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Single Motherhood, by design

Categories: Fighting the Stereotype, Missing Parent


Nataly drew my attention to an intriguing article last night, about women who have made the decision to have children solo.

It seems like it’s a bit of a trend: 30-something, successful and independent women who have everything: a home, a stable career, a joie de vivre and a need to share it. They have everything, that is, except a man and a child. And they’re increasingly deciding that they don’t need the man to have the child.

I read the article with great interest: I have several friends in their early thirties who are navigating this perplexing road now. They are still young but experienced in dating, jaded enough to know that their chances of finding Mr. Right are diminishing daily. Their bodies are still young enough to conceive fairly easily, but there’s not that much time. It’s a critical, life-altering decision. Should they make the decision to bear and raise a child alone? It’s a question with a very personal answer. But — and this may get me in trouble — if I were asked my opinion, as a woman raising a child solo, I would say: don’t do it.

It’s a simple synopsis of an anything-but-simple circumstance. I would not trade my son for anything. I cannot imagine my mornings without his sweet, warbling voice, without seeing his enthusiasm for slugs, rain, and the star-studded sky. I can’t remember what my heart felt like before it was punctured and blown up with this all-consuming, tender, raw brand of love. I can’t properly answer the question: would I do it again, knowing I’d be a single Mom? Because, I know my son now, and knowing him takes away the ability to answer the question objectively. Of course I would not trade him for the world. I don’t know what I’d do without him, I don’t know who I’d be. What I do know: raising a child as a Single Mother is the hardest thing I’ve ever done.

I’ve been single since Nolan was barely one year old, he is now just past three. A few weeks ago, my son had an accident in a mall restaurant, on the floor near the table where we were waiting for our pasta primavera. He had just finished a meltdown because I wouldn’t buy him a toy car, he had grime smeared on his shirt and had insisted on exiting the house in shorts, in the pelting rain. He was defiant at every turn, and the pee dribbling all over the floor in a restaurant, the kind sympathy-eyes of the patrons around me, somehow made me break down into heaving, shuddering sobs. I ushered him to the bathroom where I rinsed water on my face and solemnly regarded the face of a woman under stress.

A solo Mom has no choice but to work, full time, and often more than that to make ends meet. It brings guilt, and pressure — and there is no one at home to alleviate the stress with backrubs or an occasional dump run. There’s no time out, no one to offer to stay at home with the child when things are too much to bear. There is no one to take charge when I’m sick, or stressed, or just in over my head.

Unlike Moms who purposely have children without a Father figure present, my son has a Father who loves him, and this makes an enormous difference in his social life at school. At three, children are already discussing household structure, what family units mean.

“I do have a Daddy,”said my son one day last week when I picked him up,”He’s just not here.”

“Of course you have a Daddy,”I replied,”And he loves you so, so much.”

I felt a twinge of guilt, but I can’t even imagine explaining that no, you don’t have a Daddy,baby. It’s just you and me.”

This isn’t to say I don’t respect and admire the choice of women who do their research and knowingly take on the the overwhelming task of single Motherhood.  But here is what I feel:  A Mama needs to share the small moments of everyday, to share the soaring highs and crushing lows of life with a child, with someone who shares the knowledge.  This Mom yearns for an occasional break, a handoff, someone to talk me down from the inevitable ledges of daily life with a pre-schooler.  And, I feel like my child often feels the deep need for a second parent, to balance the quirks of the first, to provide a sounding board in lieu of an all-pervasive single opinion.

If I were single and childless, now at 33, knowing what I know without actually knowing the overwhelming joy of my son — I wouldn’t do it.  I wouldn’t choose to raise a child alone.

What do you think?  Would you?

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64 comments so far...

  • I think you’re very brave to post this and I have to say that I agree with you. I’m raising two preschoolers on my own and every day I’m torn between my intense longing to have another child…more children…and the harsh reality that I’m barely hanging on. I would not trade my children for anything but I beat myself up for not choosing a better father for them. Especially with my 4 year old, I see the pain and confusion in him every day when he asks why his daddy doesn’t live with us, where is his daddy, does his daddy love him, etc. We talk about how all families are different and maybe, in time, he’ll grow to be more open-minded for his experiences. In the meantime though, the guilt is overwhelming because I know that what he is experiencing, and what he is missing, is a result of the choices I made. The choice to marry his father and the choice to leave him. It will be interesting to see how my younger son deals with these issues as he grows because he is too young to remember the time when Daddy did live with us. I’m not sure if that will make it harder or easier for him. My children are truly my reason for living but if I knew that I were going to be raising them alone, I don’t think that’s a choice I would have made and not one that I would recommend to anyone else.

    Barb  |  September 22nd, 2008 at 9:02 am

  • how do you feel about stay at home moms i am doing a school report and its a chael talk. i need alll the advice a can get watare some good arguments for being a working Mather

    liz  |  September 22nd, 2008 at 9:35 am

  • Although I’m not yet a mother, I do agree that parenting is something that is optimally shared. I’m not saying single mothers are lesser parents because of course, they’re not, they’re if anything greater parents, double parents, twice the parent in one package. The key word, then, is optimally, which I think is what you’re saying. I think single parents find themselves in a less-than-optimal situation for themselves and their children and they become the superhumans they are out of necessity. And I think, because of that experience, most single parents would be likely to agree with you: wonderful, awe-inspiring, challenging, worth it - yes. Optimal? No.

    Interestingly, when I was a teenager, I used to feel like I wanted to be a single mother. I had parents who, while they adored me, were very different people and I saw the strain on their marriage and thought the solution - in my naivete! - was that single parenthood removed that source of conflict. Now, as a more mature person, I see that my two parents, however different and even possibly conflictual they were, served two different and equally critical roles in my life and I would want - again, optimally! - to give that to my children one day as well.

    I also think it bears saying, as your dear friend who adores you, that people should see very clearly that you’re speaking from your experience and not attacking anyone or their desires or opinions. Respect!

    Krissa  |  September 22nd, 2008 at 9:54 am

  • Krissa, oh god yes, this is totally my opinion only. Opinion only!

