Episode 9 Live Q&A: Alison Osbourne (Author)

Alison Osborne, author of “The Post-Baby Conversation” and mother of 2 gives us some tips on how to keep the spice in our relationships. You can buy a copy of Alison’s book right now at the Huggies Book Club.

I’ve been with my partner for 10 years before we both decided we would try to have a baby. Ever since my daughter has arrived 6 months ago, he is acting like a spoilt brat and behaving as if I’m leaving him out of my life. Well I’m sorry I’m busier than I used to be. How can I get him to be involved with me and my daughter rather that him getting his way?

This sounds like there is an imbalance between the two of you in relation to your new responsibility as parents. My suggestions are:-

  • Be really careful with your language. Never say anything starting with “You”. For example, “You don’t understand…….”, “Why can’t you see what needs doing etc.” Anything with “you” in it will incite a defensive response and he will feel blamed and inadequate. Instead tell him exactly how you are feeling and what you need. Don’t leave anything to interpretation. For example, “I am feeling like you want things to be like they were before kids. But for me, things have really changed. Home is no longer a place to kick back and relax. We have a baby that requires care and attention 24 hours a day and we are both responsible for that etc what I need from you is…….. what do you need from me?”
  • Resentment and sex cannot occur happily together. If you are resentful because you feel like you are carrying the whole burden, then you need to explain that to him. If you feel like all he wants is the good bits – affection and sex but isn’t willing to go the hard yards and get up at night, share the nappies – then you are going to feel that he is putting himself above you and that is not going to make you feel loved or valued and certainly not going to make you feel like sex. If he wants a happy wife then he needs to pitch in and do what needs doing. You need to be assertive around this. “We are both parents. Before and after work and on weekends, responsibility is shared”!
  • Make sure you do make the time each day to ask him about his day and really listen. Make him feel that you are still interested in what he is doing.

How do you suggest finding the balance of mum, worker, carer for elderly parents, wife and friend? I feel like I’m stretched to my limit and not putting in enough effort to anything or anyone.

This is a tough one. I think all mums feel this bind to some extent. I have a few suggestions.

  • You aren’t any good to anyone if you aren’t firstly taking care of yourself. We all want to present a happy, calm persona to our family and friends and to do that we need to make sure we are taking time out to re-charge our own batteries.
  • Outsource as much as you can. Even if you are on a tight budget – hiring a cleaner for 3 hours a fortnight can take the pressure off
  • Make sure your husband / partner is sharing the out of work hours household / kid stuff. You might need to be assertive around this. Tell him you are feeling stretched and need him to pitch in. Tell him EXACTLY what you want him to do. Don’t leave him to work it out – that will just annoy him. Perhaps suggest he cooks dinner on Wednesdays or whatever. Personally I would not start hassling him about sharing housework. If you can’t manage it and he isn’t domestic – then agree to outsource extra help. Men notice mess NOT dirt and insisting they help with cleaning which they perceive is unnecessary is like them telling us they NEED sex every day!!
  • Remember – it doesn’t go for ever. Things will change. But it is so important to enjoy motherhood. Do whatever you need to do to enjoy it and be happy mum.

Hi Alison We hear a lot and focus a lot about how woman see themselves and feel and deal with “post baby body” but what about men? So many times we hear and see a man’s body does change with their partner during the pregnancy. Ok no so much as a woman’s but is this possible? Do they see, feel and have the same insecurities as we do??? Who knows if it is sympathy eating with those wild cravings we have or just the course of nature but sometimes we do become so focused on our own issue of gaining those extra pounds and stretch marks and so on and so on, that we forget how they are and how they may have changed and feel. I would much appreciate any advice on reassurances for my partner who like me is having a bit of a struggle with “post baby body” and possible techniques to address this situation. Cheers & many thanks

Men definitely have similar body issues to women. And often weight issues for men relate to less exercise post-baby and more stress.

  • It is true that when a baby comes along – there is less time for all those recreational pursuits such as exercise and sport. It is really important that you both get time out to exercise. Maybe even try and exercise as a family – walks, kicking a ball etc
  • If he is in the habit of eating the leftovers from kids meals – then clean them up straight away or tell him that you are avoiding the trap of eating what the kids don’t eat as that is such a trap to gaining weight post-baby.
  • Make sure you buy only healthy food and cook only healthy meals. Make sure there are never chocolate, biscuits, cakes, soft-drinks in the house.
  • Look at old photos of how you both used to look pre-baby – that might inspire!!!
  • Whatever you do – make sure he feels loved whatever shape he is and if you see him trying to lose weight then praise, praise, praise and tell him how spunky is he!!

