French Parents Yell, Too

French Kids Whine Here Too

According to Pamela Druckerman, author of “Raising Bèbè”, we have a lot to learn from the French about parenting. Living in Paris, she’s noticed that French parents speak to their children in firm voices, take time for themselves, and refuse to let their wee ones eat Reddi Whip straight from the bottle (only escargot and duck confit).

Books like this annoy me. “Cultures” have not figured out parenting. People, namely parents, figure out parenting on a day-to-day, kid-to-kid level (my first child ate raw broccoli and fish; my second will only consume pasta and strawberries). Amy Chua threw us all into a tailspin with her Battle Hymn to tiger parenting. Now Druckerman thinks we should pay homage to le French.

Or not. Having just spent a week in a resort dominated by French people, I am here to tell you that you that French kids are no better than ours.  They whine incessantly when denied a second go at the soft serve, consume hot dogs, pizza and french fries with Olympic vigor, and wail like trapped hyenas when dropped off at the kids club (even when the staff whisper sweet french nothings in their ear, which happens to do nothing for my own bèbès).

By the pool, I saw a French father hit a kid who refused to leave his lounger. I saw a mother’s monumental exasperation over her daughter’s insistence that she be allowed a giant floating turtle. And make no mistake, French kids hate sunscreen just as much as American ones.

I’m all for advice. God knows I need it. But let’s not be suckered into thinking a whole nation has it right — especially one with generous paid maternity leave, six weeks holiday, free preschool, generous pensions and a belief that it is still okay to smoke — in front of kids. Based on my sample size of 1,700, they are stumbling along just like the rest of us.

Posted in children, Uncategorized

Five Years In

Happy anniversary, bubba!

Posted in Uncategorized

“Working from Home”

At Roots Cafe in Brooklyn.

Posted in Uncategorized

10 Things You Can Cook in Your Dishwasher

Me again. I know, it’s been a while. But let’s not dwell on the past. Since I last posted, I got a new job, had a new baby and moved into a new house. Do you see a trend? Next up: a new Spousonomics. Our paperback comes out on June 12! You might not recognize it with its new title, new cover and new additions under the hood. The title — It’s Not You, It’s the Dishes — cuts right to the heart of the book: that your relationship problems have less to do with love (of course you love the guy, you married him), and everything to do with logistics. So get off those tear-stained cushions on your therapist’s couch and fix your marriage like you’d fix any ailing business. Divide the labor. Align supply and demand. Incentivize your staff. Cut costs. Look for efficiencies.

In honor of that last bit of wisdom, here’s one of the most efficient ways I’ve seen to run your house: Cook tomorrow’s dinner while you’re doing tonight’s dishes. No joke.

1. Lasagna. Food on the bottom rack, dishes on the top. Obviously.

2. Potatoes. Idaho work best.

3. Meatloaf. You might need two full cycles, depending on thickness.

4. Hot dogs. Place in foil. Add butter. Turn on dishwasher. Mix cocktail.

5. Beets. I’d use small ones because these can take a while to roast.

6. Lentil soup. Especially if you like your lentils al dente.

7. Frittata. I haven’t actually tried this but I do think it could work great if you can keep the eggs from seeping out of your container or tin foil.

8. Red bean bun. Buy a bag of frozen buns from Chinatown and pop ‘em in.

9. Salmon. Place on top rack and steam for 50 minutes.

10. Lobster. Could be loud, so cook before the guests arrive.

Posted in Uncategorized

Babble’s Top 50 Parenting Books

It’s funny, we didn’t think of Spousonomics as a parenting book when we first started writing it. But so many of the couples we interviewed had kids, and so many of their marital issues were intertwined with their roles as parents, that we ended up doling out a lot of advice for parents. Our own experience as new parents also no doubt informed the book.

We’re psyched and honored to be named as one of Babble.com’s 50 best parenting books of the year, along with some other folks you might have heard of like Dr. Spock, Jessica Seinfeld, Amy Chua, John Gottman and Harvey Karp, the guy who wrote the Happiest Baby on the Block. What new parent hasn’t at least tried the Five S’s??

Posted in Uncategorized

The Nightly Routine

What do you do every night when you get home? I mean you and your spouse? Like after the kids are in bed? Do you…

Watch TV?

Retreat to your electronic devices (laptop. ipad, kindle, psp, etc)?

Talk?

Sit in silence?

