Would You Consider Single Motherhood? Numbers Are on the Rise.
A few months ago, a friend confided in me that she was beginning the adoption process – as a single woman. We chatted about the process, the paperwork and the costs, and she asked me question after question, trying to get as good a grasp as possible on what it would be like to be a single mother – even though her path to single motherhood would be very different from mine.
And she is not alone in her thinking. According to a recent Associated Press WE poll, more than 2 in 5 unmarried women without children (42 percent) would consider having children without a partner, and 37 percent would consider adoption. Now, I know that considering becoming a single mom and actually becoming a single mom are two very different things. But nonetheless, my friend was taking all the steps necessary to become a mom without a partner, so I shared every anecdote I could recall, answering all of her questions, sharing some honesty and some humor, along with some inspiration from the other side of motherhood.
In a number of ways, the conversation wasn’t much different from the conversations I have with expectant married moms.
But then, halfway through the conversation, she stopped and looked at me, and said, “If you were me, would you go through with this? Would you deliberately become a single mother?”
That is a large question right there, my friend. Large.
I paused for a long while, thinking about the fact that I definitely did not enter into single motherhood intentionally, nor did I really entertain having a baby without a partner prior to getting pregnant. Although, as I neared my 30th birthday, I was keenly aware of the fact that fertility was finite, and that at some point I would need to stop dating losers, working 18-hour days and staying out at the bar with those losers until 4 am, if I planned on taking it seriously. Then, as I see it, the universe intervened and I got pregnant with my daughter.
But back to my friend – she wanted a baby, and she felt she was at the right point in her life to do so, despite not having a partner, so who was I to dissuade her?
But I also felt responsible for being as honest as I could be, because I was living a reality similar to what hers would be, and as a friend, I wanted to make sure she entered into this with eyes wide open.
So my answer was, “Yes…but…”
And I stopped there for a moment, and then gave her a quick answer, telling her to make sure she considered all of the realities of becoming a single mom – before rushing off to meet a tight deadline.
But this is how I would have answered if I had more time…
“Yes, but…you need to be ready to stay up three days and nights in a row when your two-year-old comes down with a violent stomach bug, and is throwing up every 15 minutes for more than 24 hours…and then you need to be ready to get that stomach bug yourself and still take care of your little one…and you need to be ready for the judgment and the stereotyping – not just from the Fox News pundits, but from many others – and bear that judgment when it comes from those you least expected it from…and you need to be ready to run out of toilet paper and tampons at 9 pm, but not be able to run to the store because the baby is already asleep and it is pouring rain outside…and you need to be ready to get up every single morning with them at 6 am – without a partner to trade early weekend mornings with and know that no matter how hard you try to get them to sleep in, it just won’t happen…and you need to be able to accept that fact that no one will clear the dishes and put them in the dishwasher while you get the baby ready for bed…and you need to be ready to not have anyone to yell at when you finally sit down to write a piece and you notice that an entire bottle of bubbles had been lying on its side all day and has now soaked through the entire couch cushion…and you need to be ready to worry about dying and money in a way that makes you think you need intensive therapy…and you need to be ready to feel totally and completely alone some nights and dig really deep to keep your focus on what really matters in life – while crying yourself to sleep…and you need to be ready to not have anyone to worry with you, or to be as invested in your child’s life as you are, and to panic with you when out of nowhere your child starts stuttering terribly or to cheer with you when at 20 months old, out of nowhere, your child counts to 14.
It. Is. Just. You.
But if you are ready for that, and you fully accept that that is how your life will look and that this is how you will experience motherhood, then brace yourself. You also need to be ready to fall in love in a way that you never dreamed possible…and you need to be ready to find an inner strength that you never knew existed and one that will change you in profound ways – making you wonder how you ever managed life without it…and you need to be ready to build a community that fills in the gaps while you wonder how you will ever pay them back…and you need to know that you will make sacrifices that you never, ever imagined making and you won’t mind 85 percent of the time…and that you will constantly put your child’s needs before your own, and doing so will make you a better person… and that you will be in bed before 9 pm nearly every single Friday and Saturday night, and nothing will make you happier…and that you will wake up one day and realize your life looks absolutely nothing like it did in years past, and although you will be a bit wistful, you will drink it all in and thank God for all you have.
Single motherhood is difficult. Motherhood is difficult. From what I have been told, being a wife or a husband is difficult. Running a marathon is difficult, and the list goes on and on and on. Difficult does not equal bad – at least not in my book. And as long as you are prepared for the bumps in the road, and you have the resources you need to be the kind of mother you want to be, then my answer to that large, huge, question is, “Yes. But.”