Finances are hard; dealing with exs can be challenging; and balancing the needs of the child with the stressors of divorce, separation or co-parenting are all daily challenges for many single mothers.These realities are true for all types of families and couples: married, unmarried, dating, living together.
How does one share a child that has just come into the world? Being a never-married single mother, I am more familiar with these challenges then I would like to be.Do you split the child down the middle with one taking one half and the other the other half? There’s a commonly used online-forum acronym, SAHM, which stands for Stay at Home Mom. In certain parenting circles, single motherhood is swept under the rug like yesterday’s breakfast crumbs.Why isn’t NMSM used for Never Married Single Mother in the same way? Three years ago, at the age of 41, with the clock ticking quickly, I chose to bring a life into the world. My decision to bring a child into the world initially involved the vision of the oftentimes strived for ideal of a nuclear family. ” followed by a slight wave of their hand towards my belly.However, shortly into the pregnancy it became clear this was not to be. I really don’t think I need to spell out the answer. At least I got to enjoy some shock value from time to time as I announced “I had sex.” What do you say to that? I found myself gearing up for the ‘’We’re not married mode” whenever her father and I went somewhere together that involved birth preparation. “We don’t live together.” “Ohhh…” and then a scramble on the facilitator’s part as he or she tried to find a spare set, or relinquishing her own, or agreeing to bring another set to the next class. One area for the parent and the address of the parent.And so I began the journey of learning about single parenthood, alone. On some occasions two spaces yet still awkward and cumbersome.The high divorce rates in the United States (and globally) give rise to many custody battles.
Single parent rights include the need for unwed mothers to be protected when having children out of wedlock.
Single mother’s legal rights in general can be especially complicated when it comes to custody battles, hence rule number one: find a really good lawyer.
Surprisingly, along with my decision came a host of societal implications about what motherhood should and is supposed to be. I was not prepared for the fact that as a pregnant woman, I would be on the receiving end of so many conscious and subconscious beliefs and opinions about what a pregnant woman’s life should be like. This came from an almost Ph D woman who worked professionally with families. I also had to memorize her father’s social security number, address, phone number and birthday. They go to the one who pays for the insurance, not the parent who manages the child’s health.
For instance, there was the time a colleague of mine discovered I was pregnant while we were at University departmental holiday party. One of the hardest lessons I learned along the path of single mother pregnancy was that I would not be as accepted as I imagined I would be. Unfortunately, I also learned that as a single pregnant woman you are not part of the “in crowd.” The world sees a pregnant woman as one half of a whole, not as the whole. Everyone would see this invisible man but it wasn’t until I would make it explicitly clear, verbally and otherwise, that the shadow would disappear and in its place a question mark on people’s faces. I can’t tell you how many times I was called “Mrs.” while pregnant.
I said to her “Yes…I am pregnant.” Her eyes got bright and she looked very excited. No matter where you go–doctor’s appointments, hospitals, coffee shops–there is an invisible man walking with you that the world sees and who has a name. I think this was especially true because the information was coming from an upwardly mobile, well-educated white woman. A good male friend of mine with whom I spent a lot of time was called “Dad” on multiple occasions while we were out for Sunday brunch.
One waitress even pointed out how much my two-month-old daughter looked like my friend. But even though I was laughing on the outside, making light of the situation, there was still a part of me that was crying on the inside.