Stephanie and Alonzo are co-workers and they’re both expecting children at the same time. Stephanie is married, meanwhile Alonzo isn’t. Over the course of a few months they would talk about the commonalities of her (Stephanie’s) and his girlfriend’s respective pregnancies. “Is your wife doing breathing classes”? “Did you guys pick out a name?” “I’m craving X,Y,and Z, what about her?”
Not long after their children were born, Stephanie went to Alonzo and asked him about his wife and how she is doing. A co-worker overhead and chimed in with, “Alonzo’s not married, that’s only his girlfriend”. Stephanie suddenly got on her soapbox and called Alonzo out: “Wait… you’re not married? You mean to tell me you got that poor girl pregnant and you don’t wanna marry her”? Alonzo’s suddenly embarrassed about having his business put out there, but kept his cool and simply replied: “Just because my child was born out-of-wedlock doesn’t make him or my situation any less than yours, so I don’t understand the problem”.
Now before you say he should have told her to mind her business, let’s really focus and consider the some questions this scenario raises, which are: Is it or is it not wrong to have a child out-of-wedlock, and what does any of that really mean? There are some who feel having a child out-of-wedlock is wrong and doesn’t make the family ‘whole’ while also factoring in the religious or ‘old-fashioned’ aspect of it.
On the flip side there are people who would agree with Alonzo and say, “What’s the big deal”?
Now do I agree with Alonzo or the masses? It’s tough to say. One part of me says if my significant other and I are not married but we’re engaged, or have been together for a while, marriage is in the works and we happened to conceive, then no harm, no foul. On the other hand, if we’re just in a relationship and there’s a desire to be married first in order to make it more of a ‘family vibe’, there’s a case that can be made for that too.
There is also a school of thought that says,”If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. True story: One of my good friends’ parents were together for 10 years and conceived 3 children BEFORE they were married and are still together today. I guess it’s whatever floats your boat. In Alonzo’s case I can see him being offended because he did have a valid point: Why should his child be shunned or put in a box because he [Alonzo] wasn’t married like the Stephanies of the world? Who knows, maybe Alonzo’s child will grow up to be a life saving surgeon while Stephanie’s child may end up living on skid row status.
Marriage can be a beautiful, bountiful blessing for two people who are ready to raise a family, but as much as it can be a gift, it can also be a curse; and conceiving in wedlock doesn’t mean that your child will necessarily become someone ‘special’ for lack of a better term. I am kind of torn to be honest because it depends on HOW the child is raised, not whether there’s a ring involved or not. Mr. SoBo what’s your take?
Mr. SoBo’s take
Sup folk. Aiight, so I got a lot of living to do fo’ I die, so I aint got time to waste. Lets make it.
In the most ideal settings, it is far better for a child to be born and raised within a marriage as opposed to outside of one. There I said it.
Of course this is largely based on a prevailing presumption that in situations involving unmarried couples with children, one parent is either completely MIA, the relationship is marred with instability and conflict a’la baby mama/daddy drama, the child will be shuffled between households, and the courts are involved one way or the other. In the event such toxic issues are not currently present in those situations, it is only a matter of time before they develop. Now it is understandable that many will argue that such presumptions are totally ridiculous, ill conceived and riddled with sweeping generalities. That might very well be. That is…until it isn’t.
Firstly, lets toss the entire theological overtures of marriage out of this discussion, as that will undoubtedly open thousands of rabbit holes we need not borough through.
Now let the games begin.
In a perfect world (as we have been taught), marriage is considered the quintessential relationship of all relationships. It signifies the maturation and union between two individuals (and their respective families) determined to share a life of wealth and love together in which they will bring forth (should they choose) offspring to nurture within their of circle of familial love. As ideal, and dare I say, ‘romanticized’ and ‘Disneyfied’ that may sound, is there truly anything wrong with this? Of course realistically, many – hell I’ll even say most – marriages probably fall short on delivering such ‘fairytale’ promises. However, is that reason enough to turn one’s back on the ideal and forgo all efforts to raise a child within an atmosphere such as the one marriage is said to provide?
Within a marriage, its safe to presume a child (or children) will be raised TOGETHER under ONE roof with his/her parents present. Within this environment, the child is exposed to the relationship dynamic not only between itself and whom he/she knows as mom and dad, but also witnessing the relationship dynamic of the parents as husband and wife. It goes without saying that the psycho/socio/sexual impact this has on a child reared in such an environment is nothing short of instrumental to his/her development, identity, view on relationships, and outward perspective on the world.
