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To Conceive Or Not To Conceive Out Of Wedlock, That Is The Question

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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.

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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 good reading folk of OM, 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

12 comments on “To Conceive Or Not To Conceive Out Of Wedlock, That Is The Question

  1. This is a topic that I have been thinking about pretty often for the last few years given that I am in the 30+ club of women who have been told by everyone (including my doctor) that it is time for me to have a child. But, after some deep soul searching, I have decided that I will continue to set my sites on having a child when I’m in a stable and monogamous relationship; one that seems promising of a more traditional family structure. Now, I realize that the decision is not solely up to me and that there are no guarantees, but something inside of me feels the need to try hard to do my part in making that happen. The difficulty for many of us women (who are in my situation) is that the very thought of not bearing children is synonymous with not reaching our peak of womanhood. And honestly, if I never had the opportunity to birth and raise my own child, there would be a hollow space in my heart. But, just as much as I desire to experience every sense of being a woman, I firmly believe in family, the power it has and the necessity for it.

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    • Well said. You have a very selfless approach to family. Its very easy for many of us to get caught up in the desires/wants of having a child once we reach a certain age. Sure, we may be in financially stable positions to care for one, but it appears (more often than not) that a lot of that urge is based solely on our wants without taking account the child’s needs (stability of family structure and emotional developmental nurturing from both parents). With a bit more forward thinking, it is hopeful that individuals planning to be parents would work harder at establishing more stable relationship foundations prior to conceiving. Its all to easy to forget that its not always about us, especially when there is another life involved.
      Great comment and thanks for chiming in!

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  2. Good post, I like the tag team. You should write more, Sobo.

    The question of whether or not it’s better to have a kid in or out of wedlock is irrelevant. Marriage is clearly on the decline, and soon enough out-of-wedlock children will likely be the norm.

    Instead of trying to convince people with a bunch of scary statistics that marriage is the best option for a happy, well-adjusted child, it’s time to shift the conversation and take a more progressive approach to relationships and parenting. We should be discussing how couples can be better co-parents, whether or not they’re married or even in a relationship.

    Part of that conversation should involve changing laws to give men more legal rights to their children; I think this would encourage them to be (or stay) involved in their kids’ lives. The UK is actually dealing with this issue right now, as their rate of cohabitation is now equal to the rate of marriage.

    http://www.theguardian.com/money/2012/sep/20/cohabiting-parents-avoid-legal-uncertainties

    I agree with a lot of what you guys wrote. The only thing that bugged me was the so-called racial disparities between parents of out-of-wedlock children, specifically this: “Black women are more commonly having children not only outside of marriage, but also outside of any semblance of a relationship at all.”

    Just because a couple isn’t living together (i.e. cohabitating) doesn’t mean that they’re not in a relationship. Relationships and cohabitation aren’t mutually exclusive. Maybe I’m overlooking something in the study, but to me it sounds like another way to pathologize black folks’ behavior.

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    • Aly I do agree with the co-parenting if it’s not used as an only option. If you were married or simply together and things didn’t work , absolutely co parenting is a solid way to go, as long as both parents are ready to set aside their differences and bitterness as to why things didn’t work out..fine.

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    • “…it’s time to shift the conversation and take a more progressive approach to relationships and parenting. We should be discussing how couples can be better co-parents, whether or not they’re married or even in a relationship.”

      ^^ See that right there? This is exactly why we encourage comments from our readers. 100 % Agreed. Perhaps that will be a topic of a post in the very near future. Great comment overall.

      As far as the stats, they may just be ‘scary’ enough to encourage that young brotha/sistah in the not so great financial position or relationship to actually keep the condom on (or put it back on); and those who are considering becoming parents to perhaps look beyond the “I’m ready to have child now” feelings, and instead take a closer look into the stability of their relationship and consider the long term emotional needs of the child(ren) they intend on bringing into the world.

      As far as the stats pertaining to single Black mothers,… I can’t really say more other than we all know very well that plenty of our Black children are being raised in fatherless homes. This is an ugly truth about our relationships, and to turn away from it is to our own detriment…even if such statistics are coming from sources that may or may not have an agenda.

