I’ve (temporarily) returned the index page to its more journal-like layout because I want to call your attention to the video ad of Momversations. No, this is not a plug. And, no, this is not to get you to click on the ad. Do or don’t, it doesn’t matter to me. The reason I wanted to focus on Momversations is because one of the most recent discussions there center around which is harder, marriage or parenthood. And that really made me think. And I wonder if it was an incomplete question and whether it should include a time frame. Like, is marriage harder than parenthood during the first five years? Does it get easier while parenthood becomes more demanding or challenging? Or, perhaps, neither eases up and both become an uphill battle as time goes on.
“Difficult” or “hard” are words I’ve
never used to describe marriage and parenthood. No doubt there have been difficult times, very trying, very stressful, but those consisted of moments. But if I were to quantify (number of dramatic highlights and emo moments) and qualify (whether cuss words and threats were thrown around, and amount of tears shed) and determine which had resulted in more trying times, at the outset, I am convinced that marriage is more difficult. Not because I have a lousy husband. I have a great husband — not perfect but definitely a better specimen than most. Not because I am a lousy wife either (no one’s perfect but I come pretty close hehehe — kidding, that’s the print on one of Alex’s shirts). It has to do with many things, some of which I have no name for.
A mother is older and presumably
wiser more mature than her children. Because she knows that she cannot, and should not expect, children to think and act like adults, she develops boundless patience and understanding for them. Call it maternal instinct, this desire to nurture and protect the child. And even as children grow older, the parent will always have a head start until such time that parent and children are all adults. I suppose that there is a certain amount of emotional and psychological resignation and preparedness and, to a certain extent, a lack of expectation, and that makes it less stressful for any mature parent. Right, a mature parent. Chances are, the emotional and psychological resignation and preparedness won’t be there if the mother is no more than a child herself.
In a marriage, both partners are adults. At least, presumably. While a mother is expected to raise her children, a wife is not expected to raise her husband. And vice versa. Totally different roles, different expectations, different everything. And a spouse comes to you ready-made — with a complete history, prejudices, convoluted priorities, annoying habits, expensive tastes, bad fashion sense or whatever, and everything else that adults are made of. They come with in-laws and, often, a barkada too. And those things cannot be undone to transform one’s spouse into someone more agreeable, comfortable and easier to be with.
I also look at it from the perspective of living with strangers. A child is no stranger to his parent, the physical tie being there from the first moment of the child’s life. But a spouse is a stranger and not even a blood relative. And marriage is a lifetime of getting to know one another — adults who were complete persons before they started sharing a life together. While there may be an emotional tie in the relationship itself, marriage is really nothing more than legal fiction. No, no, no… the “What God has put together…” stuff does not figure here.
So, how can marriage not be more difficult than parenthood? The odds are greater from the start and society makes things even more difficult. You know, all those conflicting signals. For instance, Article 70 of the Family Code says, “The spouses are jointly responsible for the support of the family.” Yet, culture still calls the husband/father the breadwinner and provider. Article 71 says, “The management of the household shall be the right and the duty of both spouses.” Oh, come on. How many husbands and fathers willingly do the marketing, cooking, cleaning and taking care of the children? Most men are so adamant about drawing a line that divides manly and unmanly chores. And the sad part is that this attitude finds support in our culture. If you think that things like that do not add even more stress, it’s time to think again.
That’s not to say, of course, that society and culture do not add stress to parenthood too. They do. And this is more evident in Western countries where, in many cases, it is difficult to determine where parental authority ends and child abuse begins. And I’m not just talking about physical punishment. Several months ago, I wrote a column about the California appellate court’s decision in In re RACHEL L. et al (No. B192878, Second District, Division Three, February 28, 2008) that pitted the child’s right to education against the parent’s right to home school a child as a consequence of the exercise of religious freedom. To put it in more direct terms, some parents prefer not to send their children to regular schools because they do not want them to be “tainted” with other beliefs.
Ain’t one’s role as spouse and parent difficult enough that the state, society and culture have to complicate it even more… Or, perhaps, state, society and culture are the very reasons that marriage and parenthood have become difficult. And I wonder if it is the laws and norms associated with marriage that ruin relationships.