It’s hard to have perspective about this stage of our lives. We can’t see too far beyond the next milestone: “Things will be so much easier when he’s potty trained/in preschool/making his own lunch/driving a car.” But we can get some perspective from couples who have been down this road already. Even though marriage and parenting have changed dramatically in a generation or two, the fundamental experience of adjusting to parenthood remains basically the same. The parenting veterans once found it as shocking as we do now. They felt their way along in the dark just like we’re all attempting to do.
There is a beautiful Irish ballad called "The Voyage" that is almost always played at wedding anniversary parties in Ireland. When I was young, free and single I never understood why the forty-somethings would get teary-eyed when this song was played. Now that I'm rapidly approaching that age myself, with kids and husband in tow, I get it. This song celebrates the journey that two people who have "coupled their fate" make together and the steadfast determination that it takes to continue when times get tough. To me, this song tells the life-story of those of us married-with-kids.
If you have kids your marriage might be on autopilot; because once they enter the picture, it’s all too easy to neglect your relationship. There is just so much to do, and marriage is one of the few things we can ignore without immediate and dire consequences. If we ignore our job, we’ll get fired. If we ignore our kids, they’ll starve. But if we ignore our relationship, our spouse can live off the scraps for a pretty long time.
Our children might just be the ultimate romance-busters. There's nothing sexy about a landscape littered with plastic toys, balls and sippy cups. Light a candle and your two-year old will take a dive at it; wear a sexy top and it will be barfed on, or at best, be mauled by tiny sticky hands. But, don't throw in the towel just yet. Take back Valentines Day and have those pint-sized mood-killers join in the fun.
The report, entitled "Baby Makes Three" from the National Marriage Project is just the latest installment, in what seems to be, a never-ending series of academic reports that find that those of us who are married with kids are less happy than our childless married friends.