Why do I need to get married just because we have a kid?

Guest post by Nikki Cupcake

From the second I knew about my son’s upcoming arrival, the same questions kept coming up, the biggest one being, “Are you married?”

After I answered no, everyone seemed to assume that my son’s father was out of the picture. To their surprise, my son’s father is very much involved.

I would just look at them and say “You know it’s possible to be in a relationship with someone, have a child and not be married, right?”

It’s not just random strangers that had this skewed view on what defined a family. My partner’s family and my family also shared the same idea. During every one of my son’s unveilings the someone would always ask, “So when are you guys getting married?”

I would just reply “Why fix what’s not broken?”

I worry for people who run and get married when they have a child, I worry that they’re rushing into something that they didn’t need to hurry. Not everyone is ready to get married as soon as they know they’re going to be a family.

Some people are ready — and that’s awesome, but my partner and I weren’t. We didn’t think were ready to have a child when we did, so why would we throw a wedding on top of that?

I felt us not getting married and rushing into things was the most mature thing to do, since we did rush into have a child.

My son lives in a very loving home with his two very loving parents. My partner and I share our lives together and now share a son. We are a family. Yet we aren’t married, nor do we plan to be any time in the near future.

Comments on Why do I need to get married just because we have a kid?

  1. Hm. Because of the extra legal protections and federal benefits? You don't have to have a ceremony or anything. But I know my partner and I are getting a domestic partnership (can't get married yet…) so I can have health insurance, so…

    • the coolest thing about the company i work for is that my partner can partake in my health insurance without being in a domestic partnership.

      my company also allows same sex couples also on our insurance in any state we are (which i'm pretty sure is all 50)

      and there are no extra legal protections or benefits. there's a penalty for being married on your taxes!

      the only thing legally that i came across was my son had to take my last name….. which i don't mind

      • I know a bunch of unmarried couples who had children – and almost all of them took the fathers name – I wonder why that was different in your case?

      • Interesting. I work in the mother/baby unit in the hospital, and the baby takes the father’s name in almost every case (I rarely see married couples actually). I have my mother’s last name, but that’s because my father wasn’t in the picutre when I was born (thankfully… I’m glad my last name isn’t Pitts!). NJ laws must be different.

      • you really don’t think there are any legal protections or benefits to getting married? why do you think gay couples want to get married, then?

        there are numerous things that your child’s father cannot do, if you are incapacitated due to an accident or illness or act of god, that he would be able to do if you were married.

        in fact, the human rights campaign website (which got its information from reports on the defense of marriage act) states that there are 1,138 benefits, rights and protections provided on the basis of marital status in federal law. that’s not even counting local and state regulations.

        if you don’t want to get married, that’s cool and it’s totally your business. but to say that there are no legal protections or benefits is flat-out wrong.

  2. I'm with you. I -wish- my sister hadn't rushed into getting married after she got pregnant, and I'm 80% certain she wishes she didn't either. In fact, even while they were planning the wedding, she always talked about how she was only doing it because he wanted to, not because she wanted to or thought it'd be the best thing for them or the baby. And now she pretty much hates him, but can't get herself out of it.

    It's funny, because I always wonder what people are thinking when they do stuff like that to themselves– like buying a house when you're about to get married or something. You're already stressed and have a huge expense coming up, why do you have to have two? Can't the house (or wedding, in the case of a baby) wait until a year or so after, so you've time to recover emotionally and financially, instead of digging yourself into a bigger hole? And that's -assuming- you want both of those things, rather than that you're just doing them because of societal pressures to do so.

    • i agree let it wait!

      my best friends got engaged because they wanted to…. then found out they were pregnant, but their not running to get married before the baby is born, they're going to keep with the plans they already made

      • this happened to my partner and i. he proposed to me and a few months later i got pregnant. any money we had saved for the wedding then went to prepare for the baby instead! a few years down the road and we now have another baby together…and don’t think too much about the marriage thing. for now we’re enjoying our lengthy engagement and parenting our two little ones together. but i’ll tell ya – we never hear the end of the “when are you getting married” question, even from family members who should really know better by now. oh well!

  3. My mom met my (Step) Dad when I was 5 months old. They didn't get married until I was 10, and I didn't know he wasn't my Biological Dad until I was 12… so for my entire childhood I thought my parents were unmarried. I always heard snide comments from other parents, but it never bothered me. I knew my parents loved eachother and that is all that really mattered to me. When they did "finally" get married, it was because they were ready to get married, not because they felt like they had to.

