Family works

Speaking on numbers

By Rob Coombs ID. Min. Ph.D.

Posted 1/8/17

Nothing, absolutely nothing, changes life more than the birth of the first child into a family. The ease of going out to dinner as a couple or to a movie or just to run to the grocery is no longer a …

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Family works

Speaking on numbers

By Rob Coombs ID. Min. Ph.D.

Posted

Nothing, absolutely nothing, changes life more than the birth of the first child into a family. The ease of going out to dinner as a couple or to a movie or just to run to the grocery is no longer a simple task. Going out with an infant means packing up half the nursery — diapers, bottles, three changes of clothing, infant seat, car seat, pacifier, a dozen toys, and a blanket.

With the back seat full, you drive a half mile away only to hear your little one screaming because you forgot her favorite doll. But the physical challenges are mild compared to the emotional challenges. Good parents understand that how they relate to this child will dramatically affect how she later views the world, makes friends, faces the inevitable crises of life, and adjusts to the ever-changing demands of living.

Both physical and emotional challenges must be faced as the couple undergoes a restructuring of their relationship. Overnight, with the birth of the first child, the composition of the family changes from two relationships (the husband’s relationship with the wife and the wife’s relationship with the husband) to six (the two existing relationships plus the mother’s relationship with the child, the child’s relationship with the mother, the father’s relationship with the child, the child’s relationship with the father).

From two to six relationships not only challenges the needs of the child being met, but also the needs of the adults. Because the young infant demands so much attention, she frequently comes between mother and father, thus forcing the young couple to begin seeing each other through the child. This is perfectly fine with the young child who cries without consideration at 2 a.m., wants her food faster than the microwave can heat, and thinks you should be an instant and willing play partner whenever and wherever.

From two to six relationships is significant, especially with all the lifestyle changes mentioned, but not nearly as significant as the addition of yet another infant to the family. With the birth of the second child, the number of relationships jumps from six to twelve. So dramatic is this change that Bill Cosby once jokingly commented that having one child doesn’t even count. Potential for sibling rivalry, conflict over needs and wants, and increased confusion over how to meet everyone’s needs is greatly escalated.

Parents who have struggled to keep their relationship alive now must fight for any time alone. Of course, this challenge is even greater if yet another child is introduced to the family, as this would constitute 20 interacting relationships. Should you wish to determine the number of relationships in your family, simply insert the number in your home into the equation: n(n-1). If, for example, n=6, then the number of relationship is 6(6-1)=30.

Because the time span from the birth of the first child to the launching of the last child may be as long as 25 or 30 years, often young couples find themselves struggling. What’s a couple to do to minimize this struggle and maximize their relationship as husband and wife? For starters, read this column next week for specific suggestions.

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