      I read your link. The UK is certainly dealing with this very same issue. The laws certainly do have to change domestically and abroad if the best interests of the children are really what matters. The hesitancy to change these laws to be more balanced is what really reveals an established agenda that is unwilling to relinquish its control.

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  3. This is a subject that I think about quite frequently. Being raised in a two parent married household, I expected to one day be married and have children. Which I did. If that had not worked out like I planned, I would have accepted my life regardless. What concerns me is that so many of our younger generation (teens – mid 20s) do not even see marriage as being a real goal or expectation. I have had a few younger female family members (21 and 23) say to me, “if not for u and your husband, I would not believe in marriage at all” or ” you are the only married couple I know”. This saddens me so much. My husband and I are in our early 30s and maried for 7 years. I do not see my relationship as being perfect and we work hard do it, for ourselves and children. When we said “I do” we made it clear to one another that we did not believe in divorce and it meant forever.

    I truly believe parents do not realize how much impact they have on their children wih their actions, whether positive or negative. I have seen over and over, a parent deciding to go back to college and the child deciding he wants that as well. No one should be in a relationship that is unhappy and no one should feel like they have to be married. Many children are raised in single households and they are just as great as the next person. However, people should really sit down and thing about what they want for themselves and their future children and go from their based on those values. Don’t in the midst of sex decide not to use a condom because you love each other, however you have never talked plans of marriage. In addition, I know so many women who have children by numerous men and it is so chaotic and drama full. Mothers are working hard and also stressed out because they want their children to have healthy relationships with their fathers however are frustrated because they feel try are working harder than the men. The fathers are not seeing it the same way at all. A child may feel resentful that their sister sees their father every weekend and her father may see get on a sparadic holidays only.

    In the end, to each their own. No judgements for the choices that you make. I just encourage people to make a choice knowing that it is bigger than themselves. Lastly, take Into account the long term plan and if you are consciously planning on a potentially bringing a child into the world ( we all know when we be slacking with the condoms or missing a pill), whether you are married or not, think beyond this moment.

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    • Smiles, well said….. those who get married don’t fully realize that it should be “til’ death do us part” and things don’t work, which is why people should really get to know each other before making that step-but that’s another article for another time. However it does sadden me because when I was a child coming up there were very few cases of single parents/baby momma/baby daddy stuff. Children shared the same last names as their siblings, and families were more united. It was even depicted on television shows as well (Cosby Show and Good Times are a couple that come to mind) now it is becoming more and more obsolete to the point where it’s almost expected that a child of color is in a single parent household, or worse (depending on who you ask) raised by an aunt, grandmother, or sister–which begs another question where is the testosterone? But again another article for another time. Thanks and Welcome to Opinionated Male

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  4. The article is very thought out, except for the go to percentage of Kids out of Wedlock……….. You do know that rate is three years old and has Definitely Changed since 2010, just like the percentage of Black Men that marry Black Women is at 83%- which means More “Black Love” than the tall tale of “Brothas leaving Sistas for Beckys”

    I was born to a Married Union and it was Far from Perfect but Dysfunctional and full of Drugs and Hypocrisy. While my Daughter was born to her Mother and I Never being Together and Never Will Be, I want a whole Better Upbringing than I did

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    • “…percentage of Kids out of Wedlock…..You do know that rate is three years old and has Definitely Changed since 2010,..”

      Interesting that you say this. I was actually considering adding an addendum to this post. I had been doing some digging into the research, and its only right that I update this piece with my findings. Stay tuned.

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  5. […] weeks ago Cortonio and I published, “To Conceive Or Not to Conceive Out of Wedlock, That Is The Question” where for the first time, we collaborated giving our respective takes on the topic. There were some […]

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  6. Ask children born to or living in single-parent households what they want most and they will say the truth. Just because it’s more prevalent doesn’t mean it’s ideal or in the best interests of all involved. We are as a community literally and figuratively killing ourselves to maintain separate but equal households, with our children, communities, and hence our collective wealth (not meaning just $$$) as pawns. Not always, but more often than not, children do what they see before they do what parents and other adults or advisers say. We have to purpose to be and do better before we can tell them to do better. With all birth control methods available and plan b and plan c, unplanned birth or unwanted birth is obsolete terminology…excuses for irresponsible living. Change your mind change your life.

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