Most couples grow closer after having a baby, the results of a new poll reveal. Despite many (68%) finding motherhood much harder work than they imagined, eight out of ten mums agreed that their relationship with their partner had been strengthened by the experience. Family ties also strengthen yet friendships evolve and move on, the survey shows.
The Aptamil 21st Century Mum survey polled over 4,200 mums and mums-to-be, and its findings suggest that motherhood could be the catalyst to strengthen and evolve a woman’s social network and relationships.
Dr Ellie Lee, a senior lecturer in social policy at the University of Kent and expert in parenting culture, comments, “Given that parenthood often comes with a ‘health warning’ about the new stresses and strains it brings for mums, dads and their relationship with each other, it is striking that many mums report that having children has created a new closeness to others.”
The survey suggests that having a baby brings families closer together too. Almost two thirds (62%) of mums say they were supported by their own mums in those busy first few weeks. Half (49%) also reported that they relied on other family members (such as sisters) for support. “Family relationships are stronger as we have a huge common interest – my son,” reports one survey respondent.
Christine Northam from Relate, the UK’s largest provider of relationship support, said, “Having a baby can be a wonderful experience for a family, we often see couples whose relationship has flourished because of a new arrival. Family ties strengthen and close family members can be re-discovered. That said, tough times will arise when bringing up children, but it’s important to remember that if couples work together they increase the chances of having a happier family.”
The experience of motherhood seems to have a negative impact on the survival of old friendships. According to the survey one in ten (13%) mums say they never see their friends because of how different their lives now are and many mums, almost a third (32%), reported that their best support came from new friends with babies.
“The idea that social networks change when people become parents these days seems to be confirmed by this survey,” explains Dr Lee. “Pre-motherhood friendships diminish in their importance and friendship seems to become more organised around other mums with kids. Some mothers leave behind their “pre-mummy” friends in favour of “mummy” friends,” she adds.
“What is also interesting is mums’ view of themselves, as motherhood appears to give life new meaning.” The survey reveals that the majority (63%) report that they now see themselves as a whole person now and that something was missing before.
Dr Lee concludes, “It is clear from the survey that women are not blind to the challenges of motherhood, but they do feel that parenthood has shaped and influenced their relationships in an important way, notably with their partners. It also seems to influence and enhance their interactions with, and perceptions of, the wider society.”