There are so many things that no one tells you about pregnancy and having children: that morning sickness has little to do with the morning; that pregnancy causes you to lose your memory and ability to put together sentences and it doesn’t come back when the baby is born; that new-borns know when its dinner time and inevitably cry when the plates hit the table; that there is such a thing as ‘the witching hour’, and so much more.
Another thing that people only mention in whispers is the stress that those beautiful little bundles of joy can put on a relationship. The other day my friend ‘Jenny’ was walking down the street in a sour mood because her husband was off on a business trip and she was pregnant and alone with her toddler. When she started to explain this to an acquaintance on the street, the woman burst into tears and told her that she did not know how lucky she was, the woman’s partner had done a runner when he found out she was pregnant and she was raising her toddler alone.
(At this point I think it’s only fair to tell you that it is one of my pet peeves when women with partners say they know what it is like to be a single mother because their partner is away for some period of time. As the child of a single mother I feel confident saying that a woman who has to manage, even for a long period of time, when there partner is away is in a different boat from a mother who carries all of the financial and emotional pressure of a child or children on her own shoulders.)
So, this got me to thinking about all of the people with small children who I know that are separating divorcing or dealing with major issues in their relationships. We currently know at least four couples with children under four who are divorcing, separating, or going through counselling in an attempt not to. That’s just the people we know who are open about being in the process right now!
I have been pondering whether there is a common thread or something that we should all do, or not do, to stay together?
Maybe the parents are both at work all the time or maybe there is an unfulfilled mom stuck at home? Nope, in these cases all the husbands work (one from home) but two of the moms have stayed home and two work (one from home).
People often blame the economy for a rise in divorces but in this case there have been no layoffs and as far as I understand it where wives have stopped working it was because the families could live on the husband’s salary. Some of the families are more well off than others but none are poor.
Unexpected changes? Well, as we all know there are lots of unexpected changes when children come into the family, but in each of these cases the parents were trying to get pregnant and in two cases had been trying for years.
Age? The couples span from their late twenties to their mid-forties.
As I think of each likely scenario I just don’t find many similarities or big flashing warning signs. But there is one thing that I notice when thinking about each of their situations.
In some cases there has been an infidelity, in some disputes about values and how to raise the children. Whatever the issues, none of the underlying problems seem to be new. Where there is infidelity, it is not the first time (and God how I want to kick those men cheating on the wives who have just carried and birthed their children and who are no doubt dealing with body issues etc.). Where money or decision making is in dispute there were hints of discord or differences in values that seemed unimportant or manageable before the children arrived.
Is it possible that having children and the associated pressures simply act as a catalyst or a magnifying glass for discord that is already there? That when you have less sleep, less time, more tugs on your money, energy, creativity and emotions that you simply have less ability to compromise or overlook things that were more acceptable before?
Or perhaps it’s related to the partners being protective of their children. A spouse is no longer number one in the way that he or she was before children arrived. When a child becomes the priority spouses are going to make choices to protect them, which could mean that things that were palatable before are no longer tolerable whether it is infidelity, misspending of family funds or something else altogether.
Of course from the outside it is very hard to say and from the inside it is probably no easier. But in each case the family seems genuinely surprised that at this point when they are trying to become more closely knit, they are tearing themselves apart. Even though their individual issues are not new, they didn’t expect them to end the marriage that created their family.
I would be very interested in hearing other people’s perspectives. I can’t believe that I am the only one who has noticed this phenomenon but it is something that I do not hear talked about often.