Well. Watching the premiere of Jon and Kate Plus Eight last night was about as comfortable as having dinner with George and Martha. I don't even know how to summarize it up except that it's depressing as hell. Basically it's 75 minutes of watching a marriage implode thanks to a bunch of different things.
For the record, I'm not on the parents' team. I'm on "Team Get The Kids Out Of There And Into Something Mentally Healthier."
But the whole thing got me reflecting on when parents would toss out the tired, "Kids make your relationship stronger," cliche. Yes, kids can make your relationship stronger (because if you don't team up, the kids will tear the house down), but they can also rip a couple apart.
I remember sitting in my mommy-baby group hearing mothers talk about how their relationship with their husbands changed. I heard about the strain and how one considered divorce. Adjusting to Benevolent Dictator in our lives was also hard on Jeff and me.
A baby is like a small, adorable, cooing, cuddly hand grenade. They will rip apart everything you know and hold dear without prejudice. Doesn't matter if you love your husband and your family. Thanks to sleep deprivation, adjusting to a new squalling life, changing identities and doing this while under the gun, neither parent will be seeing the best of the other. It's a fact.
Not to mention, a baby gives parents reason to distract themselves from the stresses in a marriage that may have already been there. It's easy to slip into auto-pilot and not talk to your spouse. It's easy to let things go to neglect.
While the impact without kids may not be that bad -- after all, if you split up, it's only the two of you -- with kids its worse. They do sense when things aren't going well. They can sense the weird energies in a room when their parents aren't necessarily fighting, but they're not getting along. Not to mention, divorce is a hell of a lot messier and you are still stuck with your ex thanks to the kids. No shipping the ex off to some unknown island where you never see them again.
I don't think it's a matter of how long you're married before the kids come onto the scene. I think it's a matter of whether or not you can communicate and trust your partner, as well as address potential issues that will get worse when a kid is around.
Maybe that's the best piece of advice I have for people who want children. Make sure that you as a couple are strong. Make sure you talk to each other. Make sure you work through the tough patches and come to resolutions. Because if you don't, a kid isn't going to make anything better anytime soon.