Read?

Skype your Australian cousins?

Drink?

Drink and do some combination of the above?

Have sex or something like it?

Blog?

Play Trivial Pursuit?

Sit on the porch/roof/stoop and contemplate your futures?

What am I missing?

photo courtesy of banalities on flickr

Posted in free time

My Performance Review

Is coming up on July 5. That’s when my husband says he’s going to review my performance as a wife over the past year. I pointed out that I didn’t know ahead of time what criteria I was being judged on. That doesn’t seem fair. He’s already hinted that I’m going to score high marks for buying squeeze-tube mayonnaise instead of a tub. Also, he was pleased with my scrubbing of the stove top and the sink today, though disappointed that he won’t be able to complain in my review that I never clean the kitchen. Ha!

Of course, I now have to give him a performance review, too. Where do I begin?

July 5 happens to be the anniversary of our first meeting, which is a date we both remember. Our wedding date, on the other hand, we can never remember. It was either February 17, 18 or 21. That gives me an idea. Should I incorporate a pop quiz into my review? When did we get married? What’s my favorite color? What’s the funniest joke I ever told? How does my hair look? Do I look fat?

He is so going to fail.

photo courtesy stevendepolo on flickr

Posted in marriage, strategy

Amy Poehler’s (Indirect) Marriage Advice

I just listened to Amy Poehler’s graduation speech at Harvard. It made me chuckle, especially the Outkast bit. And it made me think about my marriage. Here’s a line I liked:

“This is what I want to say: When you feel scared, hold someone’s hand and look into their eyes. And when you feel brave, do the same thing. You are all here because you are smart and you are brave. If you add kindness, and the ability to change a tire, you almost make up the perfect person.”

When I’m scared, I tend to retreat or retaliate. But I bet if I looked my husband in the eyes and took his hand every time I was freaking out  – about another looming deadline or my inability to prevent my infant from eating toys that are most certainly made with toxic lead levels in China — I’d feel a lot better.

And then there’s the tire bit. Learning to change one would definitely make me a better wife.

Photo: David Shankbone on Flickr

Posted in arguing

Busy Wife, Happy Life?

Working moms are apparently happier in their marriages when they’re super busy at work. That might be because their husbands tend to then help out more at home, according to researchers. (And p.s., husbands who do more housework have more sex with their wives–this again, according to “scientists”.)

This makes no sense to me. Wouldn’t a working husband whose wife is always busy at the office, eventually grow resentful if more of the housework falls in his lap–just as a working wife would resent it? And wouldn’t that husband wish he could see her more often (just as a wife would in his shoes), and often wonder whether the sacrifices are worth the money and prestige? Would he really pick up the broom and whistle while he works?

Hard to believe. But maybe my marriage is different. We both work very hard to pull our weight at home. We have our assigned household tasks and we expect each other to do them (though I always fail him in my refrigerator-cleaning duties). We earn roughly the same amount, though depending on the year, one of our jobs is usually more demanding, leaving the other one stuck with more of the chores at home. “Stuck” being the operative word–it’s not something either of us relishes, we just adapt and overcome.

Posted in housework

Midnight Lies

I’ve been lying to my husband.

Recently, our 8-month-old’s been waking up every night around midnight. Maybe she’s teething, or sick, or having bad dreams about her little lamby. Who knows. But one of us has to get up, check if she has a fever, administer the nasty-ass tylenol, and get her back to sleep.

I’ve been the willing volunteer. “I don’t mind,” I say in a half-asleep haze. But by 6 a.m., when little Miss Sunshine is up again, it’s apparent I did mind. I’m grumpy, tired and resentful that my other half slept so soundly when I not only woke up, but only fell back to sleep around 3 am.

Being transparent and eager to catalog my frustrations, I explained to my husband what was up. My stated preference, or what I said, was that I didn’t mind getting up. My “revealed preference”, or what I meant, was that I did mind getting up.

So far, so good. He said he would be happy to get up. And that night he did.

But here’s the rub: I woke up anyways. And when he came back to bed at 12:02, I asked her whether Miss Tess was hot, if she went back down okay, and whether we shouldn’t add another blanket. He glared at me and went back to sleep.

Turns out my revealed preference was my stated preference after all. I wanted to be the one to get up so I could know she was okay. And then I wanted to sleep until noon. Which isn’t really about preferences, but about fantasy.

Posted in arguing