Parenting

Forget marriage, I want the baby carriage

Online editor Jenny Charlesworth considers starting a non-nuclear family with a friend.

Photo: sept2004/iStockphoto

First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes the baby in the baby carriage. But what if I’m not concerned with those first two points? Why can’t I get to C without A+B?

Bring on the sleepless nights, the plugged ducts, the baby spit-up in my hair, the maxed bank account, and the anxiety that I won’t know what to do, that I won’t be the parent I imagine myself to be. I’m ready — as ready as anyone can ever be for parenthood.

The thing is, I don’t have a partner. There’s no man by my side; there hasn’t been for some time. I haven’t found my match. Does that mean I’m not prepared to be a parent? Two people presented in a united front is the social norm when it comes to bringing a child into this world. So, as long as I’m solo, let the (well-meaning) choir chirp: “You’ll meet someone. You’re only 30. It will happen.”

But what if I don’t want to meet someone? Well, of course I’m open to it, but what if it’s not my dream right now. What if I’d prefer to be a mom first, and maybe someone’s wife second? It’s not how I grew up. My parents were high-school sweethearts, and while there wasn’t a white picket fence, there might as well have been. I’ve learned that life doesn’t always unfold the way you imagine it to, so you need to make magic from the moments in front of you, follow your heart even if it takes you off the beaten path (or whatever cliché you want to insert here).

This was the basis of my conversation with a dear friend last night. We’ve known each other for a decade. I’m sure at some point we even made the late-night ROM-COM pact: “If neither of us are married by 50, let’s just get together.” And now I’m coming to him, 20 years too soon, to discuss a baby instead of his bachelorhood.

Slate.com just published yet another article warning someday parents to act now. In “Is waiting to have kids a big mistake?“, writer Allison Benedikt responds to The New Republic‘s December cover story, “The grayest generation: We are waiting to have kids later than ever. We have no idea what we’re getting into,” sharing her own concerns about not getting busy sooner. The mother of two covers some feel-good stats concerning older parents: “A mother who is 35 when her child is born is more likely than not to have died by the time that child is 46. The one who is 45 may have bowed out of her child’s life when he’s 37. The odds are slightly worse for fathers: The 35-year-old new father can hope to live to see his child turn 42. The 45-year-old one has until the child is 33.” Add that to the well-publicized risks of “age-related epigenetic mutations.”

This article bothered some colleagues on Twitter, with one asking “And what’s the alternative — reproduce with just anyone to avoid being an “older parent”?” I see their point. But despite the obvious fear mongering, Benediket makes a solid argument for having children sooner than later. I get where she’s coming from. And I know where I’m coming from when I talk about starting a non-nuclear family with a friend.

So I wonder, all you moms and dads out there, what advice do you have for me, knowing what you know now about parenthood? Do you wish you had your kids sooner? Would you have considered starting a family if you didn’t have a partner in the traditional sense?

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