How “alone” can we be embarking on single parenthood?

This arrived as a comment to another post, and I thought it was a great conversation starter as a blog about single parenthood.

As a Thinker I tend to over-think everything. I believe learning to ask for help is a good philosophy for life. But what if all your plans fail and you have to do it ALL alone? My reason for asking: I don’t have children, yet. I am in the Thinking stage of making the decision. But people keep telling me how hard it would be. They say I am naïve in thinking that I could raise a child on my own. A friend of mine had twins, and although she loves her children, when she tells people about her children, she always mentions that her husband was never around when she needed him, and she felt like a single parent. There is regret in her voice, like it didn’t turn out the way she had planned. She’s not a fan of single parenting, and her views are scaring me.

This is something we’ve talked about in the Choice Mom community quite a bit. Partly because it’s a common concern of Thinkers and Tryers… and because Moms are able to respond that no, you can’t do it alone, but yes, you end up finding more resources than you might think: 1) if you are conscious about finding them, and 2) if you DO ask.

Use the support category on this website to read other blogs on this topic. Solutions women have found. Who the nay-sayers tend to be (most of them married with disappointing spouses). Why we can’t do it alone.

There is another aspect to her query, though, that hasn’t been talked about as much in the community, so let’s open it up here. Coping with people whose message is that “I am naïve in thinking that I could raise a child on my own.”

As I wrote to her:

It is possible that there are immature/irresponsible aspects to your personality that people around you might be reacting to. But it sounds like, at least with the mother of twins married to a less helpful spouse, they are putting a blanket down that says no one can be a successful single parent. And that’s simply not true.

Yes, it can be hard to make ends meet on a single paycheck if you make less than $50K and have to pay for years of childcare and an expensive mortgage. Yes, it can be hard in that first year to care for a newborn who doesn’t give you a lot of rest. Yes, it can be hard if you are not able to be a stay-at-home mom and you need to juggle work with home and parenting and social. Yes, it can be hard to deal with emergencies, when someone is sick and you need to be in two places at one time.

Saying that tens of thousands of women do single parenting well every year isn’t a real answer. Nor is the fact that many married parents struggle but survive when spouses are absent, leave or die.

The nugget I would ask anyone to think about is: what are your coping mechanisms for stress? Because you will face stress, before, during and after parenthood. Often not even related to your children. If you’ve got a demanding career and it means you’re not able to give as much to your children as you’d like, that’s stress. If you suffer a miscarriage, alone, that’s stress. If you are on round seven of insemination attempts and the bank account is looking thin and you have to decide what to do next, that’s stress.

We need people to help us alleviate stress. We need to be able to make time at the gym, to get rest, to eat healthy. We need to take a break from parenting that doesn’t involve the office. We need someone to spot us at home with a sick child so we can run to the drugstore. We need to be able to talk honestly about what we’re struggling with. For all of this, and more, we need people. Neighbors, friends, family, therapists. Women on ChoiceMoms.org. Even strangers, when we’ve got an infant carrier and three bags of groceries.

And we don’t need ONE person — such as a spouse who could diaper and feed the infants. We need a constantly evolving set of people, some who will come and go, some who will pop up out of nowhere, some who will be found as our kids enter school and we meet new parents.

I myself am a pretty introverted and private person by nature. I was feeling isolated in New York City, my home of 18 years, after my daughter was born. Even though my friends were still around, generically, none of them had children and only a handful had any interest in hanging out at my home with me and an infant. I relocated to my home state, to be closer to family. My parents had just become citizens in another state, so only spent six months of the year nearby. My brother’s older family eventually got too busy. I essentially started from scratch. In eight years, I now have a community that is entirely different than what I had pre-motherhood. And even that has changed dramatically over the years, with several people who were part of my earliest years here not being part of it at all anymore.

I don’t have super “friend-making” skills. I simply took part in the community more than I ever did as a New York City professional. PTA, church, making an effort to meet neighbors, finding male role models, friendships with parents of children my kids meet in play.

There is never one set of friends for life. You build, and rebuild, all the time.

— Mikki

 

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  5 comments for “How “alone” can we be embarking on single parenthood?

