Are you a single mom? Single mom by choice? What advice do you give women thinking of having a baby on her own?
Not a week goes by that I don't find myself in conversation with a childless woman in her 30s worried about whether to have kids, wondering about being a single mom. The typical scenario: She's not dating anyone she really likes, or is in a relationships she's not sure about, and really wants to be a mom.
But she is:
a) worried she won't find the right partner.
b) fears she does marry and they have a kid, but divorce.
c) considering having a baby on her own, but that it could turn out terribly because single motherhood is universally terrible.
She asks: How hard is it to be a single mom?
My advice is always the same to women thinking about being a single mom by choice:
Have a baby! You will never regret having a baby! Yeah, divorce is hard. Being a mom alone is hard. But it is not full of regret. Having kids in a tough situation is way, way easier than denying the very thing that your body is biologically designed to do and is screaming at you to manifest. Some women's bodies do not scream that at them. Yours is. Listen to that!
Do not live with regret.
Regret is the worst.
Have a baby!
Here's the thing with babies. You have no idea how much you will love them. I know one or two moms who will occasionally say they wish they didn't have kids. Or so many kids. I appreciate that. Totally human. But 99% of the moms I know will tell you:
Your love for your baby will blow your fucking mind. You think you have been in love with men. You think you love your family. You think you love Patrick Dempsey and Sephora.
You don't know shit.
Wait until you have a baby.
Mind = Blown.
What about waiting around to marry “the one,” or whatever? Read my How many divorce stories started with ‘I knew he was the one!' Your fertility is finite. The years you will have the energy to parent little kids is limited. So go ahead and have a kid or three with your really nice boyfriend you're not 100% sure about because, listen — you have no idea how you will feel when you see him changing poopy pants, or when he steps in and takes over when you have crippling postpartum depression and your milk won't come in and you haven't washed your hair for 11 days and he spoons you in bed anyway.
And that man of your dreams you're waiting for with whom you just instantly connect? Well, he might just check out and not really be interested in family life or start spending long nights at the office with that really pretty colleague. In short, you have no way of knowing what life with that guy will be like.
And if there isn't a really nice guy on the scene, well, you are an adult woman and you know the ways you can have a baby.
Because life is about taking risks. Marriage is a risk. Having babies is a risk. There are no guarantees. The best things are hard. All cliches. All true.
Have the baby.
Then you will be a single mom. And that is scary, and you will be afraid of being poor, and messing up your kids. But married moms worry about that, too. And half of married moms end up single moms. And you have so many amazing opportunities as a woman to earn a great living and control your schedule and bring up awesome children and still find romantic love. So just do that. I'm here for you. And other moms, too.
Need to work it out with a therapist? Consider online therapy sites. BetterHelp has an A+ Better Business Bureau rating. Prices start at $60/week for unlimited messaging and weekly live sessions. Financial assistance available.
Why women become single mothers by choice
Dr. Jennifer Roelands, an integrative medicine trained OB/GYN who runs a telehealth practice based in Los Angeles, says there are a lot of reasons a woman might choose to become a single mother:
- Hasn’t found the right partner and wants to have a child (or children) before her fertility window ends
- Has invested a lot of money and time into a successful career
- Doesn’t want to devote effort into a relationship but wants to be a mother
- Never wants to get married but still wants to be a mother
- Had a bad relationship and feels like she’d prefer to parent alone
What you should know before becoming a single parent by choice
If you’re considering becoming a single parent by choice, Roelands says these are some questions to ask yourself first:
1. How do you see your role as a parent?
2. How do you want to raise your child(ren)?
3. Are you emotionally and financially ready to take on the responsibilities of parenthood?
4. Do you have a support system to help?
Above all, Roelands says, “it is simply your choice.”
What is the best age to get pregnant and have a baby biologically?
When it comes to straight fertility, it is easiest to get pregnant in your late teens and early 20s, when fertility is at its highest.
However, as women age, the risks of birth defects increase. Fertility declines starting at age 32, and starts to plummet starting at age 37, according to the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology.
The risk of birth abnormalities, including chromosomal abnormalities, increases as a mother ages.
What about egg freezing for single moms?
For the last decade, feminists have been loving the new push for young, professional women to freeze their eggs to give them more flexibility in finding a romantic partner while prioritizing professional success with abandon. Google, Apple and Facebook all offered this expensive procedure as an employee perk — one heralded as an excellent step towards gender equality in the workplace.
The Washington Post published an extensive article broadcasting what fertility experts have long known: egg freezing is successful in only a small percentages of the time, a fact that the burgeoning fertility industry keeps under wraps:
Harsh facts about egg freezing
This weekend's Washington Post published an extensive article broadcasting what fertility experts have long known: egg freezing is successful only a small percentages of the time, a fact that the burgeoning fertility industry keeps under wraps.
