When Two Becomes Three

When a couple decides to expand the team and add in a third, by either having a baby or getting a designer dog (just joking) things change. Suddenly there is a third to focus on and give time, attention and love to.

There are many changes when a child comes along and a couple becomes three. There are many things to navigate but often there is no direct discussion about these things, because people are so busy. Things like the way household chores get divided when a baby comes along, or how finances will get managed when one parent is at home for a period of time with the baby. Then there are the areas of how time is allocated, now that a baby’s needs are number one priority,  how does each parent prioritise time for themself and the couple’s relationship.

If we look at biology we see how mammals operate when there are offspring involved. There are pair-bonded mammals  which mate for life similar to humans. Under stress the males move towards  the females for well-being and under pressure the females focus on the offspring. This is basic biology! So how do we as humans cope when we have less and less time for the couple relationship that at the beginning was a ‘love bubble’ and has evolved over time?

Many couples have gotten into the groove of doing the business end of life and have forgotten how to do the fun and connecting things in life. We are overwhelmed by our job demands, and as the child gets older they have more activities and needs that make toilet training look easy! We also worry about our children and put a lot of our focus onto them and often a lot of our thinking time, in systems theory this is called our life energy. When it goes in the direction of a child in the family, it can be counter-productive. We might get into the habit of always worrying about that one child or being concerned about how they will go in the future if we don’t do certain things in the present to help them. This is counter productive because our energy and worry can impede their emotional development. We can get in the way of our child becoming the person they want to be or were meant to be. Instead they become the person they think we want them to be, or do the things that will help us feel calmer and worry less about them.

Making a ‘project’ out of your child or children might seem like a great way of being a parent, but it probably won’t bode well for your child in the long term. Instead, systems theory informs us that we will make better parents when we can make a project out of ourself.  Being the best ‘you’ that you can be will ensure you are a ‘good enough’ parent.

 ‘Good enough parenting’ involves consistently providing a nurturing and supportive environment that meets a child’s basic emotional needs without striving for perfection. It focuses on being responsive, attuned, and present, allowing children to develop a sense of security and self-worth while recognizing that occasional mistakes are part of the parenting process.

There are no perfect parents and as a parent we all get it wrong sometimes.  My adult children have all told me as much!  As we transition from a couple to a family, we navigate the challenges and joys of new parenthood with resilience and love. Reflecting on this journey, I believe I did the best I could and hit the mark as a ‘good enough’ parent.


Donley, M.G., 2015. Mating and Parental Care. The Family Emotional System: An Integrative Concept for Theory, Science, and Practice, p.219.