Home Concepts Adult Development VIII.Generativity One: Raising Children and Engaging Projects

VIII.Generativity One: Raising Children and Engaging Projects

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Margie and Gene focused most of their attention on the decision to have their own child. Margie had made it clear to Gene before they made a commitment to one another that she did not want any more children. However, six years after her marriage she shifted from that position and decided that having a child would be a good idea. (Apparently, the decision about giving birth to a child was left in Margie’s hands. The assumption, once again, was that the woman would be the primary source of Generativity One when it came to child-rearing. Perhaps this also occurred in Margie’s first marriage, given that her husband seemed to have taken little interest in his children after his divorce from Margie.) Unfortunately, some men and women seem to limit their sense of responsibility for a child to the confines of their relationship with the other parent of this child. When the relationship ends so does their child-rearing commitment.

A year after Margie had changed her mind, she and Gene stopped using birth control and she got pregnant. But this decision had some unexpected costs associated with it. Most of Margie and Gene’s friends at the time were single. Margie and Gene reported that they lost some of their single friends when they decided to have a child, and it was a hurtful experience. They also lost some free time together and a sense of spontaneity. On the other hand, it was clear during our interview that their four year old daughter played a powerful role in their relationship. According to these-doting parents, their little daughter “ran the show.” Margie even felt that Gene devoted too much time to their daughter, and that they didn’t take trips as a couple the way they had before she came along. The time they spent together on hikes and other things always involved their daughter.

Margie was clearly a good and loving mother to her new daughter, but she was feeling sorely neglected. This was Gene’s first child, and it was “a cherished dream come true.” Margie, however, was in the midst of a mid-life struggle with having had one family, as well as a career in a helping profession. She was not content to return to the totally child-centered mode of her earlier life, yet wanted to support Gene in his new-found love and appreciation shown to their daughter. Like many dual-family couples, Margie and Gene were at different individual stages of interest in their own child-rearing careers and wanted to find an appropriate and mutually-satisfying compromise with regard to their joint-childrearing career as a couple.

In some cases, we found that the young adults we interviewed didn’t have to worry about fitting children into their busy work lives because they were unable to give birth to their own children. This inability to have children can often be a source of considerable stress and strain in a relationship, unless the young adult couple can direct their energy and desire to create something together toward another valued end. Ted and Velia, for instance, had been trying to have a baby for five years. According to Velia “trying to get pregnant put a strain on our relationship for about a year.” Furthermore, she believed that the strain could reappear again in the near future if they continue to be unsuccessful in their efforts to have a child. Fortunately, Ted and Velia have other projects that provide meaning; they both thoroughly enjoyed renovating their cabin in Wyoming. Ted indicated that when Velia moved into his Wyoming retreat ten years ago he knew they had become a couple, for no other woman had ever stayed for more than a day at this retreat. So this place represented the heart of Ted and Velia’s relationship. They “felt like a couple” when working on the cabin and buying furniture for it. While Velia had to travel elsewhere to attend graduate school, she returned as often as possible to Wyoming; their reunion was always special because of the romantic and central role played by the Wyoming retreat in their lives together.

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