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From: Lenona on 23 Mar 2010 10:03
Or, as Dr. Rosemond usually says: "Want your children to be truly
happy? Put your marriage first - or, if single, your adult life
Q: Help me. My wife and I have been married for nearly 10 years. We
have one child, a 3-year-old boy. Ever since our son was born, our
marriage has been slowly slipping away as she has become more and more
absorbed into motherhood. She dotes on him constantly, talks to him
constantly, praises him for every little thing he does, and does
things for him he's perfectly capable of doing for himself. If I bring
up the fact that our marriage is becoming an illusion, she gets very
angry at me, accusing me of having no appreciation for the demands of
motherhood and so on. I don't see many demands except those she is
putting on herself. What can I do?
A: A couple of months ago, following a talk I gave in Georgia, a woman
told me she had been offended by my many references to mothers who are
enmeshed in their children's lives. These women, when I talk to them
about this issue, and if they are able to bring some degree of
objectivity to the conversation, admit that they have virtually
abandoned their marriages.
The offended woman felt that I was "putting it all on women." In a
sense, I am. Over the past 40 years, since the advent of what I call
"psychological parenting," the role of the adult female in the family
has morphed considerably: once primarily a wife, now primarily a
mother. In the process, "mother" has become infused with pressure,
stress, anxiety, and guilt. The typical female parent - if I can get
her to relax her defenses concerning the subject - tells me that she
feels lots of pressure from her peers to "perform" in certain public
ways in order to validate her motherhood. The interesting thing is
that they nearly all say this. Obviously, therefore, the peers who are
applying (and simultaneously submitting to) this performance pressure
are all of them (rare exceptions noted).
The performance in question involves putting one's child at the center
of one's attention and scurrying about in a constant quest to raise
the bar of expectation on all the other mothers, who are all doing the
So, at speaking engagements, I say to my audiences, who average 60/40
to the female side of life, "Raising children is the most stressful
thing a woman will do in her adult life, more stressful than running a
major corporation." And then I ask, "Anyone disagree?" When no one
disagrees, and no one ever has, I up the ante: "Raising children has
become bad for the mental health of women. Anyone disagree?" No one
has ever disagreed. I go on to ask, "Why are women submitting to this?
Certainly this is more oppressive than a glass ceiling or having other
professional doors irrevocably shut. No?" No one disagrees.
In the 1960s, women decided they would no longer stand for being
limited in any arbitrary way. In the new millennium, women submit to
arbitrary limits as soon as they have children. In the 1960s, women
complained about men treating them as if they were mere objects. Forty
years later, women allow their children to treat them as mere objects.
In the 1960s, women began demanding a new kind of respect. Today,
women teach their children that women exist to solve their problems
and fetch. And yes, there are laudable exceptions, but this seems to
be the clear norm.
Consequently, you are by no means the first male to bemoan the problem
and ask how his marriage can be salvaged. Perhaps you might dare to
begin by putting this column on the counter next to a dozen roses. As
for the complaint of that woman in Georgia, indeed, if this is going
to be changed, women are going to have to decide, as they did some
forty years ago, that they've had enough. In this case, however, men
are looking forward to it.
Family psychologist John Rosemond answers parents' questions on his
Web site at www.rosemond.com.