Every year more than a million single women give birth in the U.S.
Some of those women chose to be single moms because they were in a relationship that did not work out. Other single moms decided that it was best for them to have a child on their own. Whatever the reason you’re having a baby on your own, motherhood can still be a wonderful, rewarding experience.
There are some challenges associated with single motherhood, but they’re easier to manage if you’re prepared. Here are a few things to consider when having a child on your own:
- Start thinking about who is in your support network. Since you don’t have a partner, ask your friends and family to be there for you during your pregnancy and after you give birth. There will be times during pregnancy when you won’t want to lift that heavy package or climb a ladder. There will also be times after your baby is born when you’ll appreciate an extra hand. Don’t be afraid to express your concerns to friends and family or to ask for and accept their help.
- Line up a birthing partner. Ask one or more of the people in your support network to be available during the birth. Your birth partner may want to go to childbirth classes with you to get an idea of what to expect. Having a reliable birthing partner can be very comforting on delivery day.
- Talk to other single parents. If you don’t know any other single parents, join a support group online. Knowing what others go through—and that others share your experiences—can help you feel less alone. Learning how others solve single-parenting problem can also be very helpful.
- Talk to your employer about job flexibility, but before you do, read up on pregnancy discrimination Your employer cannot fire you for being pregnant. Nor is your employer legally allowed to reject reasonable accommodations that are temporarily necessary for you to safely do your job. Most employers are happy to make accommodations, especially if they contribute to workplace safety. Some examples might be allowing you to take more frequent breaks or avoid lifting heavy packages for the duration of your pregnancy. In some jobs it may be possible to work at home part time after the birth or have more flexible hours.
- Pamper yourself whenever possible while you’re still pregnant. Rest up. Being a new parent is physically challenging.
- Get financial help if you need it. First determine what you’ll need. Make a budget and calculate the extra expenses associated with parenthood. If your pregnancy happened in the context of a relationship, consider whether to ask the father for support. If you do file for child support, your partner’s paternity will have to be confirmed. Once paternity is confirmed, support is set according to the father’s income. Filing for child support is required if you plan to file for government assistance. If needed, explore various financial help, such as assistance programs and grants. For example, WIC, known as the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children, is a federal program that provides assistance during pregnancy and six weeks after giving birth. Women can apply for assistance up to six months after birth. Breastfeeding mothers can receive assistance up the child’s first birthday.
- Find out whether the father wants to be involved. If the pregnancy happened as the result of a past relationship, don’t assume the dad doesn’t want to be involved in some aspect of parenting. Be sure to ask him. If he does want to be involved, discuss a parenting plan.
- Consider your child’s name. If you are married and have a child, it is assumed that child will have the father’s surname. However, if you are not married, the child will receive your surname, unless the father consents to having his name on the birth certificate. Not being married and not having the father’s name does not absolve the father from obligations, such as child support. There are some advantages to the father establishing paternity, which include receiving benefits through the father—such as health insurance, survivors benefits, disability and life insurance benefits. Should you decide to marry the father at some future point or to marry someone else, you can always change the baby’s name.
- Don’t forget to celebrate your pregnancy. It’s no less a joyous event because you are doing it on your own. You’re entitled to a reveal party and a baby shower. Share your happiness with others.
- Be confident. Every pregnant woman might be scared at some point during her pregnancy, worrying about her baby and wondering if she will be a capable mother. While it’s natural to have doubts there’s no reason you won’t do a great job and find the help you need along the way. Some pretty impressive people were raised by single mothers.