Single Motherhood – When You’re Not a Movie Star

Single Motherhood – When You’re Not a Movie Star

Having a baby with your boyfriend is the trendy thing to do, but what works for Hollywood stars doesn’t work for single moms who end up doing it all alone.

Single Motherhood – When You’re Not a Movie Star

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I got a call over the Thanksgiving holiday from Michelle, a 33-year-old girlfriend who is a single mom raising a 5-year-old son on her own. She tearfully explained that she had just torn off her toenail while moving into a less expensive one-bedroom apartment. Her toe was bleeding profusely, her son was crying, and she didn’t know what to do…

It wasn’t the first time Michelle had found herself over-extended, over-tired and under-resourced since becoming a single mom. Of course she didn’t think it would turn out that way when she decided to get pregnant. She’d been dating her boyfriend for years. Sure, he had a hard time holding down a job, preferring to go boating with his friends over showing up for work. But she loved him and thought that with the right motivation, like becoming a parent, he would grow up himself, maybe even want to get married. Instead he couldn’t even manage to be a good babysitter, claimed he didn’t have money for child support and defied her to “just try” to take him to court.

I hear similar stories over and over from other electively single moms who are exhausted, barely able to make ends meet and undertaking every possible sacrifice for their children, all on their own.

The way their life looks now is nothing like what they envisioned back when getting pregnant seemed like such a terrific idea. Either they thought having a baby would take their relationship to the next level, or all their girlfriends or favorite movie stars were doing it, or they thought having a baby would fill that empty space in their heart. Whatever the motive, they purposefully engaged in baby making with no realistic thought about the challenges of parenthood.

I’ve never had a child myself so I can’t say I’ve walked in any single mom’s shoes. And we all know that marriage doesn’t guarantee that a child will be raised by a team of two who will share the work and the expense of child rearing. But what I don’t understand is the growing number of women who elect to be get pregnant and become single moms without any thought of — hold on to your hats — getting married. I’m not talking about the fancy wedding and white Cinderella dress aspect of marriage; I’m talking about the legal contract that grants married people access to rights and privileges single people don’t get, as well as the framework for parental obligations resulting from coitus non-interruptus.

Yet if you would ask the single moms I know if they would start a business without having a legal contract in place that laid out rights and obligations of the partners, they would reply, “Of course not! That would be stupid!” Well, isn’t becoming a parent a bigger deal than starting a business?

Single moms like Michelle, who didn’t think through the implications of raising a child, have a more detailed agreement with their landlord than they do with the father of their child. Yet some women continue to willfully get pregnant and bring kids into the world without any written terms or a contingency plan. Instead, they expect that the affection they feel for their boyfriend today and their vision of joyous motherhood will still be there tomorrow, after the baby has arrived.

I’m all for adults making their own choices — whether it be to live alone, get married, get divorced, stay single, live in a commune, whatever. It’s a matter of personal preference. But single ladies, before you consider having a baby with your boyfriend, before you bring a third human being into your plan, be sure — be very sure — that you’ve done everything you can to insure that you and your baby are provided for and that you’re fully committed to putting your freedom on hold for a couple of decades. It certainly doesn’t have to be marriage, but it should be a well thought out plan.

Getting the “business” aspect of being a single mom figured out in advance isn’t easy, but it is worth it. And when you sit down and think of it in terms of who is responsible for what, you might just find you’re not all that ready to take on the challenges of parenthood, especially if you end up doing it all by yourself.

Kim CalvertKim Calvert is the editor of Singular magazine and the founder of the SingularCity social networking community. An outspoken champion of people who are living their lives as a “me” instead of a “we,” Kim oversees the creative direction and editorial content of the magazine and online social networking community. She secures contributors and is responsible for maintaining the fun, upbeat, inspirational and often-humorous tone of Singular, a lifestyle guide for successful single living.


