Bringing a new human life into the world may be an every day event in the grand scheme, but to a young couple it is as new and foreign as moving to the other side of the world.
Couples struggle with their identities as life presents new challenges and fazes – college, jobs, extended family dynamics… and we often get anxious about what that means to our relationship with our boyfriend or husband. We worry that we’re not obtaining the perfect relationship on our self-imposed schedules.
Then the baby comes along. Sometimes by accident. Sometimes by plan. And sometimes that plan is to think that the baby will be the glue our relationship is looking for. We look in envy at other couples – friends, family, acquaintances on social media, and we think they got it right and we’re struggling. So, let’s be honest, now and then we feel the need to post our own photos and captions to prove that we’re onboard the happy family train as well.
My neighbors: Two different case studies in young families
I watched my friends Mitch and Tera, a young couple across the street, make a seemingly seamless transition from college drinking buddies to responsible working parents and it felt like over night. Wife/new mom/major bread winner Tera is a manager for a big insurance company. She got maternal leave to have her first child. Good-old-boy, new dad Mitch is a happy go lucky customer sales rep who follows Tera’s lead and fills the gaps as needed (basically, he does what he’s told). It works for them. Works so well, in fact, they followed the playbook and had their second child two and a half years later.
Two doors down from them are Nathan and Abbey – another young couple making their way in a more traditional sense. They decided that Abbey would give up her nanny career and become a stay at home mom while Nathan works two jobs to support them. They’re on the same page and it seems to work for them. They decided to make financial sacrifices for the benefit of their child.
Myself, I was in Tera and Mitch’s shoes some years ago: New hubby and I were embarking on our new careers while planning on starting our family. We thought checking all the boxes would help heal our ever struggling relationship. We got the starter home and I was pregnant pretty much on schedule. Our problem though, was that we were expecting a baby, OUR BABY, to fill the void in our relationship.
I guess I thought I was going to give birth to a Jesus Christ/Dr. Phil hybrid.
And, truth is, Tera and Mitch have had their fill of struggles trying to keep their house of cards standing. At one point when the boys were about 2 and 5, Tera confided that she had an apartment picked out. She was going to leave Mitch. I thought their bickering was more good natured than it actually was. They’ve had serious problems, but I think they each decided the problems of going solo at this point are less desirable than sticking it out.
Our traditional neighborhood family, Nathan, Abbey and now four year old Emma, seem to be fairing the best of all as I see no signs of Nathan or Abbey regretting their chosen roles. As hard as it is to forsake a lot of today’s indulgences in order to make ends meet with only one parent working, it seems to work very well for them and their daughter seems to be reaping the rewards of being raised by a full time mom.
Take it from me: Raising a kid as a single mother is a very tough road. I’m not saying I regret it, but a lot of family and friend support along the way is needed. If changing my past meant losing my daughters – no way – I wouldn’t change a thing. I know I should say something about horrible men not taking responsibility, but then that would mean I wasn’t taking responsibility for my role in the fracturing of our family.
My takeaway in this is that there are all kinds of ways to successfully raise children and most often that way isn’t exactly what we planned or hoped for. Just know that bringing a baby into the equation to strengthen your relationship isn’t going to have the intended results.
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