Are there any single mother by choice regrets?
There are plenty of famous women who became single moms by choice: Sandra Bullock, Charlize Theron, and Mindy Kaling, to name a few. While Bullock and Theron both adopted their children, Kaling has two biological children and hasn’t revealed their father’s identity.
Bullock told People after her daughter’s adoption in 2015 that there’s no doubt in her mind she was meant to adopt her children: “I can tell you absolutely, the exact right children came to me at the exact right time”
Several women on Reddit have sought — and shared — advice about becoming a single mother by choice:
Roelands says she had a patient who decided to undergo IVF to have a child.
“She decided that she wanted a baby and was in her early 40s and did not want to miss the chance,” Roelands says.
The woman had supportive friends and her mother backing her up throughout the process.
“She is a wonderful mother and happy with her choice,” Roelands says.
You're not getting any younger—don't wait for a husband before having a baby
There are no guarantees. Even if you meet that great guy, there are still no guarantees.
Take the pressure off yourself to have a “perfect,” life. Embrace that that might not make you happy in the first place. Embrace the power of your career, economic, and legal opportunities as a woman— which are unprecedented in history. Embrace the growing social acceptance of having a child outside of that Ozzie and Harried fantasy. Embrace your choice.
At the end of the day, you cannot predict the future.
Life happens, and you have to take control when you can.
It is unfair that women have a devastatingly smaller fertility window than men. But the science is there. Embrace it. Inform your daughters and friends accordingly. Support the single moms and all women as we navigate these unprecedented waters, as we seek out fulfillment for ourselves and our families, and equality and choice for women everywhere.
Your uterus and ovaries take a turn for the worse at age 27. Age 35? Yours is officially a high-risk pregnancy. Come 40 — forget it. Your chances of having a baby without significant fertility treatments are slim. Women who find themselves facing those chances often also find themselves devastated and broke.
These are facts. Not trends or social movements. You cannot change biology.
Other facts: humans find relationships with other humans to be the most important and enjoyable parts of their lives. Relationships with romantic partners. Relationships with children. Another force of biology.
And yet. And yet this weekend I read with horror in The New York Times Magazine article about college women and the hookup culture, which found that young women are a) so busy pursuing their careers that they don't have time for real boyfriends, and instead have “hookup buddies” and dole out copious numbers of blow jobs as the sole way they connect with men, b) College women are not factoring in a husband or children into near-term goals, c) College guys get what they want sexually because they are now the minority, and market economics dictates they have the power to get what they want sexually. And what they want are BJs.
This article made me a little sad, and a lot angry. If in your parenting you relegate family planning to an afterthought, you denigrate your children, their innate dreams and desires, and stunt their potential to truly achieve fulfillment in both work and family that we all strive for.
Yes, we have a lot of work to on the front of gender equality at work. Yes it is fantastic that young women see a clear connection between their hard work and smarts and professional potential. But this article quotes numerous college students and experts who say that pressure from parents and society is for young women to focus on professional achievement above all else — and far above marriage and children. A few quotes:
“I positioned myself in college in such a way that I can’t have a meaningful romantic relationship, because I’m always busy.”
“They envisioned their 20s as a period of unencumbered striving, when they might work at a bank in Hong Kong one year, then go to business school, then move to a corporate job in New York. The idea of lugging a relationship through all those transitions was hard for many to imagine.”
“Increasingly many privileged young people see college as a unique life stage in which they don’t — and shouldn’t — have obligations other than their own self-development.
“A. said that she did not want to settle down until she could choose a partner knowing that his goals and values were fixed.”
“[The women] tried very hard to separate sex from emotion, because they believed that getting too attached to someone would interfere with their work. They saw a woman’s marrying young as either proof of a lack of ambition or a tragic mistake that would stunt her career.”
I admit that I have held that latter attitude. I was 28 when I married, 31 when I had my first child. People — and by “people,” I mean New York City liberals — often remark how young I was when I married, even though I was a full year older than the national average for women, and pushing my fertility luck when I got pregnant. Once, when I was in my early 20s, my mom casually said: “You should have your kids by the time you're 30.” At the time that struck me as sexist and old-fashioned. Today it sounds to me simply sensible and respectful of nature.
Which is exactly the message that I will impart on my daughter. It goes without saying that my daughter's intellectual interests and aptitude will be nurtured. But what about her personal ones? The standard-issue advice for college-bound women is to establish a career first, then start a family. But the laws of fertility include a time limit. Career does not. The laws of the heart demand spontaneity and serendipity. Women need love — romantic love, maternal love. Career is but one part of a young woman's development. As a mother, it is my obligation to encourage my daughter to develop every part of herself.