As a young girl, I knew two things with certainty: I wanted to be a mom, and I wanted to be a writer. At 9-years-old, I sat at my mom’s typewriter creating a list of names I would give my future children and I wove their names into the worlds I wrote in fictional stories.
In some ways, my journey to becoming a single mother turned out to be stranger than all that fiction. At 32 years old, I gave birth to my daughter Evelyn (which means “wished for child”) as a single mom by choice.
As a lesbian, I’ve always known that I would need the help of a sperm donor to conceive. What I didn’t know was that I would be choosing the donor on my own. I’ve had long-term relationships full of love, laughter and learning. But none of them panned out, and because I knew my fertility was finite and love could come at any time, I wasn’t afraid to consider having a child on my own.
Maybe it was my grandma’s adage that gave me the confidence to consider embarking on parenthood solo: “If you wait for the perfect time to have children, you’ll never have them.”
Although I believed in my grandmother’s wisdom that there is no perfect time to have a child, I wanted to make sure it was the right time for me, particularly knowing that as a single parent all of the responsibility would rest squarely on my shoulders.
As I began seriously considering the impact this would have on me, my future child and my family and friends, these were some of the questions I asked myself.
Like many other single moms by choice, I am university educated and professionally employed. As a communications specialist, my salary of $75,000 a year puts me squarely in the “middle class” bracket, and financial concerns were at the top of my list when considering this path. I'd even have to start thinking about life insurance for myself as a single mom.
(FYI, here's what you should know about applying for life insurance if you're pregnant.)
I needed to be sure that I could handle single parenthood without money as a constant worry or stressor, so I began saving 15 percent of my income for two years before I became pregnant. I got pregnant with the help of a known sperm donor and we did home inseminations (turkey baster style, with a medicinal syringe in place of the baster), so my expenses to conceive were minimal and I was able to continue to saving money throughout my pregnancy.
I live in Toronto, a big city where childcare costs are exorbitant, to the tune of over $100 per day for infants and $90 per day for toddlers. Even with the help of a government subsidy, over 30 percent of my income went to childcare expenses during the first four years of my daughter’s life. (Here are the best cities for single parents.)
There were times that I was worried about my financial situation (particularly when my dog decided to eat my yoga pants when I was on maternity leave and required extensive veterinary care!).
Fortunately, I had enough emergency savings to cover the vet bills without worrying about how I would pay my rent. Now that my daughter is older and in school, my parenting-related expenses increasingly go toward enrichment activities for her as my childcare expenses decrease.
With my family a six-hour drive away, I knew I couldn’t ask my parents for much physical help or have my sister bail me out in a childcare pinch. Fortunately, my best friend lives up the street from me and has been my rock throughout my daughter’s infancy and childhood, stepping in to prepare meals when I’m sick and babysit when my childcare falls through.
Single parenthood can get lonely. Although every parent needs support, single moms in particular need a strong, steady village to help prevent isolation and keep us sane. For some people, that might even mean finding a parent in a similar boat and asking that person to be your mentor.
Before taking the leap, I had numerous conversations with my friends and family about what their support would look like after baby came. Some of my friendships have fizzled since becoming a mom, but others have strengthened. I’ve developed new ones with fellow parents, as well.
I knew going into this—as much as a child-free person can—that my life would change dramatically. I knew my free time would be limited, my grocery bill would increase and I had an inkling that my ability to date would dwindle significantly.
But it was only through living this new reality that I learned just how much our children take from us in energy, time and resources.
There are times when I miss my freedom. The days following my daughter’s tonsillectomy, neither she nor I slept for nearly a week, as she chose to wail all night, refusing her pain meds. Sleep has never been my daughter’s strong suit.
During some of those sleepless nights, I’ve wondered what exactly I was thinking in trying to handle all of this alone. But even in my most exhausted moments, my love for my daughter trumps my long-gone ability to go on an impromptu weekend trip to the Florida Keys.
Although I dipped my toes back in the dating world when my daughter was a baby, it was too exhausting to balance motherhood, work and trying to find love. It wasn’t difficult to find women to date; being a single mother didn’t seem to discourage women from being interested in me. But expending energy on developing a new relationship was too taxing for me at the time. I just didn’t have the energy to swipe right or go on endless coffee dates.
Two years ago, however, I met my now-fiancee, a fellow single mother (though not by choice) whom I met through my mom blog (yes, really). We started off as two moms blogging about our children and ended up falling in love. If I hadn’t become a mother first, I never would have met my soon-to-be wife.
In the end, you can do all of the thinking and preparing in the world, but as with anything, you don't really know what it's like being a (single) parent until you're living it. This is without a doubt the hardest and most rewarding thing I've ever done.
Through parenting my daughter and surviving the many patience-stretching days and nights, I have found strength and resiliency in myself that I didn’t know existed. I’ve learned not to sweat the small stuff. Temporary hiccups like a subway train that’s running late or coffee spilled all over my shirt no longer upset me the way they would have pre-motherhood.
Although I do more each day on less sleep, wouldn't change a thing.
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