A recent Op-Ed piece in The New York Times suggests that children have the potential to deteriorate (and even end) a marriage. This is especially true, it says, for couples where the child happens by accident, or if one parent procreates out of obligation and not desire.
Whack! That's the sound of us being smacked you across the face. This is a bold (if perhaps pragmatic) statement, even for the Times. Especially considering it comes from a woman named Stephanie Coontz, who wrote a book titled Marriage: A History. So she's got to know her stuff, right? So much for the whole "band-aid baby" theory.
While marriage and kids are far off distant fairy tales for us, we'd never imagined popping one out if our significant other wasn't onboard. And if we did, we certainly never thought breeding would create a wedge—a baby (we've been told) transcends all earthly love, and so it seems would automatically create an unspoken alliance between you and your partner.
Is this too naive?
Perhaps, says Coontz.
"More than 25 separate studies have established that marital quality drops, often quite steeply, after the transition to parenthood. And forget the “empty nest” syndrome: when the children leave home, couples report an increase in marital happiness," says two researchers at the University of California at Berkeley, Philip and Carolyn Cowan.
That is if the couple even has the luxury of staying together. There are several reasons why the marriage crumbles, they say. One being an unequal division of labor, where the exhausted stay-at-home mother resents the working father, who then feels unappreciated. And two, if the couple takes part in such "an intense style of parenting" that there's no energy left to devote to one another.
Not surprisingly, research suggests couples who plan for a child have the highest success rate of staying together with the least amount of bumps in the road.
What surprised us most, however, is that studies show couples spend more time with their children now than ever. Aside from the fact women are returning to the workforce in record numbers, sociologists report children have on average "six more hours a week with Mom and four more hours with Dad than in 1981."
So, overall this was a confusing, if not a semi-fascinating news piece. So, gentle reader, what is to be gleaned from this? Don't work too much, don't resent, plan, make time for your spouse, and try not to kill the baby.