    Kristin D  |  September 22nd, 2008 at 10:12 am

  • ITA. I am not a single mother, and it’s STILL the hardest job I’ve ever had in my life. But when I was single and in my early 30s, I probably considered this option. And boy, would I have made a big, awful mistake.

    Trish  |  September 22nd, 2008 at 10:39 am

  • I don’t think I could do it. I have been so fortunate in my husband - we try to do 50/50 but I know that are times that he does way more or I do more - but those times are short-lived and it’s during those times that I count down to when it’s the both of us again. I have the highest respect to single parents, but with me, I need the daily support and I can’t imagine making that choice - purposefully! But if I had to do it - I would - I think that goes without saying.

    Laurie  |  September 22nd, 2008 at 10:41 am

  • Interesting column, Kristin. I had a conversation with my mother after breaking up with the lunkhead I dated for much of my 20s in which she encouraged me to just go out and get pregnant so that I wouldn’t miss out on being a mom. (It was unclear as to whether she thought I should visit a sperm bank or just my local college’s PhD program looking for handsome stragglers to seduce.) I was shocked she’d even suggest it since she is Catholic and she was a single mom by divorce for much of my early childhood. She claimed that while being a single parent was difficult, it would have been far more awful not to have children. (Granted this conversation was 25 years past her own experience being a single mom so rose-tinted glasses and all that…) Luckily for me, it didn’t come down to that choice since I met my husband shortly afterwards but it did make me wonder. I think that there are women out there who could pull it off successfully but they’d better have a hell of a support system in place, and be willing to ask them for a lot of help. Also, I think it would be ideal for someone in that support system to be male because I know for sure my son gets a different energy from my husband that he seems to crave at times. You are lucky, for instance, that Nolan has his uncle nearby and available to him. I’m not sure that it’s possible to separate the daily drudgery of motherhood which has brought us all to tears from the unique joy of loving a particular child. And that is probably one reason why the species survives to this day…

    Carrie  |  September 22nd, 2008 at 10:42 am

  • I completely agree. I love my kids with all I have but I couldn’t parent the way I want on my own. I completely respect the choice to be a single mom. That said, there are days when I feel like I’m barely hanging on and I have one of the most wonderful, involved, loving husbands ever. Just like you said - one aspect is the work, needing support on a rough day (week/year) and also wanting another parent, another role model involved, to balance things. Having children has been amazing, an experience I wouldn’t trade for anything, but knowing what I know now, I would not have chosen to do it alone.

    Anna  |  September 22nd, 2008 at 11:12 am

  • I volunteer as a Big Sister, and this topic actually came up recently at a meeting I went to. I was surprised to learn that so many of our Big Brothers are matched with kids whose mothers had children on their own (by choice). These kids are wonderful and well adjusted and thriving!

    Hilary  |  September 22nd, 2008 at 11:17 am

  • There was a time when I considered this option thinking that if I didn’t meet anyone I really liked enough to marry by the time I was 30 I would have a child on my own. Well, I did meet someone and now my daughter is 5 months old and as pp Trish said this is the hardest job I have ever had. I barely feel like I am getting by most days with a husband who comes home and gives me a shoulder to sob on. So as so many have said, knowing what I know now - definitely not.

    And Carrie - I had the exact same conversation with my Mum after breaking up with “asshole” (as my Father affectionately called him). Her idea was that I should go to Ireland and just seduce some handsome bloke there (yes, she is Catholic too).

    melanie  |  September 22nd, 2008 at 11:28 am

  • Any adult male or female that chooses to tackle parenting solo, has my deepest respect.

    When I met my current husband he was a single parent to three little ones, and I was a single mom to my three kids. I had been a solo parent for two years at that point, and it was very challenging ( and my kids were pretty easy going!).

    My three older kids are adults now. I cannot even imagine how I would have survived the teen years, without a second parent in the house, to back me up.

    The second parent makes a world of difference.

    Add in the difficulties of co-parenting with an ex that doesn’t share your parenting style and/or values, and it gets really bumpy during the teen years.

    Hats off to anyone that can manage parenting a kid or two or more solo.

    Honestly, I couldn’t do it.

    MommytoMany  |  September 22nd, 2008 at 11:28 am

  • My clock just started protesting, loudly, in perfect sync with meeting the man I want to spend the rest of my life with. I didn’t know I wanted kids until I met him, but I also wonder if the biological imperative to pro-create coincidentally started when I met him. If I was alone, would I have still started to have the baby fever? I don’t think I’ll ever know, but I do know that once you have the voice in your head telling you to have a baby, it’s hard to shut off. I can’t imagine doing it alone, but I can totally understand why some women choose to do so.

    Tamara  |  September 22nd, 2008 at 12:20 pm

  • I think your opininion is measured, and well thought out, and well put.

    But my gut feeling is this: if I never have children, I’ll be devastated. And if I reach my mid thirties and find myself single (for whatever reason… am in long term relationship now so it’s not on the cards),I’m not sure I’ll be able to ignore the want, the need, to have a child.

    Yes it would be hard, but then, as you rightly point out, being a single mother in any circs is hard. As is being a teenage parent, as is being a parent of triplets. As is just, well, being parent, it would seem. But I’ve never heard anyone in any of these situations say they wish they hadn’t done it.

    Your advice is good, and wise, but I’m not sure I’d let my head rule my heart enough to follow it.

    Bokker  |  September 22nd, 2008 at 12:27 pm

  • I was raised by a single mom and having a dad “out there” was enough to know that he was actually there. I know my mom struggled a lot seeing as my dad was a ferry ride away. I don’t think it was fair that she was alone, but she did her best and I wouldn’t trade those many MANY years for anything!
    I don’t think it’s fair to the child though, if there is an actual choice, to have a kid without two parents. There should be two. Everyone needs help, and no one usually asks to have no one.
    Do the kid a favour and be one of two - as one day, you may be a one, and you’ll still want the kid to have that two, even if you’re not together.

