Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Brain Rules for Baby: Relationship (Happy Marriage, Happy Baby)

Moving on to the next chapter in the book:

"Parenthood hastens marital decline."  The biggest predictor of marital bliss is whether both partners agreed they wanted to have kids.

The emotional environment of babies affect the development of their nervous system.  Babies are extraordinarily sensitive to what takes place around them and are constantly learning.  They also seek safety.  This was scientifically proven using some remarkably harsh experiments involving rhesus monkeys being taken away from their mothers and given surrogate robotic mothers.  Scientists also discovered that Romanian orphans (in the 1990's) adopted after the age of four months, were not able to fully recover from the stress they had been exposed to.  One effect that stress or hostile environments have on babies is making them unable to regulate their own emotions.  Eventually, they will grow up to demonstrate more aggression and antisocial behavior.

What I found most interesting is that if you do fight in front of your kids, it's important to also make up in front of them so that they can learn the important skill of reconciliation.

The four major sources of marital conflict:
1.  Sleep Loss: which leads to irritiability (i.e. loss of emotional regulation) and a decrease in problem-solving abilities - I think this is what all our friends with kids have warned us about the most

2.  Social Isolation: which can lead to depression - I'm a bit worried about this since I'm taking a year off of work.

3.  Unequal workload: which generally means women are doing more of it - another book I read, Spousonomics, covers some good solutions to this one

4.  Depression: also known as baby blues, or postpartum depression - and dads can get it too

Solution = Empathy
Be aware of these conflicts and be empathetic towards your spouse - which will help you avoid "perceptual asymmetry."  This means taking the time to notice your spouse's emotions and taking the time see and "feel" things from their point of view so that you can determine what's causing their emotion - hard to do when you're irritable and sleep-deprived!


  1. Julie Park7:51 AM

    hmm..while i agree that our society is sorely lacking in empathy and that it is highly important, i don't actually think it will solve any of the problems that new parents face...i think a better solution is to hire/ask for help!
    1. cleaning service: all the empathy in the world won't get those dishes clean.
    2. mom's helper: cook,nap, read a book
    3. babysitter: go out into the world!
    4. friend who will bring lunch and laughs
    5. new mom friend: to endlessly discuss new baby poop
    6. experienced mom friend: b/c new baby poop isn't that important

    again i'll say that empathy is important, but regardless of how understanding someone is, the house is a mess, you're tired as hell and the baby is crying.....this is an interesting book, i may have to check it out!

  2. Julie Park8:14 AM

    haha, forgetfulness is what i get for being sleep deprived and typing this so early!

    empathy is of course an important validation and one that everyone needs and deserves. i do wonder though, if empathy alone is helpful to the author's wife while he is traveling for his book tour and giving lectures? what does he say about that?