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For people without kids, it’s hard to relate when couples complain about the rollercoaster of parenthood. For single parent families - whether it’s after the breakdown of a relationship or through the route of solo parenting by choice - it’s even harder! You’ve got the same difficulties, the same crazy schedules, the same exhaustion, and half the manpower.
Nowadays, we’re seeing a growing number of people choosing to become solo parents by choice. Many no longer wish to wait for ‘Mr or Mrs Right’ to start a family and watch the biological clock ticking away; others feel this is the 21stCentury and you don’t need to have a traditional family setting to lovingly raise a child.
If this sounds like you, in this article we share some things to consider as you prepare yourself for your solo-parenthood journey. So, let’s get straight to the part where we discuss the helpful ideas, and explore some ways you can ease the trickier aspects of solo parenting.
Good times can be lonely too
You’re probably already expecting tough times will feel that bit tougher when you’re doing it solo. The late-night feeds, dark rooms, and solitary drives round the block trying to get the baby to sleep are bound to feel lonely from time to time and its essential to have a support system to ensure you don’t burnout.
But one thing to prepare for is that loneliness can also strike in the happy moments too. From their first giggle to their first steps, a part of you might wish you could share milestone celebrations with a partner. However, it helps to remember that you can share them - it just might not be with the person you imagined. When researching becoming a solo parent, find out what friends and family will be there to support you through your journey. From bouncing important parenting decisions to being part of your child’s life to witness the big and little moments.
Many solo parents tend to “batten down the hatches” - in other words, insist on doing everything by themselves. We might do this because we feel we need to prove ourselves – anyone who’s ever broached the subject of being a solo parent by choice will sense raised eyebrows – so when we’re in the midst of being a solo parent, we don’t want others to see us struggling.
But it’s arguably the most important period of your life in which to keep your relationships strong. Joy shared is always joy multiplied, especially if it’s with friends, family, or even people you meet through parent networks. Having a few selected loved ones to involve in your parenting journey will help you feel supported and less lonely in the good and the difficult times.
Mini slots of me-time
Even in traditional family settings, in those early years, “me time” becomes an alien concept. When you’re a solo parent by choice, this is even more apparent. But as your baby learns to sleep through the night and nap regularly, you’ll be given the gift of time. Naturally, you’ll be using most of it to either “get stuff done” or catch some rest yourself. But it’s amazing how refreshed even 15 minutes of a craft, hobby, exercise, or book can make you feel ready to take on the day again.
Doing the things we love helps us to remember who we are. Stay up that extra few minutes, push through those next 10 pages, or devote a portion of nap time to the garden or a yoga video. It’ll be a challenge at first – and you might feel a pang of guilt for not doing the dishes or admin instead – but it might help you feel more like yourself. Maintaining a sense of identity is an important part of self-care. After all, ‘you can’t pour from an empty cup’.
Have patience with the well-meaning
As we’ve alluded to, choosing to become a solo parent attracts all sorts of “helpful” comments and suggestions. Many of them tend to be more irksome than productive. Remember that comments like “you just need to wait a little longer to find the right man/woman” often come from places of insecurity, bias, or fear. The route you’re planning isn’t society’s ‘norm’ and for some, being a solo parent by choice is outside of their personal comfort zone.
However, try to detach yourself from their pre-conceived notions. We all suffer from foot-in-mouth syndrome from time to time, and say things we don’t mean because we think it’ll be comforting. Most of the time, it’s down to ignorance and not enough awareness on the subject, so if they insist that “a child really should have two parents” or “have you really thought it through?” try not to take it to heart.
Instead, never be afraid to use gentle but firm phrases like “I’m okay for now but I will come to you if I need advice”, or “I’d rather not talk about that right now.” For useful advice, look for like-minded support groups or solo parent consultants. These are the people that ‘get it’ and will provide invaluable information and insights to help you navigate the process of becoming a solo parent.
Will you extend your family?
Life involves hard choices and that’s even more true for solo parents. Thinking about having more children might be a joyous or hopeful thought for you. It might be terrifying. Or it might be a mixture of both.
The thought of future children will inevitably raise questions: am I ready to start dating? How long am I prepared to wait to meet someone, or to have another child? Or will I go solo again?
Thinking about the future might be scary, but you have just as much right to plan your family as anyone else. You might feel like it’s you and your child against the world. You might feel a sibling to your child might give them comfort – if so, will you want to have the same donor so that your children are genetically full siblings, or will you have a child if you settle with a partner?
Speaking of partners, you may worry how the dynamic of having a future partner will impact on your solo parenting, and wonder how taking the step of having a baby with a new partner might make your donor-conceived child feel.
These are topics to have in your mind as you think ahead to the future. Ultimately, it’s about doing what makes you and your child happy, and not being ruled by any pre-conceived notions you think you have. As mentioned, having a system of like-minded people who ‘get it’ will be invaluable to help support you through as and when these scenarios arise.
The best things about being a single parent . . .
. . . because yes, there are plenty:
1) No difficult negotiations. Some two-parent families agree on everything to do with their child’s upbringing. Most do not. Many two-parent families have sticking points and will clash over things like discipline, schooling, and finances. You’ll never have to battle another person - you’ll have total autonomy and freedom to make the decisions you feel are best.
2) The bond between a single parent and their child is undisrupted and deep. It is very common for solo parents to be very close with their children, and enjoy a cherished, lifelong bond.
3) No more waiting for the “the one”. Many people wait years to find the “right one” to have a child with. Tragically, some people just wait too long, and run out of time. Perhaps just as sad are the situations where a relationship is forced in order to have a child. Although it might not feel like it at times, you have a unique kind of freedom. If or when you feel ready, you can resume the search for a romantic partner, this time without any pressure of finding someone who wants the same thing as you when it comes to children, because you already have your child.
We think Marta, mother of Olivia and a solo mum by choice sums it up pretty well, so we’ll finish with a quote from her:
“Don’t think about it too long and go for it! A lot of people overthink things, especially finances. I would say it will work out in the end, there is always a way! If I had thought about it too long and analysed everything, I probably would have taken too long to start the process.”