    K  |  September 22nd, 2008 at 12:33 pm

  • As a someone who did decide to become a single parent by choice I have to disagree with the majority of people who wrote in on this topic. As someone who was in her 30’s and with no man that I wanted to spend the rest of my life with on the horizon, I still had an overwhelming desire to have a child. Should I have left that desire unfulfilled? Maybe - the majority of ya’ll seem to thiink so. I believe, however, that my son - the light of my world- has made me a better person. In reaching my decision to be a single mom by choice, I consulted my family and friends. I told them what I was considering and if I decided to go through with it, that I wanted them to fill the place in my child’s life that a daddy would. As some of ya’ll know already, being in a marriage is no guarantee that your child will have both parents living in the same household. Much to my delight, I have found that my family and friends have more than filled the role of a daddy in my son’s life. While most children do have the blessing of having both a mother and father, not every family has moms or dads or even grandparents. So while my son doesn’t have a daddy, he has a uncle, three awesome male cousins ranging from one year older than him to 20 years older and a spectacular grandfather. Finally, as I sure most parents feel, I can not imagine MY life without my son in it. Moreover, I cannot imagine the type of world this would be without him in it as well. I wish that all of you naysayers about choosing to be a single mom, will think about this before you express you doubts or negative feelings on people considering this avenue.

    faye  |  September 22nd, 2008 at 1:07 pm

  • Wow. I do know that there are people who do this. Maybe its different if you’re going into it knowing that you’ll be doing it alone vs. becoming single after the fact. Maybe?

    Still, I do agree with you. It is the hardest job ever… and I also agree that I’d like some balance in my life by sharing it with another person.

    Great article, Kristin.

    T  |  September 22nd, 2008 at 1:09 pm

  • Being a single mother is the toughest job you will ever love. And I do believe there are women out there who can take on the challenge and parent on their own.

    For me it comes down to the child. My children struggle so much with their feelings for their dad and he is involved in their lives. They all deal with their own issues of abandonment and it effects their self-esteem, social interactions and various other aspects of your life.

    No matter how much you love your children, how much time their father spends with them. My ex says all the time he didn’t leave the kids, he left me. Reality check, you left your family, you are not here on a day to day basis. (Don’t get me wrong, I have moved on and found closure, these are not worlds of bitterness or resentment, just reality.) Not having a complete family is so hard for kids and something single mothers have to work every day to try and overcome.

    Yes, single parenting is hard. Yes, I cannot imagine life without them. Yes, it can be done. No, I do not think that you should start out with the strike against you. But I will admit my opinion is one of woman who has never faced the idea of not having kids of my own.

    Elisabeth  |  September 22nd, 2008 at 1:23 pm

  • I considered the choice of having a child without a “father,” and I decided it wasn’t the right choice for me. I felt I shouldn’t intentionally create a life knowing that one element of what I consider an “ideal” family would not be present.

    Instead, I chose to adopt two beautiful girls who were already living without an “ideal” family. They will turn two in the coming fall / winter.

    I would encourage any single woman who is yearning for a child to consider adoption. It doesn’t depend on the biological clock - one needn’t jump into it at age 35 just because age 38 might bring difficulties to a pregnancy. For that matter, it’s the first and only choice for some women, regardless of the biological clock.

    Yes, being a single mom is hard. Being a mom is hard. But while a single mom doesn’t get time off, she also doesn’t have to (a) argue with a man about what’s best for the children/family or (b) deal with a man’s shortcomings. Moreover, a single mom who was never involved with the child’s “father” doesn’t have the regret, anger, guilt, etc. related to his absence.

    A single woman who wants a child has time to plan for a child-friendly life. I lived very frugally and saved up for 15 years (after law school) before embarking on motherhood, and this allows me to now have a lot of flexibility to do what I feel is best for my kids. I can work at home during the hours I choose (pretty much), and if I want to take them to a mommy & me class on Monday morning, I can. I don’t have to worry about my kids’ education fund because I filled it up before they were born.

    Again, single parenting is hard, but it gets easier all the time. If I had it to do over again, I’d still do it - and I’m past my 30’s.

    SKL  |  September 22nd, 2008 at 1:38 pm

  • The comments here are much more insightful and interesting than the post itself. Thanks for your thoughts, guys…keep em coming!

    Kristin D  |  September 22nd, 2008 at 2:21 pm

  • “Being a single mother is the toughest job you will ever love.”

    This, a thousand times this. I may well be in the minority here, but knowing my son, knowing how wonderful it is to be his Mummy, knowing that actually, I am good at this, that women can do this on our own and we can do it well - yes, I’d choose it. I am a better parent now than I ever was with my ex. Single parenthood has made me assertive, confident, raised my self-esteem and my belief that, well, I’m bloody awesome at this. :D

    Anji  |  September 22nd, 2008 at 2:42 pm

  • As a woman who chose to get married at age 21, have a child at 22 and then unfortunately got divorced when he was 9 (my age being 31) and then raising him jointly as single parents with his father for the past 7 years I have learned two things.
    It is not about what you the parent wants or desires. It is about what your child truly needs. The child should be considered before the desires of the parent, even prior to that child’s existence. My son was planned and brought into the world via marriage and a joint desire to bring him forth. It is only due to that joint decision and discussion that I feel my son has thrived despite his father and I’s eventual divorce.
    While we are divorced, we have jointly raised our child. However, during times when my son was with me and I was serving as a single parent, it was hard. He would do or say things and I could not look to my left and smile at his father and say, “Did you just see what our son did?” No one cares about a child like it’s actual parents. Yes, love is possible from all sources, but a parent/child bond is like noneother.
    Many people told me not to have a child at age 22. Had I not, I would be childless. I think that if the desire to be a parent is present then make it a priority before the big house, the new car, etc. I jumped in early because I knew I could never live with myself if I didn’t have kids.
    I think that God designed children to be of man and woman for a reason, because a child needs two parents. I found myself several times at wit’s end and wished I had another person’s input, support, etc. And I know my son needed his father at times when all he got was his mother. I wouldn’t wish that on any child. Oddly, I think that two gay men or two lesbian women are more optimal parents than one single parent by choice. This doesn’t mean that I think anyone faced with circumstances beyond their control who step up to be a great single parent are bad. But choose that for your future child? Ludicrous to me. Because it’s not about you…it’s about the child. Children are not things to be owned simply because we desire them.
    I am no longer a single parent but even parenting via divorce is not optimal and step parenting is a challenge all it’s own. I love my son and if I could make the choice singularly, I would choose everything for him or be the one to suffer being childless myself. I would suffer instead of possibly making a future child suffer. Imagine that….parenthood based on someone ele’s needs and desires instead of my own. I would sacrifice motherhood if it prevented any possible discord for an unborn child.
    I believe every child can thrive in any environment but if you’re not yet a mother or a parent and you’ve never experienced the pain of your own child….you can’t know the decision you are making to knowingly rob a child of a second parent.

