Then comes marriage,
Then comes a baby
in the baby carriage...
While I was lying in bed one night reading about the latest Hollywood couple and the reversal of love, marriage, and then baby, I tapped my husband’s back to ask him what he thought about unmarried people having babies. His answer surprised me. “Marriage doesn’t mean anything. For people that want to be committed they are; otherwise they’re not.” Leave it to a man to whittle his reasoning down in such a simplistic way. I rolled over, feeling dejected and wondering why we’d remarried if that’s how he felt. Oh yeah, for the four kids we already had.
Honestly, if I’d thought about our own rocky history before asking for his input, then his answer wouldn’t have been such a shock. He’s right. Marriage doesn’t guarantee commitment. (How else would Bethenny fill an hour-long talk show without infinite stories of infidelity?) And marriage definitely doesn’t mean what it used to for many people. Why else would the divorce rate be so high? Sometimes I meet people whose family dynamics are so complicated that I almost need to draw a diagram to decipher the family tree of divorced, remarried, step-kids, half-kids, biological kids, etc. That bothers me. And even though divorce came and went in my life, it was never what I wanted.
So while marriage might be pointless, in terms of commitment, there are many reasons why traditionalists like me still believe in marriage before kids. My opinion has nothing to do with conformity. If I’d adhered to society’s expectations, I would’ve never eloped on a workday or remarried the same man. Or worn a hideous plaid jacket with red trousers my first go round. What was I thinking?
Marriage gives kids security. Period. It cements that feeling of being united in one family. Sharing the same last name isn’t just convenient, it’s another sign of that commitment. (I know sharing the same name isn’t applicable to all cultures.) Marriage is also an extra roadblock that makes bailing out harder. At the time of my divorce, I regretted feeling locked in and restrained by the law. The meaning of marriage isn’t convoluted in kids’ minds or debated as an institution forced upon us. It’s simple. Black and white. And it matters. In a culture that often puts each individual’s needs before others, marriage is in the best interest of the children. Children who hopefully spawned from that commitment. (Or in some cases, came after an unplanned oops, but either way, loved the same.)
So in Hollywood, marriage might come after baby or maybe not at all, because there’s a different set of rules in fantasyland. But for the rest of us traditionalists in the real world, marriage is just as important as everything that should come after.