At every point in the child’s life, therefore, his healthy growth and development will depend to some extent on how well adjusted his parents’ marriage is. From beginning to end, marriage and parenthood are experiences that deeply interact upon each other. In sense this is so obvious that everyone is aware of it. But in a deeper sense it has been taken so much for granted that its implications have not been faced.
We have instead taken for granted that two persons engaged in the joint undertaking of marriage will continue to make mutual adjustments through the years. In these days, however, they often have to face situations and problems for which the traditional roles of husband and wife fail to furnish standard patterns of action, or even of thinking. Disagreements about what husband and wife are responsible for are further complicated by the fact that the family changes when the children arrive, while they are growing up, and when they eventually leave home.
At each stage, as well have said, new adjustments become necessary. When the children are very young, they demand almost constant care and attention of the mother. The father cannot expect things to continue as they were earlier. When children begin to go to school, the mother usually has more time, is not so constantly confined by the youngsters. Wife and husband now have a chance to revise their activities to take advantage of the changed conditions. When the children are old enough to free the mother still further, many couples find themselves unprepared to make full use of the freedom—which medical advance now promises to increase more and more. So it becomes more important ever that husband and wife learn to share interest while their children are growing up. For the wife it is especially urgent that she prepare in every sense of the word for the period of “the empty nest,” which—owing to the fact that we now live way into old age—will constitute a considerable period of her adult life.
I am convinced that no enterprise in the world more fully justifies our best efforts than the endeavor to achieve mutual harmony in marriage. There are a few couples for whom, alas; no amount of effect seems to bring the success they desire. But I believe there are not nearly so many of these as we often suppose. Thousands of seemingly mediocre marriages could be made very much happier than they are if only the partners had more adequate knowledge and the conviction that the effort was worth making.
This article has been written in the hope that a few such couples may be encouraged to make a more determined effort to achieve mutual harmony. To do so will certainly make them more contented men and women. It will also make them more useful citizens. Above all, it will make them more successful parents.