Book Club: When Two Become Three, Chapter 10

It’s time for the tenth and final chapter of When Two Become Three by Mark E. Crawford.  Miss out on the other chapters? Start at the beginning here.

 

 

Chapter 10 is appropriately titled “Juggling on a Tightrope: Special Issues with Stepfamilies.” Mark E. Crawford is quick to mention that the rest of the book is completely applicable to stepfamilies who are expecting a new child, but wanted to take some time to mention that there are special challenges stepfamilies face, and give some advice on how to tackle those special challenges.

He spends quite a bit of time discussing reasonable expectations around stepfamilies – he refers to something he calls The Brady Myth. He discusses how the perfect blended family situation depicted in The Brady Bunch is unrealistic, and that stepfamilies should not expect things to go quite as smoothly – it can be quite a bit of work to bring the two families together. Plus, don’t forget that they had some other advantages – like a live-in housekeeper!

Crawford lists a variety of topics to consider when blending families – one big one being “defining the role of the stepparent.” There’s a lot to consider when deciding exactly how stepparents fit into their role as parents to their stepchildren. He cautions stepparents to not get hung up on titles – it’s okay if the child doesn’t want to call you mom or dad immediately. He also mentions not to try too hard to get the stepchildren to like you. It can come across as manipulative or phony and have the opposite of the intended effect.

Crawford goes on to mention other hot button topics like not forgetting that you have extra sets of grandparents to fit into the equation and to work on coming to terms with the fact that your spouse has married before – there can be a lot of complicated emotions involved.

However, to keep with the main theme of this book club, it’s probably a good idea to focus on the topic of children. Crawford discusses two big scenarios – having mutual children and legally adopting stepchildren.

In the case of mutual children, Crawford cautions that children should be something that both members of the relationship absolutely want – no pressuring the other member. He also makes sure to state that this is important across the board advice, stepfamily or not. However, he mentions that a stepfamily where one member of the relationship has had a biological child and another has not can be extra susceptible to not being on the same page about more children.

He also says to consider the feelings of the other children – it may be a bit more complicated for them than if both of their biological parents were having children together. He makes sure to say that you shouldn’t necessarily let the children’s feeling dictate your final decision in either direction, but to keep in mind that there may be some extra preparation and emotions to deal with during and after the pregnancy.

On the topic of adopting a stepchildren, he actually gives very similar advice – all parties involved must be enthusiastic (assuming the child is old enough to understand what’s going on). He also issues a strong word of caution – the child should never be asked or instructed to break adoption related news to the nonresident biological parent. Instead, this should begin as an adults-to-adult conversation.

This chapter is absolutely bursting with great advice for stepfamilies – I would definitely recommend taking a look, even if you’re not planning on introducing a new baby to the equation any time soon!

Thank you for joining us for this book club! We’re still picking our next book, but you can expect a new post next Wednesday! If you have any suggestions for book club books (or even just topics – we can find the book) let us know.

Book Club: When Two Become Three, Chapter 9

It’s time for the ninth chapter of When Two Become Three by Mark E. Crawford.  Miss out on the other chapters? Start at the beginning here.

Chapter 9 of When Two Become Three tackles Developing a Parenting Philosophy. This chapter is fairly short, and mentions that there are tons of books specifically dedicated to deciding on parenting philosophies. It is mentioned in this book because, as mentioned in previous chapters, getting on the same page about parenting decisions can be very helping when it comes to maintaining a healthy relationship with your partner.

Mark E. Crawford mentions that all marriages are cross-cultural in one way or another. Each partner comes into the marriage with their own experiences, traditions, etc. He illustrates the point with an argument he had with his wife about the direction toilet paper should go on the roll, but mentions religion and holiday traditions as other typical points of contention.

His advice to couples is to “accept influence” from their partners – in many cases, there’s not a hard and fast “right and wrong” way to go about things. Both partners have their reasons for wanting to do things a certain way, and their reasons may both be equally valid. It’s important to discuss as much as possible before marriage or children, and get on the same page.

Crawford then moves on to discussing how children can change the equation, emphasizing that children are unique individuals with their own personalities. He mentions an analogy that Dr. Wendy Mogel once made, equating children with a packet of unlabeled seeds. This is important to keep in mind as you develop a parenting philosophy – just because certain things worked for you as a child, does not mean that they will be as effective or healthy for your children. It’s important to keep your parenting philosophy flexible as you learn more about your child’s preferences and personality.

Crawford also gives a few more tips on developing a parenting philosophy, including establishing which rules re non-negotiable – maybe things like “don’t hit other people” or “no cursing.” He also mentions that it’s important to agree on how discipline will be conducted.

Crawford ends the chapter by reminding couples to stay flexible, one of the prevailing themes of the advice throughout the book.

Join us next week as we discuss the final chapter: Special Issues with Stepfamilies.

 

Book Club: When Two Become Three, Chapter 8

It’s time for the eighth chapter of When Two Become Three by Mark E. Crawford.  Miss out on the other chapters? Start at the beginning here.

 

Looks like we’re almost done with When Two Become Three! This is the third to last chapter, but it’s an important one. In this chapter, Mark E. Crawford discusses how having a baby can impact your relationships with your friends and family.

