When I decided I was ready, willing and able to become a mother, I knew the road ahead would be difficult. I wouldn't get sleep and I would doubt myself and the decisions I made for my kid would be questioned on a regular basis. What I didn't realize, however, was how frequently my relationship status would be questioned, too. As a mother who isn't married, I've been on the receiving end of some very prying questions. I'd like to think curious, well-meaning people just don't realize they're angering moms who aren't married, but there's a part of me that can't pretend that our society values marriage so heavily (and assumes every woman wants to get married) that when someone meets a woman who isn't married, all social etiquette is thrown out the proverbial window in favor of more information (or, sadly, judgment).
To be fair, I get that people just like to strike up conversations. I also understand that our culture has created a "check list" of life decisions, so-to-speak, so when people deviate from the "first comes love, then comes marriage, then comes a baby in a baby carriage" manual of life, people are genuinely confused. However, times are changing (thank the freakin' heavens) and there is no "normal-looking" family anymore. Families are vast and diverse and come in all sorts of combinations. Some parents are the same sex; some parents are divorced; some parents are step-parents; some parents aren't married. It's kind of the best, you guys. Arguably, for the first time in our nation's history, we can truly say that "family" is whatever you make it to be, and not be lying our faces off.
Which is why it can be hard to grit my teeth and smile and nod my way through the following situations. While I try to be understanding of other people's naivety (especially when it's not their fault) I can't help but simultaneously think, "You guys, it's 2016. Marriage isn't a necessity anymore. Let's, like, move on." So, with that in mind, here are a few ways you may be pissing off a mom that isn't married.
Asking Them When They Plan On Getting Married...
This question can be infuriating for a number of reasons, the most pressing being the assumption that the couple in question obviously wants to get married. It's not a matter of "if," but a matter of "when," because the person doing the questioning couldn't possibly fathom a situation in which a woman with a child doesn't want to be married. Ugh.
...Or If They Want To Get Married...
Marriage isn't the end-all-be-all of romantic relationships. While I understand curiosity, asking someone if they want to get married is more presumptuous than anything (not to mention, somewhat of an invasion of privacy). If you know the person very well, I'm sure this question isn't that big of a deal. However, if you don't, there's really no need to ask whether or not someone is going to get married. It builds marriage up to be the "norm," and positions anything other than inevitable marriage to be weird or strange.
...And Being Shocked If The Answer Is "NO"
I, personally, can do without the raised eyebrows or gasps after I tell someone that I don't plan on, or particularly want to, get married. There are so many things far more worthy of shock, than my marital status.
Asking When Someone Is Going To "Make An Honest Woman" Out Of Them
When I announced my pregnancy to my family, I was faced with this very question. While the majority of my family members were very supportive, there were a few that automatically assumed that my partner and I would hurry up and get married, because religion. Yeah, no. I'm an honest woman without a ring on my finger (unless my partner catches me watching Orange Is The New Black without him. I'm lying about that 'ish.)
Marriage doesn't define a woman, so I'd definitely appreciate it if people would just stop with this entire sentiment. Like, immediately.
When You Talk About How It Used To Be...
Oh, the good ole days, when everyone was married at a relatively young age (unless you were in a same-sex relationship, because you weren't allowed) and women were under a ridiculous amount of pressure to settle down and have children and never work a day in their lives, because gender stereotypes are super fun. I, for one, am very glad it's not 1953 anymore.
...And Openly Question Why No One Gets Married Anymore
I've heard this sentiment on multiple occasions, but honestly don't understand why. If my social media feeds are any indication, plenty of people are still getting married. It's just that others, well, are not.
When You Assume Her Relationship Is Lacking...
I know there are certain people either in my life, or perusing my life, that think my relationship will eventually end because we're not married. That, because we haven't made vows, we won't be committed for an extended or substantial period of time. Nope.
Plus, I mean, divorce is a thing, you guys. Marriage doesn't automatically mean two people are going to spend the rest of their lives together. The chances my partner and I split, and the chances of a married couple divorcing, are relatively equal.
...Or That Her Child Isn't in A Stable Environment
I can usually grit my teeth and stumble through an awkward conversation about my relationship's perceived or potential future, until someone questions my kid's happiness. To be fair, this has only happened to me once. However, to assume that a single mom or a mom that isn't married is somehow a "lesser" mom or a "failed" mom or a "bad" mom, is enough to make me want to scream expletives at a terrifying decibel. Marriage doesn't automatically make a woman "mom material," as there are plenty of married women who don't want or plan on having children. A marriage is not essential for a child to live in a loving, supportive, stable home.
When You Assume Her Kid Was An "Accident"
My pregnancy wasn't planned, but my kid wasn't an accident. Because I'm pro-choice and believe that a pregnancy doesn't automatically equal motherhood, my partner and I sat down and discussed our options when we realized we were pregnant. We both decided that we wanted and were ready to be parents, so our kid was a choice, not an accident or a "mistake."
Assuming a mother who isn't married was knocked up on "accident," and felt forced to have a baby is pretty presumptuous, at best. Sadly, some women do feel like they don't have the option (or the option isn't readily available to them) to terminate an unwanted pregnancy, but not every non-married mother is the bi-product of missed birth control pills. Some women want children, but don't want to get married. Honestly, it's that simple.