In 2014 I set out on my path to become a Single Mother By Choice. I had recently separated from my husband and my attempt to get egg freezing resulted in a medical diagnosis of infertility. I faced the shocking choice of having a child on my own or potentially missing out on having my own biological child.
For now, though, I am going to talk about some of the challenges that I encountered on my journey as a single mother by choice.
1. It Hurts to Let Go of the Dream of the Traditional Family
For me, this was the most difficult challenge due to the huge emotional toll it took upon me. Not living as the traditional family archetype with a loving partner in creating our a family together really hit me hard.
This ideal nuclear family is something that we are indoctrinated with from birth. It’s what we are told a good family looks like. I had been working very hard towards creating this with my husband for most of our thirteen year relationship, only for everything to crumble when we should have been getting started. To be honest, not having that very special someone in my life to share the journey with, to celebrate all of my child's developments caused a lot of sadness for me over the years.
What I have chosen to do instead is to cultivate close relationships with my family and friends. I feel very blessed to have these people in my life and they are very loving and interested in all of the little things that my child is doing.
2. Managing Your Finances
The second biggest challenge for most solo parents by choice is managing your finances. Becoming a single parent by choice means that you are going to have to develop and commit to a financial plan. You need to give yourself enough time to prepare financially, this means creating a budget, eliminating debt, building your savings and understand your cost of living when you have a child.
You need to factor in costs such as IVF, nursery costs, nappies and formula (if you need it), daycare, working part time, and coming to terms with how you're going to navigate life with a child, such as the impact of sick days and school holidays.
You also need to quantify what your maternity leave entitlements are. How long can you take off work and will you get any paid leave? Where will you live and how will you pay for your overheads?
These are relevant questions even if you have a partner, however if there are two of you the burden is shared. Mind you, the burden does not go away and the additional person does involve additional costs.
3. Sick Days
The third biggest challenge that I've struggled with as a single mother by choice is dealing with sick days for both myself and my child.
When my baby has been sick, I have found it very difficult because we were emotionally hardwired together. So if he's miserable, I felt it. I found that my nervous system became very fragile at these times, making it difficult to support myself.
If I also became sick (as is common to share illness) my reserves for being emotionally strong and resilient certainly became impacted. It's very difficult to look after a little one and look after yourself when you are feeling miserable and unwell, however you just have to rise to the occasion! Ask for help and support as you need.
One of the trickiest things about sick days especially if your child is sick is that it’s going to impact your work. For couples, there is the potential for sharing the load of taking sick days. But as a single parent by choice, you're going to take the full brunt of sick days unless you have other people around you who can support you in this way.
When your child can’t attend daycare - there are a number of infectious illnesses that prevent children returning to daycare without isolating for several days at home. Again, this can have a big impact on your work, so how can you manage that?
One way is to prepare in advance with your employer, or with your clients if you're self employed, and create systems to work from home when your child is sick. Having flexibility with your work is a Godsend!
Otherwise, you may look to grandparents, friends, or even paying a babysitter or nanny to look after your baby at home when they're sick so that you can go to work.
4. Time Out For Yourself
The fourth biggest challenge that I find being a single parent by choice is having any downtime, time out to myself. I found that I was really struggling with not having any time to myself. My needs were not getting met, to help me replenish and take care of myself.
I decided to enrol my child into a fourth day of daycare to give myself more time to do my work and look after myself. Until that stage my son was only going three days a week and he was nearly two and a half years old when I increased it. Fortunately my little one loves going to daycare and easily adapted to the new arrangement.
He loved being home with his mummy, but he also loved going to daycare and I needed to have that time for myself. So I started the extra day and even if I didn't have clients that I was working with, I would still take that for myself.
What I have found is that the happier I am, the better mother I am.
5. Feeling Isolated and Alone
The fifth biggest challenge that I find being a solo parent by choice is feeling isolated and alone.
I have felt this at times the whole way through my journey and still occasionally feel that way. Even though I am very close with my family, have wonderful friends and a lovely community, there are times when I feel alone simply because I don't have that special person in my life.
There is no one there to champion me and tell me what a great job I'm doing. If you are in a couple and you're struggling, you would hope that your beloved would be telling you that you're doing a great job, and what a great Mum you are. It's just really nice to have that kind of affirmation given to you and the reassurance that you're doing well.
As a single parent you just have to give those kind and encouraging words to yourself. It’s also very important to surround yourself with positive people, people who are going to build you up and reassure you when you doubt your abilities.
Surround yourself with positive people and keep your own self talk as positive as possible.
If you do find yourself struggling with feelings of depression or isolation please get help. Remember the better care you give yourself the better care you can give your child. Many GPs offer counselling, and there are various mental health programs that you may be able to access for little cost.
For me personally, energy healing has always been my number one self-care choice. I have struggled with depression at various times over my marriage breakdown and fertility journey especially during periods when I didn’t allow myself to spend the money on getting the care that I needed.
I found my depression became quite low after I moved back to Sydney and as soon as I started having more regular healings things turned around very quickly for me.
Are you heading into depression? Make sure you know the signs and take action to help yourself. Your wellbeing and the wellbeing of your child depend on your ability to take exquisite care of yourself.
So there you have it – the top five challenges that I've experienced being a single parent by choice. These are things that you can anticipate and create strategies to address to support your future family.
I hope that has been helpful.
If you are interested in this topic then I invite you to join my FREE SoulParent community to access the Fertility Clarity workbook and other resources to support you on your journey.
Lots of love!