Even though for most people bringing home a baby is a joyful experience, that doesn’t mean there aren’t a lot of stressors that come right along with her—the happy nature of the event doesn’t even come close to minimizing the fact that a new person has been added to the family.
Family scientists—folks who study families so they can help families live and love to the best of their abilities—have found that children bring so much stress into a couple’s relationship that spouses experience a huge dip in their marital satisfaction (don’t go buy a gross of condoms just yet…there’s hope!).
If we drew an illustration of what happens to a couple’s marital happiness once kids enter the scene, it would look something like a U-shape. High levels of marital satisfaction are usually present in the early stages of the marriage, dip to all-time low stages while we’re raising our kids, then gradually climb again as kids become more independent in adolescence. Once teens are launched into their young adult years (college), couples again regain the levels of happiness they had earlier in their marriages.
There is no question that the transition to parenthood is a challenging, often difficult, stage in the developmental course of a family. But the research offers good news: If parents hold realistic expectations going into parenting (and while they’re actively “doing” parenting), there is less stress on them and their relationship.