This article in the Huffington Post caught our attention this morning, because it created an immediate reaction within us: that of complete and utter sadness. Sadness because, the article was entitled “Divorce Causes: Does Having Children Put a Strain on Your Marriage?”.
In this piece, we are told that a recent airing of the Ricki Lake Show focusing on this question, involved a married mother who felt as if her whole world had fallen apart, and because she blamed having children for the break down of her marriage and the loss of her self, she was unable to love her children or her husband.
We found this deeply distressing, and whilst many mothers occasionally feel overwhelmed by the responsibilities of raising a family, those feelings are usually, thankfully, rare and give way to feelings of gratitude and excitement. But not so for everyone. The article goes on to share tweets from Huff Post readers on the matter and they are hugely thought-provoking for their diversity and honesty. In fact, we haven’t seen such well-rounded tweets on a matter for some time.
Amongst the themes which caught our attention were marriages which ended due to husbands feeling neglected or no longer number one in the relationship after the presence of children; the view that kids do put a strain on marriages, but bearing that strain is more than worth it; the feeling that it was the other way round – the marriage itself put a strain on the child; feelings of isolation during the early years; losing yourself within the family unit; children being the acid test as to compatibility with your spouse; feelings of unhappiness stemming from a selfish view of life and the fact that marriage can be a paradox, both at once wonderful and terrible.
The tweet slide show is a must read, and it got us thinking. Perhaps children really are the acid test – for us at least, if a woman meets a man who shows initial interest in her but later retreats once he finds out she has a child, it is in itself perhaps a blessing in disguise, a way to weed out the boys from the men.
But what of the need to have alone time, or couple time? In a world where both parents are increasingly having to work, and having time off during the working week to take advantage of school hours when children are not at home is unheard of, and in a world where grandparents live farther and farther away making the occasional baby sit often impossible, what can be done to keep that love alive and stave off any resentments which may affect the children?
Perhaps the answer lies in our notions of community, marriage and family, as well as culture in the work place. It’s a tricky one, so we’ll leave these thoughts with you and hope that better men and women than us can come up with some great ideas. For us at least, the joy of having children overrides any hardships and is one of life’s greatest adventures, as long as you’re not afraid to get a little roughed up along the way.
“…. which ended due to husbands feeling neglected or no longer number one in the relationship after the presence of children; the view that kids do put a strain on marriages.” – This does sound like a rather sexist comment Natasha or so the Father’s Rights groups may claim. It also suggests that mothers are the primary caregivers with close emotional bonds with their children which Father’s Rights groups will also contest when they claim that they are equally as able at looking after children as mothers..
“……if a woman meets a man who shows initial interest in her but later retreats once he finds out she has a child”. The FR groups will also claim that fathers do not `retreat’ or walk away from their responsibilities, they are rejected by the mothers and alienated from theor children. Perhaps the world is not after all like the Father’s Rights groups like to paint it..
Hi Ragnvald, all I’m doing it summarising the article. Some of the comments are controversial and I will look forward to hearing people’s views on those elements. After all, creating discussion is the central remit of the Researching Reform post.
Me. Wings optional. said:
I’m not quite sure why some people would not realize the true dedication it takes to raise a family. I know sometimes it can be hard to understand something unless one has had personal experience of it. But surely we should all know that having children is a lifelong commitment & parenting will take more than an hour a day of our time (being on call 24 hours a day is about right).
Bless their little hearts they don’t just disappear when we are tired or ill, or would like a piece of ‘me time’ or intimacy with our partner.
And they certainly wouldn’t understand why any parent would not be there for them when they are in the vicinity. .
We have to work out the best way to work around our gorgeous little ones & be prepared to put ourselves second when it’s the right thing to do. And to help them to learn when they don’t *have* to come first (like when it’s our turn to speak & other basic etiquette). Love doesn’t disappear when children come into view. It’s constant.
Yes, it is harder if there aren’t any grandparents or willing relatives around to help out. But that absence shouldn’t damage a couple’s relationship. The in-law’s babysitting isn’t in the marriage vows.
In my mind, if there is a strong enough love between two people, it should be strong enough to survive the wait, until the little ones are less demanding of our time. And I could never understand why anyone would be jealous of someone they created half of?
