Marriage Does Not Need Children
Contrary to what some sociologists, psychologists and marital experts prefer to believe, not all couples think marriage needs children to improve their relationship. As child-free couples believe, having children can, in fact, cause a great deal of stress in a marriage. Some of these couples had married friends whose lives were ripped apart by their childrens medical or behavioral problems in addtion to marriages which had been on very solid ground until the couples became parents. So many couples decided not to include them and are very content with their choice. However, the opinions of child free couples are often overlooked -- even ignored -- by the majority of publishers and authors.
In their best-selling book, The Good Marriage, authors Judith Wallerstein and Sandee Blakeslee, deliberately excluded couples without children from their study, which included roughly fifty couples interviewed by Wallerstein personally. In Wallersteins own words, "I included children because all of my professional work has focused on families and because married couples without children, either by choice or incapacity are psychologically and socially very different from those with children over the course of their lives." I found it quite interesting that she didnt elaborate on exactly what she meant by "psychologically and socially very different." Very different how? In an interview with one of the couples for her book, one of her subjects made the following statement: "Marriage needs children. Thats what makes it a marriage. Otherwise, its just a date." Although this person believed this to be true, it was, in fact, just another opinion. Laura Carroll, author of Families of Two, selected interviews of fifteen child free couples for her book (she actually interviewed over 100), all of whom felt they had very happy marriages because children were not part of their relationship. Obviously, the couples interviewed by Carroll would strongly disagree with those interviewed by Wallerstein. What an interesting debate that would have been.
So the question remains: why did Ms. Wallerstein feel it necessary to exclude all childless (by circumstance) and childfree (by choice) couples? One has to wonder. Could it be that she didnt want it known that couples without kids can be even happier? Those who made the child free choice, can, anyway? Did she purposely present marriages with kids as the yardstick all must measure up to in order to be successful? Its the firm belief of this writer that she did. Theres no other reason to avoid presenting the other side. From my perspective, it appeared that in her opinion, marriages where couples choose not to include children are somehow lacking and are therefore undesirable.
Wallerstein identified four basic marriage categories in her book: romantic, rescue, companionate and traditional. In all groups but the traditional, where raising children is generally the primary purpose of marriage, you can also find some couples who made a thoughtful and conscious decision not to have children, if youre unbiased enough to look for them. In some cases, there are couples who couldnt have them and felt badly at first, but then began looking at the benefits of their circumstances instead of the drawbacks. Some members of the childless group may move over to the child free way of thinking after a few years. They stop seeing themselves as victims of life and opt to be participants in life.
In an interview by Mary Ann Hogan, published on the Internet, Wallerstein discusses her views on traditional and companionate marriages. In response to a question "where is the family headed?" from Hogan, Wallerstein replied that its the only way she knows to bring up children. What I would have added to the interview was a question Hogan did not ask. Specifically, "what problems do you have with marriages which do not include children by choice?" Strangely, that topic was never raised, let alone discussed.
Wallerstein also stated that she doesnt buy into the notion that the traditional family is what most people want. However, if that is really the case, then why did she omit all childless or child free married couples from her study? Doesnt the omission reflect a personal bias on her part in favor of marriages including as the type of marriage couples should have as a rule? In response to the question, "should societys expectations of marriage change?" Wallerstein replied that marriage should continue to be valued, but women will not give up their hard-won gains. She went on to state that we meaning society in general are in a transition period, but again stressed that "family is here to stay because its the best method of human beings for dealing with the stresses of adulthood and bringing up children." What she may be overlooking is the fact that for many couples, bringing up children is what creates more stresses; on marriage in general and their marital relationship in particular. These couples, for their personal reasons, want to have less stress on their relationships, not more.
The bottom line is; parenting, like any other job, is one that isnt suited to every person. And there is nothing wrong with a woman or couple who decides not to travel down the parenting road. As a parent who made the choice to be a happy mom to one child only, I not only understand the choice to be childfree, I applaud it. Too many pro-family groups are quick to judge the people who decide not to be parents, often calling them selfish or irresponsible. On the contrary, it is a very responsible person who knows his or her own limitations and is wise enough to realize that parenting would not be the right choice to make. After reading the terrible stories of mothers and fathers who neglect, abuse and even kill their own children, I only wish more people would make the choice before another child suffers a terrible fate.