  4. My daughter's father and I are not married and we get TONS of the marriage banter from all sides. I live in a super conservative community, so people are so quick to judge our situation. When I step back and look, I see that just because a person shares a last name, or has a ring on their finger does not make a family. We have been together for 5yrs. and we still have many things to work out. We attend therapy (which I'm not ashamed to say) to guide and give us a bit of help we need. Our daughter has a healthy and happy life, That's all I can ask for…the way I figure it, adding a wedding and more financial hardship to the mix is not going to make things easier on the honeymoon.

  5. i'm married, going on 2 years now. marriage has always been important to me personally, but i'm a strong believer that a child needs a strong mother figure as well as a strong father figure in their life. as long as there's that, then something like legal marriage doesn't seem like it would get in the way of anything. it's just a document. small potatoes compared to having a child.

    ***marriage doesn't change a relationship – the people in the relationship change because of over-thinking what the definition of marriage is. *** so, to say "why fix something that's not broken?" doesn't really make sense to me. it sounds insecure.

    regardless if the mother or father is the biological parent – the significance of a male and female figure in a childs life has always been important to me. it makes me sad to see a kid grow with only one in their life…even an older brother, uncle, aunt, older sister, etc….some kind of model to grow with.

    i have a close friend who is in a lesbian relationship but has an adopted baby girl. this little girls uncle is as big of a part of her life as any father would be and i know my friend wouldn't have it any other way because she agrees with me.

    however, i'm also a believer that if you are not married to the father of your child the child should have the mother's last name. call it feminist, call it what you want – but the female instinctivly (a majority of the time) does all the work and should protect every legal aspect possibility for their child. it shocks me how many women give their child the father's last name in these kind of situations.

    • If both parents are listed as the parents with equal paternity rights on the birth certificate, etc. what does the last name have to do with it? Curious…

    • I agree about the last name. I thought I would give my daughter my last name since her father & I were not married. When I had her I got to name her (a name that he wasn't as fond of) and ended up giving her his last name. I don't know why I did it, since I wasn't sure that we would stay together. Hopeful thinking that we might work it out I guess. Wish I hadn't now. I figured he would have her 1/2 the time if we broke up, but so far that hasn't been the case. SO glad we did NOT get married.

    • I am not married to the father of my child and my son carries his last name. We are together and a very happy family although we are unmarried. Why shouldn’t my son have his last name again? Please clear this up for me. I do agree in some circumstances that the child should have the moms last name perhaps if the father isnt in the picture, but what if he is? And what if the family is happy??

    • my fiance and i have 2 children together, and our kids have *both* our last names. why does it have to be one or the other? i also think it’s cool when parents can make up a new last name for their children, or for each partner to change their last name to upon marriage. different strokes and all… 😉

  6. AMEN!
    We have a 20-month-old and I swear the second that I told my father that I was pregnant, his first reaction (after, "does that boy smoke pot?") was "If he's any kind of man at all, you just need to get married, and soon." To which I delightfully replied, "Because getting married worked out so well for you?"
    I decided on a few rules – 1. We were not going to even think about planning a wedding until the baby was a year old. 2. We weren't going to care what other people thought.
    The first rule was put in place because babies change things. We hadn't been talking marriage really before the baby and I didn't want the baby to steer us into something we weren't planning any way. And babies are happy occasions. At least, she was for us. And I didn't want the euphoria of a new baby and instant family to cloud my judgment on whether or not I really was with the right person.
    The second rule was put in place because there are too many people out there with too many opinions. And we just don't care.
    So yeah – maybe my child was born out of wedlock. But I'll tell you one thing – we won't be getting divorced when she's five because we didn't put pressure on each other to do something in a hurry. We're comfortable where we are and our kid is raised in an awesomely low-stress environment. And most likely – next year – we'll have a little shin-dig and make it legit. Until then, we're happy together. And that's the important thing.