Or don’t some people realize they chance creating half of a human being when they’re having sexual intercourse, relying on contraception that can’t possibly carry a 100% guarantee?
It is quite sad isn’t it, that some people would use the result of their act of love between them, as their excuse for not being in love any more?
Children don’t put a strain on a marriage. How couples cope with all that being married & raising a family involves, is the more likely culprit.
Kip Miller said:
Natasha, Many women feel they must ‘love’ their babies in a extraordinary way. This myth was perpetuated by Dr John Bowlby in his work Maternal Care and Mental Health. Mothers who do not feel this extraordinary ‘love’ sometimes feel there is something wrong with them and there is a video on YouTUBE from a mother who has set up a self-help group on this basis. But Dr John Bowlby got it wrong and mothers should not be made to feel ‘guilty’ for living up to this expectation. (Please see the article ‘We must shatter notion only mothers raise children”, says minister
The idea that mothers should take the lead in looking after children needs to be “shattered”, from the Daily Telegraph). kip
Hi Kip, thanks for your comment. I prefer to look at this kind of thing another way: every potential mother should ask herself the question: why do I want children? There are lots of reasons for feeling overwhelmed when it comes to parenting and some are legitimate and understandable, but I think social pressure and expectation does play a huge part, as you mention albeit from a slightly different angle, and we need to look at that and examine it, perhaps.
“Bowlby’s major conclusion, grounded in the available empirical evidence, was that to grow up mentally healthy, “the infant and young child should experience a warm, intimate, and continuous relationship with his mother (or permanent mother substitute) in which both find satisfaction and enjoyment” (Bowlby, 1951, p. 13). Later summaries often overlook the reference to the substitute mother and to the partners’ mutual enjoyment. They also neglect Bowlby’s emphasis on the role of social networks and on economic as well as health factors in the development of well-functioning mother-child relationships. His call to society to provide support for parents is still not heeded today:
Just as children are absolutely dependent on their parents for sustenance, so in all but the most primitive communities, are parents, especially their mothers, dependent on a greater society for economic provision. If a community values its children it must cherish their parents. (Bowlby, 1951, p. 84)”.
“True to the era in which the WHO report was written, Bowlby emphasized the female parent. In infancy, he comments, fathers have their uses, but normally play second fiddle to mother. Their prime role is to provide emotional support to their wives’ mothering.”
Developmental Psychology journal (1992) – `THE ORIGINS OF ATTACHMENT THEORY: JOHN BOWLBY AND MARY AINSWORTH’
Athene Jones said:
Very interesting thoughts and articles. I think most people who have had children in a marriage would have a slightly different opinion depending on their circumstances..the greatest strain in a marriage is achieving or striving with expectations and it is often dictated by finances radically changing..(sometimes up but usually down.). ..as to how much pressure one can bear without the strain getting so great that eventually one or other partner wants out…the children simply act as a sort of glue.
And increasingly marriages don’t have the stigma of having to stay together ‘because of the kids’..as was once the case, so it is although hard to start to separate, not so difficult as it once was to divide in divorce any more.. some say it is better psychologically for the offspring to be outside of a conflicting household where parents are fighting, and therefore separation is sometimes even encouraged for this reason.
I think that once the honeymoon phase with a couple is over, (either partner cools down so there is less ‘passion’ or togetherness) if there is not a lot of common interest or even much friendship, a seven year serial monogamy naturally seems to take over with some people..this is a time frame where the offspring have been nurtured through the critical phase of childhood, and after this both parents experience a change in the ‘glue’ that binds them together.
(These are lay thoughts from someone who has seen most of this happen many times..sometimes tragically hurting all parties, children included, so it is of great importance that if this is a trend, easing the path for people to separate ‘amicably’ and without malice with ultimate thoughts for the children’s, women’s and men’s psychological welfare is paramount…for neither the father nor the mother can be of much use to any children if they are hurt and depressed).
Thank you so much for your thought-provoking post, Athene.
All, I think unrealistic expectations play a significant part. I felt the advertisement from the retailer ASDA putting mum behind every ‘good’ Christmas was misconceived and ill founded. It was a silly advert at a time when many families cannot afford simple necessities. kip
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