Can two friends have a baby together

Basil Stücheli

By Karen Schärer

Baby happiness and relationship crisis: how do they fit together? Only too well. The path from lovers to parents is anything but stress-free and smooth.

6 tips for partnership

1 Both partners have to get used to the new life situation: show understanding for the other and do not hide your own feelings.
2 Openness in conversation helps to eliminate misunderstandings and smoldering anger.
3 Make essential decisions (upbringing, division of labor, finances) together. And keep looking for a conversation about it. Preferably already during pregnancy.
4 Harness your environment. A healthy dose of selfishness doesn't turn you into a bad parent.
5 A kiss, a touch, a piece of paper on the table keep love fresh.
6 Don't panic if sexuality has taken a back seat. If you spend time as a couple, your desire will come back.

"We are over the moon," write Sonja Beretta * and her husband to their friends. The young mother lies in hospital ten days after the difficult birth. Ten days of baby happiness. Ten days grace period. Because returning home with the baby to the recently occupied family home was the beginning of the end of the love story between Sonja Beretta and her husband. “Our relationship went downhill after the birth of our daughter,” says Beretta, now 40 years old and recently divorced.

The child as a wedge

The partnership had been intact, the conversations lively, the couple happy and full of entrepreneurship. The Berettas were looking forward to the family adventure together. In a café in the old town of Bern, Sonja Beretta calmly talks about alienation, worries and attempts at conversation. She is not alone with her story. Most young parents go through a relationship crisis: "80 percent of couples experience stress as parents in their partnership," says Wassilios Fthenakis. The emeritus professor for developmental psychology has worked intensively in the field of family research in Germany. Around half of these couples split up, the other stay together, says Fthenakis. The statistics show: Parents are most likely to divorce when their children are between 5 and 14 years old. But families with very young children also diverge. In 2010, exactly 1,355 children between the ages of 0 and 4 became children of divorce. Since months, if not years, pass between separation and divorce, it can be assumed that many parents separate when their children are young. Separations of couples who lived together without a marriage license are not statistically recorded.

The arrival of the long-awaited baby makes a couple family. But at the same time a child can also become a wedge that drives the parents apart. This is how Astrid Dussy experienced it *. While her three-year-old daughter climbs around on the slide in a garden not far from Olten, she says: Her partner, a divorced father, did not let her close to her after the birth and was mostly absent. “In principle, I was a single parent from the start,” she says. Although he complied with her request for more presence, he left his displeasure and his aggression out on her. “Looking back, I think he felt trapped when he gave birth to his first child. This anger probably came up again ”, the 33-year-old is looking for an explanation. Less than a year after the birth of his youngest daughter, the man asked Astrid Dussy to move out with the toddler. A bad cut for Dussy: “I would have preferred to wait and see how we can come to terms. Because I didn't just want a child, I wanted a family. "

Three quarters of all couples experience a relationship crisis when they become parents

Work, work and work

The fact that one parent disengages from the family so completely from the start, as Astrid Dussy experienced, may be an extreme case. But the young parenting phase is also stressful for couples in whom both pull in the same direction. «Every change means stress. This means that every child also means stress, ”says family and couples therapist Anna Flury Sorgo from Chur. The stress can also be expressed in numbers: In the report “Families in Switzerland” (2008), the Federal Statistical Office calculated the time required for family and professional tasks and came to the conclusion: “The most stressful are mothers and fathers with small children: that's it Youngest child aged 0 to 4, fathers in couple households work 75 hours a week and mothers 73 hours. "

With so much work there is little time for hobbies, friends, fun. Yes, hardly any time for two. Children's needs cannot be postponed like an appointment or a project. They are always there and need to be satisfied here and now. Not an easy prerequisite for growing into new tasks and discussing problems.
In addition: Children not only make a lot of work, they also cost a lot. A new family will feel most of all that the money with the newcomer is not more, but less. Because only in 8 percent of households with children under six are both partners in full-time employment. Every third woman in Switzerland withdraws completely from working life by the fourth birthday of her child. The father becomes the sole breadwinner, throws himself into work, works overtime - and still the family income falls. In the report mentioned it says: "What the fathers earn more does not make up for the loss with the mothers." At the same time, parents have to limit themselves in order to cover the direct child costs - after all, over 800 francs per month for a child.