    Kristy  |  September 22nd, 2008 at 5:54 pm

  • There are days when I feel like I’m going to seriously go bonkers raising my child…and I have my husband to help me. BUT…I think the REGRET a woman would feel if she WANTED a child and waited too long and then was UNABLE to, would be so much more devastating than the hardship of raising that child alone. Picture a woman in her mid 40’s…the LONGING she would have in her heart for a child vs. looking back at how hard raising that child was.

    joyce  |  September 22nd, 2008 at 6:22 pm

  • I am a single mother but not by choice. My son’s father chose not to be a part of his life so I am raising a child without one. Yes, it is very hard to deal with, but this is the hand I was dealt and I’m making the best of a bad situation. My son’s only two so he hasen’t noticed the “no daddy” part but I know it’s coming. So it’s really no different than choosing to have a child without a father. But I would choose to raise a child by myself. There are so many different families:two parent families, single parent families, divorced families, children raised by grandparents or aunts and uncles, foster families, adopted families( which I happen to be a part of). Children can still grow up to be extraordinary people with only a mother. It’s not about who raises them, it’s about how they are raised.

    Lynn  |  September 22nd, 2008 at 8:00 pm

  • Kristin, great post. You made the argument in a very respectful manner. Great Job.

    I am not a single parent.

    I had a friend who always used to say, “I

    want a baby but I don’t want a husband.” I thought she was crazy. “Doesn’t she know how hard it is.” I thought. I always believed in having a husband first, then have kids. But then again, I got married and had kids in my early 20’s.

    I never got to a point of being single, successful career woman in my 30’s.

    Perhaps at that age, these women don’t want to lose control. They want the child, and perhaps with the money they have they can afford the extra help. (housekeeper).

    Perhaps it’s irresponsible to have kids without a father present. But perhaps, it’s better for that kid, to just have a mother and not mother and father that can’t get a long. Who knows?

    Vera Babayeva  |  September 22nd, 2008 at 8:31 pm

  • Having done it both ways, and the loner way not being a choice, I would never go back. I had a child young and raised her alone. The line you said about just being you and me? That was our mantra. She will never be able to stop looking to fill the void that was left because of it. She is nearly 18 and has since met her father and even he in the flesh is not even close to ‘good enough’. Every little girl needs a daddy to tell her she is ‘his princess’ and to see the gleam of adoration in his eye when he says it. Every little boy needs a daddy’s shoulders he can sit on when he needs a boost. I only say these things because I have had the experience of both. It breaks my heart that my first child missed out on so much because I chose such a loser to begin with. I am thankful and blessed to have a doting father for my youngest son and daughter.

    I agree, although I may be tempted if it were me (successful, single and approaching *that age*) and I had not had this experience..knowing what I do now, I would never do it again. Never. Not to the child. And you are right, having someone you share them with is just as precious.

    Mandy  |  September 22nd, 2008 at 8:54 pm

  • I’m not a single mother, but my husband does work away for about six months out of the year (coming home for a week every 4 weeks), so for half the year I’m on my own. Also, when he’s home, I still work 30 hours per week and do most of the housework, etc. I have to say that I would *definetly* have children if I was single. This is just my experience but when my husband is away I find I handle things fine. He’s been going away since my youngest was 2 and my oldest 4. They’re school aged now, and it’s much easier now than when they were so little. Not to say that I didn’t have my moments and being alone was tough, but I know I would have kids if I didn’t have a partner.
    But, I don’t have the perspective of being alone all the time, and I don’t have that constant financial worry, so it’s easy for me to say that I would, but I totally respect your opinion that you would have done it differently.

    MD  |  September 23rd, 2008 at 6:55 am

  • Single mother since my boy was 4 months old. I was 19. He’s 10 now. He’s great. And yes it’s hard. Self employed and I can relate to the guilt you speak about Kristin. I am always run off my feet. He has an extra curricular activity after school EVERY day and I wouldn’t have it any other way but the logistics of doing it alone are staggering.

    On the other end of the spectrum, yesterday my blog entry was about the stab I felt in my stomach as he and I sat hand in hand watching Mamma Mia, and about the conversation that ensued in the car on the way home about his father or lack thereof .

    I agree that there are numerous benefits. There are no arguments about parenting styles. But as you said, there’s no one to say “go for a coffee/run/walk/movie - you look like you need a break.”

    You’re doing a great job with N though. Keep it up.

    tash  |  September 23rd, 2008 at 9:22 am

  • This is a hard question to answer objectively. I wouldnt give up my two boys for anything this world had to offer. Even though their father and I have divorced I am still thankful for that relationship because of them.
    That being said….it is so damn hard sometimes. When you’ve got a teacher calling you, both son’s calling you, work to be done at work AND at home and your day does NOT end until 11 or 12, there is no way I would intentionally do this alone. All the bad does get wiped away with one good thing but in the throes of it all, man…it is hard. I sometimes wonder if they get short changed when its really not their fault.

    My boys are very independent. Very self sufficent. Very mature. I believe that has come from a life of having times when… well, ‘that’s just the has it has got to be’ was my answer more times than naught. Their father is very active in their lives and helps out tremendously but I am the custodial parent. Most if not all decision go through me so all concerns get voiced to me first and then I have to share with him. Its a huge responsiblity.
    There are still times when I get a glimpse or have a memory of the way things used to be and I have to wonder at the changes that could have or would have been. A part of me still wishes they had a ‘typical’ family. The family that I said I do too. But that is not the reality.

