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It makes me deeply sad to hear about couples breaking up a year or two after having a child.  I stop to wonder what could have possibly gone wrong to break up a beautiful new family, filled with hope and promise.  Perhaps I am a hopeless romantic when it comes to love and family.  To find someone to love and to create another human being together should be a strong and transcendental bond right?  So why is it that shortly after the baby’s first birthday, so often we find out that the new parents are having marital problems.  I understand that it is not easy having a child, but to deem the relationship (and the family) over after a few tough months?  It seems all too rash.  Did they have marital trouble before she became pregnant and were hoping that a baby could bring them closer together?  Or were the added responsibilities of having a child just too much for them?  My eyes start to moisten when I try to imagine what the baby went through during his first few months in this world as his parents’ relationship quickly unraveled.  The arguments, the raised voices, the tension- all arising from his or her sole trusted guardians – must be horribly traumatic.  I also feel sorry for the parents as well.  The mother has gone through so many physical and emotional changes from being pregnant, to delivery, to breastfeeding and taking care of an infant.  And the father’s life has changed drastically as well.  But still, what about the undeniably positive aspects of bringing a new life into this world?  Why is it a joy for some and such turmoil for others to be with one’s family day after day?

What I find especially intriguing are celebrity couples who split up shortly after entering parenthood. Perhaps this is because we are privy to all of the positive and lurid details courtesy of the media.   Orlando Bloom and Miranda Kerr, J-Lo and Marc Anthony, Christina Aguilera and her ex, Hillary Duff and her ex, just to name a few.  I have not met these people personally, nor do I know what they went through as a couple.  In fact, I do not know if they ever even loved each other.  What I do know is that they have thousands of dollars to spend on home chefs, maids, assistants and child care professionals each month to make their lives infinitely easier and they still couldn’t make it work!  So what hope is there for the rest of us?  The emerging message is that money does not make things easier or better.  So what do families need?  You probably answered with the word ‘love’ and you would be correct.  Second question:  What do you need to do to show, nurture and grow love?  It is not through expensive trips, jewelry or the latest toys for the baby.  Like love, it is something that money cannot buy.  It’s your time.  Family requires your presence, not your presents.

I don’t understand the term burden, sacrifice or duty when one is referring to family.  These are such strong negative words to describe what should be acts of love.  ‘I sacrificed my job/promotion to spend time with my child.’  ‘It is part of my duty to be a good husband/wife.’  Whatever you do for your family should be done with love and a sense of privilege.  To have a family is a blessing.  Think of all of the single people out there wishing for love or couples out there who cannot have children, or worse, have lost their children?  One shouldn’t have to be reminded that family, not career, should be the number one priority.  If you felt gratitude and appreciation for your family, you would instinctively display your love for them every single day and weather the difficult times together.

I came across a touching story about a young couple named Stryker and Sapphire.  They had met at work, fallen in love and gotten married.  They wanted to have children, but had trouble conceiving.  She saw doctors in Los Angeles, took many tests, experimented with different technologies, tried hormone creams and even saw a fertility specialist abroad.  By then, they had all but given up.  After five years, completely out of the blue, she became pregnant naturally and they were overjoyed.  The pregnancy however, was not without some risk.  The doctor had ordered her on bed rest for a couple of months and the baby arrived six weeks earlier than expected.  Fortunately, their daughter Milan was born healthy and is now a beautiful two-and-a-half year old.  Sapphire and Stryker are both singer/musicians in a group called Millennium and they both feel fortunate that they can work from home and spend all of their time together as a family.  According to Sapphire, ‘I feel so blessed that we were able to have a child.  Milan is a beautiful light in my life and my husband is my rock.  I know that together, we can overcome any obstacles.’ 

‘Any split with children involved is a disaster, whether you’re in the public eye or not,’ says Stryker, the youngest in a family of three that was torn apart by divorce at a very young age.  ‘My experience taught me one thing:  Parents must give as much priority to each other as they do to their children – perhaps, even more.  Because it is only through their example that a child can truly learn how to cherish, love and stand up for another human being.’

Although some of us may not be able to integrate our personal and work lives as closely as this family, there are ways to deconstruct and rethink your life so that you can spend more quality time with your family.  I went to a dinner party a few weeks ago and met a woman name Julianne with an adorable, bright-eyed three month old baby boy.  Through the course of the night, she informed me that her husband worked hard and traveled so frequently for business that the baby would always cry when he was home and would try to hold him. Most people know that fifty percent of marriages in the United States end in divorce.  What cannot be accurately measured is the percentage of couples who are separated or remain miserable in their current relationships. Although this paints a grim picture, I believe this trend could be reversed with a conscious change in priorities, putting our families at the top of the list. Some of the choices that could easily improve the quality of our family life are listed below. Ask yourself honestly:    – Do I work over-time?  If yes, you’re probably not giving your family the priority they deserve.  Ask your employer about capping your hours at a normal eight hour workday.  Also inquire if flex time is an option.

– Do I frequently travel alone for work?  If yes, you may be inviting in a host of marital and family issues by being away for extended periods of time.  Bring your family along on the next trip or speak with your boss about sending one of your colleagues on instead.

– Do I spend more than thirty minutes one-way getting to and from work?  A long commute coupled with long work hours will sap energy that should be reserved for family.  Consider moving closer to work or finding a job that is closer to home.  Although moving or switching jobs is a big decision, it may be well worth it in the long run if it saves your family.

– Is work too demanding or am I unhappy at work?  Consider starting your own business doing something you love.  You can then make your own hours and spend more time with family, have them visit you at the office or even have the luxury of working from home.

– Do I check in with my spouse often during the day?  Communicate with your spouse often to see how they are feeling.  Frequent communication will not only brighten their day but keep your bond strong.

– Do I plan and look forward to taking my spouse out for private, romantic engagements once or twice a week?  Couples time during the week is needed to remind you both of your love and the commitment to one another that goes beyond parenting.

– When I am home, do I often check messages or emails?  If so, learn to put away the phone for the evening and devote one hundred percent of your attention to your spouse and child.  Have dinner together and talk to one another.  After dinner, avoid the television and do something engaging or relaxing as a family.

-When I am home, do I allow my child to spend hours in front of the television, on the phone or i-pad?  Next time, instead of placing a technological device in front of them, try playing with them, reading them stories and talking to them to develop a greater bond with your child.

Most importantly, remember that your life and the outcome of your family relationships are under your control and are governed by the choices you make along the way. Choose wisely.


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