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To Marry or Not To Marry

I am writing this is because recently a pregnant kindergarten teacher was sacked from a Queensland school because she was not married to the father of the child. The terms of her sacking were backed by her breach of the school’s Lifestyle Agreement which specified that all staff were to conduct themselves in a manner which was consistent with the Christian ethics of the school. The Lifestyle Agreement stated, “Nothing in their {the staff’s} deliberate conduct should be incompatible with the intrinsic character of their position, especially, but not only, in relation to the expression of human sexuality through heterosexual, monogamous relationships, expressed intimately through marriage.

 

In a statement, the principal of the school said, “As a Christian college we require all staff have and demonstrate a faith and lifestyle consistent with the Christian beliefs taught here. These beliefs are set out in college policies and documents, including the agreement under which all staff are employed.”

 

 

Well. Here are my two cents.

 

To be fair, the woman accepted the teaching position knowing she’d have to abide by the school’s Lifestyle Agreement. Therefore the sacking was not, strictly speaking, unjust.

 

Still.

It is okay to leave a woman unemployed and panicked while she’s four months pregnant, but it is not okay for this woman to have a baby with a man she loves out of wedlock? Because it sends wrong and immoral messages to young, impressionable minds? Because it is un-Christian?

 

Let’s talk about marriage, friends. And having babies while not married. And while we’re at it, we may as well talk about religion too, because really, we can’t not.

 

It’s obvious that, as a society, our views around marriage are getting somewhat looser. With divorce rates on the rise, I can’t help but assume that people are questioning the strength of marriage vows. When “I do” now appears to mean “I do for now”, it does make me question marriage and its necessity in forging long-term committed relationships.

 

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, the proportion of people living in de facto relationships has doubled since 1992. Also, the amount of births occurring outside registered marriage has risen to one-third of all births, compared to one fifth. In the US, the rates are higher. In 2009, nearly half of all births were to unmarried women.

 

Despite these statistics, I still sense eyebrows frowning when they are cast upon unwed mothers. In fact, they have been cast in my direction on several occasions. This disapproval is obviously more apparent in religious circles where no sex (and therefore no babies) before marriage is a long-held act of religious faith. If your benchmark for right and wrong exists in the line which separates heterosexual, marriage-based sexual relationships from all others, then so be it. I am not here to argue what your God outlines as right. What I don’t understand is why this religious moral standing seems to have transferred onto our society as a whole – even those who are not religiously inclined?

 

Why can we have sex before marriage, but we can’t have babies before marriage? Because those that do are reckless and immature? Because they are not stable? Not committed? Because marriage is the only representation of “until death do us part”?

 

Friends, marriage in my opinion, is a statement you make publicly. Yes, you make it publicly because you’ve already made it privately, but it says to the world: Our relationship is strong. It is deliberate. It is long-term. We’ve promised. So when a child enters the equation, people can sigh in relief. They can breathe easy. They know you’re serious. You’ve promised. 

 

However. Just because you haven’t made these private promises public does not mean that they have not been made.  And just because you make them privately does not make them any less valid or any less worthy.

 

I am an unmarried mother and my choice not to marry, to this point, has been more out of my belief of its lack of necessity than because I am reckless, uncommitted, or immoral. The fanfare and the pleasing everyone else and the gushing of weddings puts me completely off having one of my own. However, my choice not to marry does not in any way reflect the committment I share with my partner and I under no circumstance believe that I am less of a role model or less of a parent than my married friends.

 

I may eventually get married. I’m not opposed to the idea, but to be honest, it probably won’t mean more than a big party and the sharing of last names with my daughter and my partner.

 

Because when Joel and I decided to have a baby, we had already “gotten married”. We already sat our hopeful backsides on the edge of a bed together on an ordinary weekday and we already vowed that we loved each other so much that we would hold each other’s hand until we were old and grey. We already told one another that we wanted to jump right into the whole catastrophe of life and love and children and pets and homes and highs and lows and change and growing old and that there was no one else in the entire world who we’d rather be spending our lives with. We already committed ourselves to one another and we already promised to be there for each other until the very, very end.

 

But The World didn’t know that.

 

Because we didn’t have a ring on our finger.

 

And because there was no piece of paper saying so.

 

 

Friends, may we keep in mind that there are many ways to love, to commit and to promise. Maybe they are not your God’s ways, but they exist nonetheless. When a child looks upon their parents dancing in the lounge room and holding each other as tight as can be, I’m pretty sure they are not going to notice if there is a ring on Mummy’s finger or not. The only thing they’ll really see is the love. And isn’t that all that matters, in the end?

7 Responses to “To Marry or Not To Marry”

  1. R. Callanan

    Can’t believe that happened to that poor teacher. Prejudice. Ridiculous. It’s 2012 people, all of our lives are different, and thats how its supposed to be. It’s a sign of our development, progress and reflection. All of our our lives are different and its time to embrace that!

    Reply
  2. Taryn

    Uggh, stories like this really frustrate me. Especially because Charlotte was born ‘out of wedlock’ and eventhough it doesn’t bother me the least, I still find myself regularly explaining that her Dad and I were already in a committed relationship, she was not an accident, we did not get married because of her, etc. When really, as you say, all that matters is that we are one lovely-dovey family 🙂

    Reply
    • rachwiley

      Absolutely. Yeah, I actually dread a little bit the time when Ella is old enough to start asking questions and wondering why we aren’t like “everybody else”. It’s hard when you go against the norm and have to explain it to little ones.

      Reply
  3. coffeepoweredmom

    I think it takes a lot of guts to have a baby out of wedlock. As far as I’m concerned, if you’re prepared to have sex then you should be prepared to take on the risks. That includes pregnancy. Although I am judged a plenty for not being married, I love my children and I wouldn’t have changed a thing. Kudos for this post!

    Reply

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