I may second guess other choices I’ve made, but this is one decision I never need to question.
In just a few short months, I’ll be turning 37 years old. I’ve never been married. I’ve never lived with a partner. Heck, I’ve never had a relationship endure beyond the 6-month point.
You could say that means there’s likely something wrong with me, and to be honest — I wouldn’t argue.
Relationships are hard for me, for a thousand different reasons that aren’t necessarily worth getting into here. But one thing I know for sure? My lack of relationship history doesn’t come down to a fear of commitment.
I’ve never been afraid of committing to the right things. And my daughter is proof of that.
You see, I’ve always had a really hard time envisioning myself as a wife. It’s something a part of me has always wanted, of course — who doesn’t want to believe there’s someone out there meant to love them forever? But it’s never been an outcome I’ve been able to picture for myself.
But motherhood? That’s been something I’ve wanted and believed I would have ever since I was a little girl.
So when a doctor told me at 26 years old that I was facing infertility and that I had a very short window of time within which to try to have a baby — I didn’t hesitate. Or maybe I did, for just a moment or two, because going into motherhood alone at that point in my life was a crazy thing to do. But allowing myself to lose that chance seemed even crazier.
And that’s why, as a single woman in my mid-20s, I got a sperm donor and financed two rounds of in vitro fertilization — both of which failed.
Afterward, I was heartbroken. Convinced I would never get a chance to be the mother I dreamed of being.
But just a few months shy of my 30th birthday, I met a woman who was due in a week to give birth to a baby she couldn’t keep. And within minutes of being introduced to me, she asked if I would adopt the baby she was carrying.
The whole thing was a whirlwind and not at all how adoptions typically go. I wasn’t working with an adoption agency, and I hadn’t been looking to bring home a baby. This was just a chance encounter with a woman who was offering me the thing I had almost given up hoping for.
And so of course I said yes. Even though, again, it was crazy to do so.
A week later, I was in the delivery room meeting my daughter. Four months later, a judge was making her mine. And nearly 7 years later now, I can tell you with absolute certainty:
Saying yes, choosing to become a single mother?
It was the best decision I’ve ever made.
There’s still a stigma surrounding single mothers in society today.
They’re often seen as down on their luck women with bad taste in partners who can’t possibly dig their way out of the abyss they’ve found themselves in. We’re taught to feel sorry for them. To pity them. And we’re told their kids have fewer opportunities and chances to thrive.
None of which is true in our situation.
I’m what you would call a “single mom by choice.”
We’re a growing demographic of women — typically well-educated and as successful in our careers as we are unsuccessful in love — who have chosen single motherhood for a variety of reasons.
Some, like me, were pushed this direction by circumstances, while others simply grew tired of waiting for that elusive partner to show up. But according to the research, our kids turn out just as well as those raised in two-parent homes. Which I think in a lot of ways comes down to how dedicated we are to the role we chose to pursue.
But what the numbers won’t tell you is that there are actually ways single motherhood is easier than parenting alongside a partner.
For instance, I never have to fight with anyone else about the best ways to parent my child. I don’t have to take anyone else’s values into consideration, or convince them to follow my preferred methods of discipline, or motivation, or talking about the world at large.
I get to raise my daughter exactly as I see best — without worrying about anyone else’s opinion or say.
And that’s something even my friends in the closest of parenting partnerships can’t say.
I also don’t have another adult I’m stuck taking care of — something I’ve witnessed several of my friends deal with when it comes to partners who create more work than they help to alleviate.
I’m able to focus my time and attention on my child, rather than trying to force a partner to actually step up to the partnership they may not be equipped to meet me halfway in.
Beyond all that, I don’t have to worry about the day my partner and I might split and find ourselves on completely opposite ends of parenting decisions — without the benefit of a relationship to pull us back together.
The day will never come when I have to take my co-parent to court over a decision we simply can’t get on the same page about. My child won’t grow up stuck between two warring parents who can’t seem to find a way to put her first.
Now, obviously not all parenting relationships devolve into that. But I’ve witnessed far too many that have. And yeah, I take comfort in knowing I won’t ever have to surrender my time with my daughter to week on, week off, with someone I couldn’t make a relationship work with.
Yes, there are also parts that are harder. My daughter has a chronic health condition, and when we were going through the diagnosis period, dealing with it all on my own was excruciating.
I have an amazing support system — friends and family who were there in every which way they could be. But every hospital visit, every scary test, every moment of wondering if my little girl was going to be okay? I yearned for someone by my side who was as deeply invested in her health and well-being as I was.
Some of that still endures today, even as we have her condition mostly under control.
Every time I have to make a medical decision, and my anxiety-riddled mind struggles to land on the right thing to do, I wish there was someone else around who cared about her as much as I do — someone who could make those decisions when I can’t.
The times I find myself wishing for a parenting partner the most are always the times I’m left dealing with my daughter’s health on my own.
But the rest of the time? I tend to manage single motherhood pretty well. And I don’t hate that every night when I put my girl to bed, I get hours to myself to reset and unwind before the day to come.
As an introvert, those nightly hours being mine and mine alone are an act of self-love I know I would miss if I had a partner demanding my attention instead.
Don’t get me wrong, there’s still a part of me that hopes that maybe one day, I will find that partner who can put up with me. That person I actually want to give up those nightly hours for.
I’m just saying… there are pros and cons to parenting both with and without a partner. And I choose to focus on the ways my job as a mom is actually easier because I chose to go it alone.
Particularly the fact that if I hadn’t chosen to take that leap all those years ago, I might not be a mom at all now. And when I think about the fact that motherhood is the part of my life that brings me the most joy today?
I can’t imagine doing it any other way.
Leah Campbell is a writer and editor living in Anchorage, Alaska. She’s a single mother by choice after a serendipitous series of events led to the adoption of her daughter. Leah is also the author of the book “Single Infertile Female” and has written extensively on the topics of infertility, adoption, and parenting. You can connect with Leah via Facebook, her website, and Twitter.