    Jakki  |  September 23rd, 2008 at 10:14 am

  • I am a single mom. My daughter’s father abandoned us and moved on to another woman when our child was 9 months old. No I can never be both a mom and dad. No I can never give her the “daddy’s little princess” load of garbage. I grew up with a mom and dad, and I didn’t get the “daddy’s little princess” crap. I had love and respect from both my parents. Love. Respect. Those are more important than traditional “male” and “female” roles of parenting.

    I beleive the more people a child has to love it, the more viewpoints, opinions and ways of thinking it is exposed to, the better off it will be. This doesn’t nessecarily mean having a mom and dad in the child’s life. It means having friends, family members, teachers, community members…um…it takes a village to rasie a child?

    I refuse to believe that my child will grow up less of a person because she doesn’t have a dad who wants to be in her life. That insults every single mom out there. Every mother who is forced to raise her child alone because her husband was killed in a war, or was lost in some other way. Are they less of a parent as well?

    The moms raise their young alone in nature. That’s how its always been. Its natural. Its instinct. I’m not going to feel guilty about something that occurs naturally.

    I don’t think a single mom should want a husband just so he can fill the role of a father, or just so he can give her a “break.” That is completely disrespectful to the man. He is a human being too, not just something you can convieniently insert into your life to make it easier.

    I respect the writer of this article, because she feels what all single moms feel: stressed, exhausted and incredibly rewarded. She is smart enough to give honest advice. I just don’t agree with some of the comments.

    Hanna  |  September 23rd, 2008 at 10:22 am

  • I think that children will thrive in ANY environment where they are shown love and stability. The family dynamic is irrelevant and only comes into play when society pushes a single scenario as an ideal. Parenting is a difficult task no matter how you take it on. Personally I am pleased to be parenting solo after having to share my child with an unworthy figure of a father. Our rising generation will hopefully be wiser and willing to embrace all types of families rather than insisting society abide by an ideal that some of us do not hold true. A child doesn’t experience a “void” simply because their household situation is different than what you personally believe should happen. We (my son and I) are living a much fuller life than most married couples with children and in fact are envied by some married mothers I know who have less time for themselves than I do. To anyone with love in their hearts and a home to share who wants to voluntarily take on parenting I say go for it. Single, married, adopted, biological, hetero or homosexual- raise your kids to be kind and gentle members of society. Hopefully someday the ignorant folks who insist on two parent households being the only way to go will become the minority and we will instead focus on the quality of love and care a child is getting, not on the quantity of people giving it.

    Ruth  |  September 23rd, 2008 at 10:33 am

  • I don’t think it’s very good for kids to not have daddies. So I couldn’t knowingly do something that would be difficult for my kid. Also, I couldn’t imagine having NO ONE else to parent my kid.

    But! I definitely would have a child without being married…in a co-parenting situation. That’s what I’ve landed in, I’ve been a single mom for 14 years. It is as hard as you describe, and I do suffer from never getting a break. I would not change a thing. I’m happy to NOT be married to his dad and I love being his mom, even when it drains the life out of me. BTW, the toddler years and teenaged years are hard but there have been some easier times in between.

    And I’ve got to say that I see plenty of married women (especially working ones) that struggle with exactly the same issues, feeling overburdened, feeling like they have no support. Sometimes I think it’s the single women’s fantasy (mine too!) to get backrubs and a deep understanding of the sacrifices you make. In reality, I don’t see that much.

    I feel like it’s the lot of the working mother to feel as if she is not really doing a very good job at anything, married or single. But really, the grass is not always greener.

    Leigh  |  September 23rd, 2008 at 10:37 am

  • One more thing. I have a dad. He was emotionally absent, never told me I was his princess or anything close. I struggle with abandonment isssues to this day. So again, just having a dad in a child’s life is no guarantee of emotional health.

    My son is way more connected to his dad, even though we haven’t lived together since he was 9 months old.

    Leigh  |  September 23rd, 2008 at 10:41 am

  • As a single dad with half-time custody, I have to say I agree with you - having a partner present in your life while raising kids, and being present in your kids life full time, would be so much nicer. Divorced life is great for my own personal self growth, but it sucks in terms of connecting me and my kids and the family unit we have at my house - connecting that into the community. We just aren’t as readily accepted, because we’re different.

    Not to mention, we miss out on extended family gatherings (their mom has tons of family in the area, but I don’t) They alternate holidays with either parent. It just doesn’t feel complete.

    Now - I gave totally different reasons than a full time single mom might give. I guess I’m giving a two-household perspective. I tell all my married friends who experience relationship problems and contemplate divorce - if at all possible, stay married.

    dadshouse  |  September 23rd, 2008 at 12:37 pm

  • While I wouldn’t choose to have a baby on my own because it would be very hard for a lot of the reasons mentioned, I agree with the commenter who said you deal with some of the very same issues when you are married. I know I do.

    Sharon  |  September 23rd, 2008 at 1:02 pm

  • Lynn, Thank you so much for this:
    “It’s not about who raises them, it’s about how they are raised.”

    I’m in the same boat: My ex split town. Like Kristin’s ex, he talked about coming back. But he never did.

    Kristin what you say about fathers being present — “this makes an enormous difference in his social life at school” — is very valid.

    However, “present” is the key word here.

    If a child has an irresponsible, unreliable father coming in and out of his/her life, this could be devastating.

    Kids are also unique. Some ask about “Daddy,” some never mention it.

    Also, how honest and open are you as a parent?

    In my own experience, if you show your child — with every ounce of love, respect, and openness — how special your little family is, this makes a world of difference.

    Reach out to grandparents, aunts and uncles, friends. This is how single moms do it.

    Single Mom Seeking  |  September 23rd, 2008 at 2:12 pm

  • I think that you wrote this incredbily well. Being a parent is an incredibly hard job. However, I do think that the joy obtained, from the life of one whom you love unconditionally and loves you in return, is enough to conquer. I don’t want to do it )raise my children alone), but I know many who do and they do it well.

