When Partners Become Parents: The Big Life Change for Couples

By Carolyn Pape Cowan; Philip A. Cowan | Go to book overview

INTRODUCTION
Becoming a Family

OUR DECISION to undertake a study of what happens when partners become parents was triggered by the collision of events in our personal and professional lives. We met as teenagers in the mid-1950s and, like many of our contemporaries, were still young when we married, four years later. Carolyn was nineteen and had just signed her first contract to teach elementary school. Phil, twenty-one, was completing his undergraduate degree in psychology. Having worked and gone to school throughout our teenage years, we felt ready to take on the responsibilities of the adult world we had entered.

We began trying to start a family two years after we were married. Carolyn's desire to have a baby was powerful. Because Phil felt unable to articulate his feeling that he was not yet ready to become a father, Carolyn's expressed feelings governed the decision about timing. Over the next few years we would learn the painful lessons taught by making decisions that affect both partners without thoroughly exploring or talking about them.

Carolyn did not become pregnant for eighteen months, by which time both of us were more than eager to expand our family. Joanna was born in 1961, followed by Dena in 1963 and Jonathan in 1965. We felt extremely lucky. All three children were healthy, different from one another in many ways, and a total delight to their parents and grandparents. These were times when a majority of women stayed home to look after the children, and,

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