Babyproofing Your Marriage: The Interview
by: Janell Gulstad
Here is the one thing you need to know about Babyproofing Your Marriage before you pick it up. Anyone who reads it with an open mind is going to recognize themselves and/or their spouse somewhere in this book. (The quotes alone are priceless.)
Co-authored by three friends: Stacie Cockrell, Cathy O’Neill and Julia Stone, BPYM takes to heart the basic philosophy that the secret to raising happy children is to have a happy marriage. While latent feminists may be aggravated by the authors’ open acknowledgement of the differences between the sexes, it’s refreshing to read in print what we have known all along: men are different, and motherhood makes women nuts.
In some ways, this is an equal opportunity instruction manual; with easy to digest chapters that even the most macho of husbands should be able to appreciate. The authors may be women, but they talked to a lot of husbands in their efforts to be balanced. And although it’s impossible to identify wholly with every example, the book challenges readers by its very simplicity. For instance, any parent who ever had in-laws will see some small ghost of themselves in the chapter: In-Laws and Outlaws: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.”
And yes, there’s a whole chapter about sex.
In a recent phone interview, Stacie Cockrell talked about the writing the book, interviewing 500 people, some on airplanes and in checkout lines, to get a feel for the universal experience of adjusting to the shock of parenthood. “This book is really bigger than the three of us,” she says. Three years ago, the three women each had one baby, and all had all read books like A Fly on the Wall and Tell it Like it Is, but over dinner one night, discussed the fact that they all felt they were speaking a different language from their husbands. They decided there should be a Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus for married people, and the idea for a book of their own was born.
So they started talking to people. Anyone. Everyone. And the people that they talked to had a lot to say. In fact, as Stacie recalls, “They wouldn’t stop talking. Women would stay until . As for the men, we thought they’d never talk to us about their sex lives, but they did.”
Who did what, in writing the book?
We did a lot of brainstorm sessions. (We) ran our own focus groups. A lot of us came up with our own humorous, quirky ideas that would lighten the tone.
All three of us wrote sections and then we swapped. Everybody edited each other’s stuff. We called it the 24/7 sausage making factory. Sometimes it was an ugly process, but by the end, we liked the final product. Cathy and I were night owls. I had my third baby while this was going on, so I would be drinking my Red Bull at two in the morning, and so would Cathy, and then we’d kick it to Julia, because she’s a morning person. She’d get up at
That’s basically how we did it. Some of us were more passionate about certain topics than others. Some of us had better ideas on the topic, or were more humorous about it. And then we got a lot of our material from the focus groups. I don’t think we would have come up with the shoulder tap. In a focus group this guy said, “Yeah, my son gives his wife the shoulder tap,” and I said, whoa, stop right there. What is that?
That became a big theme of our book.
Now that a bit more time has passed since the publication of BPYM (in 2007), how has the book affected your own lives?
It’s definitely improved all of our marriages. Beforehand, there was this disconnect, this miscommunication, and we were speaking different languages. Now, our husbands understand us so much better and vice versa. My husband’s not nuts; you know, hundreds of men are saying the same thing. So, it’s really made us laugh a lot more. It’s made us surrender to parenthood. It’s made us a lot closer as a couple. All three of us can definitely say that. It’s affected us in that way.
Also, the three of us love helping other people. We give talks sometimes to churches or women’s groups and we love sharing what we’ve learned. There are three years of knowledge in that book. And to be able to talk about it for an hour, and have a roomful of women sitting there nodding and saying, “Oh, my gosh, I thought I was the only one going through this.” We get emails from people all over the world, saying “I was about to get a divorce - I want to try again,” or “I have a 4-year-old and a newborn and I was contemplating getting a divorce and your book made me realize I’m not alone, we want to give it another try,” and those sorts of emails. That’s what has impacted us the most, to know that we are helping people and, indirectly, helping children, because a happy marriage equals happy kids.
I guess you could say we found our passion. We really are passionate about this, and we want to write follow up books. We’re trying to figure out what the next topic is.
Has anything come up, either researching BPYM or since its publication that made you all think, “Hmmm, sequel”?
Here’s what I would say our shtick is: the three of us are women who are not afraid to say what people are thinking and not saying, even if the topic is taboo.
We’re still in the idea phase right now; we don’t have anything crystallized yet. Our big message to women is, “You’re not alone, everyone goes through this stuff, here’s what everyone is thinking and not saying.” That’s what we like to do, and I think that’s what Babyproofing is.
Anything you wish you’d had in the book that wasn’t in there?
I would say the pregnancy stage, and here’s why. Women immediately think, oh, I guess this book is only for me if I have a newborn. And a lot of women, new moms, don’t have time to read, or they’re too tired, and a lot of them are focusing on books to tell (them) how to take care of a new baby. They’re not focusing on the marriage right now.
We’re fed these soft-focus images of what pregnancy is through the media. The media is like, here’s Denise Richards – she just had her second baby and two weeks later she’s in a size two bathing suit. That’s just what we’re fed. You look at all the blips on all the magazine covers – all these people have 24/7 nannies. They’re not breastfeeding a baby and giving their 2-year-old a bath on a cold bathroom floor at the same time. That’s just the reality that we find ourselves in. So, I wish that there was more about pregnancy in there, so pregnant women would say, oh, this book’s for me, too.
Pregnant women who read our book – first-time pregnant women who read our book - they don’t believe us and they think we’re being really negative because they don’t have a child yet. What’s interesting, the great reviews – the five-star reviews we get - are from women who have a 6-month-old and up, who are in the throes of parenthood, their lives have completely changed. They understand, “I’m a mother, I’m a wife, I’m a parent – this is reality.”
When I was pregnant for the first time, I had a friend who tried to tell me, “you’re husband’s not going to get it. My husband’s on the golf course all the time, he doesn’t help out enough.” And I would say to myself, gosh, you know, that’s just their marriage. My husband and I communicate so well. And then we started having kids and the light bulb went off. That’s how Babyproofing came about.
Here’s your chance to have the last word. Anything else you want people to know about the book?
One thing we always like to say is that children are never the problem. That should never be construed in anything we say. When you have a child, there’s a third person in your marriage. It’s almost like puzzle pieces are all over the floor again, and you have to rebuild your marriage from the ground up again, with this third person in mind. It’s really how you respond to parenthood, and how you respond to each other as a couple, and how you figure out your new relationship. That’s what people don’t understand. This is a new relationship. The marriage – we say this over and over -- is the lynchpin of the family.