Kids: The Next Excitement?

People have children for any variety of reasons:

– “I just want them.”
– “I want to do better by my child than my parents did by me.”
– “I’m afraid of being old and alone.”
– “I think it would be exciting to give someone a life. What better gift can you give?”
– “We wanted to save our marriage.”
– “I wanted him/her to marry me.”
– “We wanted to share this life experience with each other.”
– “I love children and have always wanted to be a parent.”

In a Lifetime Moms article–titled “Can Marriage Thrive Without Children?”–Melissa Chapman writes,

…had we not had kids over the course of our 13 year marriage there are many moments when, had it just been the two of us, I think it might have been over.

It’s probably true that children would inspire a couple to fight at least a little bit harder to salvage their relationship. There’s the children’s happiness and well-being to consider (and whether the children will be happier or better off if the parents stay married is situation-specific), the hassle of a custody battle to think about (assuming both parents fight for custody), who gets (or doesn’t get) to move where, etc.

This makes sense.

But Chapman then asks,

I’ve always wondered how and what keeps couples who don’t have kids, married. What is the glue that sustains married couples when that common goal of raising children and providing a home for them is not there?

I understand the question on a certain level. It’s asked out of curiosity by someone whose marriage was saved by the fact that she and her husband had children–living, breathing bonds pulling them back together.

However, it’s telling that the question has to be asked at all. It implies that the only obvious component to a couple’s happiness or longevity is children. Not love, not a chosen commitment, not a desire to be there, but children.

Chapman, a mother, isn’t the only one to wonder whether a marriage without children can last. On The Childfree Life forum, one user asked whether two people in a relationship can be enough.

As someone who thrives on newness, variety, excitement, and anticipation, and because I suspect others do, too, I wonder if the desire for emotional highs/rushes (excitement, newness, and something to change the routine) are ever a driving force behind having children.

Excitement #1: Dating
Excitement #2: Waiting for the engagement
Excitement #3: Engaged!
Excitement #4: Lead-up to the wedding
Excitement #5: Married!!
Excitement #6: …?
Excitement #6: …?
Excitement #6: …?
Excit… [Bueller?]

“Oh! Let’s have a baby!”

Excitement #6: Trying to get pregnant
Excitement #7: Pregnant!
Excitement #8-12: The pregnancy and all of its changes
Excitement #13: Having the baby!!
Excitement #14: Baby is born! Yay!
Excitement #15 – 20: First stages of new life (gurgles, beautiful poops, burps, first words, first steps)
Excitement #21: …?
Excitement #21: …?
Exci… [Bueller?]

“Oh! I know–let’s have another baby.”

I don’t mean to trivialize the decision to be a parent or to mock parents. I honestly wonder whether fear of boredom, whether personal or as it pertains to the relationship, is something that sometimes contributes to parenthood.

When it comes to sustaining a relationship that might otherwise have ended, I have no doubt that, such as in the case of Chapman and her husband (and others like them), there are times when people would have given up early if not for the kids, and that they later find staying together was the best thing they ever did–they’re happier than ever.

But when a couple has kids because they don’t think they’re enough on their own, or because they need the next exciting thing, or something over which they can “bond,” maybe they aren’t supposed to be together until they’re 90.

[Then again, there are couples who come together for children first, love second. (That’s when “settling” factors in.) And that’s a perfectly valid choice for those whose primary interest is raising children as long as they do it with adequate love and care for the children.]
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Sylvia D. Lucas is the author of

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10 thoughts on “Kids: The Next Excitement?

  1. Susan

    “But Chapman then asks,
    I’ve always wondered how and what keeps couples who don’t have kids, married. What is the glue that sustains married couples when that common goal of raising children and providing a home for them is not there?”

    I think that if Chapman KNEW any CF married couples personally, she wouldn’t have asked this question. I have known a great CF married couple, my uncle and his wife, although sadly, both are now deceased. My uncle Phil had never wanted children of his own, although he was a terrific uncle. He didn’t even marry for the first — and only — time until he was 48, and when he finally did get married, it was to a really great lady, who also never wanted kids, who was in her early 40’s. They were married for 27 years (got married in ’73), until her death in 2000. Aside from the usual spats that many married couples have occasionally, they loved each other and had a great time in each other’s company.

    Phil was a huge college football fan (went to Yale), and he and Mary once took me to the annual Harvard/Yale game which was at Harvard that year (sometime in the 1980’s, but I can’t recall the exact year). Although it was really cold that day, it was a lot of fun, and we went to a great restaurant afterward, and NOT a “kid friendly” one, thank goodness. They had that and other common interests besides, and I’d have to say that was the “glue” that sustained their marriage for over two decades.

    Having witnessed my uncle’s happy CF marriage over the years until Mary died, I think it’s absolute nonsense to claim that children are a “must” to keep a marriage together. Is there a comments section on that article link, by the way? I might just go over there and telling Chapman that personally.

  2. There is!

    I should have added that Chapman goes on to write, “Apparently marriage sans kids can not only survive, but it can and does thrive!” And she then goes into a list of ways to bond. However, I still find it odd that being happy without kids is presented as a surprising possibility.

    1. Susan

      Yes, I read the whole article and I found that part odd as well. I could be mistaken, but I got the impression that all of Chapman’s friends who are married have kids, and think that’s what is “normal.” It’s amazing that some people have kids for another reason; that it’s “just what married people are supposed to do.”

      On another blog that discussed why acceptance of the childfree choice is still “an uphill climb,” there was one poster who bluntly said that she thought it was “unnatural” NOT to have children. It seemed like another poor reason to have kids to me.

  3. Jennifer

    It’s okay if a childfree marriage ends, though. The two can go their separate ways, and find someone they are happier with. But couples with kids who want a divorce have a much harder time doing it, because of the kids, and if they are just staying together for the kids, that’s not a good thing for the couple, because they will be miserable. Other people might see it as a good thing that they stayed together, but it’s not good for them, and it may not be any better for the kids, since their parents are unhappy and maybe fight a lot. I personally get very emotional when people yell at each other because I have flashback of my mother and stepfather screaming at each other all the time, but trying to stay together for my step-brother.

    1. My step-parents used to yell at each other all the time, too. I remember thinking, “I’m never going to have a normal romantic relationship,” and waiting impatiently to be old enough to move out. They didn’t stay married for the sake of children, though – they were just in the slow, painful process of splitting emotionally. Staying together would have been the worst thing they could do to the youngest child still in the house (me). Fortunately, they separated when I still had a few teen years left in me and could witness the value of divorce (and the happiness they each achieved as a result of that divorce).

  4. Umm… what? Did the blogger really say that she doesn’t know why childfree couples stay together? So, in other words, in her world view, married couples are inherently unhappy and only stay together for their kids??? While I admit that I’m still not grasping the point of the question, I will say this… my husband and I have been very happy over the past 15 years, and intend to remain happy in our relationship. While many couples who have been together for as long as we have are (apparently) unhappy and want to divorce but just stay together for the kids, we actually genuinely still enjoy each other’s company. (Is that clear enough?)

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