  1. Goarka
    May 12, 2011 at 1:26 am

    I have found understanding today with this post, which is exactly what I needed in order to squelch the conversations I’m making up in my head. 14 weeks pregnant, I am realizing that being supportive doesn’t mean being there for you. I realize that I am easing into the exact transition you are mentioning without leaving my city. Even if I weren’t single, there are those friends who aren’t going to have children and aren’t so interested in spending great deals of time with them; Those that have older ones and "don’t do babies"; and even those who have young ones who will "be there" when I need them, but what about when I want them around, when I’m not in a pinch or crisis? I can’t and won’t do this alone. I see that I need to start searching for a new network of friends for the next phase of my life. Choice Mom or not, it is the way of life, yet how happy to have this forum to find comfort and empathy in my journey I have chosen.

  2. Kristin
    December 19, 2010 at 8:34 pm

    Very well-written, thanks! I’m in the waiting (pregnant) stage right now, and I still get comments like this. That always surprises me since it’s not like I’m gonna go back now. Either way, I agree that it tends to be the unhappily married that are the most vocal warning against the perils of single parenthood, though they have no experience with it. I have a good friend who’s a lot more self-aware than that, though, who is currently raising a child with a difficult partner. She tells me that she envies me sometimes because she feels like she’s probably lonelier than if she were single. I think she feels less justified reaching out because the theory is that she’s supposed to have someone that helps. That is her reality, but it’s not mine (and I appreciate so much that she knows that). And, of course, I think that both married and single moms and dads benefit from reaching out. The people I know who do act like I’m being naive and that they can’t believe I’m taking this on almost act like they’re on the defensive. Like if I can do this on my own (nominally, but not really on my own), then that makes all their complaining about how hard it is to be a mom less legitimate. The men who act like I’m being naive seem to me like they’re defending their own importance and maintaining that they are needed and not superfluous. Of course, I never imply that the married women have no right to complain or that the married men are unnecessary – they infer that all on their own. In the end, I can’t control what they think. But if they’re thinking it out of a reaction to a fear about themselves, then that’s probably not the most reliable source for parenting advice. I trust the friends more who say, "this will be tough, but I know you’ll figure it out. I’m here if you need help." Try to focus more on those people in your life. If you don’t have them yet, I’d use Mikki’s advice on how to meet them. Good people are out there!

  3. Cyndi Garnto
    December 17, 2010 at 3:02 pm

    I agree! A very well-timed article. In the past few months, I’ve finally opened up about my desire to become a choice mom to close friends and family and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard "Do you realize how hard it will be to do this alone?" or "You won’t be able to do that anymore" when speaking of some aspect about my current behavior or habits.

    It’s quite frustrating, especially when you know that the people saying such things didn’t change their habits or behavior until they were faced with the reality of their child. No one ever can really know for certain what our lives will be like after we become a parent – every child is different and has different needs. All you can do is plan your best, and make the committment to yourself and your family to make whatever changes are needed for the well-being of our families. How is that any different whether you’re a single parent or a couple??

  4. Valerie
    December 12, 2010 at 4:04 pm

    These posts confirm what I already suspected – that the social network I have pre-parenthood may help me but ultimately I’ll have to build another network post-parenthood. As a single non-parent I just don’t know that many people with young children – I think I’ll meet them once I am hanging out the same places they are – day cares, doctor’s offices, play grounds, etc.

  5. hertexas
    December 11, 2010 at 2:29 pm

    Thanks Mikki- this one was well timed. Feel ike you posted just for me! Still a tryer in the domestic adoption arena and though I have much support,my naturally built family and friends are awkward in their support. It is becoming clear to me that even though my journey as a mom to be is a challenge, adoption is a also hard when you are on the sidelines waiting for a niece, a grandson, a cousin. Even their kindest intentions are wearing on me. Comments such as "at least you don’t have to breast feed, I couldn’t wait to stop so I could hand the baby over to my husband for middle of the night feedings", "at least you won’t gain weight" (though I assure you I have), etc. My single parent friends are saving my sanity for sure!

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