I'm pregnant and unmarried, get over it
Growing up, I was surrounded by unmarried couples. Happy couples, but unmarried ones.
My parents have been together for 27 years. They go out dancing almost every weekend and get me to take photos of them before they leave for the night. They operate in harmony both on the dance floor and in the kitchen and their arguments are loud, short and quickly and easily forgotten.
My eldest sister had birthed one beautiful daughter, pregnant with the second and bought a home with her partner before they had even gotten engaged.
My other sister had her child, moved in with her daughter’s father and haven’t discussed any wedding plans—yet.
Essentially, we’re very non-traditional.
So when I got pregnant, albeit unmarried, no one in my family expressed the type of shock, disappointment and concern that strangers or acquaintances seemed to and it truly took me by surprise.
Yesterday at the hair salon, I was expressing my frustration at the bombardment of questions about marriage to my stylist Leanne when the barber, a young Jamaican guy intercepted the conversation and urged me to see it from his perspective.
“How would you feel if your child’s father was out there running about with all types of women?”
To which I replied, “He’s not.”
“But he could be,” the barber said. “When you’re not married, you have no obligation to be faithful. When you’re married, you have to answer for your actions.”
I swallowed a bit of non-pregnancy induced vomit and said to him, “I wouldn’t be with someone, let alone procreate with someone who only takes our relationship seriously if there is a ring on my finger.”
He told me that he was married. And that he waited until he married to have children. I gave him two thumbs up. But what did that have to do with me? With my baby? With my partner? With anything?
A National Health Statistics Reports issue shows that attitudes toward everything from premarital cohabitation to premarital childbearing had changed drastically from 2002-2013, with more people agreeing to this lifestyle.
There are two key findings that show that the idea of marriage as a prerequisite for children is no longer the norm:
The first finding states: In 2011–2013, three-quarters of women (74.7 per cent) and men (75.9 per cent) agreed, “It is okay to have and raise children when the parents are living together but not married.” Percentages were similar in 2006–2010.
The second finding states: The percentage of respondents who agreed, “It is okay for an unmarried female to have and raise a child,” increased over time. Among women, 69.5 per cent agreed in 2002, 78.4 per cent agreed in 2006–2010, and 78.3 per cent agreed in 2011–2013. Among men, 58.9 per cent agreed in 2002, 70.1 per cent agreed in 2006–2010, and 69.2 per cent agreed in 2011–2013.
But the shift in attitude is only one part of the explanation of why millennials are deviating from the trend of marriage.
According to a U.S. Census, millennials currently aged 18 to 30, just 20 per cent are married, compared with nearly 60 per cent of 18-30-year-olds in 1962.
I have a few ideas on why this might be.
First of all, the pressure to attend post-secondary institutions are more prevalent than ever. And it’s not just parents urging us to attend a community college. In order to secure a good-paying job, you either have to have a solid degree in your hand or be a thriving entrepreneur, something not uncommon in our generation.
When you do get to school, you’re looking at the highest tuition fees in history that are increasing at a terrifying rate year over year.
What does it mean when you graduate?
That you have a crap ton of debt. Six years of school cost me $24,530, not including the $13,729 in non-repayable grants that I was given.
Luckily, I was able to pay my debt off quickly and swiftly. But I was an anomaly. For people who aren’t, what does that mean for them?
The other thing that worked in my favour was that my partner didn’t attend school here, therefore had not racked up any student loans. For two people who attend college or university who depend on government funding, beginning your adult life off owing so much money can be crippling.
Let’s move on to the job industry. It’s not uncommon that graduates end up in fields unrelated to their area of study for the sake of securing full-time employment. The requirements for entry-level positions in almost any field often equate to more than what we were taught and lead us to question the value of what we paid (and are still paying) for these degrees.
Let’s talk about the real estate market.
The average cost of a new detached home in the GTA, according to a February Financial Post article, is $1,316,325, more than double the $444,368 average from a decade ago. So even if you do save up the minimum 5 per cent required, which can be an entire year’s salary for most people just starting off, there’s an insurance premium for only having a 5 per cent down payment. Then, you have to prove to the bank that you make enough to pay the monthly mortgage on that home, as well as the property taxes, hydro, water and gas on top of your other bills.
What about wedding costs?
According to a Wedding Bells article written in 2014, the average cost of a wedding in Canada is $22,249 to $27,899, depending on whether you have a honeymoon and where you go.
As all of this is going on, we’ve got people in our ear asking us that age-old question of when we’re going to get married, when we’re going to have kids, reminding us, women especially, that our ‘biological clocks’ are ticking.
The U.S. Census shows that while millennials are delaying marriage, they still want to get married—at some point.
Do you see why marriage gets put on the back burner? Of course we want to have good jobs, nice houses and start families. But we can’t do it in the order that tradition calls for. We’re called lazy, we’re called entitled, but when we make decisions that help us keep our heads above water, then we’re criticized because it’s not how the generation before us did it.
Things were different then. And they’re very different now. We’ve found a way to adapt.