Monday, February 8, 2010

Rules of Engagement?

First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes the baby in the carriage. And somewhere between love and marriage there is/was engagement. Two stories that were in the news recently as well as an ode to potential babymamas in a couple of popular songs makes me think the rules of engagement have drastically changed and will soon go the way of dinosaurs.

The tragic death of Cincinnati Bengals player Chris Henry was attributed to a domestic dispute he was having with his fiancée. Even though the couple was scheduled to marry in March of this year, they already had three children: 10 months, 2 years and 3 years of age. I wonder why three babies in they decided to marry? Why not after the first? The second?

Then there was the headline grabber of America’s Top Model contestant, Nik Pace who is asking New Jets wide receiver Braylon Edwards for $70,000.00 a month in child support after she gave birth to a baby boy. Pace and Edwards, who were not believed to be in a serious relationship, are deadlocked over child support payments because Edwards filed in New York, but Pace objected and filed in New York. Pace’s attorney accused Braylon of trying to get the case litigated in Georgia because of Georgia’s less generous stance with child support payments. But Edwards’ lawyers claim that he filed in New York because that’s where Pace lived until recently when she moved to New York after he was traded to the Jets.

And if popular music is any indication of what’s going on in the world today, two new songs definitely promote the idea of babies without the benefit of marriage. R&B singer R. Kelly’s new song Pregnant tells the story of a man meeting a girl at a club. He sings, Girl you make me wanna get you pregnant . . . lay your body down . . . knock you up, pregnant . . .”

Then there is 50 cents song, Baby By Me in which the entire chorus repeats Have a baby by me, be a millionaire. He says he needs to plant his seed. Popular culture seems to dictate no love, no marriage, just a baby in a carriage with a hefty price tag.

And it’s not among the rich and famous that this type of logic prevails. I remember a conversation I had with a guy I worked with at the time. He had four children by a woman whom he said he wasn’t going to marry because she had him one way (by the children he fathered), but she wasn’t going to get him another way (marriage). He even went so far as to tell a married co-worker who had children that he was trapped because he was a father and husband.

This type of skewed logic is fodder for the many judge shows crowding the airways. There’s always some drama about a babydaddy or babymama. At least if you marry someone, and find out that you don’t like them, you can file papers and get rid of the person, (hopefully before you have a child together). But if you decide to just jump into co-parenting with someone without weighing the consequences of being tied to this person for the rest of your life, you might be in for a rude awakening.

This is not to say that marriage lasts for ever or that married couples make the best parents, but parenting is the toughest job in the world because you’re shaping and molding another human being. Who wants the added burden of doing this with someone you barely know or whose mere presence makes you ill? Engagement or long courtships give people the opportunity to get to know each other before they bring in another life.

Are we moving away from engagement and moving toward babies as commodities to be brokered between parents? Do we need love or marriage when a baby in the carriage might be the ticket to financial freedom without the emotional price tag?