After recently officiating a wedding, the idea of vows has been on my mind– although not the type that you might think. My boyfriend and I are raising our beautiful and rambunctious daughter in a non-traditional setting. We are going on our fifth year of dating, fourth year of living together and second year of raising our unexpected and cherished little squirt. As LA transplants without family around, we were thrilled when my sister and niece decided to blend their family with ours last year, now living together with us in a large house in The Valley, with two dogs to boot.
Parenthood has been an incredibly transformative experience for us as a couple– shocking I know. And while we haven’t yet taken the leap to say “I do” in the form of marriage vows, our commitment to our family and mutual respect for each other is hopefully reflected through our actions.
So back to the idea of vows… I wonder why we don’t as a culture express verbal parenting vows? Not vows expressed to children from parents, but from parents to each other. While some marriage vows encompass the trials and changes guaranteed by the introduction of a new member to one’s family, I think such a rite of passage deserves its own pact, especially for those non-traditional couples out there.
Knowing now what I didn’t know then, these are the words I may have expressed to my boyfriend prior to our venture into parenthood:
“You are a wonderful companion– my confidant and best friend and it is with great joy (and optimism) that I embark on the journey of parenthood with you (hoping that this does not, in fact, destroy us).
May our love grow deeper as we expand our family. Together we stand as one, sharing our future as it comes, knowing that we are moving forward into what will be a joyous and challenging new adventure. We may not have the freedom to sleep in or watch endless crime-thriller marathons in bed anymore, but hopefully our child will give us all the more reason to stay in our pajamas for days on end, and also a reasonable excuse to bail on the weekend bar-hopping excursions that we’ve come to loathe in our late 20s.
The first time we found out we would become parents, I felt nervous and unsure as to whether I was totally ready (read: a cocktail of panic-stricken hyperventilating and uncontrollable sobbing).
With you by my side, however, I feel a sense of strength and conviction, ready to embark on this new chapter with confidence, determination and joy. As the days grow to weeks, and the weeks to months, and the months to years (at least 18, from what I hear), may we never forget this joyous day and the vows of commitment we are pledging to each other today while we are still well-rested, well-groomed and ignorant of what life has in store for us as new parents.
Knowing that this journey is a new one for both of us, let us acknowledge that each of us has strengths and knowledge, as well as individual emotional challenges that may surface based on our life experiences. I promise to be open to your ideas for how to raise a child no matter how zany they may seem– and also to be sensitive to the fact that you may not share my overzealous intention to serve our child a strict diet of unprocessed, unrefined foods. I promise not to judge you for forgetting all of the words to my favorite nursery rhymes, and I ask that you exercise restraint when laughing at my widdle biddy baby banter.
Hand in hand, I acknowledge parenthood is a journey we are embracing together, and I promise to stand by your side, to love, help and encourage you even in the wee hours of morning, on the days when neither of us has eaten or showered, and the moment we realize that our weekend sex routine has been replaced with singing along to the opening credits of the “Elmo’s World” segment of Sesame Street.
I vow to take time to share my concerns with you, and to listen to your concerns with an open heart and mind. I promise to calmly and graciously speak up when I need personal time, and to remember that you will also need personal time. I vow to take turns changing diapers and comforting our child when she awakens in the dead of night, and also take turns acting as dance partner when she insists on swaying endlessly to that robotic version of “Twinkle Twinkle, Little Star.”
Recognizing that we may face differences in small, everyday decisions like how to dress our child in coordinating on-season attire, to big decisions like how to explain the concept of death to our child, I promise to approach parenting decisions with your values in mind, knowing that there may be many times during which we need to find a happy compromise. I promise to pick and choose my battles and not obsess when and if our child comes home from school wearing pajama pants.
Acknowledging the importance of teamwork and (at the very least) the perception of a united front, I promise to support you and stand by your side when you decide that it’s time to implement a timeout when she puts herself in near-death situations.
I promise to attempt at least a basic level of personal care and hygiene if we can both accept the fact that sometimes an afternoon nap is worth letting the dust settle on our bookcases.
I promise to always treat our child with compassionate, loving kindness, and know wholeheartedly that you will do the same. I promise to continue to hold you in the highest regard, and to remember these vows of commitment, patience and honesty today, tomorrow and for the rest of our lives. I love you. Let’s do this.”
What about you? Did you take parenting vows prior to expanding your family? Tell us in the comments below or on Twitter.