Marry a parent?: Thoughts on Choosing a Spouse

Before you start thinking this is a treatise on laws against nature, or a statement on our Freudian tendency to marry mom – stop. I mean something quite different.

Most of my friends have been married 10 plus years, several are ending their marriages, many have children. These divorces take place on a continuum from dreadful to amicable. And for those marriages with children, the key variable is how peaceable the whole mess is for the kids.

I am lucky. Very very lucky. My marriage did not work out – the details are irrelevant. However, at the end of the day – he is a spectacular father, and perhaps even better now than when we were wading through the mire of our marriage. We share 50/50 custody, he is loving, fair, and present. We attend all performances and games together, united in pride, full of laughter. My daughters are lucky as they will have the experience of a strong, present, and loving man in their lives.

I chose well. Not perhaps for me or him, but for children who did not even exist when we met.

My advice to anyone who is choosing a partner with whom they intend to make a family and have children.

Choose a parent.

Women. Choose a man who has the patience, flexibility, resilience and lack of selfishness that requires one to be with a child. Let’s face it, while you are dating, or it’s just the two of you – weekends on the couch are to be expected; long weekends away with the guys in Vegas – fine; golf days – great. Good days to catch up on your life, with your friends, take a break from him. So what if he doesn’t always clean up after himself – you can compromise. But when a child arrives – the margin for error and compromise decreases – he has to be present .

With people waiting longer to get married, living alone for longer periods, and the general entitlement that pervades our society – people are more selfish than ever – and that is fine, if people are aware of this trait. And there is no act that requires selflessness (if done correctly)more than being a parent. It means getting off the couch, doing your share around the house, being present, authentic, patient, consistent, playful and kind.

You want to marry him and have kids? Watch him. Watch him with a dog, watch him with nieces and nephews, borrow a kid for a weekend. Watch how he engages in compromise with you. Observe his interactions with his family and friends. Now, there are men who suck at all of these things and still pull it off in the fatherhood department – but they are few and far between.

The hot guy that you have the great throw -down sex with, the one who looks great in a nightclub but will never compromise and meet you halfway, the man with the Black card and slick car, the guy who is great in the Bahamas but who can’t even remember to walk a dog – they may make for great nights and weekends- but these guys are sprinters, not marathoners. You want a kid? You have a responsibility to choose someone who will be a good father to that child. It’s a 50-70% likelihood that this person wlll remain your partner in the long-term. There is a 100% guarantee that he will always be their father.

I know the marriage researchers and pundits would all poo-poo this – saying that this person is your “partner” and that parenting is just one part of your beautiful lifelong adventure together. I respectfully say – that is a load of excrement. The parenting relationship shapes who we are and what we become, and it sets a permanent course for little people who HAD NO SAY IN WHO WAS TO BECOME THEIR PARENTS. Having parents who want to be there, who are there, who enjoy the process, who are invested – sets a life course for a person. I don’t think that someone who wants a child has the luxury of just choosing a partner – they must choose a parent.

Men. You may have an even harder job when choosing a partner/parent for your children. Women, though not always – still frequently do a significant chunk of the heavy lifting in parenting. So you better choose a mother. The crazy shrill bitch who throws stuff at you, who insensitively spends your money on designer duds, who cusses you out in a bar, who calls you at midnight threatening suicide, who berates you in front of others. She will do that with your children. The sex may be hot with her, her body may be rockin’. Have some fun with it, then trade up to a saner woman.

One of the main arguments that will be foisted against my diatribe this is the ridiculous concept of a soul mate. That love will conquer all. “Sure he has a fiery temper – but he is my soul mate”. “Yeah she sometimes throws things – but she is passionate – she is my soul mate.” Don’t confuse passionate and disturbed. Statistical probability argues against the concept of a soul mate – there are 6 billion people on the planet – that only one is right for you is like arguing there is no life on other planets – it doesn’t ring true. And some people will win the lottery – get the partner and the parent – godspeed to you – you are either lucky or complacent.

Now some of you may have already made this error – and had a child with a less than optimal parent and ended the relationship. So you may decide to throw your hat back into the ring. If you do decide to go in again, and are choosing a partner who will be a step-parent to your non-adult children –all of these rules apply.

Down the road – in the later years – after the babies grow up, and the kids move out, or if you decide to never have children – you can choose a partner for you. If you have the luxury of selecting a person who doesn’t ever have to take care of a little person – then choose the hottie with the abs or the temperamental artist. But if babies are on the menu – be realistic. Relationships require investment, kids suck the life out of them (marital satisfaction plummets when you have young children)– make sure that your partner is someone who can help you through dark nights of the soul when the kids are sick, cheer on at pointless soccer games, help with homework, teach them how to ride a bike. If you relationship makes it – fabulous – memories of children are best shared, not hoarded. If your relationship ends and you choose well – then it is likely your ex will remain present in the lives of your children. It’s the best baby gift you can give.

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This entry was posted on Tuesday, July 6th, 2010 at 1:17 pm and is filed under Parenting, Relationships and Sex. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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