As marriage is redefined into a casual commitment, so are ideas of parenthood. Gone are the days of having children after the wedding. Or even having children at all.
The most recent report from the National Marriage Project, says that "legally, socially and culturally, marriage is now defined primarily as a couple relationship dedicated to the fulfillment of each individual's innermost needs and desires." The researched much of this shift to the new societal norm that we are all "bowling alone." We rely less on friendships and other communities and therefore turn to marriage for emotional security that is missing from other areas of life. Only 40 percent of Americans polled said children made a marriage happy.
We're getting married later. Average age for women to get married in 1970 was 21, now it's 26 and closer to 30 if you have a four-year degree or more. Back then, women had a child within three years of marriage. In 1990 only 37 percent did. Now, it's closer to a decade of child-less years.
And many of us who do have children, are not married. Yet studies show these cohabitating, unmarried parents are five times more likely to breakup. All this means we're living in a more adult-centered culture as homes with children make up less than 30 percent of the population. That means more focus career achievement. Gambling, pornography and sex are the fastest growing sectors of the consumer economy.
We're turning into a culture of me, me, me. Though I think society has made it nearly impossible to get married and have kids at a young age. Finishing college in four years without student debt and gainfully employed after graduation is a dream of the past. And not getting a quality master's degree won't get you very far in many career fields. So we go to school longer, go in debt deeper and we decide we'd rather enjoy our young years child-free.
But as much as we use money as an excuse, I don't think that's it. I think it's about not growing up. It's about wanting to go to the bars and not having to come home in a responsible state so you can pay the babysitter and kiss your kid goodnight. Not wanting to give up nights at the casino or trips to Cancun because your money is already budgeted for daycare. It's about putting career advancement above all else.
Shea and I have always talked about putting our relationship before our potential future children. Not because we're selfish, but because we believe the best thing for kids is to grow up in a home with a stable, loving marriage. And when we decide to have kids, it'll be when we're ready to give up happy hours, random weekend trips, spending our money as we please.
I do think marriage is about fulfilling desires. But this trend toward selfish gain will lead to no where. I get amazing rewards from marriage, but I give and give up. A lot. But I believe two are greater than one. I think that someday three or four are better than two. (after we become five, snip-snip Shea.)
I value my marriage. My education. My career. My friendships. And God-willing, my future children. I think I can have all that and more. I was not put on this earth to serve myself. My education and career will give me the tools to live a life greater than what I want at any given moment. And if there are children, that means there are more people to share and multiply the joy. Even if they are declining in number, I still believe in the power of a family with strong values, faith and love.