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19 thoughts on “Single Motherhood – When You’re Not a Movie Star

  1. There seem to be three overriding themes going here: The desire for someone to have a baby, even if it is through a single partner, the drain that having so many single parents puts on the welfare system (and I fully understand many single parents are gainfully employed and not in poverty), and the need for the other partner to “man up” on his obligations to the woman and child.

    Let me touch on those briefly and allow all of you to comment. You don’t have to agree with me, but I wanted to stimulate this conversation to another level.

    1.Why is there such a desire on the part of singles to have children in the first place? Is it because it is trendy, or is it because of something more, such as getting more in welfare, or getting more of a commitment from the male?

    2. Why are so many of them in poverty when they could be having better lives? I just wonder if the whole process of having and raising a baby is something some folks just aren’t ready for, regardless of their circumstances.

    3. And why is there such a need for people to have sex outside of wedlock anyway? This is not meant to offend those here who are involved in this way, but I need to understand what the need is? Why can’t it wait until both parties are ready and totally committed to each other? It would seem to make financial and relationship sense to me if everyone was on board.

    4. Lori made an excellent point that there is a big difference between being a divorced person having to raise kids, due to being in what the woman thought was a committed relationship. See point 5 below, since this also works the other way.

    5. Kim and everyone else, I have seen instances where it was not the boyfriend or husband who walked out on their commitments to children, either. I’ve seen women, either married or unmarried do it as well. What about those instances, because it is this situation in reverse? Should the lady be required to carry her weight in providing for the child’s welfare? I say so.

    6. Great point, Li. A lot of single parents choose to have a child via adoption and I’m glad you brought that up. There are a lot of people like that who would like to give a child a loving home. Good on you all the way around. And even if you can’t actually bring up a child, there are good organizations where you can mentor a child, such as Big Brothers and Big Sisters.

    I’m 100% sure that many people here will disagree with some if not all of my points. But with so many children being born into poverty or unstable living situations brought on by the lack of a spouse (many times a father for a role model), this has become a major problem. And often this is with tragic results when the children grow up to be young adults. The news about things such as school shootings should wake everyone up. And I want to make it fully clear that I do not believe in sex before marriage. Whatever you believe is entirely up to you, but please think about my points and the thoughts Kim was trying to raise in the article.

  2. Half of single mother families have an annual income less than $25,000. Median income for single mother families ($24,487) is only one third the median for married couple families ($77,749). Only one third of single mothers receive any child support, and the average amount these mothers receive is only about $300 a month.

    Poverty: Two fifths of single mother families are poor, triple the poverty rate for the rest of the population. Single-mother families are nearly five times as likely to be poor than married-couple families.

    The poverty rate for single-mother families is 40.7% compared to 8.8% for married-couple families. The majority of poor children are in single mother families with 24% of children now living in such households.

    Three quarters of homeless families are single mother families.

    Welfare & Food Stamp Receipt: Two thirds of all single mothers receive Food Stamps.

    Source: http://singlemotherguide.com/single-mother-statistics/

    1. Mark, when looking at statistics without looking at context, one can find much of what you found. In fact, one can find bare statistics to support anything. It doesn’t prove a CAUSAL relationship. For example, I yawn every morning and the sun comes up within moments on most mornings. Statistically that means that over 90% of the time (my guess on the percentage) I yawn and the sun comes up. That doesn’t mean that my yawning causes it to come up. However, if you look at context, HOW those single mothers in your statistics became single mothers, you would find that MOST did not become single mothers by choice but by circumstance. You will also find that those circumstances created other negative results in those women’s lives besides the fact of making them single mothers. Those other results also contribute to their need for public support. That’s a very different issue. And it is a sad comment on the men involved in making those single mothers by circumstance single mothers at all.

