Love, Marriage, Baby. It’s a beautiful trio, but the order in which each item appears is not always so clear. In my specific case, it was more like love, baby, hate, love, baby, maybe someday marriage. But hey, I’ve never been one to do things the easy way. However, I know that I am far from the exception to the rule these days, with more than half of millennials becoming mommies before saying “I do.”
Whenever there is a pregnancy and the couple isn’t married, there are a hundred burning questions that people want to ask, but feel like they shouldn’t. So most of the time, people either make up stories or assume things that may (or may not) be true. As an unmarried mother myself, and one who scours the internet, reads gazillions of blog posts, and enjoys witnessing mommy forum feuds over (mostly) trivial issues, I can see a clear consensus among expectant mothers of the questions they wish you would not ask. I know, I know, it’s so tempting. But unless the mother-to-be is your best friend, sister, or daughter, try to steer clear, at least until the hormones settle down anyway.
Herein lie seven cringe-worthy questions:
1. Who’s the dad?
You would be surprised at the number of people who blurt out (usually via social media) this ridiculous question. If you are at all close to the mommy-to-be, you already know who the father is, or you have the means to ask privately (as in, you have her phone number). If asking someone who their baby daddy is, via a Facebook photo comment nonetheless, is the only method you can think of, you probably just shouldn’t ask. Common sense, right? Surprisingly, no.
2. Was it planned?
This one makes me laugh because I’ve asked it myself, more than once (doh)! For whatever reason, people like to know if the baby was an accident or planned. I’m not sure what bearing it has on the asker, but the human species is just a curious bunch. Asking if it was planned is getting really nitty gritty into people’s personal lives, and it puts the expectant mother in a weird position to stumble her way through a series of “yes,” “kind of,” “no, not really,” “I’m not sure” answers. Besides, you can only “plan” so much before biology and fate have to kick in and do their part anyways.
3. Are you getting married?
Dual-parent households, statistically, are better for raising kids. However, a pregnant, unwed mother has enough on her plate without the added stress of feeling as though she is being looked down upon because she has a baby bump and no diamond ring. A baby, in and of itself, is not a reason to get married. Let the happy couple (or sometimes happy single) conquer one feat at a time. If wedding bells pop up down the road, there will be plenty of time to celebrate then.
3. What if things don’t work out?
There are no guarantees in life. Thus, I would pose the exact same question back to the asker. You do the best you can with what you have at the time. Relationships are hard and take a lot of work in order to be successful—a lot of work. Just because one is wed does not mean she is free from facing some of the same relationship challenges that unwed mothers face. And does anyone ask wedded mothers what they will do if things don’t work out? Not usually. Having a baby is completely life-changing, with or without a marriage certificate. What’s most important in this situation is focusing on the commitment the mother and father have to each other, and to their soon-to-be child. The future will work itself out the way it is meant to. Take a cue from Peter Pan here and think happy thoughts.
4. Are things moving too fast?
This is a tough question for unmarried couples who are going through the highs and lows of preparing for their new arrival. There are too many circumstances to account for, but keep in mind that what may seem sudden to some, may actually seem like years in the making to others. I do not believe there is a magic number or length of time that makes success more likely when it comes to relationships and families. Sometimes you plan it. Sometimes you wing it. But whatever the speed, let the couple enjoy the ride.
5. Are you seeking child support?
Expectant mothers are worriers—about everything. Is it OK to eat this? Can I drink that? Should I be lifting this? Can I do that? Everything is a big deal. And while planning for the future is equally as important, do not press an expectant mother on whether or not she will be pursuing child support. For starters, this isn’t any of your business. And second, this is something she is probably actively figuring out already if the dad is not in the picture. Child support is one of the biggest pains in the ass and is never fun to discuss, let alone deal with. Keep things happy and bring positive vibes to an already stressed mommy.
6. Do you want more kids?
People ask this while you’re busy cooking one little bun, and you’re like, man, can I finish first? Let mothers complete one major task (aka birthing a human) before you inundate her with questions about how big she hopes to grow her family. Besides, depending on the day you ask her, the answer will likely change. Try asking after childbirth. What may have been a resounding “I want five children” before labor, could have easily dwindled into “one is good.”
Just because a mother is not wed doesn’t mean she isn’t just as excited to have a family as her married counterparts. Be excited for her. If she has confided in you about the pregnancy, don’t walk on eggshells around the subject. Be happy! Be supportive! Finding out I was pregnant with my son was the shock of a lifetime. I wasn’t ready, it wasn’t planned, and I was a whirlwind of emotion. Luckily, I had a best friend who laughed with me and cried with me. She helped me prepare and she stuck by me the entire way through. Be that kind of friend. And leave the salty questions for another time and place. Or better yet, forget them all together.