Yesterday’s tragic story involving a 27-year-old woman who has had four children by her estranged partner (who has now shot and killed the woman’s father) got me thinking about something which has often occurred to me.
It seems that some women take more time mulling over what pair of trendy shoes they should buy, than what kind of man they want to father their children.
The same goes for men, of course – do they realize that the minute they make a woman pregnant, she will be in his life forever, irrespective of whether the relationship lasts? The only exception to this, of course, is if the father or mother decides to just take off and have nothing to do with the child, which can be a sort of a ‘solution’ for the adults. They conveniently forget that the scars and repercussions of this abandonment on the child will be imprinted in their psyche for the rest of his/her life.
But in cases where the biological father/mother remain in the picture after a relationship or marriage breaks down, it take supreme self-control and maturity to not allow one’s own animosity towards the former partner or spouse to poison the parental bond.
Easier said than done, I know.
Which is why I think both sides really need to evaluate what they are getting themselves into not only when choosing a future husband/wife but more crucially, when they take the major life decision of having a baby together. After all, the huge turning point in most people’s lives is not marriage but parenthood – so it all starts from that decision doesn’t it?
When, as happens all too frequently for various reasons, things go pear-shaped and the marriage/relationship breaks down, the other half will continue to be in your life until the child turns 18 (at least), and in most cases, even after that. They will also continue to have the same parental rights over the child as you do (except in extreme cases). When the child gets married there is the minefield of the wedding preparations to wade through – who is going to be invited or left out? What is the role of any new partners in this celebration? It can be traumatizing for the now adult child to try and please everyone and what should be a happy occasion can often risk being spoiled if the parents persist in feuding rather than getting along and being civilized.
When grandchildren come along, you are going to be grandparents together even if you are no longer married. People often forget this ‘minor detail’ until it actually happens. So yes, having children together has many, many consequences.
All the more reason then, to think and think again if the person you are thinking of having children with starts showing traits which make you uncomfortable. Sure, it is difficult to think straight when you are bedazzled by good looks or charm or lust or any of the other 101 reasons we fall in love with someone. Sometimes, it’s just our biological clocks urging us to have children and the other person happens to be there, at the right place at the right time.
And sure, I know it’s easy sit back and pontificate when you are not in it yourself, but I just wish that the tragic stories we keep hearing of domestic violence and child abuse will at least serve to make young girls and women take a long, hard look at the man in their lives and question his behaviour. Is he too controlling? Is he disproportionately jealous of you and of your other relationships? Does he put you down, insult you and belittle you in front of others? There is a whole checklist of these kind of questions which can be found on the Internet.
I’m not going to gloss over the behaviour of psychologically abusive women either, because I know that they very much exist. Men, too, should ask themselves whether the woman they are besotted by now is someone who makes them feel better or whether being with her is like being sucked into a vortex of negative, toxic emotions; a bottomless pit of clinging neediness and manipulation which you feel you cannot crawl out of.
Once I read that if the person you are with does not make you feel good about yourself then something is very wrong. It might be a simplified way of looking at things, but there is a lot of truth in it. If warning bells are clanging that he/she might be Mr or Mrs Completely Wrong, than having children with this person is just going to throw you into a quagmire of even more complications.
And when there are the initial hints of violence, whether it’s physical or emotional, don’t even think about having kids. Just run.