I’m A Married Mother, But That Doesn’t Make Me Anything Special

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Households in the United States look extremely different than they did 50 years ago, or even a decade ago. More adults are choosing not to have children. More children are being born to single parents. And more blended families are created every year. The high school sweethearts who married, had two and a half kids and a family dog are getting more and more rare. I’m not saying that this once-popular model wasn’t grand, I grew up in a home with parents who met in middle school. It was a wonderful experience. But that family model is becoming a relic. Most adults do not have and do not want to live that life. So why is it still held up as the ideal?

In the New York Times’s Well Blog, Tara Parker-Pope looks at the difficulties facing America’s singles. From fighting stereotypes to unfair tax codes, single citizens often get the short end of the stick. They get higher insurance rates. They have to deal with the constant assumption that they are somehow searching desperately for a soul-mate. I can understand the frustration that singles must be feeling.

Parker-Pope goes to great lengths to show the multitude of ways that singles contribute more to society than their married counterparts. She has some impressive statistics concerning singles propensity for volunteering and their genorosity in taking care of parents, siblings and extended family members. All of those points are definitely things to be proud of.

But forgive me for saying, I don’t think that makes singles better than those who choose to get married. I don’t think a ceremony and certificate makes anyone a better person, but I don’t think that committing to a relationship makes you worse either. Families tend to spend more time bonding with each other, which can often lead less time for the outside world. Single parents often look for close relationships outside of a normal family unit, reaching out to their communities and extended family members. And single, child-free individuals seem to give more of their time outside of their home, helping all of those around them. We all have our own strengths and weaknesses and we all contribute to society in our own ways.

One thing I can definitely agree with Parker-Pope on is that married people shouldn’t be given special treatment simply because they chose to get married. Anymore, this simple act doesn’t make you more stable and reliable than any other citizen. The tax code is built to encourage people to get married, but I don’t think the insitution needs any extra perks. Adults should get married because they want to stay with one person for the rest of their lives. They shouldn’t get married to maximize their refund.

And as a society, we need to stop assuming that single people are missing out on the greatest experience ever. Marriage isn’t for everyone. Children aren’t for everyone. I made the decision to get married and have a child because it made me happy. Those were my choices and they worked in my life. Not everyone will make the same choices and there’s nothing wrong with that at all. Maybe if we all stop assuming that our way is the correct path for everyone, we can come up with some policies that benefit every citizen, instead of incentivizing an outmoded ideal.