“And you’re okay with your role as an unwed baby mama?”
The pressures that come with becoming a Mrs. in America weigh heavily on a woman. The nitpicking begins from day one, and the need to be on the inside of someone’s relationships starts at “so what are y’all?” You and the person you’ve been dating stamp labels on one another, finally becoming boyfriend and girlfriend. It’s pretty serious at this point. Time passes–two years, three years–and you’re faced with inquiries of when marriage will come into play because time is ticking. What have you two been doing all these years? It’s only right you get married right now.
“When is he putting a ring on it?”
“So y’all started ring shopping yet?”
You both feel it’s not time and criticism from the left and the right pour in. You hear breakdowns of the statistics within Black communities on marriage and are encouraged to break the cycle.
“Don’t you two go off and have babies now without committing before the Lord.”
Years go by and a baby makes its way into the picture before the bling on your finger, going against that children’s song “K-I-S-S-I-N-G” you used to recite. You’re both comfortable where you’re at in life, and marriage doesn’t take precedence in your list of priorities right now.
“Why buy the cow, when you get the milk free?”
You’ll hear that often. Your title in the eyes of other people has now shifted, too, as you’re now the baby mother and not the girlfriend. The ring will get you back into society’s good graces, and you’re not saying it won’t ever happen, but satisfying society’s standards on relationships is outside of your realm right now–no matter how long you may have been with someone. Some people go knee-deep into years with a partner without marrying (myself included), while others never wed at all. Some want to play house with real life babies before deciding if spending their lives legally attached to someone is the way to go. Others strongly believe the source of happiness isn’t found before a minister and through the exchange of rings. Why aren’t people okay with the
decisions other people make and have to live with? If someone is happy, why are others judgmental about that person’s lifestyle?
In a recent interview with Vogue, Oprah Winfrey opened up about her long time relationship with her partner Stedman Graham. The topic of why they never decided to get married came up and this is what she said:
“Live life on your own terms. Nobody believes it, but it’s true. The only time I brought it up was when I said to Stedman, ‘What would have happened if we had actually gotten married?’ And the answer is: ‘We wouldn’t be together.’ We would not have stayed together, because marriage requires a different way of being in this world. His interpretation of what it means to be a husband and what it would mean for me to be a wife would have been pretty traditional, and I would not have been able to fit into that.”
[Tweet ""Live life on your own terms." - @Oprah"]
Jennifer Hudson also has explained why she and her fiance Daniel Otunga Jr. haven't rushed to tie the knot. The pair have a 7-year-old son together and have been engaged for 10 years.
"I feel like everything is about timing, and he ain’t going nowhere. He’s still there. Everyone has married us off anyway and we’re still a family but there’s no difference. I’m a believer in you do well and better in what you want to do rather than what you have to do. If you have to be somewhere, you don’t want to do it no more."
[Tweet "Everything is about timing. We're still a family. - Jennifer Hudson"]
Before model turned actress Nazanin Mandi announced her engagement to R&B singer Miguel, the Persian beauty faced a ton of critiques on her relationship after Miguel revealed during a radio interview why he hadn’t proposed to her after 10 years of dating:
“I think it’s more about working–thing is, you got to know who you are as a person, first of all. I think I’ve come so far as a man, and I’m just starting to feel solid, where I can be like, ‘You know what? I think I can hold this down legitimately.’ I think now people throw things around, like marriage. I just wasn’t raised like that.
I don’t feel the pressure because I know that when I commit, I really commit. Now it’s just thrown around because it’s so easy to break up. And I’m just not that kind of person. I’m just not gonna do that. I wouldn’t do that to her, and that’s just not how I was raised. I just don’t feel like that would be honorable.
I think because of society and how people view everything, and how everything is just so run-of-the-mill and very–what is that called? Everything is like fast food. It’s just like fast food. ‘Okay, you wanna get married? Cool! Get married!’ ‘You wanna get divorced? Get divorced.’ There’s no thought or substance behind it. I think the pressure comes from outside because people are like, ‘Why not?!’
I think more than anything, [friendship] is the most important [thing]. I really am wildhearted. I’m wild at heart. It just means that I follow my instincts, and that’s what this album is about. I think she’s learned that, and she’s had to adjust, and had to learn, and also embrace. And I love her more for that.”
