When Partners Become Parents: The Big Life Change for Couples

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

CHAPTER 7
Legacies from Our Parents

JACKSON: In the family I grew up in, the women always did the household work, regardless. My grandmother never worked. My grandfather worked and brought home the money, so she took care of everything at home. My mother worked, but she still came home and fixed dinner and everything, and then later with my stepmother, it was the same.

Then I marry this woman [laughs affectionately] and she wants to divide the work at home in half! Well, I say, "This half's buying paper plates!" I can now see that how you deal with your wife and kids is affected by the things that you saw growing up -- it sounds obvious now that I've thought about it, but I just didn't realize it before.

TANYA: I grew up in the same kind of family that Jackson did. My mother did it all -- looked after me and the kids and my father and she had a job too -- but I was determined that it wouldn't be like that in our house.

We heard many comments like Jackson's and Tanya's. The couples in our study made it clear that their parents have bequeathed legacies to their children and grandchildren that are powerful and often invisible. In this chapter, we explore how new parents learn about their family legacies. We describe examples of some parents who repeat the nurturing or painful family patterns they grew up with, and others who find ways to break their families' negative cycles.

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