Minutes after Lily Hubbard whispered goodnight to her oldest son, she watched as her husband of many years’ tip toed to the guest bedroom, where he had been sleeping for almost a year. Between the constant arguing and sleeping in separate beds, Hubbard asked herself what kind of message she and her husband were sending to their children. “I didn’t have a good answer and worst of all, I didn’t like the answers I came up with,” said Hubbard.

Hubbard let out a sigh as she reflected on her decision to be a positive role model to her two boys, even if it mean the dissolution of her marriage. “Being a good parent to my children is one of my purposes in life, being a good wife was always something I wanted to do, until I realized I couldn’t do both.”

Like Hubbard, 52 percent of millennials say being a good parent is “one of the most important things” in life while just 30 percent say the same about having a successful marriage, according to Pew Research Center.

Millennials have grown up in a world that is constantly evolving. They have played a part in changing societal norms and yet are often scrutinized for their outlook on life, regardless of how they arrived at that opinion.

In order to better understand Pew Research Center’s data showing that there is a 22 percentage point gap in the way millennials value parenthood over marriage; below are three ways millennials may have come to this conclusion.

Personal Experience

At a young age, millennials were introduced to unconventional family dynamics. Whether it be the single father across the street who you barely knew or the single mother in your kitchen who you called mom; millennials were surrounded by personal experiences.

To some, this meant growing up with two weekly allowances and a later curfew at your dad’s house. To others, growing up in and around divorce subconsciously introduced millennials to the part of life that seemed inevitable: trust issues. “Millennials might be very clear sighted about the fact that a successful marriage is in no way guaranteed,” said May Friedman, psychology professor at Ryerson University.

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46 percent of U.S. kids under the age of 18 are living in a home with two married, heterosexual parents in their first marriage, according to a 2014 Pew Research study. Like many children, Katherine Karabon, a college student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, is a product of the other half of that statistic; those under 18 who grew up in an unconventional household.

Katherine Karabon is among many other millennials who think one of the most important things in life is to be a good parent, regardless of your marital situation. “My parents got divorced when I was 14,” said Karabon, “as spouses, they had many flaws, but as parents, they were nothing short of amazing.”

“The collateral damage of bad parenting is very clear – and can haunt a person for a lifetime, but a disrupted marriage – while unpleasant, may not have the same lifelong ramifications,” said Dr. Ramani Durvasula, a licensed clinical psychologist and professor of psychology.

For many individuals, millennials included, opinions about parenthood and marriage might be traced back to one’s personal experiences.

Views on marriage

If the idea of finding someone to spend the rest of your life with is not scary enough, you’re in luck; because the rate at which couples are getting divorced is sure to frighten you.

“The divorce rate has stayed strong at about 50 percent for decades,” said Friedman.

In accordance with this statistic, millennials have become more accustomed to the idea of single parents. A couple’s divorce not only leaves millennials with trust issues, but it shows them that a successful marriage is not vital in order to fulfill the dreams of becoming a parent.

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“Part of the issue is that parenthood is still valorized and romanticized while marriage is seen as increasingly optional,” said Friedman.

The divorce rate is just one of the many reasons millennials view the overall notion of marriage differently.

“The new world of dating and relationships can make successful marriage seem more unattainable than the work of being a parent,” said Durvasula.

Due to this new era of casual dating and less commitment coupled with the shocking divorce rate, millennials have been shown numerous times that marriage is not a guarantee.

“They have broken trust in marriages,” said Jared Buckley, owner of NextGen Development, “they want guarantees, they want protection, they want insurance.”

Millennials are continuously shown that today, marriage is not guaranteed or even necessary. However, having a child will immediately form a bond that, by blood, will last a lifetime.

“Parents or caregivers have a biological predisposition to care for their young, whereas no such biological push exists for good or permanent mating,” said Joan Grusec Lockhart, professor of psychology at the University of Toronto. 

Views on society

If you have ever asked your grandparents how old they were when they got married, then you know what it feels like to be immensely worried about your future.

Chances are when they were in their mid twenties they were married with children, and chances are if you are in your mid twenties you are having trouble deciding which bar to go to on Friday night. Don’t worry, we will blame our insecurities on societal changes.

In 1960, 72 percent of U.S. adults were married, years later in 2014, just half of American’s were married, according to Pew Research Center.

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“Our parents were taught that the woman’s place was in the home while the men worked and took advantage of tertiary education,” said Lynelle Clarke, bestselling author of Woman Behind the Mask. This change in percentages and stereotypes can be attributed to many things, but one thing is for sure, society has become more accepting when it comes to not getting married.

“Today, women understand that they too are able to excel and achieve great things as their counterparts do,” Clarke added.

Millennials have watched as society transformed into a place where women could stand on their own, both physically and financially. Millennials have also watched the stereotypical housewife become increasingly portrayed by single fathers.

These transformations not only show millennials that they will be respected as an independent parent, but it shows them that they can bring children into a world that is becoming more accepting.

“Millennials chose parenthood over marriage because they have the opportunity to add value to the world by producing a mind that is able to chose their own path without someone forcing a path for them,” Clarke said.

At the end of the day, the satisfaction of raising children capable of creating their own destiny is something almost anyone would find important.

“My boys are incredible and one thing I’ve learned, that is a great reward, is that my boys see what I gave up as a person, a mother and a woman to be everything I could for them and raise them into men I can be proud of,” Hubbard concluded.