  3. Your article only speaks of one kind of single mom; a rather immature kind, at that. I am a single mom by choice through adoption. I am older, well-established in my career, and think that my decision to become a mom is the best one I’ve made. There are now MANY women and men who choose parenthood, through biology or adoption, after they have gained some years of wisdom and financial independence and do it without a significant other. And the “study after study” that Dennis Neder talks about proving that children raised in single parent homes “suffer from social adaptation issues” usually fail to take into account the stability of the home, the economic status of the single parent, and the existence or lack thereof of a negative relationship between custodial parent and non-custodial parent. One major long-term study, which analyzed many other studies, concluded that stability within the home, adequate financial resources, and harmony among significant adults are the factors which best predict healthy emotional development in a child. There is a whole population of single parents by choice who give their children all of these factors in addition to a wide, supportive community. Those children have proven to grow up very healthy. However, you failed to include that population in your article.

    Please, Kim, if you’re going to write an article about such an important topic, research it a bit beyond the people you know and give a more complete view. You just reiterated stereotypes that play into the ignorance of the general population. If you want to enlighten, to bring something new to a topic, go outside of the box. It may take some research since your own experience seems somewhat limited, but isn’t that why you do this column?

    BTW, most mature single parents by choice define the term “single parent by choice” to be a person who decides to become a parent without any view of coupling with present or future significant others. We don’t have a baby with a boyfriend in the hopes it will change him or our relationship. That kind of thinking is for teenagers.

    1. Thank you Li for your very thoughtful response. You are right. My opinion piece in this week’s issue only takes into account one kind of single mom. If you adopted a child, I would think you had to go through quite a bit of paperwork — interviews, contracts, reviews with adoption counselors, investigations about your ability to provide for a child — and after you passed the “test” you were able to become a single parent. I applaud you for that and applaud all single parents who have made a thoughtful decision to raise a child.

      Other women (men too but to a lesser degree) also end up raising kids after divorce. That too is a different kind of single parent from what I’m writing about here.

      As much as I try to be a very clear communicator, I was not clear enough this time. Thank you for pointing that out and for your valuable comment.

    2. Li: I agree with your comments wholeheartedly. You made excellent points. I also suggest in one of my posts that if one cannot adopt a child, at least become a mentor through something like Big Brothers and Big Sisters. Even though you wouldn’t be a parent, you could still make a difference in a young person’s life.

  4. In Sweden, single mom’s are given an apartment and a monthly check from the government — not to mention free health care. The state is the “daddy” for a lot of the single moms in that country. Sweden has one of the highest number of single mother’s in the world. Maybe that’s what’s on the way for us here in the U.S.

  5. I actually do not agree, as I have raised my 2 children on my own (and still do). . When I got divorced, my ex husband (who did not work for the last 7 years of our marriage) refused to pay for his share of the children’s expense, and did not want to take care of them more than every other weekends from Saturday late morning to Sunday afternoon. The children were missing him terribly, and after consulting 2 lawyers, I was told that there is nothing I can do… if anything, since he did not work, I should pay him child support, if I wanted him to take the children more often…

    1. Nicole, you should try to petition the court for full custody of the kids. This guy obviously does not want to work, nor want to pay child support. He should be required to “man up!” I’m so amazed at how many people blatantly get out of paying child support. You should not have to deal with this. Whenever I see a case of your type on Judge Judy, she is always telling the person who is willing to do all the things to support the kids to petition the divorce court for full custody. And often she makes a tape of the proceedings in her court available for this purpose, or if a crime has been committed. And if this guy continues to refuse to pay child support (assuming he was ordered by the court to do so), he should end up in jail.

  6. While I agree with most of this, most women make at least one stupid decision in their 20s. We tend to think with our hearts and not our brains. Unfortunately, some of us end up marrying the wrong person and having a child with them. The good news is, we realize that person is wrong for us, and instead of staying in a miserable marriage/relationship, we choose to raise our child ourselves. Overextended single moms tend to be the ones who want the best for their child, and want to do everything they can to provide for that child. There are plenty of parents out there – MARRIED parents, who would rather have a nanny raise their children. More power to your friend Michelle.

