5 Things to Consider before Becoming a Single Parent
Whether it’s by choice, by circumstance, or by default, becoming a single parent has both its challenges and advantages. Here are five things to consider before becoming a single parent.
1. Is your decision to be a single parent triggered by your past or future?
If it’s a life event that is pushing you to have a baby as a single parent – a birthday, a break-up, a parent getting ill, or a job change – think about your decision carefully because single parenting is not a quick fix or a distraction from ongoing emotional issues. It is a commitment for life. If, on the other hand, the parenting experience is what you want despite life events, single parenting is about your future and you are likely to be realistic about all that comes with it.
2. Is your focus on the advantages or disadvantages of going at it alone?
According to most of my single parent patients, the hard part of single parenting is not being able to share the daily responsibilities, chores, financial demands, and significant milestones with a partner.
But my patients recognize the advantages of being a single parent, too. As a single parent, you have the freedom to act on new decisions and opportunities, like moving to a new city. You also have full control over the choice of your child’s schools, religion, and activities and can exercise your own parenting style. If you are single parenting by choice, you don’t have to worry about in-laws’ comments or stepchildren. If you are single parenting after a divorce, you probably have a few weekends each month to yourself because your child is visiting your ex.
3. Is the cost of being a single parent manageable for you?
Most surveys find that single parents say going at it alone financially is the toughest part of single parenting. The cost of having a child (hospital fees, IVF, delivery) and the costs after you give birth (baby sitters, food, toys) can add up quickly and significantly. Are you prepared? Will your lifestyle change drastically? Will you be able to continue to work at the same job? Do you want to? It’s not the demand of single parenting that’s usually the cause of stress; it’s that the price tag is often unanticipated! Be realistic rather than surprised, so your single parenting choice will be well-informed.
4. Is your time-management efficient?
If you were to add up all the time you need and all the time you have in a day, you will probably find that you are running on a 20 minute time deficit. Imagine how short on time you will be if you add an IVF cycle and then the additional job of single parenting. A jog? Nap? Not unless you focus on time management. So start practicing now, before you become a single parent. When something comes up that you don’t have control over, cross something you do have control over off your “To Do” list. Since real life inevitably brings situations beyond our control, management of single parenting stress has to include the ability to give up the struggle for control when that struggle is unrealistic. Try to focus on changing only what you have the ability to change.
5. Is your support network in place?
If you don’t have a support group of friends and/or family, find or create one, not only for helping hands, emergencies, and last minute babysitting, but for emotional support, too. Look for those who are going through single parenting because they can truly understand what you’re going through. You can start researching online, ask your doctor for suggestions, or look for national organizations. Even if you prefer to experience life’s milestones alone, remind yourself that even the most independent of us can’t always do it all and we can’t always do it all by ourselves.
And, finally, just because you become a single parent, does not mean you have to take care of your child or children to the detriment of yourself. In fact, take care of yourself at least as well as you take care of your child – even half as well and you’ll reduce your stress considerably and show your child or children how to do it, too. It may be easy to forget to take care of yourself when you are single parenting, but there are many resources available to remind you.