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.
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.