Life Without Baby

Filling the silence in the motherhood discussion

Guest Column: It Got Me Thinking…About Marriage October 25, 2010

According to our local radio show host, celebrity Mario Lopez was “so inspired” by the birth of his daughter Gia on September 11 that he proposed to his girlfriend, Courtney Mazza, shortly after she delivered their baby.

I haven’t been able to confirm this online, but I have seen reports that Mario is planning a new reality show about how he’s going to juggle his career and fatherhood, so maybe he’s saving the details for a ratings sweep. Anyway, it got me thinking…. Didn’t he want to marry Courtney before they got pregnant? What was it about having his baby that made him want to marry her now? And, the question that keeps nagging me: Is marriage primarily for having and raising children?

Next year, I’m getting married for the first time. In my mind, our wedding will be a celebration of our success at finding love and a joyous reason to bring family and friends together. But not everyone agrees with me. Almost every ceremony I’ve attended has included words about welcoming children into the world. Because we are in our 40s, well-meaning friends ask if we’re going to hurry up and have children. On the flip side, other friends suggest that, since there won’t be kids, we skip the legal part of our commitment to avoid the “marriage penalty tax.” And Project Marriage, as part of the appeal process defending California’s Prop. 8, which specifically outlaws gay marriage, defined the “true purpose of marriage” as “responsible procreation and child-rearing.”

So where does this leave me—and us, the child-free adults? If you got married with the expectation of children, then discovered it wasn’t going to happen, do people make you feel you’ve broken vows? Is marriage only for making families? What does getting/being married mean to you and how has it changed since you learned/decided you wouldn’t have children?

Kathleen Guthrie is a Northern California–based freelance writer. Her articles have appeared in AAA’s Westways, GRIT, Real Simple, and 805 Living magazines. Read “How to Be the World’s Best Aunt Ever” on eHow.com.

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4 Responses to “Guest Column: It Got Me Thinking…About Marriage”

  1. Julie Says:

    This reminds of the comment made by one of my husband’s coworkers. He said something along the lines of “a marriage can’t work without kids.” Of course, this was after drunkenly telling us that he would have left his wife a long time ago if they didn’t have kids. He’s not exactly the most sensitive guy, so my husband has never told him of our struggles, but even if he had, I doubt he would have altered his sentiment about marriage.

    My first marriage ended because he changed his mind and didn’t want kids anymore, but I did. We decided to divorce because we knew that we wouldn’t be a good match for each other without kids. Now that I have chosen a better match for myself, I realize that if I had ended up with kids with my first husband, I wouldn’t have really been happy. I know this simply because I know that I am VERY happy with my second husband, even though we can’t have kids. I think if you choose to marry someone because they are a good partner for you, then that is what your marriage is about. But some people choose to marry someone because they think they will make a good parent, and then their marriage is always about having/raising kids. And I think those marriages are the ones most strained if infertility strikes.

  2. Mali Says:

    Interesting question! To me, marriage is a commitment between two people, and the wedding is a celebration of their love. Pure and simple.

    For years I didn’t want children, then I couldn’t have them. After pregnancy losses (life-threatening), we realised how important our relationship was. My marriage now is closer now than we’ve ever been, and we’re due to celebrate our 27th wedding anniversary next year.

    I’ve also seen many people get married only AFTER they’ve learned that they will never have children. To me that seems to have much more meaning than those those who get married after the birth of that first baby. I also have friends (several sets) who have been together for over 20 years, who have children, and who have never married.

    I have never experienced any suggestion that I have “broken my vows” – although I will say our wedding vows did not refer to children in any way – and I find it extraordinary that someone might think that. The Project Marriage statement demeans all those who can’t or don’t have children, and is reflective I think of the archaic attitudes of the whole anti-gay marriage movement. (But I’m not an American, so don’t really feel I should comment even though I just did!)

    I think marriage is or should be a very personal thing. If it is right for you, then it is right. If it isn’t, it isn’t. Either way, celebrating love and commitment between two people is a beautiful thing.

  3. Kathleen Guthrie Says:

    Someone wise once said each marriage is as unique as the people who are in it. Julie and Mali, I love reading your perspectives. Congratulations on 27 years together, Julie!

    I sense divorce rates would significantly decline if we focused more on nurturing our relationships with our partners vs. putting the focus on kid issues (having, not having, wanting). Is that us or society or the media? Hmmm….

  4. lmanterfield Says:

    My feeling is that marriage is challenging and throwing children into the mix just makes it tougher. If the marriage (or any relationship) isn’t working with just two people, it’s not going to get any better by having kids.


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