This Is Why We Don't Want To Get Married

Ad failed to load

My boyfriend and I had a baby together far before we ever considered getting married. Just weeks after we celebrated our one-year anniversary, we hastily picked up a home pregnancy test at a corner pharmacy one dreary Sunday morning. Two bold lines darkened almost instantly and confirmed our greatest fear: we were going to be parents. Fresh out of college, and just 22 years old, we’d both just begun our first jobs teaching abroad. After painstakingly considering all of our options, my boyfriend and I made the most sensible decision to return to our home country and start a life together with our new baby. Surprisingly, the last thing on our minds was a “shotgun wedding,” and we chose to remain unmarried indefinitely.

Having a baby unexpectedly threw us into a world of uncertainty, and adding the stress and attention of getting married was unappetizing for both of us. Besides, a marriage certificate couldn’t guarantee stability — that’s something we had to work on regardless. Though our decision to not marry is countercultural, we’re part of a growing cohort of couples who procreate and cohabitate before getting hitched. Statistics are against the success of relationships of our kind; data shows that unmarried parents are three times more likely to separate than married parents. The National Marriage Project even argues that because of our unmarried status as parents, our kid is more susceptible to social and emotional problems like depression, drug use, and even dropping out of school. Yet, after two solid years of living together unmarried, sharing finances and childrearing duties, I can confidently report that our marital status has hardly affected our ability to be decent parents.

Ad failed to load

We made the big move to live together when our daughter was just 2 months old so we could provide her with a consistent environment in which mom and dad are both present, something we both yearned for. The transition was rough in all the expected ways. I stayed home with our baby while my partner worked long 10- to 12-hour days, and arguments about whose turn it was to change the diaper and who needed more sleep inevitably ensued. We quickly realized that life with a child demanded a lot out of both of us, so we found ways to work out the kinks to balance work, family, and our relationship — a struggle most parents undergo.

To ensure that we both play a role in our child’s day to day, we split childrearing and housekeeping duties right down the middle. As soon as my boyfriend gets home, we take turns changing diapers. When I cook dinner, he bathes the little one. When we finish dinner, we swap duties and he washes dishes while I get our daughter ready for bed. The three of us snuggle in bed together, and my partner and I take turns reading stories and kissing our kid goodnight. We aim to show her that mom and dad both want to be present and engage with her in every way we can.

Ad failed to load

As our daughter gets older, we’ll try our hardest to make sure she doesn’t end up with poor social and emotional management skills, as studies say she’s susceptible to developing. In true toddler fashion, she’s gotten into the common, yet undeniably unpleasant, habit of hitting people when she’s frustrated. My boyfriend and I often discuss disciplining methods together and support each other in implementing them. Together, we are a team. Even though we’re not married, my boyfriend and I are committed to our relationship and make it a point to model kindness so that our daughter learns how to build strong relationships.

Quite honestly, affection is the last thing on my mind when a sticky toddler has clung me to all day. However, I’ve learned that my boyfriend feels validated when he comes home and is greeted with questions about his day and a kiss. He also makes a deliberate effort to say goodbye every morning, even if our daughter and I are still asleep. When my partner or I are sick, we show our daughter how to put someone else’s needs ahead of our own by “making daddy soup” or “giving mommy a hug.” However small, they set the tone of kindness.

Our daughter’s picked up on our small gestures of affection, and follows suit by kissing her dad before he goes to work and excitedly clinging to him when he returns. I’ve recently seen our daughter’s own empathy develop when she stops to ask why other children cry. She responds so poignantly to others’ emotions by offering Band-Aids and kisses to strangers when they hurt. My partner and I value thoughtfulness greatly, and we’re glad we can demonstrate it to our daughter together, even if we aren’t married.

Ad failed to load

At 2 years old, our daughter is still too young to ask about marriage, question why mom and dad aren’t married, or wonder when we will. In our daughter’s eyes, she simply sees two people on a daily basis who love her unconditionally, who are willing (albeit reluctant) to sing “Let It Go” with her for the zillionth time, and who comfort her amidst the emotional and unpredictable season of toddlerhood. If we were married, or even when we do get married, I doubt a single thing would change about how we parent. I don’t think we could do better than we already are, because we are already doing our very best.

