The “happiest” marriages would be those without children: to support this
claim, an English survey, conducted by the Open University. According to
the survey, carried out on a sample of 5,000 people, couples with children would tend to be more dissatisfied
with their married life than those who do not.
Therefore, to that sample of people interviewed by the pollsters, children
are “enemies” of marital well-being and therefore should be avoided “to
stay well as a couple” (which – just to clarify – in the long term would
lead to the extinction of humanity). Letting aside the wording of the
questions put to the people interviewed, a single young bride we have asked
thinks otherwise: “Children are like the roof of a house: if the
foundations are solid, the roof completes the house, otherwise everything
collapses.” In short, perhaps
the children can be seen a bit like the “thermometer” of the quality
and solidity of a union.
Indirectly, however, the investigation presents us with many questions:
what do we mean by marital happiness? What do we expect from life and marriage? Are we able to
see and appreciate the beauty of sacrifice? Is it really
the children’s fault, or are we spouses sometimes not being able to “rally
together” to commit ourselves to a shared goal and to make skating
between the various commitments to find time for us?
We talked to a young 26-year-old American mother living in Germany about
these aspects and others. She obtained her degree in philosophy in Rome:
Alicia Duren, married for four years, mother of two girls. She is
particularly sensitive about the role and the future of the family in
society and very mindful in seeking motivations and answers to the problem
of birth rate.
In your opinion, why can children be perceived as a source of
unhappiness for the couple?
Happiness is often identified with pleasure, with
“external tranquility,” with the absence of thoughts and concerns. There is at work here a
hedonistic conception of happiness. If we think this way, then no: children
do not “make us happy.” Because
they bring “disorder,” unforeseen events, they don’t allow us enough
But if happiness is “giving oneself” and building together
– even in fatigue! – something beautiful and lasting, so family is a source of joy!
My husband and I have never laughed so much as we have done in these years,
we are delighted to hear the noises of the girls, to see the fraternal
community that they are already creating between themselves. This is true
happiness for us, true serenity. Of course, we have experienced so many moments of chaos and concern, but we could never say that
we are not “happy” to be parents together.
The children, however, take time away from us and from the couple.
What can you say to those who are afraid of opening up to this life
for this reason?
That is better to live for someone else than for oneself.
If you do not give, you will lose nothing; however, you will not receive
anything, and you will lose yourself.
When I was alone, I mean without a husband and girls, life was much simpler. I had more time for “myself” – I
didn’t have to think of anything else but myself! – but, on the other hand,
I didn’t have anything pushing me to better myself. Family life is a continual giving of oneself, something
that not only betters the community you have created, but betters you.
Many want to lead a life of eternal boyfriend/girlfriend.
Others, on their part, want children, but they continually postpone,
denying themselves the possibility of sharing their best years with their
They think having children implies aloss of love between themselves, instead it is a manifestation of that love.
According to you, therefore, children are never the “true cause” of the
unhappiness between spouses…
I can say in total sincerity that now, after almost four years of marriage,
I love my husband even more because now we have given ourselves to each other completely. We have
something unique (our daughters) that unites us in an absolutely
unrepeatable way. This gift, this “Yes” to life, has made us closer.
We live out our marriage as “allies,” we team up, and we commit ourselves
to not neglect each other despite the many things to do. And now, just
because we have to make an “extra effort” to find time for each other, it’s
even better to be together.
Because if giving oneself to others leads to happiness, do many
close themselves up?
In my opinion, those who only pursue their “freedom,” who do what they want
without thinking of others, are simply afraid. Because loving makes you
When I held my first daughter in my arms for the first time, I felt a thud
in my soul. I felt a “pure” desire to really give myself to another. I was
sure at that instant that I would die for her; it was a strong feeling,
which in my personal selfishness I had never felt before. And to die for
another, even if it is wonderful, is scary.
One last question. Couples who choose to have many children today
are often considered “unprepared” or “masochistic.” What do you
think about the decision to have a large family?
I am the oldest of five children and I am aware that the greatest gift my
parents gave us was saying yes to life. Many decide not to have
many of children because they think they cannot give them the best. But…
what exactly is the best? When I attended university, I was a nanny for
rich families who had everything… except happiness. Yes, it’s true that
there are things that we really need, like a roof, food, education… but an
iPhone won’t make your baby happier.
A brother to love is instead the most beautiful gift he can receive.
My husband and I have two girls and we want a large family, we do not set
limits. When I say this, the first reaction I get is of total surprise.
People find it hard to believe it, as if we were completely mad. It is true
that this unconditional openness to life is not for everyone, but one thing
is certain: our culture sees life as something that chains you… yet
the true chain is the slavery of our egotism, against which everyone – I
for one! – must fight in order to be truly be happy.