First, he tackles family – mostly focusing on the grandparents. He discusses the idea that not all grandparents may be as enamored or as involved with your child as you had pictured. They may simply not be baby people. If you find this bothering you, you may want to discuss it with them. However, he issues a few words of caution – for one thing, you should only confront your own set of parents. If it’s the in-laws that are a problem, leave it to your partner. Another caution he issues is that it likely won’t actually do much to change their behavior or feelings. He recommends not initiating such a conversation unless the act of discussing it will make you feel better, regardless of their response.

Of course, the flip side of this is grandparents who are too involved or controlling. Similarly, Crawford says that each member of the partnership should handle discussing things with their own parents. He says that stopping the controlling behavior of a grandparent can be as simple as reminding them that the child has two parents – and they have executive authority. If that is not respected, then it may be necessary to limit contact with that set of grandparents.

Crawford does take the time to remind readers that it’s important to understand the difference between advice and control. It is okay and healthy to listen to advice by outside parties – after all, they may have been through things like this before and learned a thing or two. Try not to get defensive when advice is offered.

The chapter then moves on to discussing how friendships will be impacted. Two types of friends are mentioned: those with children and those without.

You may find that you grow closer to your friends who already have children, and that’s great! It is important to have a support group around you who can offer the previously mentioned advice. However, it’s also important to remember that there are hundreds of parenting philosophies in the world, and just because you ascribe to one, does not mean your friends will ascribe to the same one. That is perfectly okay! You don’t need to see eye to eye on everything.

The book also discusses that your friendships with those without children will change. Now that you’ve welcomed a new member of your family, you may start to become a different person – and your friends without children may have a hard time understanding or accepting this. You may have even experienced this from the opposite side if you’re one of the last members of your friend group to have children. Try to be as empathetic as possible.

Overall, this is a really important chapter to check out if you’re concerned about potential, stereotypical in-law problems or if you have any concerns about maintaining your friendships!

Join us next week as we discuss Chapter 9: When Worlds Collide.

Book Club: When Two Become Three, Chapter 7

It’s time for the seventh chapter of When Two Become Three by Mark E. Crawford.  Miss out on the other chapters? Start at the beginning here.

It likely comes as no surprise to anyone that having a baby can negatively impact a couple’s sex life. Sure, there are exceptions – and good for them – but generally, introducing a new child into the family can cause quite a bit of strain on the sexual relationship between partners. Mark E. Crawford takes some time to discuss the reasons behind this – fatigue from caring for a child, women having just gone through a difficult medical procedure, etc. Then, he shares some tips on how to keep the sexual relationship as alive as possible through the newborn phase (and beyond).

One area he particularly focuses on is about time. You’re more stretched for time once you have a new baby in the house. Your schedule is likely a lot more strained – and it’s supposed to be. Crawford reminds couples that it’s okay to try to schedule time for sex – and it may be a lot earlier than they’re used to. Sneaking away during the baby’s  Saturday afternoon nap? Nothing wrong with that!

Crawford also reminds couples that they may feel differently about the current sexual state of their relationship, and that they need to work together. Stereotypically, it will be the man in the relationship who will feel more sexually deprived. Crawford suggests that women keep an open mind, and open dialogue with their partners. He’s careful to say that women should not feel obligated to have sex every time their partner wants to, but recommends discussing how both partners can be satisfied – perhaps it’s agreeing to a schedule as mentioned above, or maybe the way that couples approach foreplay will need to change.

Speaking of foreplay, and open discussions, Crawford also emphasizes the need to rediscover nonsexual affection. Because affection can be misinterpreted as a sexual advance, it’s important for both partners to be communicative about their needs – perhaps saying something like “I’m not in the mood for sex tonight, but can we spend some time cuddling before bed?”

There’s some more great advice throughout the chapter, including tips on how women can feel sexually ready again after giving birth (because, let’s face it – it can be difficult). Definitely a must-read for any couple worried about this aspect of their relationship!

Join us next week as we discuss Chapter 8: Friends and Family.

Book Club: When Two Become Three, Chapter 6

It’s time for the sixth chapter of When Two Become Three by Mark E. Crawford.  Miss out on the other chapters? Start at the beginning here.

Just as the last chapter directly addressed new moms, this chapter directly addresses new fathers. It’s a rather short chapter, and does repeat some of what was said in the previous chapter. However, a few things are unique.

Mark E. Crawford directly addresses that fathers may feel left out of new parenthood – it may seem as though their wives have made the transition easily, whereas they struggle a bit more. However, it is made very clear that it is important that fathers participate as much as possible in the process. Crawford summarily dismisses the argument that taking care of the children is women’s work, and advises men who think that way to ditch this book and look for a book on having an amicable divorce.

So, let’s say you’re sold on the idea that you should be getting involved – what’s the best way to go about it? Crawford provides a few helpful tips, such as thinking of new parenthood as going back to school – be open to learning as much as possible. Also, don’t get offended or take things personally if your wife or partner tries to correct the way you go about doing things. Gently remind her that you’re learning and that you need to develop your relationship with the baby, just as she has.

Crawford also reminds new fathers that though their wife is now a mother, she is still an adult with social needs. She may have given up quite a bit of her social life to care for the child, especially if she was previously working and is staying at home. Do what you can to give her a break and encourage her to send time with her friends. It may also help her to seek out women going through the same experiences as her – there are many new mom’s groups available, if none of her friends have had children lately.

All in all, though this is a short chapter, it’s full of great advice – it’s definitely a must-read for soon to be fathers or new fathers!

Join us next week as we discuss Chapter 7: What Happened to Sex?