October, 10 2016
Marriage and Children Should Be Options, Not Mandatory Milestones

Treating marriage and having children as options instead of obligations will release the burden that might cloud our judgment when making such important decisions.

by Sari Tjiang
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I was born in 1989, so around this time of my life, like other single, I have to deal with an annoying issue: marriage.
 
Our society is still hung up on the idea that one has to get married in their 20s. I remember when I was still in high school almost a decade ago, it was typical for girls to reply “I want to get married and have children and raise a family” when asked what they wanted to do after finishing school.
 
I, too, had that dream once. But then life happened, and I am not that naïve anymore. Our society puts a lot of pressure for people to marry young whether through tradition, religious beliefs, movies or books. But a marriage, aside from being a cultural and a religious matter, has legal impacts, so it has to involve two persons who are fully aware of their legal rights and responsibilities.
 
I personally think that people who want to commit themselves to a marriage, should be at least physically capable (and that means being age appropriate), psychologically mature and mentally stable, well-educated on sexual relationship and activity, and financially settled.
 
The problem is that we still treat marriage as a compulsory stage in life and, moreover, an achievement, a life goal. We think life is incomplete without marriage. I have seen people getting married just “because it is time” or “because it is what everyone does,” and I have seen people pity those who are not married after certain age. It does not help that many Indonesian chick flicks have storylines that end in glamorous and romantic weddings, which make girls swoon and cry happy tears.
 


We are brainwashed into thinking that wedding is the final destination and the ultimate goal in all romantic relationships between two persons, so we tend to invest more on the wedding instead of on the marriage. We become too fixated on getting married instead of on how to maintain a healthy marriage. It is ironic because a wedding takes place one day, while marriage lasts, hopefully, a lifetime.
 
Similarly, we are too focused on having children instead of on how to be good parents for our future kids.  It is sickening to see people in other countries admiring and talking about Malala, while here in Indonesia people actually praise couples who married at 17 and make them role models for teenagers.
 
I hope that we could start seeing being married and having children as options instead of mandatory milestones. People see happy couples and say that marriage brings happiness; they see a happy family and say that having children ensures completeness in life. But don’t we also see unhappy marriages and broken families?
 
I recently remarked about this during a conversation with an older lady. Her reply “Sure, but the unhappy marriages and the broken families are just a few among all marriages and all families.”
 
So I turned that logic around on her: “So then why generalize all people and say that marriage and having children are for everyone? Sure there are also a few people that won’t fit in that lifestyle, just like the way some marriages aren’t happy and some families aren’t okay.”
 
I am not against marriage or having children. I just want us to stop putting pressure on people to marry and have kids in order to be happy and complete, because such mindset only leads to prejudice, and in turn, it makes people marry and/or  have kids for all the wrong reasons.
 
Being married to someone or being a parent is a huge responsibility that we owe others: our spouse and children. This is why, if one is not fully committed when entering a marriage or assuming the role of a parent, it will bring negative impacts to their family.
 
Treating marriage and having children as options instead of obligations will release the burden that might cloud our judgment when making such important decisions. Having them as options will make us really think about the reasons why we want or why we don’t want to get married and have children. And when we know the reasons, it will be easier to make commitment and maintain the responsibilities that come with those decisions.
 
Marriage and having children should be done at the right time, with the right person, and for the right reasons. Marriage and having children do not define our happiness; we create our own happiness.
 
Sari Tjiang is a keen reader who aspires to be a good writer. Mature in mind, a child at heart, and a lady in making, she believes in science, humanity and herself. She is currently pursuing her journey on "the road less taken" and writes regularly on her personal blog http://saritjiang.wordpress.com.