  7. my partner's mother took a special trip across the country when she found out i was pregnant, and took us out to dinner to try and convince us to tie the knot so his gramma wouldnt be upset! ..what?
    i said absolutely not. and blah blah blah, about not needing pile of papers to validate our love and commitment, thank you very much, and i sure as hell am not making a serious life decision based on other people's beliefs.
    The awkward part was that this was the first she had heard about our relationship at all as john is very private person, so i may have come on a little strong. But i think in the long run and now that we have become close, she has all the more respect for me for being so honest with her.

  8. Hear hear for the idea that marriage isn't necessary to create a loving, cohesive family. I was raised by a loving mother and loving stepfather who were together for over 20 years, but never married. They were both of the 1960s and felt that they "didn't need to involve the state in their relationship." It was never a problem for me, or for them. And, many of my gay and lesbian friends who are unable to marry have some of the most wonderful, stable families I know.

  9. As someone who stayed in a bad marriage much longer than she should have, I agree that having a child doesn’t equate with having to get married. That said, there are just two points I wanted to make.

    1. There are legal benefits to you as a couple if you get married that go beyond health insurrance such as medical decisions and estate issues.

    2. Marriage =/= weddding. When I got married the second time around, we orginally planned a nice fair size ceremony. Then I got pregnant. We scrapped those plans to avoid the stress, and instead went to the courthouse. It took one week, and that’s only because there is one week waiting period in the state I live in.

    • I just fixed all those medical decision and estate issues with 30 minutes in my lawyer’s office. The only thing that we can’t do as if we were married is file taxes as such.

  10. Brava! Great post… Marriage and kids are two separate issues, anyways! And it's not like married couples have the greatest track record for longevity these days, either. Good for you both for sticking to what works best for YOU!

  11. Whatever work. Especially since the insurance situation is all cool with your employer. I knew a couple that had three kids and never married and they gave the same "if it ain't broke, don't fix it." Johnny Depp was engaged to a slew of ladies and married before having children with, and NOT marrying, the woman he's with now. He seems pretty happy.

  12. Well, in my opinion a messy divorce (although for some reason fairly socially acceptable) is WAAAAY worse for a child than happily unwed parents. Getting married because of baby just adds to stress to an already stressful time in your reltionship with your partner.

    And plus, I found out that I literally was the reason my parents got married a few years back. Believe me, it sucks. So my parents were married when I was born, but divorced soon after. Does that make it better somehow? In many ways, I wish they'd just stayed happy life partners and not stressed themselves out trying to give me a 'normal' life.

  13. First of all: let me say that I definitely agree with the fact that being married does not make you a better parent and that marriage is a personal preference, not a necessity. Everyone decides for themselves in which way they commit to each other and their family.
    However, what I don't get is that some people tend to look at marriage as the biggest step in their life, but plan to have kids together when they claim to "not be ready" to get married yet. If you're not sure about each other (as sure as you can ever be anyway), then why bring a child into the world together?
    I understand from your post that your son wasn't planned (which doesn't mean he won't be loved or wasn't welcome), so this of course does not apply to you. You acknowledge that you're human like everyone else and are making the best of unforeseen circumstances, taking it one step at a time. I totally respect that!

  14. Funny that i read this post today , I was scolded by a woman in public today who saw me with no wedding ring and a baby. She assumed i was uneducated , poor and that my son's father was not in his life. She continued to lecture me about how unwed mothers such as my self were a burden to federal government and that i should have given my son up for adoption. (yeah i know yikes)

    My partner and I did not expect to have a baby and we were no where near ready to jump into marriage , left alone a child. We decided that we wouldn't get married and focus on learning about being parents and partners . I'm so glad we did . marriage isn't right for our situation but at least we are being responsible and making things work our way.

    thank you for this post it made my day!

  15. we OFFICIALLY got engaged when we found out we where exspecting. some of my family rushed to get us wedding gifts b/c they thought we'd get married BEFORE we had or kid….thats what your supposed to do. we ended up gettingmarried when he was a year old and #2 on the way

  16. Kudos to you to staying strong! People just need to get over their silly obsession with making everyone conform to "the right way" to do things. Different things work for different people, and your assumptions about others are generally wrong.

    When I was pregnant, my fingers (and all my other extremeties) swelled up like sausages. So I took off my wedding ring. I never imagined the amount of judgement and assumptions that would come from total strangers because I was pregnant without a ring, even here in the NW (hippie capital of the world). It was pretty sweet to get to smack down meddling old biddies mid-tirade.

