A friend mentioned to me how she had been looking at photos of her and her husband from 10 years ago when they had only been married a small handful of years and children were only on the horizon. They are still happy, with 2 small children and a quirky little dog. She took up photography following her second child and the number of family photographs soared. But this photograph was haunting her. She saw a relaxed, youthful and happy face looking back at her. “We worried about bills and bought our first home. My mom died. I made a career change. He had a medical scare. But we still looked like us. Now I look in the mirror and see different people!”
She and her husband are happy, but they are changed. And adjusting to major change is difficult. And having children is the most major change for a marriage. They love their family, jobs, and roles and would not change anything. That is wonderful and makes it easier to adjust. But sometimes that stark difference between the relationship and individuals before can be disorienting!
“The transition to parenthood is stressful even for well-functioning couples. In addition to distinctive inner changes, men’s and women’s roles change in very different ways when partners become parents. It seems to come as a great surprise to most of them that changes in some of their major roles affect their feelings about their overall relationship. Both partners have to make major adjustments of time and energy as individuals at a time when they are getting less sleep and fewer opportunities to be together. They have less patience with things that didn’t seem annoying before. Their frustration often focuses on each other. For couples who thought that having a baby was going to bring them closer together, this is especially confusing and disappointing. Why does becoming a parent have such a powerful impact on a marriage? We have learned that one of the most difficult aspects of becoming a family is that so much of what happens is unexpected.” (Psychology Today).
I believe if we can manage the unexpected, if we can roll with the punches and keep our focus ahead rather than behind us, we can manage these roles more effectively. Easier said than done, but useful! So while it is nice to look at that old photo and reminisce, we can also remember the immense joy and positive changes that have occurred between the time of “husband and wife” and “mom and dad.” We can begin to see the possibilities arising for ourselves AND especially for our growing children. And most of all, enjoy the moments you can. Because it goes so, so fast.