Childrearing

Raising Children Out Of Wedlock Officially The New Normal

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marriageThose of you who have chuckled at Rebecca’s Eckler‘s insistence that “Raising A Baby With Your Husband Is So 2006” might want to reconsider the truth to such an assertion. It’s not only celebrities like Sienna Miller and Natalie Portman who are birthing babies without a quick jaunt to the altar. According to The New York Times, more than half of American children born to young women under 30 are born out of wedlock giving us new reason to recognize the many forms of family.

Such news calls into question the slow erosion of family as we’ve typically come to understand it: that being courtship, marriage, and then babies. For an entire generation of women, the trajectory has taken a much different route with mothers not wanting to necessarily promise forever and always to partners who don’t even exhibit themselves to be strong parents — and nothing is perhaps more a romance-killer than a partner who can’t even bother to change their fair share of diapers. Call these men and women what you will, I suppose. But for some, not marrying their child’s father is the best parenting decision that they’ve yet to make.

The Times also makes note of the whole marriage is reserved for the upper classes trend, citing college graduates as the group most likely to delay childrearing until after marriage. But with one sociologist describing the institution as a “luxury good,” the notion persists that a marriage certificate says more about your class in this day and age than anything else. And while children born outside of wedlock are reportedly more likely to suffer “from poverty…failing in school or suffering emotional and behavioral problems,” using a marriage certificate to assume a child’s development and upbringing is safe is problematic. While it is easily to assume that two married people are both committed, invested, and dedicated to a child’s upbringing,  a marriage license on its own is no such indicator of such priorities. Awful marriages persist at times to the detriment of the children who would otherwise benefit from not being raised in a violent and consistently argumentative household. And perhaps in response to a previous generation of women who looked to absolve their predicament of pregnancy simply by marrying the father, their daughters seem to not be entirely convinced that marriage is the answer.

Marriages clearly dissolve for a slew of reasons, but marital expectations not aligning with marital realities is a big modern chunk of them, especially when it comes to splitting childrearing duties and household responsibilities. Gender equality may be chipping away at a more traditional form of marriage, but that doesn’t mean that those still marrying aren’t aware of that sticky terrain.

The publication notes that one reason the wealthier class is still marrying is because they can pay people to do the chores that would otherwise “prompt conflict.” So if you’ve got money in the bank, it’s much easier to pretend like you’re both equal partners if you have someone else unloading the dishwasher and doing the laundry.

Yet, what these numbers ultimately reveal to us is that children need dedicated parents, regardless of how mommies and daddies choose to recognize or express their union. Marriage may have once been the sole way to quantify a dedication to family. But with that mold having now been challenged with time, we clearly need to recognize others.

(photo: Shutterstock)