As the news that Mila Kunis and Ashton Kutcher are expecting a baby began to spread, so did the chatter about the order in which they’re approaching making a family (since they’re engaged, but not yet married).
In the past there was a very specific sequence: love, marriage, and then children. If things didn’t proceed in that way, it was usually thought to be a problem or a mistake. But times are changing, and the openness and acceptance of doing things in a different succession are a reflection of that.
In fact, this is a trend we’re seeing more and more these days, especially in Hollywood.
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Once the news of a pregnancy is out there, some might choose to get married before the baby arrives, and others might wait so the baby can be at the wedding. That decision, as well as when to get pregnant to begin with, really all comes down to the fact that people are busy, often working two jobs, and they’re choosing to make time to create a family instead of waiting for the right time which might never come.
Recently, New York Magazine ran an article about different countries around the world “incentivizing” their residents to have more babies. For example, Russia’s Ulyanovsk region declared September 12th the Day of Conception – people are given a day off work for the purpose of conceiving. If a baby is produced, the couple becomes eligible to win cash prizes, a car or a new refrigerator.
I’ve often thought that the thing that might convince me to have a baby is if I lived in a very large mansion, with the baby and the staff of nannies having their own separate quarters. That’s actually what might have made me get married too! From time to time, I’ve even fantasized about having a husband who had his own bedroom – since I like my own space.
The article reminded me that a few years ago, a guy I was dating brought up the subject of marriage. I tried to envision what it might be like to be married to him and I remember thinking, “At the very least, we would have to have separate bedrooms” (and maybe even on separate floors). I would really need to have my own space.
Jessica Valenti’s Atlantic piece on the assumption that women want children and are fulfilled by motherhood is the kind of good, smart read that also gives me nightmares.
At the beach with my family recently, I got a rare lone moment with my mother. For a vacation, the week had been chaotic. Both my boyfriend and I had to work through the trip, and “relax” had ended up to be more of a line-item on our to do lists than a state of being. Add to that ten family members with differing vacation agendas (bike rides! fireworks! beach!), one of whom was a toddler, and my mom and I had hardly hardly had a moment just the two of us.
Then at last, I got some time…even if it was only as we drove to pick up ingredients for fish tacos. In the car we talked about her business, my recent move to LA, and my relationship, which is very happy and now a year old. And then from her camp, this interjection:
As I type this, I hold a baby, my nephew. One-handed. Inefficient. Both re: the baby and re: the keyboard.
<<Puts baby down on baby mat. Surrounds baby with toys.>>
Babies feel really cuddly and nice. My nephew is particularly adorable. He has big eyes, and is at this moment wearing a onezie that says “Rawr.” A+
In life, most people grow to want children at one time or another. But what happens if events don’t conspire to give you what you want, i.e. The Babies? And what if you’re a man?
NPR reports that in the US there are more than a million never-married fathers raising children alone, more than three times the amount two decades ago. Men both gay and straight, are taking the baby plunge, solo.
When B.J. Holt, a gay man in New York City, hit forty with no life partner, he felt his own version of a biological clock. Holt now has two children by egg donor and surrogate. But when he decided to start a family, he didn’t know anyone else in a similar situation.
As a father he still confronts stereotypes, but has gotten used to them.
He laughs as he recalls driving through a toll booth on a recent weekend.
“There I was, in the car with my two kids in the backseat,” he says, “and I was fumbling for the money. And [the woman in the tollbooth] said, ‘Take your time, take your time. Daddy’s without the mom today!’ ” Holt says he just smiled and drove on.
Avi Breacher, an Israeli pediatrician, wanted a wife, three children and a dog from his early 20′s on, but never found the right woman. His three month old daughter Ariel was born by surrogate in Minnesota and his son Daniel, six, was adopted from Guatemala.
He’s confident he can raise children on his own, but works to give them exposure to women. He employs a female nurse as a babysitter and the children spend time with his mother.
“If it’s female friends of mine,” Brecher says, “I let them hold Ariel so she can feel the touch of a female, which I believe is different from a male.”
Single fellas, may you go forth and prosper.
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