We didn’t want the pain and potential regret of making the decision to get married so hastily to haunt our future together. So far, the choice to not marry hasn’t hurt us. Instead, it’s made us thinking seriously about how to make a relationship and family not only last, but thrive. We aim to be the best parents possible and provide an environment that fosters our daughter’s future success. Though research indicates finances, health, and educational attainment are all indicators that predict a child’s life outcome, the truth is that there is no “perfect family structure” that guarantees a child’s success in life. As my partner and I strive for further education and career advancement (he’s obtaining a Master’s degree), financial stability (I take on freelancing jobs when time permits), and an egalitarian household where we share most parenting duties when possible, it’s hard to believe that we’re “harming” the success of our child by not marrying. Our marital status itself isn’t the sole threat to the success of future and well-being: family income and parenting skills have a greater impact overall on how well our child will fare, and we aim to improve in both areas.

Ad failed to load

We hope to (maybe) marry one day, but more importantly, we've already committed to working through the great difficulties of raising a family together. If, and when, we do get married, we’ll have the rare pleasure of our daughter’s presence on our wedding day. Perhaps she’ll be young enough to have no recollection of her parents never being married. Or maybe she’ll be old enough to reflect on the journey it took her parents to get the to altar, witnessing the profound gravity of getting married. In the meantime, we fight any tendency to give in to a negative self-fulfilling prophecy and continue to do what we feel is right: to love our kid with all we've got, just as any parent, single or married, would do.

Images Courtesy of Loreann Talbo (5)

Ad failed to load
Must Reads

10 Reasons Why I Won't Apologize For Giving My Toddler A Pacifier

My first child had no interest in a pacifier. I tried a couple times to get him to take one, but he always spat them out and gave me an incredulous, judgmental look. But my second? It was love at first suckle. And after a while, the incredulous, judg…
By Jamie Kenney

Being A Dog Parent Prepared Me For Having A Baby, Really

I’ve always wanted kids; I was never as sure about raising a puppy. Then I spent six months living with someone who brought home an eight-week-old golden retriever puppy, and I see no way to make it out of that experience claiming not to love dogs. I…
By Heather Caplan

20 Of The Most Popular Unisex Names Of All Time, That You'll Be Hearing More Of For Sure

You might think of unisex names as a fairly recent trend, but the truth is these versatile monikers have been commonly used throughout history (well, some more commonly than others). That's why the team over at recently compiled a list of t…
By Jacqueline Burt Cote

How To Have A Date Night With No Babysitter, Because It's Easier Than You Think

After having children, many couples feel that their love lives immediately go out the window, but it's so important to make your romantic life a priority so both you and your partner can be the best versions of yourselves you can be. As we all know, …
By Abi Berwager Schreier

9 Ways Baby No. 3 Made My Family Feel Complete

My husband and I decided to have another baby right after we got married and, well, we had no idea what we were getting into. I got pregnant right away, endured a high-risk pregnancy, and, before I knew it, my third baby had arrived. Together, we emb…
By Steph Montgomery

8 Stereotypes About New Dads That Are *Totally* True

Much like new mothers, new fathers have a lot on their plate. Parenting can be scary and complex, especially at first and regardless of your gender. People want to do right by their kids, after all. And since all new parents are a hot mess, dads are …
By Priscilla Blossom

8 Differences Between Being Pregnant In Your 20s Vs 30s, According To Science

Whether you're planning a pregnancy, or just thinking about your future family, it's typical to think about things like child-spacing, how many kids you want, and when to start trying to conceive. When making your pro/con list, you might also conside…
By Steph Montgomery

16 Moms Share Remedies For Their Most Intense Chocolate Cravings During Pregnancy

For better or worse, pregnancy is usually synonymous with odd cravings. Sure, there are the stereotypical combos like pickles and ice cream that plague gestating women the world over, but there are other mind-boggling combinations, too, including but…
By Candace Ganger

