Okay, you might be asking yourself, is it really possible to raise a child to become a baby mama or daddy? Like, are parents actually out here training their kids to be solo-dolo moms and dads, for God sakes? Or, better yet, I know a few of you are rolling your eyes, thinking, “here comes another self-righteous asshole looking down their nose on non-married people with kids!”– I get it. Parenthood is hard enough, especially when the task is taken on alone, or even as part of a co-parent situation; the last thing any single parent needs, then, is another conservative, “Yaaay, I dodged a bullet”, know it all, telling them how to raise, or in this case, not raise their kids.
So, I’m not going to do that– pass judgment, that is. Instead, I’m going to use those three fingers that always point back at someone, when one points out of course, to tell my own story in three parts. So here goes: The first thing I should note, is that I am married, although most people already know that. Number two–My husband and I have five children, which many of my readers already know as well. Number three, however, is what might be more of a shocker– and that is how I was not married when I conceived my first child. Feel free to clutch your pearls and gasp!
See, what had happened was this, Des, (who was just my boyfriend at the time), and I, thought it would be a great idea for me to ditch my graduate school dormitory, and for him to move out of his slum lord apartment, so that the two of us could shack up. It just made sense. We could save on bills, enjoy movie nights and pizza in bed whenever we wanted to, and most importantly, have easy access to early morning sex– a duh! I mean, what twenty-something year old wouldn’t want that? Everything was perfect– even without furniture and in spite of our overpriced rent, until the day I regailed that extra pink line on my
doomsday, I mean pregnancy stick.
Of course I was shocked; the trepidation of not knowing what my life would look like with a child, replaced what should have been a feeling of joy. Des and I had talked about getting married, eventually, but nothing was set in stone. I’ll never forget the day we told my mother: in a restaurant, over pasta and salad, we showed her our plastic truth stick (gross, I know, but hey, we were twenty-ish and dumb) and my mom simply cried. Later, she admitted that her worst fears had come true: I was unmarried and pregnant and might have to raise a child alone.
But now, let’s talk about how crazy both of our reactions were, (my mother’s and mine), especially since there had been no Whodini stunt, nor was I the victim of an immaculate conception. I got pregnant the good old fashioned way because we weren’t using protection. It really shouldn’t have been a shock. More importantly, though, the title of baby mama was the very status that I had been groomed for from childhood, and I would have become that, had it not been for our (shotgun) wedding. Let me explain how:
- I Had Little to No Examples! Virtually every woman I knew growing up, raised their children without fathers in the home. That was my norm. Fathers came around, sometimes, and gave financial support, occasionally. They rarely lived with the women they had children with and they certainly weren’t married. The married couples I saw growing up were either on television, or, if I encountered them in real life, they didn’t look like me.
- My Bar Wasn’t Set That High. In grade school, my aunt promised me $100 if remained childless until after my high school graduation. In my family, having a baby before marriage wasn’t what brought you shame, it was more so being a teenaged mom. At around 19, this same aunt gave me the conception green light. I’d not only graduated from high school, but I was also working, and (in her eyes) somewhat self-sufficient. This meant I’d met my family childbirth standards and could now get pregnant without being shunned. As for my mother and her opinion on the subject, well, let’s just say I had her example, instead of her words.
- I Had No Actionable Plan. So this one was a bit trickier; as far as having children and being married, I knew I wanted both, but I never really considered the order in which I’d get them. If I had actually taken the time to think about it, I might have been just a little more hesitant about that whole shack up and anytime sex situation with Des. I also would have likely been prepared for, and thus excited about my first pregnancy, instead of just surprised and confused.
My mother, my aunt, and all the women in my family did the best they could to steer me in a positive direction, still they couldn’t prepare me for what they didn’t know. Now, I have the benefit of using the blueprint of their lives and combining it with mine, to help my sons and daughters make better choices. Here’s how:
- I Always Speak of Their (future) Husbands and Wives. Little girls love to fantasize; I know from personal experience, and now having two daughter of my own, I see it with them even more. When they speak on boyfriends, or love, or dating, however, I make make it a point to tie those things to their future husband. For example, if my daughter, who is ten, mentions dating, I’ll say something to this effect, “never date someone who wouldn’t make a good husband.” Then we’ll go into all the things that make a man husband material. Or, when my youngest daughter talks about being a mommy, I always address the topic in a plural sense. So, for example, I’ll say, “when you and your husband have a baby,” or, “you need to be married first,”. I do the same thing with my sons. “Never have sex with a woman you couldn’t see being your wife,” is something I say to them often. When my sons balk at doing hard tasks, I’ll remind them of the wife and children who’ll one day depend on them. The takeaway is this: This type of dialogue lets our children know what our family expectations are and helps them to develop a marital mindset.
- I Put My Own Marriage on a Pedestal. Ask any one of my children who my favorite person is and even my youngest, who is five, will answer “Dad”. In fact, my kids often tease me when I whine about missing Des and say, “Sheesh, Dad hasn’t even been gone that long.”, but I can’t help it. Yes, I absolutely adore my children; Each one occupies a piece of my heart that makes up one whole. Nevertheless, as much as I love them, their Father is the one person I most want to spend time with, cuddle with, hang out with, and talk to, because he was there before them and will (fingers crossed) be there after they’ve gotten families of their own. The Takeaway is this: We’re instilling in our children the critical importance of putting your marriage first and that successful families have a natural and meaningful order.
- I Encourage Them To Be Intentional. When it came to areas such as education and career, I knew exactly what I wanted to achieve and how to accomplish it. Regarding love and starting a family, however, I was way more willy-nilly and unprepared. That’s why I’m teaching my children to be methodical about both. For instance, I pose questions that make them think about how a family will fit into their long term goals. I advise them about the pitfalls of reckless sex and ways of avoiding them, and I give them examples of how their choices will effect them for generations. The Takeaway is this: We are instilling into our children the concept that planning for a family is as crucial, if not more so, than planning for an education or career.
Now, for the critics– the ones who’ll point out that there aren’t any guarantees; the ones who’ll swear that kids are going to do what they want regardless, I’d tell them all that they’re right. See, our children have these peculiar things in them called, minds of their own. Despite all of our teachings and best efforts, they will ultimately make their own decisions in life. Still, the optimist in me can’t help but try anyway. Sure, I could miss the mark as a parent, in getting them to not be a baby mama or daddy, but, I will absolutely miss it if I just do nothing. I’d say, I have a good 50/50 chance. Plus, I already have proof this goal is acheivable. I came from a clan full a baby mama’s, and now just look at me– I’m a
stressed-out happily married mother of five nerve-wracking beautiful kids. That’s a hell-of-enough evidence for me!
Tell us what you think? Are parent’s really out here raising kids up to be baby mamas and daddies? If so, tell us how and if not, tell us why? We want to hear from you!