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.