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Married, No Kids: Opting Out of Parenthood

In support of Proposition 8, which bans same-sex marriages in California, some have claimed that allowing marriages between couples who can’t naturally reproduce together would be harmful to children.  David Blankenhorn, founder of the Institute for American Values, says such unions would change marriage from “a child-based public institution to an adult-centered private institution.”

Newsflash for Mr. Blankenhorn:  For more than half of Americans, children have already become non-essential to a happy marriage.

In 2007, a Pew Research Center survey revealed that for many couples, the only thing less important than children to a good marriage is a meeting of the minds on the subject of politics.  The majority of the survey respondents deemed money, sex and faithfulness to be more important to marital success than kids.

A year after that survey was released, a report out of Rutgers University examined this social retreat from children and noted that while most human societies are child-centered, parenting in the U.S. is different.  “In the United States, to a greater degree than almost any other place in the world, social responsibility for child rearing rests with lone couples, and increasingly, with lone parents.”

No only that, we live in a culture that says if you don’t love your child more than you love your spouse, more than you love yourself, there is something very wrong with you.

So raising children is solitary pursuit that should take precedence over everything else in your life. Suggest that there may be another approach to parenting and you risk being being mocked and reviled.

Remember how much flak Hilary Clinton got for suggesting that it takes a village to raise a child?  While some of us nodded our heads in agreement, others were highly offended by the very idea that parents would expect child rearing involvement from someone Outside The Family. During his acceptance speech at the 1996 Republican National Convention, Bob Dole responded with typical American bravado:  “…I am here to tell you: it does not take a village to raise a child.  It takes a family.”

With such a narrow vision of what good parenting looks like, it’s no wonder so many are opting out.  I think that Rutgers report says it best:   “What it takes to raise children is almost the opposite of what popularly defines a satisfying adult life.”

At least the way we do it, it does.

Image: Alejandro Hernandez/Flickr

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