The XX Factor

Is Having Kids Crazy?

Rachael, if I’d read that Wall Street Journal piece before having my daughter, I might have brought it to my husband and pointed out that the article basically says the happiest couples are those who don’t have kids. But as someone who got a late start in the parenting game and who is now the mother of a teenager, my regret is that I didn’t have more children. So I’m very glad I didn’t read all the studies telling me how doomed my marriage would be. There’s nothing wrong with trying to ‘baby-proof’ your marriage, but I’m not sure laying out prior to the baby’s arrival-as the program you cite suggests-each other’s expectations about sex post-partum is going to end up being an enforceable contract.

I, too, was struck by the rather ludicrous proposal to make long lists of all the household duties and divide them up before the child comes. There’s nothing wrong with lists, but make all the lists you want, people, life has a funny way of making mockery of them.  (Here’s a list story: When my daughter was young I was away for several days during the summer for a work trip, and dutifully left The List for my husband. When I returned it was late at night and I went to kiss my sleeping daughter and was struck that she smelled rather ripe. I asked my husband when he had last bathed her. He ran and got the list, held it out to me and said, ‘You tell me where “bath” appears on this list!’” In case anyone takes this as an example of how children degrade marriage, my husband and I laughed about this.)

Social observers are increasingly commenting about the pernicious aspect to seeing every interaction as market-driven, so there is no longer anything special about the relationship between doctor and patient, or teacher and student; everyone is just a service provider or a consumer. There’s also something about child-rearing that can’t be reduced to management principles. I’m not against rational discussion of division of labor in caring for one’s children, but all these “children ruin marriage” stories miss the perhaps unmeasurable, ineffable aspects to marriage and childrearing. The sweet, funny, tender, crazy moments that happen every day and are harder to tally than exasperation at who does the laundry.

Stories such as the one in the Journal all seem to have as a premise that diapers never end and that sleep deprivation is for eternity. Well, my husband and I now try to get on our 15 year-old’s social calendar, and it’s pretty booked. We know high school will go by in a snap, and we wish we could figure out a way to slow down time.