impacts it has on them. If you want to learn more about that, John Gottman's book And Baby Makes Three, is great. Maybe, Stacy, you could put that book in the show notes.
They do share a lot of that research in the beginning of the book. So, the kids need a good marriage. You don't want, when they get a little older and you stop being in survival mode, to look at your spouse and be like, "oh my gosh, you're a stranger." It's not uncommon for couples to separate after their kids get a little bit older. So just try to keep those moments of connection going. Then the third trap is listening to all those cultural messages about marriages being miserable after children and going all downhill from there. I would actually challenge you to start being more critical observers of media and TV and stuff like that. You can kind of choose to take in the messages that you want and choose to create a new story for yourself. A new story might be that having kids enhances a marriage, or having kids makes marriage more exciting and fun, or having kids brings new opportunities to your marriage that you would never have had in the first place. And then the last one is really losing touch with each other. I'm talking more on a physical level. So, I run a whole program about this. I don't want to just summarize it in a little tiny little thing here because there's more than meets the eye. But you know, touch is so important for human connection and when you're a mom, you get a lot of touch from your kids and you've got the oxytocin flowing through breastfeeding and snuggling your children. But your husband is not getting that touch. And so if your spouse to starts to seem a little needier than usual or starts to kind of back away from you, those are the two ends of the spectrum that happened. You guys might want to have a conversation about your sex life. I don't want to put pressure on you because I really encourage women to see sex as good for them, not like guilt sex or pity sex or anything for their husbands. But just kind of have a look at that or you could check out my program if you want to do that.
I think those are really helpful to keep in mind. I feel like I joke about managing husbands and toddlers the same way, but I feel like a lot of the things you said work so well for all of parenthood, like having special time with your kids because building relationships is about connection and presence, right? Or physical touch studies have shown we stopped touching little boys as much starting at the age of three. Yeah. Basically our partners are just grown up children. Right?
Yeah. And my husband's even made references to back in the time when he was having his "man-trums" and stuff. Luckily we've matured out of that stage. I don't want to put men down or make fun of them because one of the things men really value is respect. So, I would hate to not show respect to men in this way, but I think men just haven't been given as much education or opportunities to develop those relational skills. And so we are usually a little bit more advanced in that area. It doesn't mean we're better than them, it just means that we have a different skill than them.
Absolutely. Well, let's wrap it up there. I had told you before that I will probably have to have you back because I can think about six other topics I would love to talk to you about more, but let's keep this concise. Where can we find more information about you and your programs?
So the best place is JannaDentonHowes.com. There's a Services tab you can click on to find two programs: "30 Days to Wanting It More," which helps women who don't really want to have sex or want sex more again and I give you a real new definition of sex and also a new structure to follow in order to really enjoy the sexual experience. Then I also run another program called "The Marriage Mastery Club," which is a 12-month semi-group, semi- one-on-one program. It's filled at the time, but I'm accepting a waitlist. And then if you do want to work with me individually on some communication issues or understanding the husband brain or the female brain, I also have a program for that as well.
And I feel like I'm super lucky just having access to you on occasion. You've definitely helped me reframe some things in my own relationship that I think my husband would also give you two thumbs up.
I sure hope so. Thanks so much for having me, Stacy. I love chatting with you.
Thank you so much, Janna. I always learned something and have some sort of realization every single time we chat, so I appreciate it. Awesome. Okay, we'll talk to you later. A big thank you to Janna Denton Howes for being here, and you can find the show notes for today's episode at semicrunchymama.com/ep002
Thank you for joining us for this episode of the Semi-Crunchy Mama podcast. I hope you enjoyed it. If so, leave a review so other people can too. Make sure to subscribe through iTunes, stitcher, or Google play for new episodes and check out the show notes at semicrunchymama.com for all the links and resources we mentioned today. Until next time you got this mamas.