Completely of the role

Whether a couple opts for a traditional family model out of conviction or out of external compulsion - for example because there is a lack of childcare - the new life situation puts the couple's relationship to the test. Because one partner takes care of the house and child full-time while the other is more committed to the workplace, the common points of contact in most partnerships are reduced, write Eva Tillmetz and Peter Themessel in the book "Eltern werden - Partner sein" (2004 ). In many partnerships this leads to an “increasingly speechless coexistence”. “I had nothing to talk about,” says Sonja Beretta, who as a housewife “felt like she was in the wrong movie”. “Before our daughter was born, my husband and I were equally strong and equal partners,” she says. As a mother and housewife, she has lost her inner balance and her self-esteem has suffered as a result of the fact that she did not earn her own money. In addition, she never received a word of thanks for her work in her new job as a housewife. “My husband didn't appreciate what I did at home,” says Beretta. A fatal mistake, because: Appreciation is central if a couple wants to survive the strenuous phase as young parents. In the “Couples Book for Parents” author Brigitte Wilmes-Mielenhausen writes: “In this phase, women above all need the special appreciation of their partner. They need the feeling that he can understand the difficulties of the transition and that he recognizes their commitment to the family as work of equal value. "

Fathers, on the other hand, often find themselves reluctantly in the role of single breadwinner: According to a study by Pro Familia Switzerland (2011), 90 percent of men want to reduce their workload. But only 14 percent of them work part-time. That means: Just as women often reduce or give up their employment due to social structures, men remain in full-time employment for structural reasons (impossibility to reduce, higher income).
Young parents also experience this external control directly through their child, whose needs now have priority. All of this is difficult to digest for men and women who have so far lived their life according to the motto “What do I feel like doing right now? How can I realize myself? " have lived. Many fathers and mothers also struggle with the fact that sexuality - up to now perhaps a strong bond between the two - is taking a back seat for obvious reasons.

Externally determined

Young parents are typically overtired, short of money and suffer from latent dissatisfaction with their own situation. All of this is poison for the partnership. “I think it's utopia that you can function equally as a couple and as parents. After all, the transition to parenthood is extremely decisive, ”says Iris Tschan *, married mother of two young children from Zurich. She fights for her relationship despite disappointments and differing needs of both parents. Tschan describes itself as a reluctant logistics center. «Everything sticks to me. If I don't do it, it's at the children's expense, ”she says. The 36-year-old, who currently works 40 percent, finds her husband's family commitment too small. Unfortunately, conversations have not yet led to the goal, because he sees himself as involved.

Apparently, men and women do not always have the same views about what family work means and how much time it costs. But somehow these views have to be reconciled when a child comes. Expecting mothers and fathers should therefore talk about their personal ideas about family while they are pregnant, advises the authors of the book “Parents Become - Stay Partners”. Organizational planning for the family should be as natural as the business plan is for the company, they think.

Parents stay parents even when there is an argument

Family as a company

Therapist Anna Flury Sorgo argues in a similar direction when she says: “As parents, the couple is somewhat in a working relationship. This relationship is more sober than the love relationship. Parents cannot keep their distance when they are having an argument. The work still has to be done. If you don't want to fail as a couple because of being a parent, you have to learn to separate feelings that run in the couple relationship from everyday life. " This is exactly where the Tschans practice.
Parenthood as a working relationship? Family as a company? The psychologist pleads for serenity. Because babies don't always stay babies. The time of the worst chaos in the household, of sexual abstinence and lack of sleep is over. Flury Sorgo advises: “Be generous with yourself and your partner. The situation will relax when the children are older. "

*Name changed by the editor


"Children do not mend the relationship"

we parents: Professor Fthenakis, what are the prerequisites for a couple to be able to function as parents?

Prof. Wassilios Fthenakis: The couple must be able to cope well with stressful situations and to reorganize their entire previous life on all levels. In the phase of transition from two to three relationships, relatives, parents or a well-functioning social network can help to better absorb the major burdens.

At the beginning of parenthood, the couple relationship usually takes a back seat. How long can this go on?

The quality of the partnership must be invested in without a break. Because the partnership quality is the mainstay of the family system. Not the kid. The child has the function of enhancing the existing quality of the partnership. If the relationship is in crisis, the problems with the child are more likely to intensify, not weaken. A child usually cannot save a relationship.

What are the most common problems that lead to a relationship crisis?

Men in particular react to the pregnancy of their partner mostly with fears or psychosomatically. If one does not learn to deal appropriately with these fears, massive conflict can arise.
These in turn put a strain on both sexuality and communication, which are often impaired by the arrival of a child. The couple must react sensitively to these three levels.

Professor Wassilios Emmanuel Fthenakis (74)

last worked at the University of Bozen (IT). The Greek-born German is, among other things, an educator and developmental psychologist and has carried out numerous studies in the field of family research. Particular attention was paid to the transition from partner to parenthood.

But a child also quite simply turns the everyday life of a couple upside down.

Before pregnancy, couples mostly practice relationships based on equality. That changes after the child is born: a traditionally organized family model is often established. That goes against the needs of men and women. And this is the problem.

For the woman who is backing off professionally, however, the turning point is greater.

The cuts are big for both of them. Forcing the man into the breadwinner role is just as much of a problem for him as it is for the woman when she is forced to stay in the household after giving birth. The inner conflicts that are experienced in this area are absolutely equally pronounced in both parents. They should not be ignored or underestimated.

You might also be interested in: The photographer Julia Erz has set herself the goal of not taking staged family pictures, but rather to show real, uncensored and sometimes turbulent family life. She succeeds perfectly, see for yourself.