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

VIII.Generativity One: Raising Children and Engaging Projects

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Many couples involved in second marriages decide not to have any more children. Sometimes this decision is relatively easy for the couple to make; at other times it is quite difficult and often remains an unresolved tension within the second marriage. Here is a case in point: during the interview in which Hillary and James participated, Hillary indicated that she and James decided not to have children because Hillary had her own grown children to care for from her first marriage and because they wanted to begin saving for their retirement (even though both of them were only in their 40s). Hillary had left Generativity One behind her and was moving on to another generativity role. James nodded his head in agreement. He then frowned and began to crush the soda can he was holding between his hands. Hillary didn’t seem to notice his reaction and continued smiling and talking about how wonderful it was to be a parent. She had to keep raising her voice as James continued to make more and more noise crushing the can. James then jumped up, reminding Hillary and the interviewer that he had to get ready for a hunting trip, excused himself and left the room. The interviewer’s immediate impression was that the subject of child rearing was uncomfortable and possibly painful for James and that it may have been a great loss to him not having had his own children.  He missed, and perhaps longed for, the fulfillment of his own first order generativity. As in the case of many second marriages, the first generativity role was not aligned between the two members of this couple. It may have been particularly painful for James, given that Hillary gave rather spurious financial reasons for not having children with James.

James and Hillary were not alone in experiencing this generativity dilemma. Another couple, Kathy and Dave, also decided not to have children together. Unlike James and Hillary, however, they seemed to agree that this was the best course to take. Dave had children from his previous marriage and although Kathy never had children, she did not wish to have any. Both felt that having a child would be unfair to themselves and the child as well. At fifty years old, Dave explained that he could not look forward to spending the next twenty, perhaps his last living years, raising a child. Furthermore, he felt it would be unfortunate for any child to have an older father who could only share his life for a limited period of time. Since Dave had six grandchildren, he cherished his role as a grandfather and the fact that he had been able to enjoy his children through to their adulthood. He was enjoying a second fulfillment of first order generativity as a grandparent (about which we will have more to say later). Although Kathy was only thirty-eight years old and capable of child bearing, she had chosen likewise not to have any children. Both felt they sacrificed themselves in their previous, abusive marriages—Dave to his wife and children, and Kathy to her demanding husband. Both remained cautious about letting anything come between their love for one another.

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