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Transition To Parenthood

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Section 1: The Case Study

Section 1: The case study

Today, in western industrialized nations, the decision whether or not to have children is, as Berk (2004) describes it a "....matter of individual choice" (p.460). This contrasts with many non western nations where what Michaels (1988, cited in Berk, 2004) describes childbearing as, " unavoidable cultural demand" (p.460).

Research on the New Zealand population suggests that couples are having children at a much later phase of life. The median age for a woman to give birth is now 30.3 years, compared with her counterpart in the early 1970's who gave birth at 24.9 years. There is also an increasing amount of individuals foregoing parenthood altogether. Statistics also show a trend towards later marriages and smaller families (www.stats.govt.nzfertility-rates) and couples living together especially in the early stages of the relationships (

Many factors contribute to the marked shift from early to delayed childbearing. Berk (2005) suggests financial circumstances, personal and religious values and health conditions are influencing factors. While Barber; Tangri & Jenkins (cited in Berk, 2004) suggest that women with high-status, demanding careers will less often choose parenthood than those with less time consuming positions. Other factors may include how the parents feel a new baby will impact on their lives in terms of disrupted sleep, caregiving tasks and the couple's relationship.

Harry was 36 and Sally 34 when Sally fell pregnant. The previous 10 years were spent forming an intimate relationship, travelling, working and saving money for the future. Both focused

through their schooling years, earned high paying jobs and travelled intermittently. Both came from high socio-economic families and aspired to their parent's life achievements. Being able to raise a child without concerns over money was the main motivation behind both Harry and Sally's joint decision to delay childbearing. Financial independence, they felt would be achieved through owning their own property and having money in the bank.

Once pregnant Sally suffered from morning sickness and her employer encouraged her to take time off when needed to rest; and at eight months pregnant Sally finished work, while Harry continued to work evenings and weekends. Harry's long working hours had not previously impacted on the relationship. The couples spare time was spent preparing the babies room, attending antenatal classes, watching television, shopping, enjoying socialising with friends and family and discussing the exciting upcoming event. Sally developed a relaxed routine of cooking, cleaning, reading and resting and Harry enjoyed Sally's happy disposition and became accustomed to the routine. The couple rarely discussed how a new baby would impact their lives.

Baby Edward was born two weeks past his due date and had initial breathing difficulties. Although doctors stated there was nothing for them to worry about, Harry and Sally still felt anxious about their child's health and felt it their responsibility to be proactive and keep Edward close to them at all times to monitor and tend to his needs promptly. They decided to place his bassinet alongside their bed at night and kept him in the lounge during the day so when he cried they could attend quickly.

Sally spent the majority of her time inside the house perfecting the art of breastfeeding, bathing and getting to know and care for her baby which she enjoyed. In support of this Harry tended to the cooking and other domestic duties both inside and outside the house. Harry stayed at home for the first week after the birth, but difficulties his company was facing left Harry feeling obligated to return to work. Sally's mother Dot (aged 66) offered to stay for a few weeks and help out. Dot cooked, cleaned, offered praise and encouraged Sally to rest. Although enjoying time with her daughter and grandson, Dot returned home after the two weeks as she herself felt tired.

Sally, now on her own strived to maintain the routine of cooking, cleaning and caring for Edward, but tired easily as she found no time to rest during the day which caused her to felt uptight and teary. She looked forward to when Harry came home, who himself found it hard to come home to a tense, tired partner, a less than perfect house and often a simple cheese on toast dinner with an argument. Not what he had become accustomed to.

By six weeks old Edward enjoyed his night feeds and had incorporated a happy wake time into his night-time routine, where he would wave his arms around and make noises. Although entertaining, frequent awakenings left the couple sleep deprived. Harry's suggestion that Edward move to his own room caused annoyance to Sally who still preferred to be near Edward. This ongoing conflict caused tension in the relationship and often resulted in Harry sleeping in the spare room. This made Sally resentful of the rest Harry was receiving and the lack she was. Debates about differences in childrearing emerged at a gradual pace, causing more pressure on the relationship which was spiralling downwards. Harry began to feel (although guilty) that Edward had taken his fun-loving partner away from him, while lack of sleep and support left Sally feeling isolated and uninterested in intimacy with Harry.

Sally found comfort in her local baby support group which her midwife encouraged her to join. Harry's employer pressured him to work late and in weekends, only causing more tension between the two and impacting on the quality of time he had with his son. The frequency of the arguments left the couple to re-evaluate their future together. The couple agreed on their commitment to each other and talked through ways to alleviate the pressure, such as part-time childcare, a nanny or part-time work for Harry. Both decided that they wanted Sally to raise the child and in the end Harry submitted a proposal to his employer which was accepted which enabled him to work from home with review in three months time. Additionally the couple attended counselling together.

Harry spent more time with Edward and Sally helped Harry with his work where she could. They developed a workable routine so that each had enough time for rest, enabling them to think more rationally, communicate better and enjoy their new family together.

Section 2 - Analysis of case study

Sally and Harry took a very individualistic approach to



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