Putting Sunscreen On Your Kid Doesn't Have To Be A Fight — Here's How To Do It

I am almost translucent, so me and sunscreen are basically besties at this point. Even though my children are beautifully deep brown thanks to my husband's genetics, I still slather them like biscuits being buttered because I refuse to take risks wit…
By Cat Bowen

7 Things A Mom Really Means When She Says She Doesn't Want Anything On Mother's Day

Every year my family asks me what I want for Mother's Day, and every single year I tell them the same thing: Nothing. So, by now, they know that when I say "nothing" I absolutely do not mean "nothing." In fact, there are more than a few things a mom …
By Candace Ganger

19 Moms Share The Way They Cured Their Pregnancy Comfort Food Cravings

I was obnoxiously sick during the first trimester with, "lucky" for me, both of my pregnancies. For the first three months I lived on saltines, lemonade, and fresh bread. Once I was able to eat, however, all I wanted was savory and sweet comfort food…
By Dina Leygerman

8 Fascinating Facts About Babies Born In May, The Luckiest Month Of All

The height of all things fresh and springy, May is an excellent month to have a baby. It's a time of growth, graduations, and outdoor celebrations. And these fascinating facts about May babies will give you more reasons than ever to appreciate childr…
By Lindsay E. Mack

I Used To Judge Formula-Feeding Moms — Until I Became One

The other patrons in the hip Brooklyn restaurant probably couldn’t care less what I was feeding my baby, but I’ll always remember the shame I felt as I quickly mixed up his bottle of formula in front of them. I admitted to my childless friend that I …
By Katherine Martinelli

7 White Lies It’s Necessary To Tell To Keep Your Relationship Healthy

Telling lots of lies typically isn't associated with a healthy, strong, lasting relationship, and that's still certainly true, but not all lies are exactly the same. Though you've probably heard from someone at least once or twice that the lie they t…
By Lauren Schumacker

The Skinny Jeans That Saved Me Postpartum

Accepting my post-pregnancy body is hands-down one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done. It’s something that I still work on every single day. During my first pregnancy, I was 20 years old, so I managed to bounce back quickly. In fact, I dropp…
By Allison Cooper

7 Ways Your Baby Is Trying To Say They Feel Safe

In those first weeks of new motherhood, it can feel like you need an interpreter for your newborn. With their limited means of communication, figuring out what message your baby is trying to get across to you can be a challenge. With time, however, y…
By Kimmie Fink

Here's Why Dogs Are Obsessed With Babies' Poop, According To Science

Most family dogs seem to understand babies, and they're more than happy to make friends with the newest member of the pack. It's adorable... for the most part and until you go to change your little one's diaper. Suddenly, you're wondering why dogs ar…
By Lindsay E. Mack

6 Signs You're Meant To Have A Big Age Gap Between Kids

There's a five year age difference between my two children, to the day. Their age gap wasn't planned but, for a variety of reasons, works well for our family. And since I was so focused on having a second baby, I totally overlooked the signs that wou…
By Candace Ganger

Here's How To Introduce Your Pet To Your Baby & Make Everything As Calm As Possible

Our home, which we lovingly refer to as “the funny farm,” is filled with four-legged family members. We have two crazy beagles and two cat jerks, and boy are they loved and spoiled. (As they should be.) But we are now finally having a baby of our own…
By Abi Berwager Schreier

Here's The Right Birth Method For You, According To Your Zodiac Sign

If you're pregnant, you've probably given childbirth some serious thought. Some moms-to-be prepare a meticulous birth plan, while others are comfortable just going with the flow. And me? Well, I made a plan... but that plan was useless when faced wit…
By Steph Montgomery

My Dog Knew I Was Pregnant Before My Family Did

Growing up, I was 100 percent sure I'd be a mom one day. To a dog, that is. My baby plans came later. And once my husband and I were sure we wanted both a dog and a baby, we'd add to our joint dog-and-baby name list over Sunday brunch or on date nigh…
By Melissa Mills