Musings from outside the mainstream.
A young woman writes in to Carolyn Hax saying she’s pregnant, and it’s a surprise as she was on birth control. The father is her long term boyfriend who is older, has a stable job and is very supportive. The problem she writes in about is that when she informed him, he stated clearly he was not considering marriage. She is hurt and wonders why this would be his first response and worries about the future stating she never planned on having a child “out of wedlock.”
Carolyn’s advice focuses on preconceived notions and suggests not reading too much into his first response. And she also counsels that there are many different parenting models that, while perhaps not her ideal, can provide for a stable and supportive childhood. And that’s all fine.
If so, then why I am writing a rebuttal column? It’s because Hax lets two comments slide that really need to be addressed because they perpetuate views that contribute to inequality and unshared responsibility.
“I don’t know if I can live with and raise a child with someone who is never going to want to marry me.”
“I don’t know how much responsibility it’s fair to give him.”
Before I parse these sentences, I’ll say that you speak of your relationship in positive and practical terms. And it doesn’t seem like you’re considering an abortion (sorry to be so blunt). But the point is that my response is geared towards the eventual reality of a child.
If I found myself in this situation I would simply want to be clear that marriage is not the default response to this circumstance. While not romantic, I think that’s fair and honest. People should not get married just because of a pregnancy, there has to be more.
So, let’s get back to the two sentences I take issue with. To me, they view the man as optional and removed from the decision making process and they saddle the woman with too much burden for this child.
If unmarried, living with the father of your child is not necessary. But, if you’re planning on keeping the child, then he has every right to be a parent, and you will be co-parents. And, it’s not your place (nor is it fair) for you to assume the mantle that you can grant or deny responsibility.
We, as a culture, should expect and assume you will shoulder the responsibility together. It starts now. Rather than focusing on the less than ideal circumstances of this pregnancy (out of wedlock), start talking about your hopes and dreams and start asking about his. From how you describe your relationship in your letter, you’re not alone in this pregnancy.
You describe him as a decent guy. Now, start treating him as an equal. Because it is a dated viewpoint to consider that the women gets to unilaterally decide whether or not she wants to “raise a child with someone who is never going to want to marry me.”
This where the hopes and dreams come in; have the courage to be honest and clear. And listen to him. How are you going to support each other in this process? Talk about what life will look like in a year. It might not seem so daunting if you begin the dialogue.
In closing, I’ll share this: I never wanted to be divorced. It was devastating to lose what I thought was ideal. But, my ex and I now co-parent remarkably well. We do better than we ever did when married. I am not a single parent. When I see truly single parents, I feel quiet fortunate to have a healthy and functional relationship with a co-parent.