Contemporary depictions of marriage would have you believe that a baby will push your spouse away, but that isn't necessarily the case
Must parenthood make your marriage miserable? Contemporary depictions in the press and popular culture might make you think so. Jennifer Senior's much discussed New York magazine piece, "Why Parents Hate Parenting," last year documented the apparent legions of affluent urban parents who find themselves with everything they dreamed of -- an educated, attractive spouse; fulfilling careers for wife and husband; and one or two healthy children -- who nevertheless experience parenting as a burdensome chore and a profound obstacle to a happy marriage. "Why Parents Hate Parenting" was replete with art photos of a beautiful young wife and handsome, shirtless husband in a retro-chic home with their healthy infant twin boys ... and everyone looking miserable in every shot. Similar depictions can be found of the challenges of combining marriage and parenthood can be found on television shows like Up All Night and movies like Flirting With Disaster.
Some women apparently decide that parenthood and a happy marriage are so incompatible they would rather strike out on their own as a single mother rather than settle for a hum-drum marriage and family life. Lori Gottleib's opening salvo several years ago on the pages of this magazine declaring that having a baby with no man underfoot solves the dilemma of late-thirty-something professional womanhood was one contribution to the evolving narrative that a baby is a woman's reward after decades of dedicating herself to a career, that adult relationships are often unstable or unappealing, and that marriage need not precede motherhood. In a recent Slate piece, single mother of two Katie Roiphe writes of sensing jealousy among her academic colleagues because she has managed to achieve the blessing of two children without having to "pay ... the usual price [of] ... Thai food and a video with your husband on a Saturday night." Recent movies like The Back-Up Plan starring Jennifer Lopez and The Switch starring Jennifer Aniston lend plausibility to the idea that it is easier to go it alone as a parent.