Messenger Lots of women look forward to motherhood — getting to know a tiny baby, raising a growing child, developing a relationship with a maturing son or daughter. All over the world, people believe that parenting is the most rewarding part of life. Families usually welcome a baby to the mix with great expectations. Nowhere to go but down? But after that, things tend to change. The course of true love runs downhill. For around 30 years, researchers have studied how having children affects a marriage, and the results are conclusive: Comparing couples with and without children, researchers found that the rate of the decline in relationship satisfaction is nearly twice as steep for couples who have children than for childless couples.
In the event that a pregnancy is unplanned , the parents experience even greater negative impacts on their relationship. The irony is that even as the marital satisfaction of new parents declines, the likelihood of them divorcing also declines. While the negative marital impact of becoming parents is familiar to fathers and mothers, it is especially insidious because so many young couples think that having children will bring them closer together or at least will not lead to marital distress.
Have I turned your world upside down yet? Baby image via www. Lovers morph into parents It seems obvious that adding a baby to a household is going to change its dynamics. And indeed, the arrival of children changes how couples interact. Parents often become more distant and businesslike with each other as they attend to the details of parenting. Mundane basics like keeping kids fed, bathed and clothed take energy, time and resolve. In the effort to keep the family running smoothly, parents discuss carpool pickups and grocery runs, instead of sharing the latest gossip or their thoughts on presidential elections.
These changes can be profound. Fundamental identities may shift — from wife to mother, or, at a more intimate level, from lovers to parents. Even in same-sex couples, the arrival of children predicts less relationship satisfaction and sex. Beyond sexual intimacy, new parents tend to stop saying and doing the little things that please their spouses.
Flirty texts are replaced with messages that read like a grocery receipt. With nearly half of all births being to unmarried couples , some parents may think they have gamed the system by skipping the wedding. The relationship burden of having children is present regardless of marital status, gender orientation or level of income.
In addition, the adverse impact of becoming a parent is found in other countries , including those with greater rates of nonmarital parenting and more generous family policies. Moms bear the brunt Not surprisingly, it is mothers, not fathers, who bear the heaviest cost of becoming parents.
Even when both parents work outside the home and even in marriages in which both spouses describe themselves as sharing the burden of household chores, most parents slide toward gender-stereotypical ways of parenting. As part of this pattern, new mothers tend to cut their hours in outside work, which often leads fathers to feel more of the burden of financial responsibility.
A common pattern emerges in which dads start spending more time and energy on outside work and moms start doing an increasing percentage of the childcare and housework. Cue the feelings of frustration, guilt and distress for both parents.
The consequences of the relationship strain can be serious. Marital stress is associated with many serious physical health problems as well as symptoms of depression and other mental health problems. The link between psychological and marital problems is strong enough that researchers have found that couples therapy is one of the most effective ways of treating depression and some other mental illnesses.
Moving image via www. A light at the end of the tunnel? If the arrival of children is hard on marriages, is the departure of children good for marriages? Some marriages do improve once the children leave the nest. These downsides to having children may partly explain why more and more women in the United States and around the world are choosing not to procreate.
According to the U. Census, the percent of childless American women ages increased a staggering amount in just two generations: Despite the dismal picture of motherhood painted by researchers like me sorry Mom , most mothers and fathers rate parenting as their greatest joy.
Much like childbirth, where nearly all mothers believe the pain and suffering was worth it, most mothers believe the rewards of watching their children grow up is worth the cost to their romantic relationships.