Monday, May 19, 2008

I'm the new single mother.

According to the data taken from my hospital forms, I'm a single mother. But before you feel sorry for me and all my lonely hard-working days, you should know that I'm not single. However, I am unmarried. And my friends, there is a real difference. And I am not alone.

The number of births to unmarried women has been rising over the last 20 years. In 2004, births to unmarried mothers were 35.8% of all births in the US (according to NCHS). If you look at these graphs you'll notice that these are not mostly teenage mothers, but mothers in their 20's and 30's. Births to teenagers are actually on the decline, and have been for some time. Here are some stats from the Alternative to Marriage Project:
41% of unmarried partner households have children under 18 living in them.
- U.S. Census Bureau, America's Families and Living Arrangements 2000
33% of all births are to unmarried women.
- National Center for Health Statistics, 2000 data (report released 2002)
41% of first births to unmarried women are actually babies born to cohabiting couples, not "single" women.
- Bumpass, Larry and Lu, Hsien-Hen(2000). "Trends in Cohabitation and Implications for Children's Family Contexts in the United States." Population Studies, 54: 29-41.
About two-fifths of children are expected to live in a cohabiting household at some point.
- U.S. Census Bureau, 2000
For the past five years (and several months) I have been happily partnered to a man I met online (another story to be shared later). About two and a half years ago we conceived our son, on purpose (despite what some people would think). We also decided to remain unmarried for the foreseeable future. So, I'm not a sad woman waiting for the day he decides to give me a diamond ring and make me "honest". I'm whole and happy as is. But the reasons why aren't so clear or easy for some people to understand or for me to explain.

One reason we aren't married is political or at least social, we don't think our relationship should be granted more esteem, rights or privileges than any other relationship. Specifically, our love relationship is not more real or important than that between a couple of the same sex.

Not being religious, or of any particular faith, we don't have a need or moral imperative to declare our relationship to the religious authorities or have it blessed or sanctioned by any holy body or church.

As for financial reasons to be married, well, we've made our own arrangements for inheritance, retirement, etc. Just like all our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters do. And we both equally own our house, so that isn't an issue. We honor our individuality. We have "ours", "his", "hers", and "the boy's". It's just how we operate in our family.

And really, the reason we aren't married? We don't want to be. We haven't found the compelling reason to go through the legal process. Maybe next week or in five years there will be a reason that makes it necessary or somehow advantageous to be married, but for now, we're good. I'm good.

I have no desire for a wedding. I may be the only unmarried female over the age of two to feel that way. Now if you ask our mothers, they would love a wedding. But both have gotten used to the idea that we are a family, a happy family. No ring required.

What are some other reasons for being unmarried? What are your reasons for being married?

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