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

VIII.Generativity One: Raising Children and Engaging Projects

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The decision of whether to have children often is complex. It is very expensive to raise children, and couples having dual careers may have little time or energy for child-raising. Here is an example: Like the fabled couples of old, Glenda and Kurt were “childhood sweethearts” who came together as a couple when they were both fifteen years old. They spent all of their early married years living in close proximity to their parents. In this respects they are very traditional; one might almost call them “quaint.” When it came to a decision about having children, however, Glenda and Kurt were much more closely attuned to contemporary values and concerns. Like many young couples who are faced with major financial challenges (for example, the high cost of home ownership), Glenda and Kurt were ambivalent about having children, and they weighed the impact that children would have on their carefree and mutually gratifying lifestyle. They were married eleven years prior to having their first and only child. Glenda and Kurt’s joint decision was also impacted by their observing the child-reading styles  by other couples they knew. If they were going to have children, they wanted it to be different from other young parents who seemed to give up everything in order to have children.

First order generativity is in part about “doing it better” than other parents, including one’s own parents. Glenda and Kurt wanted to retain at least part of their old life if they were to have children. Glenda indicated that:

Part of what kept us from having kids for so many years was Kurt’s side of the family. His one brother has three kids, his mom was into having grandkids, and it was real important in that family to have kids. I said to myself, no, I don’t want to do that. I want to play and be a kid myself!

Their decision to finally have a child was vaguely formed and never really definitive. As with many couples, the ultimate decision was based on biology rather than on economics or direct acknowledgement of the desire for Generativity One: Glenda became pregnant. Kurt describes the process:

We never specifically said “Let’s have a baby.” We talked about it and agreed that we were in a position to have a child now, but we didn’t want to commit to it. We looked realistically at what it would mean to our lifestyle and concluded that having a child would stand in the way of us going out Friday evenings with friends on the spur of the moment. We really thought about that, and it made us hesitate. And then, when it happened, it was just lust!

Although they never fully acknowledged it, Glenda and Kurt did make a decision by allowing the relaxation of birth control procedures to determine their future life. They were very thoughtful about reforming their relationship to accommodate a child, and what appears to be an impulsive act on the surface was actually long-considered.

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