    Elizabeth  |  September 23rd, 2008 at 11:22 pm

  • I’m with you, Kristin.

    I was brought up in a single mom household from age 6, following my parents’ divorce. My father died two years later.

    I saw and experienced first hand what my mother carried on her shoulders all those years. It’s because of that that I have chosen never to have kids until and unless it’s within the setting of a stable, committed marriage… and of course having said all of that, I have nothing but deepest respect and awe for women who are able to pull off single motherhood.

    Kristin, your son is so lucky and blessed to have a mom like you. Especially as he grows into adulthood, he will have such respect and awe and gratitude and love for you, and all that you’ve done. Blessings to both of you and hang in there….

    Katie  |  September 24th, 2008 at 4:33 am

  • Wow. Every feeling.Every thought. Every situation. Everything I’ve always been too scared to say. Thank You Kristin. Us single mom may feel alone day in and day out but your post has proven to me that we are not alone. Thank you thank you thank you!

    Miranda  |  September 24th, 2008 at 4:29 pm

  • Thank you guys. Your comments are a large part of the reason I love to write for this site. On so many websites, this topic would have disintegrated into a vast array of f-bombs and judgment, and the intelligent conversation here just reiterates the intelligence of the site. Great, thought provoking stuff and respectful opinions: the reason Web 2.0 is changing our futures.

    Kristin D  |  September 25th, 2008 at 2:16 am

  • Of COURSE it can be done and done well. But it puts more responsibility on the solo parent. If he/she doesn’t have a strong extended support system, all the more tough. I have to say, there have been times when I am at my LIMIT and having my husband take over has saved me from becoming a raving lunatic in front of my daughter, particularly after hours of teething crying or neediness. I’m so glad I don’t have to do this alone.

    Robyn  |  September 25th, 2008 at 12:07 pm

  • Most people, I think, would prefer to have a partner in life… Not that being single is in any way a lesser status or that a single person is not whole in and of him/herself. There are people who are perfectly happy being single some or all of the time. There’s also something to be said for having a friend or partner with whom you can share the joys and burdens of life, and parenting is a huge part of that when you have a child/children. There’s nothing wrong with that, either.

    Robyn  |  September 25th, 2008 at 12:26 pm

  • I have been a single mom to my two kids, ages 11 and 6, for most of their lives. Even when I was still married to my son’s father, I was a pretty much a single mom because he was in Iraq for a year. Our marriage fell apart shortly after his return.

    I am now in a position where I ended an engagement because I’ve figured out I don’t want to be married. Maybe it’s because I’ve spent more time as a single mom than as one with a partner, but I just prefer being single. Sure, it’s hard-it’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done and I started doing it as a 21 year old college senior who could barely take care of herself, much less a kid-but, at the end of the day, I am happiest when it’s just the three of us. Sometimes I get stressed and sometimes I lose my temper and sometimes I wish I had a nanny, but I wouldn’t trade our lives for that of a “traditional” family. This is what works for us.

    I don’t think I’d try to get pregnant on purpose but I don’t really much enjoy pregnancy. I’m not one of those women that glows. Nope, I look like the Stay Puft Marshmallow man from Ghostbusters when knocked up. But, if I found myself pregnant accidentally (again) I think I would probably make the same choice I made when I chose to have my daughter. It was hard, but it was totally worth it!

    Candance  |  September 25th, 2008 at 2:08 pm

  • For me being a single mom who has joint custody of my daughter given a do over. I would say I wouldn’t change anything. However, if I were in the same financial position I am today 5 years ago, I would have definately had another child on my own. Being a mother is the best part of my life and I have a 15 year old daughter. She challenges me to live upto my own expecataations of her and I have grown more as a women by being a parent. I have been reminded of my youth continuously and I love that. Any woman that wants kids I say go for it. Life is short share it with a child..

    Cheryl Nordyke  |  September 25th, 2008 at 2:12 pm

  • I would never be a single mom on purpose. I now have 9 children. 6 are only home now. The last couple of years we have gone through some very hard times. I could not have done it by my self. I keep telling my husband that you cannot die until the last child is out of high school. I will say prayers for all you single moms tonight.

    Debbie  |  September 25th, 2008 at 5:41 pm

  • Like you, I never would’ve chosen it. Never. Of course, I can’t imagine not having these children in my life, because now I know and love them, and it was worth every wretched “it wasn’t supposed to be this way” moment. But would I have chosen it, knowing? No.

    I find it interesting that some single moms are offended by this discussion. I wouldn’t have chosen it because it’s HARD, not because I think my children were somehow robbed or handicapped. If my 4+ years of single parenting taught me anything, it’s that kids are resilient. Our family was fine. They are fine. But I often felt like I was hanging on for dear life, and badly, at that.

    Now that I have a partner again I am grateful every day to have someone to share the load. Saying I wouldn’t have chosen single parenthood is not an indictment of anyone else or even a comment on anyone else; it’s merely an admission of my own weakness. I’m a better parent, and a happier person, with in-house support.

    I raise my glass to all single parents, whether by choice or by circumstance.

    Mir  |  September 25th, 2008 at 6:58 pm

  • I am a single mom by choice(via fostercare/adoption) and it is not easy but I have always wanted to be a mother so this is the route I thought would work for me. I have a 6yr old and and an 11 month old. I hope to one day be married but who knows if that will ever happen. I decided to not wait to have a family but I didn’t want to have a child w/out a husband.

    Angel Windley  |  September 25th, 2008 at 8:49 pm

  • Single mom for 8 years. Divorced while pregnant. Sacrificed career and even health for a few years. Reinvented self outside of corporate America. Recently remarried now with 3 stepkids. Did I know what I was getting into? No clue. Was it the hardest thing I’ve ever done. Yes. Is it easier being remarried. Sometimes yes, but sometimes no. Would I do it all again? Absolutely.

    Diane K. Danielson  |  September 25th, 2008 at 10:34 pm

  • The article was nice up until the part where you talk about how nice it is that your son can refer to a daddy, and how children of single-by-choice mothers wouldn’t have that “comforting” option. Were you doing that just to stir the pot?

