It might sound ridiculous that anyone would ever ask themselves, “Will having a kid save my marriage?” but I think it actually happens a LOT behind closed doors and in people’s heads. We all know that relationships can be multi-layered, complicated, and hard – that’s why there are so many crazy, yet believable storylines in the media and in movies.
Kids Are Easy, Right?
I’m sure those of you who are regular readers are wondering, why in the world is Sydney writing about this? The quickest answer is babysitting. That might sounds weird, but recently babysitting my nephew taught me a lot and really got me thinking about people’s relationships, life, the decisions couples make, and how much really goes into raising a child.
My sister recently had a second son, a beautiful baby boy that squeaks like a little squirrel. I’m so excited he made it into this world healthy and has two incredible parents who work so well together and are going to give him the best life possible. Many kids aren’t so lucky.
Before my baby nephew was born, I had the familial task of staying on call until my sister went into labor so I could watch my 4-year-old nephew while she and her husband were in the hospital.
Taking care of a 4-year-old shouldn’t be that hard, right? Well, considering I live about 1.5 hours away from her and hadn’t ever taken care of him by myself before, I was nervous to say the least. I’m not scared of kids, but I definitely lack experience and exposure. I haven’t done much babysitting in my life nor have I spent much time around small kids. I was also anxious she would go into labor in the middle of the night and was paranoid I could miss her call.
Anyway, we were lucky she went into labor in the early evening hours, and I was able to make it over there well before the baby was delivered.
Adventures In Babysitting: Support And Patience Are Crucial
In total, I watched my 4-year-old nephew for 3 nights and roughly 2.5 days. That wasn’t too long now that I can look back on it, but I’d never felt so exhausted at 8pm in my life! I survived my adventures in babysitting without him getting sick or getting any bumps or bruises, and also thankfully didn’t lose him. The horror stories of kids who wander off in the store really freak me out. You just never know when it comes to kids.
Anyway, the biggest things that I learned from the experience are:
- I absolutely can not imagine how hard it is to raise a child as a single parent. I was struggling after just 2.5 days by myself. How in the world can you afford to pay for day care, stay focused on a career, care for a child who wants constant attention all at the same time, and find time for yourself without being sleep deprived? Single parents, especially those with small kids, blow my mind.
- Newborns need so much care. I only got to hold my baby nephew for 2 minutes over the course of two trips to the hospital because all he wanted to do was nurse and sleep. Babies need so much care when they are little. Thank goodness my sister and her husband are such a strong team and really support each other.
- Small kids want a lot of attention. They are so curious! They want constant guidance, answers, company and have pretty darn short attention spans. I can totally understand why some parents habitually stick their kids in front of the TV or iPad. Nobody wants to turn their kids into digital junkies, but electronics are sometimes the only time to get a chance to do something yourself even if it’s just making lunch!
- Even the smartest and sweetest kids will have temper tantrums. And omg they tend to happen in public places (!). Talk about exhausting, embarrassing and catching someone like me totally off guard. I can’t imagine being unhappy and frustrated in a marriage and trying to cope with a child having a temper tantrum. That would not end well for anyone.
- Kids are so darn clever. They are pros at convincing you to give them what they want, especially if you’re the babysitter. They’ll play whatever cards they can: sweetness, cuteness, “mommy/daddy says I can,” guilt, “I’ll be good I promise,” whining, puppy dog eyes, and even having fits. It takes a lot of discipline and two parents being on the same wavelength to raise a child together in harmony.
- Potty training is ridiculously hard and WOW a lot of accidents can happen in one day. Relying on a child to tell you when they need to go doesn’t work well at all when they are still in training, at least it didn’t with my nephew. I kept forgetting to ask on a regular basis and he always said no even if he needed to go. I was not prepared for this!
