When I was pregnant, I had a partner with whom I had every intention of raising our kid. By the time our kid turned 2, I was living 1,000 miles away from his father, navigating a career, a new city, and toddlerhood by myself. It wasn't exactly the plan, and it definitely wasn't easy, but more than three years later it's a hell of a lot easier than it was, and the whole experience of being a single mom has taught me a lot of things that I wish I would've known when I was pregnant. Things I feel confident saying every single mom wants pregnant women to know.
Now, I know that every experience with every woman regarding pregnancy, childbirth, and the life that follows is different. In other words, I can't speak for single moms the world over. And I'm aware that literally everyone wishes they could go back and speak some sense into their younger selves, but I think there's something a little more pointed about the feeling of wanting to tell your pregnant self all the things you think she'd benefit from knowing before setting out on whatever is to come. Being that time travel still isn't a thing (or so the government wants us to think it's not a thing *conspiracy theorist eye squint*), I can't tell 5-years-ago me anything. But I can sure as hell tell everyone else.
Whether you're pregnant and already know you're going to be a single mom soon, or you're currently partnered and harboring a secret fear (or hope, because I don't know your life) that you'll end up parenting alone one day, all of the following is relevant. I mean, it's honestly relevant no matter what family structure you're parenting within. And maybe the universality of the following points is the point: single moms and partnered moms go through a lot of the same things, experience most of the same fears, and end up finding strength, resources, and support to get through stuff that seems insurmountably challenging.
Read on and fear not. OK, fear a little. You're having a baby — it's not like it's going to be easy. (They're real cute though. I promise.)
Sometimes Parenting Alone Is Just Easier
I would never say that being a single mom is "easy." Like, LOL. It's definitely not easy. But one of the challenging parts of parenting with another person is making decisions collaboratively and trying to find fair and reasonable compromises when you have different opinions about something. When you're a single parent, you don't really have to do this as often, or maybe not at all. It's a lot of pressure for everything to be on you, but at least the decision-making process is a bit more effortless.
Does this make up for all the difficult parts of parenting alone or all the extra work and responsibility that's on you? Hell no. But I just thought it would be nice to point out a silver lining, because they do exist, even in a situation that's historically been looked at as an unmitigated nightmare.
Birth Will Show You How Strong You Are
I feel like every part of being a mom, from the minute you decide to have a baby, is a series of looking at what's to come and being like: "Oh god, I can't do that. That looks impossible. How do people do that?" and then doing it anyway, and later looking back and realizing how much more capable you were than you thought. It's a long string of moments where you realize your limits were extremely far beyond where you thought they were before you actually pushed yourself to go further. There are a lot of moments in pregnancy that can feel like this, but for most women, getting the baby from inside to outside is the moment where you're like, "Ha, OK, damn, I am exponentially more powerful than I originally thought." After that, very few things seem hard. And when they do seem hard, you can go back to that post-birth moment of feeling like a superhero and remember that feeling like you can't possible do something hard definitely doesn't mean you can't do it. In fact, you almost certainly can.
Anyway, single parenting is very hard, so if you find yourself staring down the barrel of that reality, it helps to remember that you gave birth, so you can do this.
No Part Of Any Of This Lasts Forever
Maybe it's the sleep deprivation at some points, or the fact that every few months (or even weeks) you find yourself in a radically different phase of your baby or kid's development, but from the minute you find out your pregnant, time functions very differently. Small periods of time seem to last forever when you're in them, you can barely remember them once they've passed, and the whole thing goes by very quickly as a whole, but then also you find it hard to remember what it felt like to exist before the kid part of your life started.
If you're pregnant and already feel like that, just... settle in. This is the game. This is how it's going to be probably forever. I have one bit of bad news and two bits of good news for you.
Bad news: You will always feel to some degree like you're learning on your feet and that you're maybe not doing a good enough job of being an expert on whatever phase of parenting you're in. It's like you're so busy doing whatever part your currently experiencing that you don't have time to look ahead and plan for what's coming next, and then very quickly, whatever's next is already here and you're like, "Sh*t, I wish I'd had time to learn about this/plan for this earlier. Oh well, time to figure it out right this minute." The momentum gets less intense as your kid gets older, or maybe you just get used to it. Either way, this does get better or easier, but it never really stops. You always feel like as soon as you've finally gotten good at being their parent according to one developmentally appropriate set of needs, your kid is totally changing again.
Good news: If one part is really, really hard, it'll be over soon.
This is really a good thing to know if you're a parent at all, but if you're a single mom and you're weathering a lot of the hard parts largely by yourself, remembering this is honestly life-saving.
You Can Plan, But You Can't Predict
I'm not saying not to make an elaborate birth plan. It's good and powerful and helpful to make informed choices about what you want and do everything you can to pave the way for executing those choices. So make the plans, and invest in them, but don't let yourself become emotionally dependent on the idea of them unfolding exactly as you hope. Because most of them won't. You'll end up with some imperfect shade of what you were aiming for. That doesn't make it useless to aim for the perfect version of what you want (that's how you even have a shot at ending up with something close to it), but as much as you can, try to plan for the future you want while also investing in an emotional preparedness for the possibility of ending up with something else entirely.
This, obviously, is not just true of birth. It's true of literally everything about pregnancy, parenting, your career, and your relationships, and the advice holds true for all of them. Work toward exactly what you want, plan for the best-case scenario, but make sure you don't become so convinced that you'll get it that you fall apart if you don't. You can only control so much — so many sure you're ready to handle anything.
Being A Single Doesn't Mean Being Alone
We build our support systems in so many ways. The people you think are going to be the biggest parts of your life might end up being a footnote, and people who have no logical reason to be huge forces in your life could end up exactly that. If you end up parenting sans partner, that fact alone is absolutely no indicator of how supported, loved, and connected to other people you'll be. It doesn't mean you're unable to build an wildly robust and healthy family for your kid and yourself. It seriously only means that you are (for a while, anyway) without a romantic partner and co-parent. It doesn't dictate the degree of human connection or parenting support or sex or happiness you get to have.
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