    I was a child of a single mother, not by choice- my dad died when I was very young. When asked where my dad was, my reply up until a certain point was “I don’t have one.” Which did confuse people to some small degree, but it didn’t cause a ruckus or make me weep into my saddle shoes. Family identity, believe it or not, doesn’t have to involve a dad. We do just fine without that somewhere dad to refer to.

    Penny  |  September 26th, 2008 at 6:48 am

  • I have been sole parent for most of my daughter’s life.

    Both her father and I wanted her, but our relationship faltered. He died soon after.

    As a result of being a sole mother, I met many other sole parents - including several who made this decision.

    I think it a far more noble decision than to have anonymous sex or be in a bad relationship where a child was a byproduct.

    Every child I have met as a result of such a decision has know they were wanted greatly by their parent.

    Since my daughter turned 6, I have been in a relationship - there are hardships on all sides of the parenting fence. There is more support in a relationship - but you are no longer the “only” decision maker!

    jeanie  |  September 26th, 2008 at 4:45 pm

  • Just goes to show everyone is different. I was a sole mother the minute my son was born and have stayed that way for the last 18 years. I love him dearly and would never ever not choose this path again. The wisdom of hindsight tells me that it was the right thing for me to have him and raise him alone, though I so wish I could have given him siblings.

    I waited for the right guy so that I could complete my family but he just didn’t turn up. Then in my late 30s I decided I couldn’t wait for him any longer and started trying for another baby on my own but I’d left it too late.

    The grief of never having met a loving partner at all, let alone in time to help me have all the children I wanted, and the grief of never being able to give my son siblings, combined with knowing that I waited too long is so strong. There are times that those feelings are overwhelming. If only I had known that a partner wasn’t going to turn up I would not have wasted so much time waiting for him to, I would have made the decision to go it alone much earlier. I’ve already shown I can do it, and very successfully, so there’s no reason I couldn’t do the same again. My son was such a handful as a youngster but now he is the loveliest young man.

    I hadn’t chosen soleparenthood initially, it chose me, but if the only way I could have had another child was to do it alone then I would have.

    I know as a fact that the sole parent home that I’ve provided for my son is so much better than many other households, partnered or otherwise. All parents are not equal, and not all partners are either. All too often the father (and/or the mother) cause more harm than good and the children are that is much worse than a good sole parent home.

    The hardest part of sole parenting for me was always the financial side of things. Thanks to a lot of hard work I’ve now got that under control and just wish for a miracle somehow.

    J  |  September 26th, 2008 at 8:57 pm

  • I am a single mother by choice. I made my choice after the loss of my first baby and wanted a child - not to replace the child I lost but because the maternal feelings this baby stirred in me.

    I was single and 36 and grieving. Any man I met was only going to be a potential father and a relationship would be based on all the wrong reasons.

    My 3 year old is wonderfully bright and well balanced. I doubt she will suffer any abandonment issues as there is not a father who has left or has shared custody. It is something she’s never had so will never miss.

    I am lucky enough to only have to work part time, I have a wonderful support network, my daughter has some wonderful male figures in her life, and doesn’t miss out on much (I probably overcompensate).

    I never feel like I need time out from her, but then she’s never been the tantruming type of child. I love spending time with her.

    But then I made my decision to be a single mother - the choice wasn’t made for me through divorce/death/abandonment. I knew what I was headed for, it wasn’t lumped upon me.

    When you make that decision you know that there won’t be respite!

    M & B  |  September 28th, 2008 at 3:04 am

  • I thought about doing this when my ex broke up with me when I was 30. I didn’t have the guts, thought I’d never cope, etc…

    Then I got pregnant accidentally. My daughter is almost 4 now and I wonder what I was so scared of. I’m loving being a parent and coping very well indeed. And I do think there are lots of advantages about being the sole parent too: being able to make all decisions without having to take into account a partner’s needs or input, not having to maintain another relationship apart from the one with your child, and being able to devote all your free time to said child.

    So would I do it again? Hell yeah! I just wouldn’t wait till I was 35.

    Would I recommend others to do it? If they really want kids, why not? Sure, they won’t know what it’s really going to be like, but that’s the same for partnered potential parents too.

    One thing I was also thinking Kristin, you write: “What I do know: raising a child as a Single Mother is the hardest thing I’ve ever done.” Can you really know for sure it would’ve been that much easier if you had a partner?

    Does it really matter whether your single or partnered? You’re never going to have regrets about having them, no matter what the circumstances are.

    Lin  |  September 28th, 2008 at 11:41 pm

  • I forgot to add: being a sole parent made me a stronger person than I ever thought I could be. It is the single most rewarding thing I have done/will ever do.

    And yes, I do get lots of satisfaction from being able to take ALL the credit for the wonderful person that my daughter has become.

    Lin  |  September 28th, 2008 at 11:57 pm

  • My daughter’s father was around (but not really) for the first year and provided more stress than help. Once he left, we settled into a routine and have been managing pretty well. Yes, it’s exhausting, but I have the good fortune to have parents who are more than happy to take her for the occasional weekend.

    Like another poster, I feel that single parenthood has made me realize how competent I am and increased my self-confidence. Sure, having an active partner would be ideal, but how often are men really helpful? The stress my ex caused me hindered my parenting. I guess what I am saying is that it would depend on the man, because I am sure there are a lot of men who are there, but not particularly helpful.

    Debbie  |  October 1st, 2008 at 10:13 pm

  • I have to admit . . . I would be a single mom by choice if I hadn`t of found my husband. I`m appreciative of his support, when I get it, but often, I`m alone for a week or two while he`s on tour and when he comes back, it throws a real scud into things. He undermines my authority, is always playing the good guy and we never agree on discipline. I think that would be so much easier if I were just single.

