Parenting... Is Your Marriage Ready?
Parenthood hastens marital decline - years of studies suggest this phenomenon. Even relatively happy and satisfied couples who consciously bring themselves into this transition experience a period of stressful and sometimes maladaptive change. Thus, it is crucial that you plan for this possibility and build resilience in your marriage before you start fantasizing being called “mommy” or “daddy.
The first thing to consider is whether you and your partner are on the same page. Think about why you want to have a child together and make sure that it is for the right reasons. A child should not be brought into the world just to solve a problem or solidify a straining relationship.
According to Craig Malkin, Ph.D, a psychologist in Cambridge, pregnancy can immediately change the dynamic of a couple’s relationship and even cause estrangement in cases where one partner feels like they didn’t sign up to be a parent in the first place. Moreover, the American Psychological Association found that marital connection actually takes a hit after a couple welcomes a baby into the world because the demands of caring for the newborn can put an intense strain on the relationship.
If your relationship is already struggling, don’t fall into the trap that having a baby will save it. Studies show that in an unhappy relationship where tension and conflict is the norm, parent-child interactions will also be likely to suffer. Couples who tend to fight will likely have a poor quality relationship with their kids.
If you and your partner are looking for ways to strengthen your relationship, try finding ways to reconnect with each other or see if you’re both willing to seek help from a relationship therapist. It’s best to patch things up and strengthen your relationship before you decide to have a child. Talk about your values, your goals and desires, and see how it can help you both plan for the future that you want. The conversation may get overwhelming but if you and your partner can communicate positively towards each other even when you disagree, it’s a good sign that you can work well together.
Financial stability is another crucial factor in determining whether you and your partner are ready to have a child. While it isn’t necessary to splurge on your future kid/s, remember that costs can pile up even before the child is born (prenatal care, pregnancy necessities, maternity clothes, check-ups, etc.) and that it is highly likely that expenses will rise year after year. It is said that most Filipinos would prefer to have a “simple life” which consists of a medium-sized home, enough earnings to support everyday needs, at least one car, financial capacity to support children’s education, and money for local trips. Though it may sound “simple”, it would necessitate that a family earn a monthly income of at least P120,000 to afford all of these.
If you and your partner are both working, discuss whether one or both of you will continue working full-time or adopt a part-time or flexible work schedule. Check on whether a difference in schedule would affect your income. Learn about the maternity and paternity leaves that your employer/s offer. Keep in mind that if both of you choose to continue to work full-time, you will need to factor in the cost of childcare. Take note of all these and recompute your possible income and expenses if need be to ensure that you will still have enough to live worry-free.
After you’ve mapped out your finances, think about what your respective roles will be once you become parents. Remember that in the first few weeks after childbirth, the mother will probably still be recovering so she may be unable to do certain tasks. Mothers typically end up taking on even more duties once the baby is born while most fathers simply continue working a full-time job and the same amount of housework they handled before the child arrived. This could lead to new mothers building resentment towards their partner. But fear not, as this issue can easily be avoided if expectant parents simply communicate their expectations and create clear division of labor plans before their child arrives. Imagine what your day-to-day life will be like and come up with a realistic plan that will make both you and your partner happy. Additionally, remember that you don’t have to go through these things alone as a couple. Try to establish a support system of friends or family (or even professionals) to help out during the first few weeks so that you and your partner can ease into your new lives as parents.
Aside from planning for the conception and arrival of your child, you should also create a plan for your relationship. Studies show that couples may unintentionally deprioritize their relationship with each other once their child is born because of the new responsibilities and demands they are faced with. While meeting the needs of the child is the number one concern, it’s also important to meet your own needs and the needs of your partner. Try to create a schedule that will allow each of you to have moments for self-care and moments for passionate loving and being together as a couple.
This may sound like “overplanning” to some people, but it’s best to start building support and managing expectations before committing to parenthood. Take the time to talk to your partner about all your concerns and make sure you hear their concerns as well. Work out a timeline on when it’s best to start trying to conceive. Check on your finances and make sure you’ll have enough to live comfortably as a family. Becoming a parent is a life-changing moment so if you or your partner are not yet ready for any drastic changes, it is best to take your time and plan ahead.
About The Writer
Dr. Rica Cruz
Dr. Rica Cruz, is a sex and relationships therapist, broadcaster, educator, and entrepreneur helping Filipinos all over the world. Her expertise is focused on Filipino sexual behaviors and sexual pleasure and her practice revolves around individuals and couples with sexual and relationship/marital issues. She hosts a public service TV and radio show, Feelings, on One PH, from Mondays to Fridays; two podcasts, Conservative Ako and the Sexy Minds Podcast; and a digital show on FYE Channel on Kumu, Love and Sex with Doc Rica, every Thursdays at 9pm. She also launched her business, Unprude, a sexual wellness store where you can shop for your desires freely and openly.
As a sex therapist, researcher, educator, and lover, she opines that Filipino sexual ownership and empowerment is sexier than sex.
The views and opinions expressed by the writer are his/her own, and does not state or reflect those of Wyeth Nutrition and its principals.