Have you seen the August cover of Time Magazine? The Childfree Life. The article discusses the declining trend of parenthood. It specifically focuses on the fact that the modern woman who chooses not to have children can still have a full and meaningful life. Additionally, couples that choose not to have children have more time, energy, and most importantly (for some) money. I am not an advocate of single parenthood. Therefore, this article will focus on what children mean for the average couple.
In my book, The Recipe for Ecstasy What Women Want: Sexual and Relationship Satisfaction, I look at four cohorts of women. The women are separated by marital and parental status. One of the most perplexing and, frankly, disturbing findings was that married women move from first to last in terms of sexual satisfaction when children were added to the mix. As a married women with children, I fully appreciate the burden that children place on a relationship. Yeah, I said it, “burden”.
Children are demanding! Requiring an inordinate amount of attention, guidance, patience, discipline, love, time, tolerance, and yes, money. Especially if you are going to expose them to the host of opportunities that will first allow them to compete, then survive, and succeed in today’s fast-paced society. And this is only the half of it when it comes to a special needs child. They require a level of care that can far exceed a child without such needs. Be forewarned and prepared!
I wonder if this burden could be lessened if people were more prepared to become parents. Personally, my parents did a poor job of parenting; thus any knowledge I gleaned was about how not to parent. Of course there are all sorts of books that one can read that provide a wealth of information about parenting. However, experiential learning provides an understanding that can be internalized and developed over time.
Too often I see neglect of the marriage or committed relationship in support of child rearing and/or the strengthening of the family. Both are important and have unique needs for nurturance and growth. A strong footing is required for proliferation and marriage is the cornerstone. So feeding this relationship is essential to the recipe. While many marriages end in divorce, with children being a central conflict, I believe this can be avoided if there is more work done on the front end.
This takes me back to parenting. It is the parents’ responsibility to impart the necessary skills for the cycle of life to be bountiful. History does tend to repeat itself (if you allow it). We are in charge of our own destiny. Therefore, make good choices. Today it is difficult to have a large family and sometimes a hardship. Unless you are independently wealthy, it is probably not a good idea to have several children. Personally, I believe when the children in the home out number the parental figures, you are working from a deficit. It really does take a village…
If you prefer to spend your time indulging in personal gratification (me time) maybe parenthood is not for you. Of course there will be opportunities to feed your desires. However, if your children are getting their needs met, this will be done sparingly, at least until they are able to fend for themselves. Isn’t this the objective anyway? Get them grown and gone so you can live your life. Any chance a couple gets to fortify their union should be optimized, and don’t forget about “me time” either.
Children bring a great deal of joy, laughter, and playfulness to life. There are lessons I would have never learned if it were not for my children. I am confident that I am at the beginning of the wealth of knowledge that is still to come. Some of it causes me angst but the majority of it feels me with pride and excitement for the future. If I could go back, with the awareness I have today, I honestly don’t know what choice I would make. Therefore, for those of you who still have the choice ahead of you, invest time thinking and talking about your vision for the future. Know that children will forever change the landscape of your life. It is up to you to determine whether that change is full of love and happiness or grief and regret. Choose wisely. Choose knowingly.