I love my husband when we’re alone and having fun, but I hate the way he behaves around our children. They are just getting to an age where they are picking up on his stupid behaviour and I end up having to discipline all of them. Then he gets sh** with me for talking to him like a child, but her really is behaving worse than a child. What can I do to get him to see that it’s not OK to ‘misbehave’? Thanks

This is a really typical problem post-baby. Personally, I believe most women have a genetic tendency to be critical and when we are critical we will always get one of three responses. It will either be rebellious (continue whatever they were doing), defensive (creates conflict) or withdrawn (changes just to please you) . So firstly we need to avoid being critical and start from an adult position. Perhaps it might be best to have the conversation when he isn’t being silly with the kids. Tell him what your concerns are. Ask him how his Dad was with him? Did he play silly games or was he serious? Ask him how he wants his kids to relate to him. It sounds to me like he wants to connect with them and being silly is the way he feels most comfortable doing that. We have a lot of unconscious parenting from our own family of origin. Perhaps you need to talk about what your kids need in terms of guidance and what you both agree is Ok behaviour and not Ok behaviour. Agree on that and then both commit to carrying it out. It may mean you will need to compromise a bit because he might think you are always being too serious or strict. Perhaps things can be a bit chaotic but only outside and only at certain times of the day etc.

Any tips on getting over the resentment of your hubby?… that he gets to go back to work and really hasn’t changed his life at all.

Resentment is a huge issue post-baby.

It is really important that couples make the distinction between work hours and responsibility at home. Couples need to agree that – when he goes to work, she goes to work at home with the kids. Before and after work and on weekends, couples need to share the responsibility for the children and what needs doing around the house’. Couples need to sit down and talk about how they will work things before and after work. Otherwise – childcare becomes a woman’s job 24 / 7 and she will not think that is fair – and its not! They also need to agree what are his work hours and what is the process of communication if he is asked to work late. Couples need to agree on how often it is OK for him to work late rather than just assume it always takes priority – otherwise he is sending a very strong message that work is more important than what is happening at home.

It takes women a couples of years in my view to ‘settle in’ to motherhood and really enjoy it. It is very normal to feel resentment in the first 12 months. If this is not sorted out by encouraging our male partners to pitch in and take responsibility at home then it will certainly affect the relationship and the quality and frequency of sex.

Remember – he might also be feeling stressed about now being the sole financial provider and trying to meet your expectations and the expectations of those at work – so remember to ask him how things are for him.

Men are best at doing things with kids rather than domestic things although there are exceptions. And men like to be active so asking him to take the baby for a walk so you get some time out is a great one.

My name is Mandy. Married mum of 3. a 7 year old, 5 year old and 6 month old. Since giving birth to my youngest daughter I find it hard to get motivated to do everything with my husband. I am forever dealing with the school issues as well as tending to the new baby who hates being dragged around daily. I have a routine in place but it still seems to take its toll on my husband and I. He works long hours six days a week and the one day he does have off he is either sleeping or spending time with the kids. How can we change this to have more ‘us time’. Unfortunately we dont have family or friends that can help by looking after the kids for us.

This is a challenge. Hat often happens when kids come along and one parents works and the other stays at home is that they end up having less and less in common and that is a problem. In my view the relationship between the parents needs to be the first priority – if that relationship fails then the kids will face all sorts of issues so we need to keep that strong. Is it absolutely necessary that you husband works 6 days a week?? That is putting an enormous strain on the family and means you never get time out – which is not sustainable.

In the book I suggest that couples do the following

  • Check in every day. Make sure you take 5 minutes – probably after the kids are in bed to check in with each other WITH NO DISTRACTIONS – no tv, no flicking through the mail, no reading the paper. Ask about each others days and listen for the detail. Ask specific questions that require detailed answers. Don’t ask for example – “how was your day”. He will just say “good”. Ask – what project are you working on….how are you getting on with you boss…..Make sure it is a positive time. Don’t dump or fight about money. If you need to talk about those things then schedule another time for that.
  • Have a meal out once a month – get a baby-sitter (it’s an investment in your future and your family) and try not to talk about work or kids!!!!! Make it a challenge and make it funny and see how you go.

Dear Alison, Apologies if you answered this on the show but it isn’t screened here until 11am. I am still experiencing moderate pain and discomfort during sex 6 months after the birth. I was induced at 38 weeks due to blood pressure, labour was only 4.5 hours with no pain relief, and had the vacuum at the end. Only one stitch. I’ve been using oestrogen cream twice a week on OB instructions and the GP examined me last week and said all was well. My partner and I have been together for 13 years and have had a “normal” sex life (although, my husband would have liked more). We’ve been using alternatives to penetrative sex since the birth but my husband is now pressuring me for the ‘main event’ more often and just doesn’t seem to understand just how awful sex is for me at the moment. I already have to psyche myself up for sex to overcome tiredness and the need for my body to be my own for 5 minutes. But now sex has gone from being just one more chore to being something I dread and resent and I cry every time. I have discussed this with my husband but although he is trying to understand, he just doesn’t. I was hoping you had some ideas or knew of a book or an article that he could read, or do you have any suggestions for how to ‘fix’ me? Thank you Debbie

Hi Debbie, I can really emphathise with you. This is an awful and very common situation and I know how this feels. This is such a difficult one. I do think the needs of men and women in relation to sex are dramatically different post-baby and it can stay this way for years. As a general rule – men always want more than their partners. My partner and I had a similar issue. I spoke to him about your question and he said he did eventually realise that it wasn’t me just bunging it on but that it really was an issue. What you partner needs to hear is that you understand that sex is really important to him as a way of feeling connected. But that it is not OK to have sex at the moment. Maybe you can agree on once a month or no pressure at all for 6 weeks or something like that. It will get better over time. I am certainly no expert but I cannot see that it can be helping the relationship and your confidence as a mother and how you feel about yourself to have this added pressure. It is going to take you being really honest with yourself and with him and being really assertive. It is really important to tell him that you would like things to be different and you look forward to the time when they are but right now you need time to heal and you need his support.

