Returning to Romance
In Real Life
The McGills weren't part of the University of Washington study,
but they instinctively used some of the successful strategies identified by the
researchers and Goulston. Once the initial shock of having another human being
to care for wore off, they decided they needed couple time. It helps, Heather
says, that her mom volunteers often to baby-sit, allowing them to go out
Bob and Jill Engel (not their real names) are working on
becoming a couple again. They were older -- 45 and 46 -- when they had their
child, who's now 2. But the wisdom of middle age didn't make the transition any
easier, says Jill, a therapist in Southern California. After her son was born,
her satisfaction with the marriage definitely declined, she found. Before the
baby, they had sex often in their efforts to conceive. After the baby was born,
she was less interested in sex, partly because of discomfort during intercourse
that she developed after having a cesarean section.
Eventually, they talked about how to become a couple again.
"Once my husband got over the shock that someone was screaming in the next
room and wasn't going away, he decided to join the party," she says.
The marriage is better -- although different -- now. "We
have a shared focal point, a new dimension." It's not perfect. "We
never go out as a couple," Jill says. "He thinks we should." She
agrees, but has not yet been so motivated.
After the McGills had their second baby, now age 1, they found
life got back to normal more quickly. They used the same strategies to preserve
their satisfaction with the marriage. Yet a recent study done by Rebecca Upton,
PhD, an adjunct professor of anthropology at the University of Michigan,
suggests that having two children is not the cakewalk many parents imagine.
Upton followed 40 couples after the birth of their second
children and presented her findings at an American Anthropological Association
meeting in November. She found that "women's full-time participation in the
labor market drops off dramatically with the second child. While most paid
professional women return to the office full-time after the birth of their
first child, over 50% change to part-time work or take a leave of absence after
the birth of the second."
The implication is that such changes may have significant
negative impact on the couple's ability to comfortably support their lifestyle
under such circumstances, and therefore their level of stress. But Upton also
found an upside: Men feel more like fathers after the arrival of a second child
and tend to get more involved in childcare.