I was sure that no matter what happened, our son would have everything he’d ever need, even if that didn’t always come from me.
“So are you guys getting married?”
Not an unusual question for a woman over 30 who’s been dating someone for awhile. I’d been asked this before and understood why they wanted to know.
It’s seems unnatural to most people when couples aren’t interested in walking down the aisle.
I’ve considered marriage in the past. Even though I never gave it much thought growing up, it was hard not to consider after being with the same person for a few years. Everyone’s speculation added fuel to that fire.
This time it was different. I hadn’t been with the person for very long. I was 35 and he was 39. He was recently divorced.
Both of us had roommates. Both of us had unconventional jobs. Both of us believed in love and commitment, but also felt strongly about freedom and openness.
Then I got pregnant five months into our relationship.
After a very brief, but serious discussion, we decided to give it a go.
Even though for all practical purposes we didn’t look like we were ready to start a family, I knew this was right. He was kind, thoughtful, and compassionate, someone who I could communicate with about anything. To me, this foundation was something I’d never experienced before.
I’ve always loved children and had been nannying for almost six years.
Now that we knew this is what we wanted, revealing it to our friends and family was a bigger challenge. Once we did, everyone wanted to know if we were planning on tying the knot.
We were not.
We agreed to enter into a lifelong union by having a child together. But we did not agree that promising to be a couple forever was what should come next. That might not make sense to a lot of folks, but to us, it was logical.
The truth was, we didn’t know each other all that well. Neither of us was ready to swear eternal love and monogamy after such a short period of time. We could, however, make a pact to be a good partnership for our child. Maybe that wouldn’t always be under the same roof. Trying to be friends felt a lot more realistic than husband and wife. Of course we hoped we’d make it romantically, but neither of us was comfortable enough to make it “official.”
I’m not saying that we’ll never get married. We just weren’t the shotgun wedding types.
Our living situation was also a bit complicated. Neither of us owned property or lived alone. For awhile, we contemplated renting the apartment I was in when my roommate was thinking about moving out. But the cost of living in Chicago, on top of all the baby expenses we would soon be facing, was daunting.
My parents have always come through for me when I was in a bind. Every time I lost a job or got dumped by a live-in boyfriend, I found myself reconstructing my old room in one form or another. The worst was camping out on a mattress in my younger brother’s bedroom after he’d gone to college.
The house is spacious and has the added bonus of a finished basement. There is a bedroom with a bathroom and a nice living space. If it had a kitchen, it could easily function as a small, one-bedroom apartment. The best part is that it’s a walk-out, so there’s a lot of light and you’re not underground.
My parents were extremely generous in suggesting we all move in, even though my new boyfriend was a relative stranger.
While it was an easy offer to accept, I knew it might come across as being strange or even kind of pathetic.
But it was the best decision we could have made.
I took a leave from my job. (It’s worth mentioning that the U.S. is the only developed country that does not have paid parental leave.) He was freelancing. We saved enough money to tank the car up with gas and buy an occasional meal out.
Before the baby was born, our friends and family spoiled us with items from the registry and gift cards to cover diapers, wipes, and all of the other essentials.
Now we live with very few expenses, have home-cooked meals, and there are two extra sets of hands to hold the baby, which turned out to be a lifesaver when I had an unexpected C-section.
I realize that our situation is non-traditional. It could even be called irresponsible. But I would not have brought a child into this world if I wasn’t certain I had a lot of love and support. I was sure that no matter what happened, our son would have everything he’d ever need, even if that didn’t always come from me. Those were the things that mattered.
We’re not planning on being here forever. But for now, we’ve been given the gift of raising our infant son together. I took two very part-time jobs and my partner is still freelancing. We have the most valuable thing of all: Time. These new, wondrous and sometimes scary, moments with our child make up for our less than ideal set-up.
The sacrifice we made is humility, to admit that we couldn’t do this on our own. I’m not ashamed I had to ask for help. I’m also not blind to the fact that I had people who offered it. The cost of us both being at home right now is relying on other people’s generosity. But you can’t put a dollar amount on everything we’ve been through together.
I didn’t plan on having a baby. I wasn’t laying the groundwork to becoming a mom. Getting pregnant didn’t mean I needed a husband and a house to make it work.
Parenthood has taught me to expect the unexpected.
And that can be a really beautiful thing.
Carly Oishi is a writer, performer, singer, songwriter and caretaker. She is the co-producer of Miss Spoken, the blog (miss-spoken.com) and Chicago live lit show. She’s also the singer and almost full-time songwriter in her duo Jon & Carly, which has been making and performing music for 10 years.