How to Know If Having a Baby Now & Marrying Later Is Right for You

couple with babyBack in the olden days, couples pretty much always followed the same trajectory: Fall in love, get married, move in together, have a baby. (You can guess where "have sex" fell on that time line.) But today's couples aren't living so linearly. Many are having a baby first and THEN figuring out if they want to spend the rest of their lives together.

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Kourtney Kardashian, Zooey Deschanel, Mila Kunis -- they all had a baby before saying "I do." And it's not just A-listers. Forty-eight percent of all first births in the U.S. are to single moms.

Here's how to find out if marriage after kids could be right for you.

1. You're able to compartmentalize. We all get that children need a safe, nurturing environment to thrive, says Paul Hokemeyer, PhD, JD, a licensed marriage and family therapist based out of New York City, Los Angeles, and Telluride, Colorado. But can you see that happening even if you're not wearing a ring? Couples who choose to have a baby before tying the knot get that "marriage ... isn't necessary to provide these physical and emotional nutrients," says Hokemeyer.

2. You want a family on your own timetable. Having a baby when YOU'RE ready is empowering, Hokemeyer says. "You're standing up for what you believe rather than being surrogated to social, cultural, and religious demands." In other words, you're able to listen more to your own inner voice than what other people think you SHOULD do.

3. You care about marriage -- a lot. Prior to the debate over gay marriage, "marriage had become an institution that had stagnated," points out Hokemeyer. "[Many] people took it for granted and entered into it almost mindlessly." Now, we're more aware of how precious the privilege is. And you might not want to tie the knot unless you truly mean it.

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4. You want to be financially secure. According to the Pew Research Center, single never-married women feel VERY strongly that a potential spouse have a steady job first. After all, it is nice to have a nest egg before you build a nest. (Especially when your brood is going to need soccer cleats, braces, and college tuition one day.)

5. You can put your baby's needs before your own. "You must be mature and secure enough in your own life to provide the safest, most secure environment in which to raise your child," says Hokemeyer. And that means being pragmatic and coolheaded enough to co-parent down the line even if you and your partner DON'T work out. According to some stats, by the time a child turns 5, only about 35 percent of unmarried couples are still together.

All that said, here's something you might not have considered. "The cons of having a baby out of wedlock," Hokeymer points out, "are no different from having a child in wedlock."

We all want the same thing after all, yes? A happy, healthy baby. And a happy, healthy family dynamic. But how each of us gets there might look very different. 

 

Image via Monkey Business Images/Shutterstock

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