Lauren, you make a great point about how much more egalitarian society is becoming in its expectations for men and women, yet there is still this stereotype that when it comes to deciding on marriage a woman is a helpless being of depreciating value waiting for a man to stop humiliating her and pop the question. This needs to change, and I’d be interested to hear from women who got themselves out of this fix. As Dear Prudence, I get many poignant letters from women who want children, are living with "the love of their life," hear their fertility ticking away, yet don’t know how to move the relationship to marriage.
I don’t think the answer is to go ahead and have the kids anyway. The Pew/ Time magazine study shows that the gap between society’s wealthiest and best educated, and the financially struggling and least-educated, continues to grow as far as marriage is concerned. It used to be that a college education narrowed a women’s chances for marriage; thank goodness that’s no longer true. But what is tragic is that decades ago marriage and divorce rates were the same across all classes of society, and that’s no longer the case. Among those with a high school education or less, the study finds that financial stability is seen a prerequisite for marriage, not a benefit of it. So marriage becomes not an achievable goal, but a mirage. And instead of waiting for it, people go ahead and have kids, who then lead turbulent lives as fathers drift in and out and mothers look for that ever more elusive partner who might be willing to commit.
Photograph of a happy couple from Wikimedia Commons.