Recently, I had the opportunity to discuss a Washington Post blog post about being a single mother on NPR’s Tell Me More (which you can listen to here). It was interesting to hear other single mom’s perspectives on the actual choice of becoming a single parent, especially when the conversation was centered around the idea that younger women shouldn’t become single moms, as outlined in the blog post by the author Bonnie Goldstein. I am part of a growing trend of women under 30 having a child outside of marriage.
I’ll start with this preface: single parenting is not easy. It’s not a path I’d recommend, but it’s not a path I’d say is impossible, either. Furthermore, I’d say it’s far from selfish, and a lot of the discussion we had was about the selfishness of choosing to become a parent despite being unmarried.
I believe there is an assumption that when a younger woman (in her early to mid-twenties, let’s say) decides to follow through with a pregnancy and become a parent, she doesn’t understand the ramifications of her choice, and that she’s unaware of the freedom she is going to lose. I can attest that was far from the truth, at least in my case. When I found out I was pregnant, I understood that my life was going to change—from the time I would have just to myself to my very relationship with food. I also understood that my child would not be raised under optimal circumstances, in a home with both his mother and father living together. However, I also knew that I wanted to be a parent—it was something I’d always looked forward to in life, and I knew that I would love my child, and I would do anything it would take to give it a good life, regardless of whether or not I was married.
Read Related: How to Be a Successful Single Mom
Furthermore, as Dani Tucker, another single mom on the NPR panel, said in our discussion: “Nobody is ready to be a parent.” Even when you’re married, and/or established, settled in life, a child changes everything. Even single women who are older with established careers can do everything they possibly can to prepare for a child, but a child is a person and people are unpredictable. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: the only things you can truly plan with a baby are what he or she will wear and what the nursery will look like. I’d go so far as to say that there is more of an assumption among the soon-to-be single mothers who choose to become parents later in life that they’ll be able to go on about their lives as they are. Word from the wise: Not going to happen.
NO “I” IN PARENT
There is a strong need for empowerment, however. Dani pointed out that there is no “I” in parenting. But there has to be. A child cannot be supported and raised by a person who is not empowered enough to put her (or his!) foot down and say, “This is the decision I’ve made, I am responsible for my choices, and this is what I need to do to make this happen.” It takes a degree of self-awareness to make a sound decision about whether or not to become a parent. It also takes a great deal of humility to be able to ask for the help one needs as a single parent, but I’ve found that humility and self-awareness tend to go hand in hand.
One thing we could all agree on: It definitely takes a village to raise a child. I wouldn’t be able to raise my son without the help of my family and his dad’s family, and regardless of whether you’re single, married, divorced, or widowed, raising a child takes more than just a primary caretaker.