Whether you are a single parent by decision or different circumstances, being a single parent with an infant has particular difficulties entirely not the same as that of single parents with kids that have developed past diapers. I know the distinction extremely well as I have encountered both circumstances.
I was divorced almost 5 years ago when my children were 10, 7, and 4; they are currently 15, 12, and 9 but now I also have a 16-month-old. The baby was the result of an unexpected pregnancy (we used birth control) which I discovered shortly after the year-long relationship I had with her father ended. He did not want a child or to be involved in any way so the relationship remained over and I had my fourth child as a single mom. Having the baby was my choice, but as a single mom was not what I had hoped for. Regardless, I know the reality of being a single mom from the very beginning of my child’s existence, an experience not all single moms have.
Going through a pregnancy, birth, and the first 16 months of my daughter’s life without her father’s involvement is very different from my experience with my other three children. I know all too well what it was like to be able to share those experiences with the person I loved and created a child with, and what it’s like not to. I think most women would agree with me when I say the former is the ideal and also our preference, but we don’t always have that choice.
It’s becoming more and more common for women today to conceive through a sperm donor and raise a child on her own. Most women have a strong desire to have children, and if they haven’t found the right man and aren’t in a relationship, they can still make that happen before their body decides it’s too late. Unfortunately sometimes these women are judged as selfish for not providing their child with a father while indulging their greatest biological desire. Being on the other side of this situation as in raising my daughter without her father by his choice, I support the single-moms-by-choice for their decision to go ahead anyway. After all, they have no guarantee that the child’s father would always be involved even if they did wait for “Mr. Right” to come along before having kids, and who’s to say he can’t come along afterward? The fact is no matter which scenario a single mom is in or why, the responsibility of raising and nurturing a child is mostly on the mother, although the father’s participation is also very important. Being a single mom with a baby has many challenges, and the involvement of the father is a big one.
Often for single moms of babies, the father’s involvement becomes the mother’s responsibility. I’m not saying this is right or even fair, but the reality is that especially when the child is a baby, it takes a lot more effort from the mother to create the best situation possible and provide a positive environment that would encourage a reluctant or distant father to take a positive and active role with a baby. It’s much harder for the father to form a bond with a baby that he’s not actively raising with you on a daily basis, and that only perpetuates the lack of involvement. Just like the rest of mothering, taking on the responsibility and doing what’s best for our children ultimately falls on us. The father will have an influence on our child’s sense of self whether or not he’s involved, and what’s best for our babies is doing what we can to make that a good one.
Over the last two years and through much opposition and resistance I think I have found my answer; the situation it is what it is – and it can always get better. Leaving the door open and with a welcome mat for this to occur is the choice that I have made for my daughter. Maybe nothing will change and her father will remain detached and uninvolved, which is beyond my control, but maybe he will come to realize what a blessing she is and also want to do what’s best for her by providing her with a positive father figure instead of a negative one. Anything’s possible and it all starts with us single moms and the power of thinking and being positive. I choose to make my decisions not based on the worse-case-scenario but on the best possible outcome, which is my daughter having a father that can love and show his love for her as she grows up.