While a lot of co-parenting situations are the result of unprotected nights of passion that turn into unexpected lifelong bonds, a growing number of women and men are making the informed and strategic decision to have children without the benefit of marriage.
Back in 2014, Chris Brown, whose want for a child ruined his already rocky romance with longtime girlfriend Karrueche Tran, said that he was “scared of marriage.” However, he has seemingly embraced his role as father to daughter Royalty. Similarly, Sean Combs, father of six, has said that he would consider a “love contract,” but is less inclined to entertain the idea of holy matrimony.
Showrunner Shonda Rhimes, of Scandal and How to Get Away With Murder fame, is a mother of three children—two adopted and one the product of a surrogate arrangement—but as for marriage, she’s not interested.
“I have never wanted to get married. I never played bride. I was never interested. I don’t know what it is; I never wanted to get married,” she recently told Oprah Winfrey. (She later admitted that she might wed as a senior citizen.)
Parenthood is as daunting and demanding as marriage, if not more so. As a parent, you’re responsible for a life, for instilling morals, building character, securing safety, feeding, clothing, educating, etc. As a spouse, you still have a huge degree of responsibility, but the actual raising and rearing should ideally already be done. Your husband or wife should be able to play a significant role in providing for his or her own needs.
So why are men and women making the decision to commit to children and all the responsibility that entails while giving marriage the side eye? Matchmaker Gee Sanders, vice president of the Paul C. Brunson Agency, says that money has something to do with it.
That’s one thing Brown, Combs and Rhimes all have in common. When the resources are available, that makes a difference, says Sanders, who suggests that status influences how people make parenting decisions. For many, six kids is nearly an unimaginable financial responsibility, but for Combs, it’s seemingly not a concern.
“He’s in a different category of how you process children and how you process your obligation to them because he doesn’t have to be [as] concerned about finances,” says Sanders.
It’s not just a trend among the rich and famous, however. Sanders says that many middle-class adults are considering parenting alone or with a partner, while either avoiding or postponing matrimony. Even if shy of being wealthy, educated, attractive, financially stable singles generally have a larger dating pool than their struggling counterparts.
“Certain people who feel like they have more options than another would feel more comfortable to be committed to a child than [to] a woman. … That has been a trend that I’ve been noticing,” says Sanders, who acknowledges that biology plays its part, too.
Most men can father children into their 50s and 60s, while most women begin to experience fertility challenges in their 30s or 40s. So although the fellas can choose fatherhood while they’re still young enough to run around the baseball field with Junior, they can also wait until they’re much older and more established to start a family or find a wife.
For women, biology also plays a role, but in a different way. Wanting to conceive and give birth without the help of fertility treatments may mean that a woman goes at it alone while in her 30s. Though she may want love and marriage before the baby carriage, the hands of time may be working against her.
Monet Bell, 34, who stars on FYI’s reality show #BlackLove, recently admitted that she’s not yet ready to consider single motherhood, but also acknowledged that her thoughts on the subject might change in a year or two. She wants love and a family, but maybe one of them is better than none.
“Women are starting to make the decision to say, ‘I’m not able to find an ideal match, but I want the experience of having a connection to a child and having that role,’” says Sanders. “So there is this ultimate opportunity for people of a certain socioeconomic status to say, ‘I want this experience of being a mother or a father, but I don’t want the obligation to be a husband or a wife.’”