Friday, June 17, 2011

And they lived happily ever after...Until they had kids

Here's a quick summary of all the marriage advice I have to offer. If you have a really great marriage and want to keep it that way, don't have kids. Get a fish. If, on the other hand, your marriage sucks and you want to finish it off, by all means, go for it. Other than having an affair, children are the nuclear option. Like literally, a bad relationship will be Hiroshima after that. I don't think this is particularly original advice, despite all the idiots out there who have kids to "save the marriage." This is about as delusional as having kids to improve one's figure. Children will destroy the marriage, the figure, and anything else of value you may have lying around your house. I just got a parenting magazine (one of any number of magazines I get without subscribing, which seems like a a really dumb marketing ploy, but what do I know), with the cover story, "Help Your Marriage Survive Parenthood!" In fact, every parenting magazine has a similar cover story, along with the other go-to winners, "No-Fail discipline tricks!" and "Get your 2 week old to sleep through the night!" and "Cook meals your children won't throw back in your face!" I guess they know that if you put such promising claims on your covers, you really can get people to pay money for a magazine you are already giving them for free. Parents are just that desperate, not to mention zombie-like.

But I'm thinking if parenting magazines are peddling answers to the problem of "The Kids Ate My Marriage," it must be a common problem indeed. My own scientific research (i.e. talking to my girlfriends) confirms this to be the case. How many times have I heard someone say something like, "We never fought about anything until we had children," "We had the perfect relationship until we had children," "We spent hours every evening lying in a bathtub full of rose petals by candlelight before we had children." or "We used to discuss music, books, politics, and the meaning of life into the wee hours of the night before we had children." Personally, I haven't recently read any books that I can remember, haven't heard any music that I can remember, can just barely name the current US President, and certainly am incapable of anything so vaunted as a "discussion." And my kids have me thinking more about the meaning of death than the meaning of life (i.e. at least you get some sleep when you are dead, and that is pretty darn meaningful). So what is going on here? How and why are children so destructive? You would think they would have a personal interest in the survival of their parents' relationship. Perhaps they are part of a massive conspiracy by the mental health profession to improve business. I've definitely kept some mental health professionals in business since I had kids anyway.

Beyond the obvious factors of sheer exhaustion and lack of time, I'm thinking a key dynamic in children's destruction of marriage is how they magnify latent gender differences and inadvertently start a gender war. It's like Britain and Germany in 1914 are hanging out, pretty cool with each other, then some pan-Serbian dude assassinates an Austro-Hungarian monarch and, boom, you have World War I. Now Britain and Germany are digging trenches and mowing down millions of each other's soldiers with machine guns. Same with men and women. In our modern age, men and women, before they are parents, can have the illusion that everything is equal and their interests are the same. Suzy and Johnny can both go to Harvard Law and wear pants and vote. Then they get married, and maybe things are a little tense because Suzy likes a clean house and Johnny doesn't care and isn't volunteering to help, but they both like to run marathons and play pool on the weekends, so it's all good. But then Suzy gets pregnant, and that's where things start to unravel for our dynamic duo. Suzy watches as her body is completely destroyed. Johnny buys her some flowers. Suzy has her reproductive organs ripped apart, then is brow beaten by a band of cruel women into becoming her baby's sole source of sustenance, every 2 hours around the clock. Johnny goes to the vending machine and gets her a coke. Suzy loses her mind and falls into a clinical depression. Johnny feels helpless and befuddled, so he goes and watches him some monster trucks on TV. Suzy is racked by guilt about returning to work so she shelves her PhD in molecular biology and opts for getting vomited on several times a day. Johnny sends her a cute postcard from the hotel he's staying at on a business trip in Fiji. Suzy becomes angry and resentful that her entire life has been rearranged while Johnny's is relatively untouched. Johnny gets her a blender for Mother's Day. Suzy starts being really mean to Johnny. Johnny develops an internet porn addiction. Suzy takes out a life insurance policy on Johnny and hires a hit man. They end up the subject of a Dateline investigation. And so it goes.

Obviously, many parents miraculously do survive having kids, and eventually have a great marriage again. Don't ask me how to do this, I told you up front that my reservoir of marriage advice is basically a kiddie pool. My best guess is endurance and amnesia. Maybe some anti-depressants.