Friday, 16 March 2012

Married couples make the best parents

Parents are obligated to give their child the best possible start in life. There are many ways of fulfilling this obligation: the mother should get the best prenatal care, the parents may prepare an attractive nursery for the new arrival, baby clothing and toys will probably be purchased, and an education fund for the future may be set up at a local bank.

One of the most important needs any child has is to belong to a stable and loving family. If the father and mother are not married when the child is conceived, they should examine their options closely, keeping the best interests of the child in mind.

If the pregnancy is a result of a casual relationship, or a one-night stand, marriage, solely for the sake of the baby, is not a good choice. Such a union would probably be short-lived and the resulting stress and the turmoil of a break-up would be detrimental to the emotional health of everyone involved.

However if the parents have been sharing accommodations for more than a few months, if the relationship seems to be proceeding smoothly, and both are happy about the coming child, the question of marriage, as soon as possible, should definitely be seriously considered.

In spite of the modern phenomenon of cohabitation outside of marriage, there is still a stigma attached, in many quarters, to a child born of out wedlock. There is a very disparaging name for such a person, often flung about in anger during disputes. ( I'm sure the reader knows what it is.) No one ever wants to have to acknowledge that the epithet truly applies to him.

Without marriage, the child's last name will have to be decided. Will he go by the mother's family name or the father's? When he starts school, his classmates may question the different last names of his mom and dad.

Without a formal, public, legal commitment to each other, as in a wedding ceremony, it is easier for either parent to leave the relationship when difficulties appear. The stress of hormonal changes and physical discomforts of pregnancy make this a troublesome period for some prospective parents. The reminder of the wedding certificate hanging on the wall should give them the incentive to hang on until temporary annoyances pass.

Marriage establishes a new unit, the family. The young people are longer just a guy and a girl who have "shacked up", they are a family. The baby, when he arrives will be a member of the family, belonging to both of them equally.

Without the formal declaration of the family unit, there is often a perception of the child as belonging to the mother. The mother will have the greatest responsibility for feeding, clothing and caring for the baby. The father, perhaps feeling neglected, feeling left out of the loop, may start to withdraw. He is no longer the centre of his girlfriend's world, and many young men find this a hard situation to which to adjust.

Within the structure of marriage, the father can feel more confident about taking responsibility for "his" baby from time to time, thus giving the mother some much-needed breaks. There will be more unity, more shared responsibility, a greater perception of "us" as family.

Marriage as an institution has been around since time immemorial for good reason. It is the best framework within which to nurture and raise children. Despite the recent fad young people have adopted of living together to see if things "work out", there are certain events that demand they grow up and start to take their responsibilities seriously. One of these significant events is the impending birth of a baby.

No matter how many communes the hippie types among us seek to establish, the traditional concept of family, a man, a woman and their children, always comes creeping back. That's the model that works best for society as a whole, and for the individuals within each family unit.

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