- Even the most patient people like me can have their patience tested taking care of a small child. Yes, it has its rewards because kids are incredible, but wow it is seriously hard work. Anyone who thinks stay at home parents have it easy has never taken care of a small child on their own before. This experience made me realize how important it is to have help and a strong support network when raising a kid. If one parent ends up doing all of the work, so much resentment and anger will accumulate.
Why Do People In Failing Marriages Think Kids Will Solve Their Problems?
Taking care of my nephew was an eye opening experience. Not only did it make me think about all the single parents out there, it also made me think about children who are born to unhappy couples. Caring for a child is such a commitment. I can’t imagine trying to do it alone or with a spouse in a strained marriage. Yet I think this happens way too often!
Here’s one crazy example: one of my childhood friends, Yara, grew up in a nice home to a privileged family. She was always very polite and nice when we spent time together. But sadly a lot changed since we were kids. Yara became a flight attendant and married a business man of some sort in her 20s. Things didn’t go very well in their relationship and her constant traveling for work didn’t help.
But instead of going to counseling or deciding to separate, Yara made it her mission to get pregnant to “save her marriage.” What happened? After giving birth, she fell into a deep depression and their marriage became even more strained. She went back to flying for work and was gone a lot. She left her daughter at her divorced mom’s house most of the time because her husband didn’t want to take care of the baby. Meanwhile Yara’s mom was battling cancer. Sounds like a soap opera, but it’s all true.
As if this wasn’t bad enough, Yara selfishly decided she needed to have a second child a couple years later because “she always wanted to have two kids.” I guess her marriage wasn’t totally over at that point as she managed to get pregnant again, but it pretty much was over from then on. Having a second child pushed her marriage over the edge and they separated. Unfortunately, her ex-husband doesn’t want to have anything to do with her or their two daughters, and Yara is suffering even more from depression.
Now, Yara’s mom (who is in her late 60s) is struggling to raise two small girls by herself while praying her cancer stays in remission. You’d think that Yara would be incredibly grateful that her mother has been so supportive through all of this. But sadly Yara’s poor mental health has turned her into a bitter, short tempered, withdrawn divorcee who constantly fights with her mother and isn’t fit to care for her kids. The girls are lucky their grandmother is able to care for them because neither of their parents can.
Desperation And Immaturity Cloud Judgement
Why do people make such poor decisions when it comes to having kids to try and save a failing marriage? You would think people would be rational and responsible as adults, but the truth is some people are horribly irrational decision makers. Here are some of the reasons why I think some people wind up asking themselves, “will having a kid save my marriage?”
- Fear of facing their existing problems.
- Lack of financial independence.
- Desire for attention.
- Distraction from other issues.
- Cultural or religious opposition to divorce.
- Pressure from their spouse, parents or siblings to have a baby.
- Thinking it’s easy to care for a child.
- Assuming the cuteness and happiness of a baby will bring positive change.
- Yearning to be loved.
- Assuming a “template” lifestyle is the answer.
- Poor judgement or mental health instability.
- Desire to be a stay at home parent so they can quit their job.
- Thinking they can fix their marriage during pregnancy before the baby arrives.
Crumbling Under Pressure
I know of another couple through a friend of mine who also has an unhappy marriage, yet they are trying to have a baby. It sounds crazy, but these are real life scenarios that people face. The husband is pressuring the wife to get pregnant but she has no interest in him anymore. She keeps looking outside of their marriage for attention but is too stubborn to break off her marriage. It doesn’t help that he has anger issues and they fight a lot, but she still refuses to leave.
She has a lot of family pressure against divorce, fears the reality of change, and is accustom to living a financially secure lifestyle because of her husband’s income. It seems she would enjoy raising a baby, but not with her husband around, which spells total disaster. I suppose time will tell if they end up staying together and having a child or decide to divorce. I just hope for their potential child’s sake they go to counseling and fix their problems asap or go their separate ways.
People don’t seem to think about the best interest of their future child’s life in these situations, but only about themselves instead. Having a baby is such a big life changer it can strain even the strongest marriages. Weak marriages really don’t stand much of a chance bringing a baby into the picture, wouldn’t you agree?
