I spent last weekend in San Jose for my father’s funeral. I was surrounded by people with children. The younger the kids, the harder it was for me to talk to their parents because they were obsessed with childcare. I also noticed that for some couples, the children seem to come between the husband and wife (or unmarried partners). The main caregiver, usually the mother, becomes so involved with the children that she stops relating to her partner. His life is about work, and hers is about kids, and soon they rarely speak to each other beyond complaints and coordinating schedules. I can see how someone might be reluctant to have children for fear this will happen.
Children need a lot of attention, especially when they’re small. They’re also fascinating creatures. How do you not become all about the kids when you worry every second that something will happen to them? I was that way when I adopted puppies. Imagine if I had a little human.
We have all seen this happen with our friends. Trying to get their attention is like trying to jump into a double-dutch jump-rope game where we just can’t get the rhythm. What about the spouse?
This division doesn’t happen with everyone. My parents truly seemed to be a team, even though Mom spent most of her time with us while Dad was usually at work. Every night when he came home, they retired to the bedroom to chat—and we knew we were supposed to leave them alone. At night, I’d fall asleep to the sound of my parents talking. When conflicts arose, they always put each other above everyone else. It can be done.
On the airplane shuttle in Portland, I sat across from a couple with two little kids. All four of them seemed happy to have each other, and the parents were clearly in love. Maybe I just caught them at a good moment, but they gave me hope.
How does a couple counter that tendency to forget about each other and put all their attention on the children? Is the fear that the kids will come between them valid? When will the mom and dad have sex or even a private conversation when someone is always shouting, “Mommy! Mommy!” Is this fear part of your situation? Is it a logical reason not to have children? Let’s talk about it.
Here are some articles to consider.
The funeral was beautiful. (See my Unleashed in Oregon blog for more about this.) My father would be pleased. The music, the flowers, the priest, the military honors, the barbecue that followed—all great. Not that there weren’t some tears. It’s hard. But he is at peace, and now we move on. Thank you for all of your prayers and good wishes. They mean a lot.
2 thoughts on “Will Children Ruin the Relationship?”
Hi Sue! I’m happy for you to have had a nice sendoff for your father. Now comes the year of “firsts” and I wish good thoughts for you.
Now for the question at hand. Being childless, I do seem to have extra time to notice couples and young families. I can see how children can draw the couple closer (“divide and conquer” to make everyone happy, or in more difficult times “us against the littles” or those giddy couples who truly enjoy their children together.) Those couples seem to have mutual respect for each other’s roles and appreciation for the other half. They value their partner in the good and the bad moments. I don’t know if it’s a matter of love, maturity or both. Those are the couples you see holding hands at the high school graduation, joining together in their sadness of seeing a chapter end or the excitement of the next stage in their life.
Other couples “divide and conquer” in a different way. Such as “you go out with your friends tonight while I’m stuck with the kid, and then I’ll go out with my buddies tomorrow night.” I have a family member who has this weekly pact with their spouse. Sure it seems like a nice compromise, but I have to wonder why a 30-something “needs” to go to a bar on a Tuesday night (weekly) to get away from their family. They seem happy but . . .? I’ve had other in-laws tell me, “I swear, the second this kid graduates I’m out of here.” Or petty fights about not feeding the baby because he/she just changed a diaper and it’s the other’s “turn” to deal with the kid.
I suppose it’s easy to be an “arm chair parent” and judge these people. I’m not living their life. I don’t know anything. But I do know that my husband and I would be great parents. If only.
Thank you for this, Anon S. Lots of wisdom there, and I appreciate your good thoughts.