Happiness in a marriage is all a couple’s craving. This is the theme that Stephanie Coontz uninterruptedly captures and succeeds to deliver in her masterful article ‘Till Children do us part’. In an appealing down-to-earth and a chatty style Coontz takes us through the role of children towards achieving happiness in a marriage while at the same time avoiding taking sides or raising a heated debate on such a holy union. In admitting most of her views on whether happiness in marriage comes after a child is born or not, the fact that happiness in marriage has been exercising an oppressive control over both our personal thoughts and discourse, stills stands. The arrival of a new born in a marriage, as Coontz says, becomes a factor in bringing or even taking away happiness between the couple which apparently seems to be rooted in traditional and religious thinking. She moves further to develop this idea by the use of concrete and accurate references from a wide range of relevant and informed research works.
Traditionally, marriage was used as a tool for form networks of unity beyond the immediate family group. Giving birth to children would enhance friendship among the in laws and ultimately the couple and a weapon by which reciprocal obligations could be achieved. Well it is true that in during the traditional times parents and kin would arrange for the marriage unhappy partners would easily end up in a marriage and due to high stakes and children the marriage would become an oasis of happiness in this otherwise trouble laden world. Therefore in the words of Coontz, a century ago, the conventional wisdom was that having a child was the surest way to build a happy marriage, (NY times).
Coontz admits that a decade or so ago, happiness in marriage was due the transition to parenthood among the couple. She, however, goes ahead to appreciate the inevitable changes that have faced the institution of marriage by giving reference from over 25 studies, concludes that marital qualities and happiness drops considerably after this transition since parents become to concerned with parenthood at the detriment of their own happiness. The point is, parenthood instills the belief that a good parent must ensure that the children are happy- a belief that puts the happiness of the other spouse at risk. And when the children are away, as says Coontz, couple become relieved and report and increase in marital happiness.
Coontz, provokes the readers to come to terms with the modern way of family planning where a number of couples plan the conception and deliberate on their manner of conduct and relationship soon and after the baby’s arrival born. While many people think a child as a source of happiness in a marriage, the shocking revelation that Coontz gives is that some couples disagree on if or when to conceive only for one of them yielding to the others wishes for the sake of marriage. At times the two may choose to be adamant resulting even to separations of divorce- this is a good example of an instance where pessimist capitalize in their crusade that there can never be anything as a happy marriage.
In the contemporary society, children have become a duty than a source of labor that was in the traditional society. While in the olden days parents busied themselves with issues of communal work and had little time with children (in fact some societies prohibited children from hanging around grown ups), the modern parent ensures that he/she spends more time the little ones. According Coontz, fathers spend well over double their time with the children more than they did long time ago. This trend, whichever way we look at it, does not necessarily mean that this is a sign of happiness more than it is of a nagging responsibility. Since Coontz states that many working parents have to leave work early to spend time with their children, the underplaying implication is that presence of children threatens a couple’s productivity thus their amount of income and ultimately harboring the possibility of failure to meet some basic and secondary-turned-basic needs. The implications of the failure to meet these needs to the happiness of a marriage, you will agree, have a far reaching negative effect.
To conclude, there is an aspect which Coontz, however, seems to turn a blind eye to in her a bid to approve or disapprove the importance of children as sources of marital happiness and satisfaction: the couple’s economic well being. While giving birth in the traditional society was regarded as a source of blessing and an investment for future happiness, in the 21st century children rearing has come to have weighty financial implications. Immediately after the sedentary agricultural fundamentalist, marriage has become a surefire weapon for enforcing economic relationships with children becoming the glue that binds these capitalist desires. Therefore, while one couple may have a problem giving birth for fear of economic strain another may be struggling to have a child in order to ‘tether’ a rich partner for economic empowerment. The development of sedentary agriculture fundamentally changed this system. In such cases, children become a tool that a poor woman will use to capture a rich man for purely obvious economic reasons lest she comes face to face with the challenges of single life. Even in traditional marriages, Coontz will agree, even the non-kin had an interest in who married who since economic distribution of property relied entirely on kinship ties.