Very few men are having good regular sex 6 months after their wife has a baby. Unfortunately when a new baby arrives, men feel extra stress around financial issues and so are looking for more stress relief than normal. Just like all women need to go through labour – men need to go through a period of discomfort too.

The only other suggestion is to see a really good relationship counsellor so you can both feel heard in a really safe environment.

Hi Alison, I’m not sure if you’ll be able to answer this one but here it goes… my baby is now 6mths old arriving after an emergency C section. My husband and i have tried without too much success to incorporate date night once a week to help keep our r’ship alive and kicking. However, as sex is still a little bit painful for me and due to tiredness or ratty baby, the success of these nights each week has been very limited. Do you have any other suggestions? Is aiming for once a week a little too much? Thanks, Annie

You are in the really tricky time. Maybe the date night each week could go back to once a month and maybe do something easy like see a movie rather than a dinner where you have to talk to each other or feel like you are failing. The other suggestion I make is the “check-in” each night – 5 minutes where you give each other your undivided attention with no distractions to talk about ‘good and positive’ things and schedule the other stuff (issues etc) for some other time.

Hi Alison, I have a 6 week old bub at home and my partner is still spending big which we can’t afford now. He also believes that because he works all day, when he is at home, he believes that he doesn’t have to help. What is the best way to break him out of these habits?

The issue here is responsibility. There is a great book called “I don’t want to talk about it – overcoming the secret legacy of male depression” by Terrence Real. It is very important that you REQUEST that he acknowledge his obligations and responsibilities. If you let him flee them, he will. If he thinks that home is still a place to kick back and relax then that needs to be challenged. I encourage couples to agree that – ‘when he (your partner) goes to work, you go to work at home with the kids – before and after work and on weekends – responsibility is shared’. If he doesn’t understand that – then you need to get him to do some of it so he does understand how hard you work. Tell him you have arranged to be out for 3 hours on Saturday morning and he will be at home alone. AS your baby gets older increase these time out sessions to half a day, a fully day and eventually overnight. Praise him when he does something right. Avoid being critical. It sounds like he is wanting to run for the hills and we need to get to the bottom of that. What did his Dad do at home? And his mum? How does he want things to be? Remember women today expect equal at home because we’ve been fed it all our lives. But we and our partners mostly grew up in traditional families so if we want things to be different we need to talk about it and create it.

hi Alison, My partner has just started to be more involved in caring for our 4 month old, which is great, but how do I get him to take more care of me? My baby health nurse is worried about me developing PND but my partner says it’s all in my head.

Schedule time out for yourself. Maybe arrange to be away overnight (when your baby gets onto solids) . The best way for men to begin to understand how hard it is being at home all day with a baby is to do it. Leave him at home with the baby and GO OUT!!! Gradually increase your time out sessions over time. I have just been in the UK for 2 weeks and my husband looked after our 2 children. He did a fabulous job and is now so understanding about my issues now such as creating a healthy meal for them every night, etc. I could never have explained to him what he experienced in those 2 weeks. That is extreme and mine are 2 and 4 but start with the baby steps.

I find it hard to explain to hubby that I don’t want sex – I have had two babies in 12 months and I am now smaller than what I was before I had my children which is great but the problem is he now wants it everyday and even more than once a day – I barely get time to eat during the day by hte time I have the housework done it is time for baths and bed time – but if I don’t give in he begins with the name calling mostly saying that I am a lesbian because I don’t want sex…. I’ve tried to talk to him but he thinks that I don’t do anything during the day except watch tv so I should have enegery and I shouldn’t get tired.. What else do you suggest I do to explain it to my hubby..??"

This is completely unacceptable. The fact that he is name-calling is a form of controlling behaviour. On page 168 of my book, a psychologist talks a little about this issue. You certainly need to stand up for yourself. You need to request that he not call you those names, that he contributes, that he takes care of the children when you are not there so he can get some understanding of what that is like and I would suggest seeing a relationship counsellor. I certainly wouldn’t be having sex with someone who was not sharing responsibility for the children and respecting me and my needs. He is not respecting yours. He has power over you which is destructive for both of you.

Now I have had a child i find i need more affection than before, my partner has never been one to show much affection and i could live with that before my son was born but now more than ever i find i need more time for me is that selfish and how could i get him to sho more affection i not talking sex but just a note to say i love you or a hug out of the blue

There is a section in the book – page 229 where couples talk about how they like to be shown love. It comes from a book called ‘the 5 love languages’. I would suggest you get a copy of it and work out how each of you likes to be shown love and commit to both doing what needs to done.

For more information see Episode 9 Relationships or Parenting .