This week, the new comedy “Friends With Kids” hits theaters and it’s creating a lot of buzz and a good deal of debate about the topic of keeping your marriage alive while having a baby or raising little ones.
Janice D’Arcy, the parenting columnist for The Washington Post, reviews the movie in today’s Washington Post issue and also has a link to a very interesting interview she did last year with Baltimore author Pamela Haag. Last year, Haag’s book, Marriage Confidential
(Harper Collins, May 2011) posed the hypothesis that modern parenting is killing marriages by taking the focus away from the marital relationship and placing too much emphasis on parenting itself.
In the interview, D’Arcy relayed some interesting comments from Haag, herself a mother:
Parenthood is swallowing marriage….It’s not clear to me that the way we parent now, with all the extracurricular activities, is helpful. It may be hurting our marriage more than it’s helping our children,” she said. Children are at the center of a family now. From a historical perspective it’s a departure. Go back to the 50s and husbands and wives had many different roles — as hostess, decorator, breadwinner, volunteer. They weren’t just parents. Today, parenting is the sole priority. … It crowds out other functions.”
A Controversial Idea, But Is It Wrong?
“Friends with Kids” centers around three couples who are close friends. Two of the couples look on in horrified fascination as the third couple decide to have a one-time intimate encounter solely to have a child and then raise that child together…..as friends, not as a couple. Their idea is that having a baby or young children destroys a marriage, so why bother getting married or even being in love with the father/mother of your child?
This would seem to dovetail a bit with Haag’s statements, although her main idea is that we have to change the way we parent so that it doesn’t adversely affect the marriage, not that marriage should be skipped altogether.
For Parents, Making a Marriage Work is…..Work
We’ve already raised our two kids, so we know the challenges of having kids and remaining a couple in love. It’s difficult even at the best of times, to say nothing of how hard it can be when parenting gets really demanding.
We think that “Friends with Kids” has a fun premise and it also looks pretty clear that the “friends” end up as much more after all (we haven’t seen the movie yet, just the fun trailer), but Haag actually has some pretty valid points. Somewhere around the 70s, as more mothers embarked on meaningful careers and all of us in general became more “achievement” oriented, we started sacrificing our “couple-hood” for parenthood. There just doesn’t seem to be enough time to be successful at work, be mindful and involved parents and also nurture passion and romance in our marriages.
That passion and romance seems to be the part that gets left behind.
One of the best bits of marriage advice we’ve ever heard is that you can’t be really successful as parents unless you put your marriage first. We tend to agree, especially having gone through some serious marriage crises when our kids were young.
Don’t forget that the reason you have kids is because you fell in love. Take care of that love, even while you’re incredibly busy taking care of those kids!