In recent years, I’ve realized that just as many women, single, married or somewhere in between, are growing more and more adverse to pregnancy. With studies claiming that Millennial women are 50% more likely to experience depression during their pregnancies, than their mothers, it is not a stretch to reason why. With increased cost of living, cost of education, and the fight against generational poverty, many millennial parents are opting for one or two kids only. Some are opting for none at all. In a society in flux, where civil liberties seem to be increasing by the day and gender roles have become archaic, there is variety where there used to be none at all. Now more than ever, women get to choose when and where the right time to have a baby is.
For the vast majority of us, we hope that we meet our match, marry, produce children and raise a family. That is the “ideal” experience. Life doesn’t always play out so smoothly and sometimes single parents are stuck trying to decide if they want more children, and if so what is the best way to build on a mold you no longer fit into. In my first installation of Sex and the Single Mom series, I wrote about the difficulties of dating as a single mother and what that means. Through my own experience, I’ve realized wanting to have children as a single woman is a night and day experience from wanting to have one as a single mother. There is a healthy dose of naivete that comes along with wanting children simply because you’re in love with your partner. Experiencing the pitfalls of parenting and then opting out of the marriage portion, cultivates a wisdom that can only come from life experience.
Mothers, both single and married, can agree that an effective partner in co-parenting is just as essential as any other element of a functioning relationship between adults. Sometimes, people who are great partners don’t immediately become great parents, and awesome parents aren’t always awesome partners. It’s a tricky conundrum to navigate without idealism. So, what happens when a mother wants another child but doesn’t want the same experience they had with the previous father? In my case, I’m terrified about giving my next child a lesser father since my daughter’s dad is exemplary in his duties. Evaluating a lover for relationship and parenting potential has often made me want to give up the idea of having another child. In the air of “Why mess up a good thing?”. Even for those mothers who have had poor relationships with their co-parents, the fear of not wanting to repeat those experiences can be debilitating.
So what can you do, when you want another child but not another head or heartache? You take your time. You honor your intentions by stating them upfront, and you do a serious deep dive on yourself. Identify the ways in which you feel you have been a strong parent and identify the areas you think you need improvement in. Examine the relationship with your current co-parent and do the same exercise of identifying strengths and weaknesses. Lastly, plan for the worst, even if it’s not something you speak on out loud. When I asked a friend’s mom, why she chose to have only one child, she replied, “ I knew I could comfortably provide for one child, and I never wanted to have more children than I could afford by myself.” That single piece of advice stuck with me more than anything else. It was essential for me to identify that I could raise my children on my own income in the event their fathers weren’t able or unwilling to provide their portion. So, while a potential partner’s income is important to me, it’s more important that my money is right.
A good partner and parent should be willing to pitch in where ever, whenever. They should be family oriented, respectful, generous, and loving. This means watching for red flags that will typically appear in how they engage with their own parents and families. Do they speak of their parents in admiration or contempt? Do they see themselves as a parent? What type of parent do they want to be? Women are often too bashful in expressing their desires, in fear of chasing off potential suitors. Enough of that. Anyone who is serious about you should be able to answer all of these questions. They don’t need to be asked on the first date, in fact I recommend you don’t ask any of these questions on the first date, outside of “Do you want children?”. Apply tact and strategy, don’t simply be led by your emotions. Treat yourself like the best option and the best options will gravitate to you, or better yet, you’ll be able to see clearly, who isn’t for you.
Deciding to have a child as a single mother is a difficult decision, as it is for many parents both single and married. It takes so much effort, emotionally, financially, physically and mentally to birth and rear children. We shouldn’t make the decision lightly or base it simply off something as fleeting and temporary as “love” can be. We should think about the fact that having children creates familial connections whether parents chose to stay together or not. You will share grandchildren and big milestone events. You’ll share holidays, extracurricular activities, and day to day responsibilities. Pick a partner who compliments you and your parenting style. Chose a partner you can respect on all levels, even if you inevitably split. Chose a partner you trust to make decisions for your children in the same way that you do. Ideally we should have a good parent and a good partner all rolled in one, but if having children is a priority for your future relationships, pick a good parent first, a good partner will usually follow.