    I also kept my name, but my son shares his papa's last name which confuses people all the time. It especially confuses people who know my husband's brother and his partner, who are NOT married but both changed their last names (to Skywalker, and yes, I totally wish I'd thought of that.) and have a baby just a couple months younger than ours.

    • I was so annoyed by the looks I got being pregnant with no ring on. My fingers too were little sausages so my rings did not fit but dear lord the looks. I kept thinking to myself what the hell is it 1950 should the knocked up girl be sent to her "aunts"
      Mind you I am 34 and married but still.

      ps..Skywalker..LOVE IT!!

  17. My partner and I totally agreed with that sentiment (past tense because we're engaged and planning a wedding) My family was perfectly fine with our not being married (I had a baby when I was 19 and was single up until I got together with my fiance four years later) His family on the other hand kept asking when we were going to get married. I replied nicely that marriage isn't a necessary condition for a happy, functioning family. And we still believe this (we've been engaged for over a year and we're all happy and functioning still) however marriage was a personal choice that we made based on personal feelings versus what we 'should' do. I totally agree with you that marriage isn't what makes the family, it's the relationships between everybody in the family that's important

  18. THANK YOU!

    My partner and I have been together for 13 years and have two children (6.5 and 2) and have no intentions of getting married. We are married, really. A piece of paper isn't going to change anything in our relationship. Besides, we have two sets of divorced parents (some multiple marriages), so we don't really see how us getting married will "help" anything. We like to tell people we are "happily unmarried", cause it's true!

  19. This post was a great find for me! I am newly engaged, and just as newly pregnant (11.5 weeks) with my first child. I have not told my family yet, but I know they will kind of freak! I feel strongly about not getting married before the baby is born, both for financial reasons, and because it is too much change at once. This post and the comments helped give me a more positive view of my situation, and hopefully will help me stay positive when I break the news to my family.

  20. The best thing I ever did was NOT marry my son's father. Turned out he wasn't the right guy for me, but my son is the right one! So glad my son didn't have to go through a divorce, he just got two happy parents in two happy houses. Everyone begged us to get married when I found out I was preggers,SO GLAD I didn't listen!

    • I loved having two houses with much happier parents in them, too! The way I looked at it, I had twice the houses, twice the stuff, and twice the Christmases, and since my dad didn't see me as often as he used to, we did super fun things on our days together to make up for it. When I found out there were special books and counseling for kids whose parents weren't together anymore, I was very confused; why would anyone be upset? It's great that your son is happy, too. 🙂

  21. My son's father and I aren't married either, although we have talked about it lots. It just happened that we had the little man first. It seemed like too much planning all at once and would ultimately take away from both experiences to rush things like that.
    Funny though, one of the first things my mom asked me when I told her I was pregnant was if we were getting married. Funny considering her and my bio dad never got married either lol. So it goes. Hubby and I are in no rush, and we'll do things when it's right for us, not when we "should" or "should have" according to everyone else. 😀

  22. sorry, let me clarify that i agree with you when you say that having a set of wedding rings does NOT make you a better parent 🙂 it has nothing to do with parenting.

    the marriage is between you and your significant other – NOT the kid.

  23. It has been my experience that no matter what choices you make, what type of family you have or how you choose to live your life, there will always be someone out there who disapprives and thinks they know the 'right' way for everyone to live. You can't please everyone, so instead focus on pleasing yourself, and doing what feels right for your family. The only important things is that your son lives in a loving home where he is supported and encouraged to thrive. I think it's awesome that you have chosen to do what works for you and yours. And, btw, I do happen to be married, with a daughter on the way, and still get all kinds of criticism. The ring on your finger isn't going to stop people from trying to tell you what's best for your child and your family.

    Thanks for sharing your story! 🙂

  24. I agree that kid =/= marriage. It can be a HUGE mistake, kudos for seeing that. Marriage/commitment ceremony/handfasting doesn't make it all better or even forever.

    But I guess my thought is – why are you going to commit to making a life with someone, if you aren't sure you want to share all of your life with them?

    • You know, you don’t always need to raise children while romantically together. I understand it might be rare, but one of my friends was raised by her two parents who were unmarried and not together when she was young. She grew up with the loving support of four parents from a young age as both of her biological parents married in her childhood (not to each other).

      I think we need to be careful about making generalizations about what families need to look like, because sometimes they work out to be wonderfully different.

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