    Genesis  |  October 3rd, 2008 at 1:45 pm

  • interesting thread - and one with so many emotional angles.
    i am a solo mom - of two preschoolers - by choice via adoption. did i think this is how my life would play out? no, but i am so happy it did. i think it is all about expectations. i became a mom knowing it would be me, and only me, for a while. four years later, it is still me and only me, but i now have two little helpers! sure, at times it is hard - but from what i understand, at times it is hard for every parent – single or not. the trick is, make sure you realize that “it does take a village” and it is ok to ask for help. if you yearn to be a mom, don’t pass up the opportunities out there which will let you be a mom, and the support systems that will help you be an awesome mom! it is the best job in the world.

    cullen  |  October 6th, 2008 at 4:52 pm

  • This is one of the most reasonable and thought-provoking threads I’ve ever read. :D

    Anji  |  October 15th, 2008 at 5:26 pm

  • I didn’t have time to read every comment but I applaud everyone for their respect. Kristin, as always, this is so well put and thought out.

    But I have to say… if I were 33 or 35, or whenever the cut off is now… and I had to choose between never having a child or having one alone - I would definitely have one.


    It’s stressful, yes, it’s the hardest thing in the world but it’s far better than never getting to experience…

    Thanks for the thought provoking piece Kristin.

    Ms. Single Mama  |  October 17th, 2008 at 8:30 pm

  • I’ve followed this for a bit and thought I’d add a different perspective. Single motherhood or parenting by choice is not the same as single mothers or parent by circumstance. I conceived via donor insemination at age 38 because I desired to realize motherhood. Yes, how selfish. I was married young and divorced young. Why does it take two parents to parents children? What defines a family? For a long time, I felt lonely living the life of a single person, wanting a family. A man does not make a family. A spouse does not make a family. A committed one who truely honors the concept of family does. Some of us find him or her. Some of us do not. Does that mean we cannot be parents and make our own family. Absolutely not. That being said, the demands are great and the responsibilities are unique, not more, not less, and not more important. When single parents by choice are recognized as a family unit with all the love we have for each other and our extended families, we become your neighbors and friends. Our children are your children’s friends. This is a hard concept to grasp for many people, but I think when people ask where is Dad, I can honestly say, I am mom and dad for now. My kids are still young but when they ask, I will tell them that they were so wanted, I had help in their entry into this world. What does a parent make? A parent makes me. Yes, it is lonely but not nearly as void as that of never having a family. We are growing along the tree of life; every branch, every person is special. OUr tree requires a firm foundation. That is my job as a parent. thank you.

    Twin's mom  |  October 19th, 2008 at 5:46 pm

  • Oh, this was so interesting to read! I definitely lean on my husband, but I think if I hadn’t married I would have HAD to have a baby by myself. I was so desperate for children. I know it would have been harder to have them alone, but for me it would have been even harder not to have them at all.

    I think it can also be really hard to try to share parenting with another person, and to try to hold a relationship together as you do.

    And for a third unconnected thought, I think it depends a lot on the single parent’s family situation. A single parent with a strong, close, nearby family is going to have an easier time than a single parent without.

    swistle  |  October 28th, 2008 at 1:27 pm

  • I had to comment. I am the single mother of a beautiful two month old baby girl. I can honestly say that beign a single mom at 20 was so so far from my plan. But I did choose to do it alone. The battle between me and her father was always a battle. I work at a daycare and I teach little ones to say dada and mama. My heart breaks when I see how excited a little one gets when I say dada and one day my little girl wont have that. I know that she is a very very loved child by me and my family and friends. I agree that I couldnt choose to knowingly go it alone.

    Tenyia  |  January 15th, 2009 at 1:05 pm

  • I adopted my daughters as a single parent. While in the decision making stage, I spoke to family and friends, asking for their support. I had been employed as a teacher for 19 years at the point that I adopted, and had saved to provide for my children. Parenting is a challenge, whether as a single parent, or as a couple. I hope that the stability and love that we have in our immediate family, and our extended family, sustain my children now, and in the years to come. I had a great father, and am so thankful that my daughters are able to see lovely male role-models through my brothers, brother-in-law, and various friends of our family.

    Jeana  |  January 19th, 2009 at 12:46 am

  • It’s a curious thought that I chose to access your blog today, since, my girlfriend sent me the link (quietly suggesting that I might find someone with whom I’d relate to) months upon months ago.

    After a 3 day stretch of the most intensive stomach flu my 4 1/2 year old has ever experienced, I pondered the knowledge that there are women out there who choose to attempt this alone. I was brought to my knees with unimaginable fatigue, anguish, helplessness, anger and despair over seeing my child in such inconceivable pain. Intensifying things no less, I had no option but to run back for a third, fourth, twelfth, twenty-sixth, forty-sixth ASS kicking of pure heartbreak while my son arched backwards, pulled his own hair out, and pierced the walls with deafening screams…. As the sun came up and I’d yet to close my eyes in 48 hours, I couldn’t have ever imagined feeling so completely alone in this world. (Not to mention how guilty I felt after noting my numerous moments of self pity throughout the night).

    It is hard….. Flying solo. And that’s the truth of it. Nothing can prepare someone for the emotion involved - good (oh so good!) or bad. Nor can we comprehend the responsibility of being present and facing each day with courage and grace in order to set a positive example for the littler person, who loves us and depends on us most.

    The love I’ve experienced through Motherhood is unmatched by any exchange I’ve elsewhere shared. However, independent of this it is certainly, the very hardest thing I’ve ever ‘done’.

    Good luck to the women out there with the ambition to take on Solo Motherhood, because God knows, they’re going to need it.

    Lisa Hewitt  |  February 2nd, 2009 at 2:29 pm

  • I’m at the cross-road of whether I should divorce my husband and I thank God I stumble on your blog, Kristin.

    Though I’m not a single-mom yet, I know how hard it is to raise a child alone because it’s already hard enough for me now. And I have a very loving husband who is, in almost every way, a good husband and father…except when he gets mad which turns him into an abusive man who threatens to beat me up and uses abusive language.

    I have pretty much decided to leave this man and raise my child by myself. And reading this article prepares me, whilst also giving me courage and optimism that there’re very capable single-moms out there who can provide the love and all for their kids. The road is long and tough, but we can do it!

    NWL  |  March 28th, 2009 at 1:00 pm