Despite the undeniable joy of it all, many women grieve for their former selves. Even when the decision to start a family is a deliberate one, there can be a profound sense of loss … loss of professional identity, loss of career opportunities, loss of freedom, loss of independent income. Yet still in our culture it is somehow unacceptable for a woman to admit this grief. She is supposed to accept without question that it is her career that must go on the backburner, that it is she who must make all the compromises, and she who should feel guilty if she doesn’t just take it on the chin. With the increasing trend for first-time mothers to be older, this scenario is becoming more and more common. It must ultimately have an effect on the sexual dynamics in the relationship. For Elaine it was a major issue. ‘I look back now and see how angry and depressed I was. All of my friends were still negotiating big corporate deals, meeting after work for drinks and zipping off for weekends away. It was like I’d been sent to another planet, our lives were so far apart. I resented Matt because he could still go off to work every day while I was stuck at home with a pile of washing, a screaming baby and cracked nipples. It seems strange now, but I know I pushed him away sexually because he seemed to have everything his own way.’
The loss of independent income for one partner can have major ramifications too. Less money must mean a change of lifestyle and this can be very stressful. Apart from having less disposable cash to go around, having to ask for money for new clothes or a haircut is humiliating for someone who has been accustomed to financial independence. I know of some women who put off pregnancy until they had saved enough of their own money to tide them over the year they were off work so that this didn’t happen. Added to this, therapists have long recognized that money dictates the balance of power in many relationships. One relationship counsellor said it was virtually impossible to work with some couples if one partner controls all the finances because if that partner doesn’t like what they’re hearing in therapy, they will refuse to continue paying for it. This is just one example of the way decision-making is dictated by financial control. This is what is meant by a power game. Now whether it’s intentional or not, that attitude can filter down through all levels of the relationship.