Do Pregnant Single Moms Really Need a Ring?

Sasha Brown-Worsham

"First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes the baby in the baby carriage." We all know the order, but it's becoming more and more popular around the world to skip the part in the poem about marriage and go straight from love to the baby carriage. More and more people are having kids out of wedlock.

In parts of Europe, 50 percent of children are born to unmarried parents. Here in the US, according to the latest census, 1.5 million American families of all ages are made up of kids living with their unmarried parents.

The statistics don't lie and in a country where the divorce rate is 40 percent, who needs marriage anyway? Of course, in the US, they make it hard to be an unmarried parent.

Fathers must declare paternity and make sure they're on the birth certificate to have any legal rights to their children. It's difficult to get insurance for the whole family, and some parents who are still together are forced to do custody orders just to protect themselves.

It's maddening when one considers that marriage isn't even an option for all people in all states. I feel lucky to live in Massachusetts where all people can marry, but in places where gay marriage is illegal, it isn't even an option for some families. And yet, I've been married for eight years next month. I believe in marriage. I love the stability it affords me, the legal protection, and the official recognition of our union.

But obviously people don't need it to be pregnant. A recent piece on Alternet discusses the trend toward non-married families. Writer Ellen Friedrichs said:

I’m willing to bet, though, that whether or not they are a significant percent of the population, most of these children will turn out as well as their peers, and that if they do make bad choices in the future, these will have relatively little to do with the fact that their parents never bothered to tie the knot.

The statistics don't agree. The Princeton University’s Center for Research in Child Wellbeing showed that children born to unmarried parents don't fare as well as children born to married parents since their parents are more likely to be teens, more likely to be poor, more likely to suffer from depression, more likely to abuse substances, and more likely to have been in jail.

Of course, there were likely other factors at work. Marriage is certainly the traditional route and I've had more than one unmarried pregnant friend tell me she was self-conscious about the lack of a ring on her finger on more than one occasion. But besides the general pressure to marry and the obvious safety nets that marriage provides, marriage isn't necessary.

Then again, if you're committed enough to make a baby, why wouldn't you just go ahead and get married, too? What would hold you back?

Do you think people need to be married to have kids?


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