This task requires taking on the new identity of parent and
subordinating one's own needs to those of the infant.
Amazingly, our culture takes it as a given that this process will go smoothly,
Nothing could be more misleading.
The wish to be a parent springs from powerful identifications with one's parents and one's childhood fantasies. The little girl who holds a doll in her arms and the little boy who learn to his sorrow that he will never carry a baby in his tummy find upon becoming parents, that the real baby requires a level of care and devotion their fantasies could never anticipate.
The baby's needs, absolute and imperious as they are, soon yield to the noisy demands of toddlerhood and the elementary school years; then parents must guide their teens through the crises of adolescence and the shady back and forth phase of young adulthood.
Carrying out these complex tasks inevitably has an impact on the marriage, either weakening or strengthening the marital bond.
Each spouse now regards each other differently --- as a mother or father and also as a friend and lover. But it is the lover and friend that need replenishing at this time.
The children's love for mom and dad is often passionate and can do wonders for parental self-esteem, but it does not fill either parent's need for adult love and friendship.
The hectic drama of raising a child takes place against a backdrop of immense psychological change and growth in both husband and wife. As the children grow up, parents relive their own childhood experiences, fears, early conflicts, and joys; so enables them to connect emotionally with the child.
"I remember," says the mother, "that I, too, believed a wolf lived in the basement."
"I remember," says the father, "how scared I used to be on the playground when
the bully threatened me."
As each parent encompasses the child and the child's experiences in a newly
reworked sense of self, he or she grows psychologically.
The parent is challenged by the new generation to consider and,
if necessary, to define the values to be passed on."
The Good Marriage ~ Wallerstein & Blakeslee