Just shy of my 30th birthday, I became a mother through adoption.
Holding my little girl in my arms for the first time was an answer to many prayers after an infertility diagnosis years before. I hadn’t been sure this day would ever come, and I knew only that I had never been so in love.
I was also deeply aware of the fact that, as a woman who was still very much single, my choice to adopt wouldn’t make a whole lot of sense to people outside my close circle of family and friends.
Everyone who knew me, knew that this was the path I should be taking. But to the rest of the world? Single motherhood was supposed to be a burden or a mistake, not a choice and a dream come true.
Today I’m what’s known as a “choice” mom, or a “single mom by choice.” We are a growing group of women who are generally college educated, financially stable, and tired of waiting around for Mr. or Mrs. Right to show up before starting a family.
In my case, losing my fertility at a young age had drilled into me how very ready I was to be a mother. Meanwhile, I hadn’t ever felt particularly ready to be a wife. So when the opportunity to adopt was presented to me, I didn’t hesitate. I knew that motherhood was a role I was meant to fulfill.
For others, the choice may not have been so easy. And for many, it wasn’t a choice at all. Instead, single motherhood was brought on by circumstance: by failed birth control, partner abandonment, or simply a one-night stand where protection wasn’t used. And for those women, the ones facing single motherhood without intention, there can sometimes be a few more hurdles to overcome.
There’s no doubt that parenting on a single income is absolutely harder than with two working parents living under the same roof. Everything from groceries to birthdays and holiday presents, becomes an exercise in budgeting, and often, sacrificing.
Most single parents I know wish that they could do more. The financial aspects of being 100 percent responsible for the upkeep of a household and the care of their children can be overwhelming at times. And for some, seeking out potential benefits and assistance programs can help.
In the United Kingdom, for instance, there is the potential for entitlement benefits, which can include childcare assistance, and employment and support allowances. And in the United States, there are tax credits and exemptions available to all parents, as well as additional allowances for those who are financially struggling.
A 2011 Pew Research poll found that 70 percent of Americans believe that the growing trend of single mothers is “bad for society.”
And a mounting body of evidence points to the struggles children of single parents face. So to say that there is a social stigma against single parenthood would be putting it lightly.
But much of this research seems to focus more on the hurdles of raising children in poverty, rather than the simple act of being a single parent. And with recent research pointing to how well children are fairing in other nontraditional families, it would seem that what children really need is love and stability, not necessarily a two parents, to thrive.
For my part, I entered into motherhood confident in my ability to love and provide for a child, as well as in my support system: the men and women I consider family. I may not have a partner, but I absolutely have a circle of support that I would argue rivals what many two-parent families have at their disposal. And my little girl has grown up very loved by some pretty incredible human beings.
Socially, single parents will always face some stigma and judgment from those outside their circle of support. It goes with the territory, and is simply something you have to deal with. There are also other hurdles to consider, like how much more difficult dating becomes. Suddenly you have to line up babysitters, find the time, and ask yourself every 15 minutes if you could see the person sitting across from you being someone you would ever want around your kid.
But there is also something to be said for how single parenthood forces you to take stock of the people you spend your time with, and to cut out the fat, so to speak. You don’t have time as a single parent to waste on people who bring you down. Instead, you are so much more driven to focus in on quality relationships and the people who encourage you to always be the best parent and person you can be.
Now, all that said, I am the first to admit that even if you are stable financially and surrounded by loving and supportive friends and family, single parenthood is hard.
When your child gets sick and you have no one else around to help you assess the symptoms? That’s hard. When you get sick, and there is no other adult in your home to help with caring for your child? That’s hard. And when you are simply tired, spread too thin, or feeling a bit overwhelmed by the weight of the responsibility before you….yeah, that’s hard, too.
But the thing is, parenthood is hard. Period. And if you find yourself in the role of single parent, whether by choice or circumstance, there are absolutely ways to still thrive in that role. You just have to be willing to focus on what matters most: your child.
There are benefits there, as well. For my part, I find that I am confident being the sole decision-maker for our family. It’s actually nice to not have to fight with another adult about parenting decisions I feel strongly about, or to have to run every decision I make past someone else.
In two-parent partnerships, there is often a give and take that involves a lot of compromise. For me, one of the biggest benefits of going it alone is that I don’t have to make those same sacrifices. I can parent how I want, making the decisions that feel right to me, without worrying about stepping on anyone else’s toes in the process.
Yes, it’s harder. And yes, there are days when I would absolutely love to have that partner by my side. But being a mother has changed me in ways I wouldn’t trade for the world. And being a single mother has only made me stronger, happier, and healthier all around.
Despite anything society might think of me and how my family has been built.