Unsure, Unsettled, Undecided

Thoughtful woman sitting on a bench.From Unsure, Unsettled, Undecided:  The pendulum of my SMC decision-making has most recently swung toward NO WAY!! How could anyone ever do this? How could I ever do this? NO, NO, NO!!! I had been more positive about choosing to be an SMC, but I haven’t been able to shake this place I am now in. I could use some feedback about the different stages you have gone through as well as some of your thoughts and feelings about how one can do something seemingly so emotionally, physically, and financially difficult as having and raising a child alone. At the moment, only the model of two parents together works for me, no matter how I turn it around. I would like to get back to a more open place about it. 

Dear Unsure: First of all, you don’t have to do this and that’s okay. Second of all, why do you think it’s so hard? Your fellow SMCs aren’t superwomen. We’re bright, committed, and fairly independent, but we’re not the CEOs who run the world or Mother Teresas or anything like that. All kinds of women do it and do it well enough. Maybe you should hang out with some moms and their kids of various ages to get a sense of what it’s like.

Has something recently happened that may have caused your thinking to take a turn? Maybe a comment from your family or a sudden realization that something you had not previously thought of may be unmanageable? We’ve all woken in the middle of the night thinking “What will I do in the middle of winter when I have to shovel the snow and get the car warmed up in time to go to work? Who will watch the baby? How can I possibly manage this!”

Then we joined Single Mothers by Choice (SMC) and started reading and participating in our local groups and the SMC online Forum. We read the “Single Mothers by Choice” book and raided the library and checked out every book on marriage, single parenthood, breast pumping at work, etc. We started discussing our fears with friends who helped come up with solutions.

This is it is a process. Don’t dig into anything you’re not yet ready to handle. If you are informed as much as possible, you’ll be in the best place to make the decision that is right for you. In the meantime, when that wave of terror hits you, be aware, YOU ARE NOT ALONE! Many of us have been through it and come out the other side.

Realize that you are on the horns of a dilemma. To be brutally honest, if you are in your late-30s or early 40s, it is unlikely you will find a partner in time to conceive a biological child from a fertility/biological clock perspective. Are you willing to forgo a biological child? You could potentially achieve pregnancy using a donor egg and your partner’s sperm. Or are you willing to become a parent through adoption. Try to pinpoint what bothers you most about being an SMC and focus on that. Find a good therapist to help you think this through. You need to be at peace with whatever decision you make.

Perhaps you might take six months and think about bring an SMC every day, every minute, in every situation—sick, on a date, happy, crazy busy with work. Whatever is going on in your life, think and ask, “How would this be different as a mom? How would I handle this situation?” Some things may appear to be major challenges, but would they make you walk away from the idea forever?

One day a friend who the mom of six kids said something that has stuck with us. We were talking about the Thinking stage and all the doubts, convictions, worries, and so on. She said, “That’s great to be aware and go into it with your eyes open, but the thing that is missing for you as you consider all of these situations is that you are not a mother yet, so you don’t have access to that strange wealth of strength and patience—resources you only know about and tap into once you are a mom.  And, of course, you can’t possibly ever imagine the incredible love you will have for your child, and which will help you find those resources.”

Being a parent can be MUCH harder than you ever prepare for, but we’re also often amazed at the things we can do, tolerate, and roll with—things we never knew we could do until we became a mom. Good luck to you in your decision-making.


4 thoughts on “Unsure, Unsettled, Undecided”

  1. This notion of finding mommy resources you didn't know you had reminds me of a conversation I had with an SMC friend about 18 years ago…
    Me: "How do you do everything you used to do PLUS take care of Jack [name changed]?"
    Her, after a long thinking pause: "I don't know, actually. I just do."
    Now that I have followed in her SMC footsteps, I can say the same thing, "I don't know. I just do."

  2. Thinker – you are not alone at all. I started thinking at 39 – and it took me almost four years to be ready to let go of the dream of the traditional family. Of course, by then my biological clock had run out and my thoughts turned from do I want to be an SMC to OMG why did I wait so long? I was really, really stuck though – I couldn't get past the wanting to have a traditional family – wanting to get married, then have kids. When you spend a lifetime dreaming of that, the shift to thinking of being an SMC doesn't happen overnight. But after another relationship that didn't work out (autonomy issues on his part) I realized I had no more time left. Now I really wish I had started ttcing at a younger age. I don't know how old you are, but how will you feel if you delay and can't have a biological child? I did egg donation/sperm donation after I found out my bio clock had run out and there were many women on that list that were in their mid 30s who had found out once they started ttcing that they had fertility issues – many due to age. Also, think of it this way – think of all of the emotionally and financially unprepared young people who find themselves pg and go on to raise their child – certainly you can do a way better job than them! And, can you shift your thinking? It's not that you may no one day have the traditional family – you're just doing it in a different order. You still could meet a great guy and get married – but your clock will only allow you to wait a certain amount of time. After ttcing with my own eggs (too old) and donor eggs (kept mcing due to immune issues), I am now on an adoption waiting list. I am continuing to date and have absolutely not given up the idea of having a husband and children, but at my age, it just has to be in a different order. I can't miss out on being a mom because I haven't met my life partner yet.

  3. As an SMC with two boys (one five and one nearly three) I would say this article is a very accurate depiction of how I got from there to here. And at the end of the day, what none of the books can tell you, is what this article says–when you have that child counting on you to move a mountain, or make him smile you do it with resources you never had access to before. For me–the amount of support I discovered, and created once my first was in my arms was amazing. People love to help. People REALLY love to help when a baby is involved. So, add that to your list–asking yourself who do I know that might show up for us in a new way once my baby is my life? And then ask them if you are right. Create that net now.

  4. Oh this is just what I needed to hear too! Thanks for the insightful post.

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