    1. Hi Trudi, Thank you so much for your comment. In this particular article, I’m focusing on SINGLE women who ELECT to become pregnant because they think that having a baby will somehow improve their lives and they don’t think through the demands, sacrifices and resources required to raise a child alone. I’m suggesting that if they do that, decide to have a baby on their own, that they have a very clear plan on how they are going to manage their lives and provide for their baby – including the role that the father of their child will have, if any, in that process.

      1. There’s a big difference between a divorced mom raising kids (at least she thought she had a commitment with her partner) and a single woman deciding to have kids by herself because it seems like a cool”thing to do.”

    2. Women should just wait! Wait to get married (because maybe they’ll decide they really don’t want to) and wait to have kids (because once you do, it’s not like you can return them to the store for a refund). And if they did really sit down and figure out the “terms” for bringing a baby into the world – like a contract where they define responsibilities and expectations as well as what happens if one of the parents doesn’t want to be in the relationship anymore, a lot of the “babydust” fantasy would give way to the tough reality of raising kids, single or coupled.

  7. I learned first hand that you can’t just assume that when a woman tells you she is on birth control that she really is. Sure, nothing is foolproof. What happened to me is that a girl I was seeing and sleeping with on a casual basis, who said she was on the pill, ended up getting pregnant. Whether she really was using birth control or not, I can’t say, but I can say that I was not ready to become a father OR ready to become a husband. Yet I’m the bad guy as far as everyone is concerned. Women have been trying to trap men with the “Oh no, I’m pregnant” situation since the beginning of time, but in this day and age, there’s really no excuse for getting pregnant unless you want to and you better make sure that the father is either totally on board with you or that you have the money and resources to handle everything on your own — and that doesn’t mean dumping the kid in day care for 12 hours a day.

  8. Oh so true. My daughter had a baby with her boyfriend and now I’m the designated babysitter. She can’t afford daycare, so it’s me. So instead of pursuing those hobbies I was looking forward to finally getting to when my kids were grown, I find myself raising another child with my daughter.

    1. Grace Under Pressure: Is your daughter currently working? If not, you should do the following in exchange for the babysitting services:

      1. Make her go out and either get a job, any kind of a job, or go back to school and try to better herself. You won’t believe how many colleges and universities have child care services available. I remember when I was at the University of Michigan-Flint. There was a very well-run day care center. I had the opportunity to get to know the people there because I took my art classes there. A lot of the students complained about them being there, but I actually loved it. I loved seeing the young ones going around campus with their leaders and mentors. I made sure I bent over backwards to be friendly to the folks running the day care center. Another thing about going back to class – she can get, depending on her situation, work study or other campus employment. That should at least help pay some of the tuition bills and other expenses. I have bills to pay with my graphic art business, and am looking to do the same thing, either on campus or off, since I elected to go back and take a few more classes to try to improve my business.

      What do I mean by any job? I spent 14 years working grounds maintenance at a golf club in my home area. And while in college, I worked at a student newspaper (result of my journalism degree prior to my getting my graphic design degree), worked maintaining a swimming pool in a university recreation center, and working in an electronics crib room supplying classroom electronics supplies and selling electronics parts to students. And I worked as a volunteer at a student-run radio station as a sportscaster.

      2. Make her help you out with the chores around the house, if she is still living there. No ifs or buts about it. Matter of fact, make her do it anyway, regardless of where she lives. My parents are elderly, but I help them every chance I get. My mother can hardly get around anymore without a walker, but I make sure I help her every chance I get. She paid it forward by raising me, so I feel the obligation to do the same for her and my father. I help mow the lawn, help keep the place up, and help move snow in the winter, among other things. I also help out in the event of an emergency.

      I know as the old saying goes, you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make them drink. But let her know there will be consequences for inaction on these fronts, if necessary.

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