And while many can’t fathom what else there is to know about a person after a decade of dating, the truth is, there’s always something to learn about your significant other, especially if it’s during your twenties as you’re attempting to navigate and figure out your own life at this time. I was five years into dating my partner at the age of 22. With that amount of time in, should I have married him knowing all that I did about him? I was still trying to understand myself and feel comfortable in my own skin about who I was. I wanted to make myself happy instead of handing that power over to someone else who would be juggling my joy in their hands.
Instead of acknowledging the reality that marriage is not the end goal and most women are quite content not being legally bound to someone, people assume that unwed women are being strung along and it’s foolish. It’s not about entertaining a game of mental manipulation and falling snug in my role as a “baby mother,” but it is about me having the freedom to do what’s right for my future and honoring what I feel is right for me, right now. I wish we would rid ourselves of these socially conservative views where we’re attacked by people who aggressively advise we marry someone because of scripture or because of the number of years put in. We’ve gone from "So, what are you two?” to “When are you getting married?” or “Y’all thinking about bringing a baby into the picture?” and then “Are you having more children to add to the family?”
It’s an incessant interrogation into the lives of others.
In a great piece on The Root, matchmaker Gee Sanders explains why some are choosing parenthood over the idea of marriage. “Biology forces you to be connected. In a romantic relationship, there’s always a choice. Your status with [a significant other] is not permanent.”
Even wife and mom La La Anthony, who is married to hubby Carmelo Anthony, weighed in on her long engagement and why it's necessary to enjoy the moment during an interview with xoNecole:
Enjoy the moment. Enjoy what’s happening and live in the moment…We’re always running and so busy and thinking about the next thing that you don’t enjoy the moment. So take your time and enjoy the engagement and the moment. And there is no rush! I was engaged for a very long time and people put me through the ringer for it. [They said] that I was going to be engaged forever and never get married but guess what? I did it my way and my marriage has lasted longer than half those people that were talking all of that stuff before. So do it your way and enjoy it.
xoNecole staff Ashleigh and Sheriden also weighed in on being in a long-term relationship and the external stress that comes from outsiders who feel they know best:
“While I do, however, really want to get married, I want to be a wedding event designer in the far future, so I live for a wedding, but the father of my child and I just aren’t there financially due to spend the first five years of our lives together as a family, pursuing school, and now trying to really get on our feet. We both each want a wedding and don’t want to do just a court ceremony. I’ve been to one it’s just not me at all. I love him to death, but I want my wedding.
And it’s not even about it being glamorous because I plan to do mine mostly DIY. The creative process is enjoyable for me. It’s annoying when the first thing we hear is 'you don’t need a wedding,' so I’m over people trying to tell us what we need. It’s okay for it to be about what you WANT versus what you NEED sometimes. We’re happy and while it’s a bit discouraging that it might be 5-10 years before it happens. He tells me, that title doesn’t change our dynamic. Our love will still be just as strong as it is now and no matter how long it takes, we are still a family.” – Ashleigh
[Tweet "It’s okay for it to be about what you WANT versus what you NEED sometimes."]
“I would love to be married one day, but it kills me how we pick at relationships that might otherwise be healthy and working because a ring isn’t on someone’s finger. My world does not revolve around whether or not the man I love will one day decide to marry me and you can’t tell me about my relationship based off of that. It’s not about 'settling' or 'holding yourself up to the highest standard.' Are we only valuable as women if we’re someone’s wife?” – Sheriden
The fact that women have to thoroughly spell out their decisions for people to understand is frustrating, to say the very least. In a conversation with a close friend, I was reminded me of the fluidity of life and how as life changes, so do we and our choices. It’s not that marriage is completely out of the question, but it also doesn’t take precedence over other things in life, like getting finances in order, purchasing a home, or settling comfortably into a career. Sometimes that takes two years, for others, two decades. We need to be okay with that.
Whether you believe unwed couples who are raising happy children in happy homes are setting a bad example to those very children on family principles, the point remains that we need to be more understanding of a couple’s decision.
If it’s not your household, man, or woman, why does it bother you?