Is this to say that a loving unwed couple cannot provide a similar environment and set the same examples for their children? Of course not, as they most assuredly can and have. Plenty of loving unmarried couples cohabit and raise successful families within their households. At the same time, there are also many unmarried couples that live in separate households, and then there are single parents.
The truth of the matter is that times have indeed changed. There has been a sizeable shift within our culture over several decades that has undeniably had a profound impact on the institution of marriage, how we as members of society view this institution and ultimately how it has kept up (if at all) with our social/technological advancements and [d]evolving (depending on who you ask) societal expectations and values.
The net result? Well, today’s men and women are simply not getting married…at least not at the same rate our parents were. A result of modern financial/economic and educational demands, ‘gender equality’, societal influence as well as living in the advent of open and clandestine casual sexual relationships that seemingly have replaced courtship rituals of yesteryear. People are delaying marriage, or in many cases, not even getting married at all. According to one study published by the CDC, unwed couples have replaced traditional marriage families as the norm here in the states – a clear sign of the changing times and attitudes.
How do children fit into all of this?
26 percent of American children are raised in single parent households. In 2012 the CDC reported 1 in 4 babies are born outside of wedlock, taking care to note that although these couples are unmarried, many of them are indeed living together and raising their children together. That may seem wonderful on its face, however there is an interesting caveat: It only holds true for certain segments of the population.
When broken down by race, the study reveals significant racial disparities. Unlike their White and Hispanic counterparts who are birthing children within relationships (i.e, marriage, cohabitation with a s/o, etc), Black women are more commonly having children not only outside of marriage, but also outside of any semblance of a relationship at all. To compound this finding, of all the Black children born in the states, a whopping 72 percent of Black infants are born and raised in single parent homes . Given this fact, coupled with the myriad of issues afflicting the Black community (primarily our Black youth and the struggles they face), it is rather perplexing why marriage – an institution that has been documented to yield more positive results concerning children who are reared within them than those who are not – has now somehow become an antiquated concept.
Race aside, even in less than ideal marriages that are troubled (as some 50 percent of them are said to end in divorce), there’s greater likelihood among married couples to salvage their relationship for the sake of the children, if not for themselves. Whether this is due to societal pressures, expectations, personal convictions or just a general attitude surrounding marriage, the reasons are up for debate. Conversely, unwed couples are less likely to ‘weather the storm’ while sailing in troubled waters when compared to their married counterparts. After all, there are no binding legal, financial, social, or commitment obligations beyond the child(ren) they share together. In other words, it is far easier to walk away from a girlfriend or boyfriend than it is to walk away from a marriage.
With such a higher probability of relationship dissolution among unwed couples with young children, the disruption of home life thereafter becomes these children’s reality as they will have to adjust to a new living situation that oftentimes leaves them with more questions than answers. Prompting the need for a conversation that can be quite difficult, but also absolutely necessary for a parent to have. All things considered, it can be concluded that children run the risk of facing different and greater challenges being born out of wedlock, than they would being born within it.
That said, let me switch gears right now and bring this home. The truth of the matter is that marriages are planned, and although babies can be too, for many of us, they are not. And the impending arrival of one shouldn’t be a reason to plan a wedding. One passion filled night of reckless “it felt too good to pull out” abandon, a defective/ill fitting condom, or a missed pill and BAM, say hello to your little DNA carrying friend. Sh*t happens. Life happens.
So what is a couple do? Whether its wedding bells or only doorbells, once a child enters the equation, mother and father are united in a common cause. Make an ideal situation out of a less than ideal situation. Put that child first and operate in his/her best interest by working together to create an ideal environment while being the best mother and father that child will ever have. Although I firmly maintain that a child born within wedlock will fair better than a child that is not, you certainly don’t need a marriage license to be a great parent.
So is it better for children to be raised in or out of marriage? Does it even matter? Are there any pros and cons of either? And why do you think marriage is on the decline? Speak your mind, the floor is yours.
– Cortonio & Mr SoBo
[Title update on 01/15/19. Post Originally entitled, “To Conceive or not to Conceive out of Wedlock? That is the Question.”]