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Brian Robben says
Unique post, but I dig it! Don’t plan on having a kid for awhile, but reading this improved my “parenting acumen” for the future. One idea I have is that beyond trying to save their marriage, people look to having kids to save their own life and find something they can provide value and feel good about. I haven’t developed this thought much, and I want to reflect more on it. Any thoughts about my idea, Sydney?
fehmeen @ Debt Free Lifestyle says
That’s a very depressing story about Yara. Raising kids is hard work, whether you’re a working mom or not. It’s actually harder if you’re single and have money problems. It’s a pity that the role of mothers in our society is underestimated – that’s a side note. But back to your blog post – I know many couples decide to stay together for the sake of their children’s future. There was even one couple who divorced almost as soon as their all their children had grown up and gotten well settled in their lives. Of course, the couple only stayed together all those years for the welfare of their kids…
Kids are awesome, way more fun and open than the average adult. So would love to have them when I get older (early 30s). One thing I have noticed around me is that, as me and my friends started leaving our homes in our late teens and now early 20s is how much more parents have since split up. As they are forced to spent more time together without kids they learn that they have grown apart, and there is very little keeping them from searching for a new love.
Another thing regarding kids that keeps fascinating me is that, generally, the more developed the country the lower the birth rate is. One of the leading theories is that this way people in poorer countries try to beat statistics. With bad social security-systems having 6 children, hoping that one of them will be successful enough to provide for the parents later on.
Kids are indeed a blessing, no question about it. They’re also, as you indicated, a lot of work. It’s not like we can apply the passive income concept and just reap the rewards (joy) of parenthood without active work!
Since kids are a lot of work, it seems unlikely that too many people will find that to draw them closer if they already don’t like spending time with each other.
Financial Samurai says
I’ve noticed a lot of couples divorce 1-5 years AFTER having a kid. Kinda a worrisome trend for the kids.
Yes! Sad but true. I know many couples who have divorced after having kids too. I imagine kids change the dynamics of a relationship more than a lot of people are prepared for and the cracks that were in their marriage before having kids increase and become deeper with more responsibility and pressure.
Seconding Money Beagle. I’ve known couples who got married to save their relationship, or had kids to save their marriage. None of those things ever improved the real problem because they never bothered to address the real problem and in most cases they ended up bitter and/or divorced. In the worst case (to my mind) scenario, some stayed together because they refuse to leave the marriage, but are horribly unhappy and nearly hate each other. From what I can understand, when they do the math, it’s better to stay together and be unhappy while keeping up a facade that they’re not miserable than to do be divorced and do the hard work of being separated and maybe be happy. I’m not sure how appearances are more important than reality but that’s the choice they make.
Marriage and babies are both hard work, and a lot of it! I don’t see how using more hard work and stress as a bandaid for a relationship that’s not working is a good idea but lots of people are desperate for an easy out and I guess from the outside marriage and having babies seems to imply happiness. Seeing that always makes me feel for the kids – they’re the innocents who’ll get hurt by this in the end, and when couples are that unhappy, the kids always know that something is wrong.
Yeah, it’s pretty crazy. From watching my parents go through a divorce, it certainly is not an easy process at all. If one person isn’t financially independent that definitely makes it much harder for couples to separate even if it’s for the better. You’re exactly right that kids always know when something is wrong at home. I hope more couples will get better at communicating and go through counseling or go their separate ways for a better life. We don’t live long enough to be unhappy and miserable at home every day!
Money Beagle says
Same principle goes for people that are unhappy together, but decide to go ahead and get married, thinking that will make the relationship better. Hint: It won’t.
Yes that is so true too! I think a lot of those folks are afraid of ending up alone so they decide to settle thinking they won’t be able to find anyone better. Of course they don’t tell that to their partner and things typically end up falling apart soon after.