I was one of the lucky ones. Before I became a Choice Mom, I was oblivious to the issues that many Thinking Women face. I didn’t worry about whether I could afford it, because I had a high-paying job. I didn’t worry about whether I could handle the stress of solo parenting, because I assumed that I could handle anything. I didn’t grieve the fact that I was embarking on motherhood without a lifetime partner, because I had never been a fan of convention. So I was lucky — at the start, anyway. Ignorance can be bliss.
Shortly after I became pregnant I started to freak out about whether I would actually like being a mother. Maybe I’d been foolish to think it was the logical next step of my life . . . maybe I was supposed to stay solo, traveling and writing and having experiences as a lone wanderer in the universe. Wouldn’t my life stop if I was locked inside four walls changing diapers and, ohmigod, actually preparing three meals a day, and helping someone else turn into a person who had experiences? Bump.
After my daughter was born, in that first year of often lonesome, scary motherhood I discovered many moments of sadness that I wasn’t sharing her development, and mine, with someone else. My local friends were single and childless, with no real interest in being part of my motherhood journey. My family was literally a thousand miles away. I didn’t have a childhood dream of “husband, wife, and kids” to grieve, but I found myself grieving something I couldn’t even define. Bump.
After three months of unpaid leave, I was ready to return to my well-paid job — only to learn that I was being “eliminated.” CRASH!
Talk about a rude awakening to the realities of life. In hindsight, I’m happy I was oblivious beforehand to how much my life would change. After talking to more than 100 women about their struggles in reaching this decision — and their struggles after — I understand how lucky I was to avoid many of the typical concerns before Sophie was born. Although I had no regrets about being a Choice Mom, my hard-won lessons about the bumps in the road made it more difficult to make a decision the second time. It took about two years of inner debate before I chose Choice Motherhood again, and Dylan was born.
Today’s Choice Mothers feel less stigma about their decision than did pioneers of the 1980s. But that doesn’t mean it’s an easy choice. Women today tend to focus less on whether having a child will be seen as “legitimate” for her and the child, and more on whether the decision itself is a legitimate one: Will I have the strength and energy to be a good mother? Do I have the financial, emotional, and support resources to pull it off? Should I wait a little longer to see if life turns a new corner? If you’re struggling with some of the typical “Should I?” conflicts, the next four chapters have been written to help you through.
“Am I Single-Mom Material?” looks at some of the most common reasons women hesitate as they contemplate this choice.
“Can I Afford It?” explores the number one issue of concern, finances, based on results of an informal survey I did in 2003.
“Grieving the Childhood Dream” includes personal stories of women who came to this decision reluctantly, having dreamed for years of raising children with a lifetime partner.
“Will My Community Accept Us?” examines the disapproval women have faced from family, friends, and other members of their local network. It also revisits the national conversation Vice President Dan Quayle launched in 1992 about Choice Motherhood when he decried the TV show Murphy Brown for mocking the importance of fathers.
NOTE: These are very common concerns. While the material here is ultimately reassuring — so many women have addressed them and gone on to Choice Motherhood — there are many more women who have chosen not to become a single mother because of these questions. Listen closely to yourself.