First comes baby, then comes marriage?

California Democratic Rep. Linda Sanchez is just one of a new generation of PUPs -- adults who choose "planned unwed parenthood."

By Amy Benfer

Published November 24, 2008 6:44PM (EST)

The mother-to-be is California Democratic Rep. Linda Sanchez, and while she's clearly got a successful career going on, she's a Murphy Brown of a different stripe. She's been in a committed relationship with the baby's father, Jim Sullivan, for the past year and a half. They just haven't got around to getting married yet.

What we have here, then, is Planned Unwed Parenthood. Oddly enough, it's a trend that was so on my mind before I read this story, that I actually brought it up yesterday in a chat I had with Frank Furstenberg, professor of sociology at University of Pennsylvania, while I was researching another piece entirely. The gist of this particular trend is that couples vow allegiance to co-parenting their children first, with marriage coming later (if at all).

The most visible contemporary exemplars of said trend, it’s safe to say, are a certain celebrity couple with six children who also happen to be the most photographed family in America. But to my mind, it seems that the couples who benefit most from PUP-dom are ones just like Sanchez and her beau: professional, committed couples for whom fertility trumps party planning.

It's the biological clock, stupid. Writes Los Angeles Times columnist Patt Morrison, who broke the story late last week:

Sanchez is 39 and divorced, and early this year, her doctor told her that "if your intention is to become a mother, I wouldn't put it off." So she and Sullivan didn't. They haven't yet set a wedding date. As he told me, "We have the rest of our lives to get engaged and married -- we don't have the rest of our lives" for Sanchez to become pregnant ...

Twenty years ago, it simply wouldn't have been possible ... pregnant, single and a member of Congress? Oh, the scandal! But Hester Prynne has morphed into Juno MacGuff, the culture wars have been fought to a truce of exhaustion, and "unwed mother" has been recast as "single mom."

As a single mother myself, I suppose it's hardly a surprise that I don't see much of a scandal here. But I'm actually going to push it a step further and say that I find this to be a hopeful, optimistic symbol of the many different choices available to contemporary men and women wishing to construct stable, loving families. In this case, we have two secure, mature adults quite literally putting their child first. I don't know that families get more child-centric than that.


Amy Benfer

Amy Benfer is a freelance writer in Brooklyn, N.Y.

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