We live in a society where single mothers are either looked upon with admiration (one person taking on a two-person role) or disdain/judgment (where’s the father of her child?).
More often than not, the disdain outweighs the admiration and the result is a situation where a woman wanting to have a baby by herself is plagued with the question of ‘what will people say?’ rather than ‘am I ready to be responsible for another human being?’
A woman is expected to get to a certain age, get married and have children. For most people, this age is pegged between 30 and 35. As a woman approaches her mid to late thirties and is yet to get married, the pressure often begins to take the form of ‘you know you don’t have many child-bearing years left. Go and marry.’
When my mother had me, I doubt she knew she was going to raise me by herself; but she had to, and she did a darn good job (even if I say so myself). I know a number of friends who were raised by single mothers: either because they were widowed or they got pregnant and the father absconded. I have yet to meet anyone of my age, raised by a single mum whose mother decided by herself to have and raise a child. The closest I have seen is a woman who ‘adopts’ the child of a close relative and raises the child as their own.
This is changing. In recent years, more and more women are breaking the norm and choosing to have children by without partners; whether by adoption, artificial insemination or the old fashioned way.
The question is not the wrongness or rightness of it; morality is a personal matter. The question is as a single woman are you emotionally, mentally, physically and financially ready to have and care for a child? What are your motivations for wanting a child?
Even with a partner, raising a child is a lot of work.
Here are a few things to consider when making this decision to become a single mum:
- Conception or adoption? Conception can occur through sex with a partner, insemination by a known donor, or insemination by an unknown donor. Adoption can occur independently or through an agency; can be open (you and your child remain in touch with the biological parents) or closed. You can choose to adopt an infant or an older child, with or without special needs.
- Choosing your support team for prenatal visits, labor, and postpartum: Being a single mother does not mean you have to do it all alone. You need to choose who your support team will be beforehand. It could be family members or friends.
- Dealing with complications during pregnancy: If you choose conception, you need to understand that not all pregnancies are without complications (I can hear “I reject it in Jesus name” in the background). If complications arise you need a plan to deal with it.
- Deciding what to put on the birth certificate: That great big space on the birth certificate where father’s name should be. Will you be leaving it blank?
- Telling the father (if appropriate): If you get pregnant by a known donor, will you be telling him about it? What if he wants to be involved in the life of the child?
- Planning financial support: This is a big one. Pampers are costly. The average crèche now charges more per term than what my entire primary schooling cost. Do you have money put away? If an emergency occurs, like you lose your job (or forex becomes scarce and your business depends on forex), are you well off enough to provide for yourself and the child?
- Understanding legal issues of adoption and single parenthood: Adoption is a lengthy process, especially in Nigeria. You don’t want to make the mistake of falling into the hands of baby factories masquerading as orphanages. You need legal support to guide you through the process.
In an ideal world, the family unit would have two parents. But this is not an ideal world and sometimes you have to play the hand life deals you. The decision to be a voluntary single mother is not an easy one and if you know someone who is taking that path, the least you can do is offer your support. And if that’s too much for you, mind your business and keep quiet.