It is a moot point whether children in the home make for harmony or discord in the parents' lives. There are many instances of both kinds, but the subject is one on which it is impossible to collect statistics.
Sometimes the coming of a child brings together couples who hitherto have been estranged, by giving them a subject of common interest, and an object for affection. To love the same person is, except in circumstances where jealousy comes into play, a strong bond of union. Even a garden in which both are deeply interested has played the role of peacemaker between two who have drifted apart. How much more, then, a little being who belongs to both, and whose development is, as with all children, one of the most interesting studies this endlessly interesting world can offer.
Too often it is the young mother who sows the seeds of dissension by devoting herself so entirely to the care of the baby as to cause the father to feel neglected. Poor man, he has been accustomed to be incessantly looked after and cared for by a devoted wife, and it is not surprising that he should resent the contrast presented by present and past circumstances. There are days, even, when she is too busy with the baby to see him off in the morning, as she had been in the habit of doing. The least affectionate of husbands appreciates this attention, and misses it when it is not forthcoming.
Again, when home in the evening, he finds that the newcomer takes up a great proportion of his wife's time and attention.in the midst of the evening meal, she will rush away from table, hearing the far from musical voice of the little tyrant. There are evenings when that voice is uplifted continuously, and when the father, alone downstairs, wonders if things will always go on in this dismal, uncomfortable fashion.
And in another way the new baby causes a feeling of resentment, and a very unjust one. The mother expects the father to be as delighted with a small person, aged a few weeks, as she is herself. This is a most unreasonable thing. It is not in nature for a man to find any beauty or charm in a very young infant, generally a remarkably ugly object, whether it be a red-faced baby or a sallow one. Its extraordinary facial contortions, in reality unconscious experiments with unaccustomed features, appear to him to denote approaching seizures of a threatening character, which will make demands upon him to which he feels himself utterly unable to respond. And yet the mother sees beauty and charm in all these things, for tunately for the baby. But she should not expect her husband to do so.
As the years go on, and the children grow older, there is a terrible dweller by the threshold, ready to seize upon and destroy domestic happiness. It is jealousy. That one parent should feel jealous of the devotion felt and shown by children to the other seems almost criminal. But in some natures jealousy is a disease. A man has been known to be jealous of his wife's pet dog; a woman of her husband's favourite hobby, even of his profession or business.
With parents of generous, open nature, there is less chance for this horrid enemy of happiness; but, unfortunately, there are narrow, egoistic men and women whose vanity is flattered by the preference of their children, and who adopt unworthy methods to secure it. Secret indulgences, with " Say nothing to your father!" or "Don't tell your mother!" are among these mean methods. There are then two factions in the house. The children soon learn how to benefit by this condition of things. They respect neither parent, and without respect there can be but little true affection.
A great cause of disagreement is in the bringing up of the children. One parent may believe in the dictum of the Wise Man, "He that spareth his rod hateth his son, but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes." The other partner may be self-indulgent, and foolishly object to any discipline whatevei in connection with the youngsters. The first recognises how vital it is for them to learn to obey, to be truthful, to be honest and sincere; while the second opposes every effort in this direction. Civil war in the home ensues, with all its miseries.
But there is a brighter picture. There are homes where children enhance the happiness of both parents as nothing else on earth could do. Brought up with constant care for their minds as well as bodies, they are "troublesome comforts" when small, and comfortable companions when grown up. A queen said of her dead son that he was "the best friend she ever had," and many a mother must have had a similar experience. A close observer has remarked that the happiest couples are those who have many children or none at all. This opinion is founded upon a long and wide experience, and is, therefore, worthy of some consideration.