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The Lent Project: Day 22

Sorry, triathlon fans, back to parenting topics today...

I'm not in the habit of quoting, making reference to, or even reading The New York's sleazy. But this article on Bloomberg's teen pregnancy ad campaign caught my eye this morning. I have nothing against trying to reduce teen pregnancy. (As the author points out, NYC also hands out condoms, contraception, and morning after pills...perhaps a better solution since, hey, abstinence education doesn't work?) But, in this case, it's the lack-of-nuance, pro-marriage argument that annoys me. The idea being that without marriage these kids are destined for a life of poverty. In the "out of wedlock" crowd, babies who come without a ring on the finger of the mother are shorthand for a whole variety of problems from education to employment to child support. And the author wants to drag churches and talking about the "marriage advantage" into it. Along with the fact that the majority of babies born "out of wedlock" are actually to older mothers in their 20's, 30's, etc.. (So this isn't really about teen pregnancy at all, but about a marriage bias.)

As an unmarried dad, I'm offended. Not because there's somehow an implication that my children are disadvantaged coming from a cohabitation home. There is, but I have bigger fish to fry. I'm offended because the phrase "out of wedlock" is offensive in general. It's a phrase that needs to be banished from the vocabulary of thinking people because it makes far too many assumptions about society and culture that are, in fact, outdated.

"But wait," you say, "you are a two-parent household, older, and educated." Ok. There's still a not-so-hidden bias in our culture towards marriage though. One that implies that marriage is the norm and all other types of families are somehow less than desired. Why do you think gay couples are fighting so hard for gay marriage? It's not that gay couples aren't bonded, having kids, and living normal lives already. It's because the only way to be seen as "legitimate" when it comes to relationships in our culture is still very much the recognition of marriage.

Which has brought about a very real split in the US between our soon-to-be-majority of unmarrieds and the traditional marriage crowd. The fact that the government still makes a married/single duality for tax, etc. purposes joins with the misguided assumptions of certain people that marriage is the "foundation" of society/families and leads to the second class citizenship that unmarrieds face.

Not to mention the gender bias about dads underlying this whole discussion. Or the idea that somehow single mothers are both to blame and incapable of holding a family together. And nevermind the root causes of why people aren't forming more formal long-lasting relationships, why they are in poverty, unable to get an education, unable to find work.

No, the lack of marriage is to blame.

When an unmarried mom shows up in a hospital to give birth, perhaps we should fall back on the old idea of simply referring to all "out of wedlock" babies as bastards a la 19th century. Hey, let's bring back dueling pistols, take away the right to vote for these shameful women, and keep them at home cooking a decent meal where they belong! Oh, was that offensive? Good. Now we're on the same page.

Marriage equality, as I've been writing about, isn't just about "the gays." It's also about unmarried equality and the fight for recognizing ALL the relationship and family types that you find across the nation. I would give you, dear reader, a laundry list but would probably leave somebody out. It's not about Stay At Home Dads or single moms or lesbian couples or adoptions or egg donors...the list could go on infinitely.

The point is that as our nation shifts away from marriage as a social model we need two things...1) government needs to better adapt to changing conditions on the ground and give equal treatment to all families regardless of marital status. 2) We need better alternatives to marriage in modeling family types and setting examples of how the modern family unit looks, works, etc.

Hello there! I'm trying to help take care of #2 there...unmarried SAHD alert. But I also recommend a visit to what used to be called Alternatives to Marriage Project. They're a great group who deals with legal, economic, discrimination, resources, and documenting non-marital relationships. In fact, they now have a new name...Unmarried Equality. Same awesome group fighting for the rights of "single" people everywhere. Of course, we're not always single. We're partnered. Civil unioned. Living together.

The times, they are a changin...isn't it time our labels and notions about what families look like caught up with reality?

* * *

I'm trying really hard this morning to be a good free range parent. Kids have to fall, scrape their knees, learn by mistakes, parents can't wrap them in bubble wrap and always be there to catch them.

But it still feels awful when something is wrong. I actually feel horrible.

Leda chipped a tooth. We have no clue when. Sometime between the cute, smiling photos I recently posted and now. It's a tiny little piece of her front top that is gone and it seems to bother her none. I just have to keep telling myself it's a baby tooth, no big deal. Any parent can probably feel my pain though. It bothers me more than it bothers her. Poor little girl...I wish I could undo time and fix it.

Then again, the more I think about it she's always been a little "broken" from the moment...nope, before she was even born! I knew when she made it through that month in the NICU that she was a tough little girl. Perhaps a chipped tooth is merely a symbol of her resilience?