I got this text from a friends’ daughter the other day: Hey! How was it raising Lulu on your own? Any advice?
I had my daughter 19.5 years ago which means I got pregnant in 1997. It was a very different world back then, barely an internet. There was an online database for my sperm bank, but profiles came as hard copies in the mail and they were filled out in longhand . I didn’t know, or even know of, anyone who had done what I was thinking of doing. (Side note: I did find SMC, which was the only resource at the time.)
Women today who choose to have a child on their own have endless resources available—blogs, groups, books, movies! I imagine it’s overwhelming but if you persist you can find the voices that speak to your heart and reasons for taking this step.
I answered her text like this:
Hey you!! so you’re planning on doing this solo?
We should have a real conversation but in a word: amazing.
Other words: challenging, blissful, growth, lonely, brave.
It has been the best experience ever, the love is insane, the personal growth unique to the experience.
So freakin happy for you. Let’s make a time to talk.
This is my love letter to all you beautiful women out there who are taking, or thinking of taking, this brave and amazing step into your futures:
How was it? In a word: amazing. Let me dwell here for a moment. The heart’s capacity for love is infinite, but I didn’t know what that meant until I had Lulu. That experience of loving, and being loved, so deeply and endlessly is truly amazing and a gift to experience.
And then there’s the rest of the picture …
The challenges are ongoing and ever changing: who watches the baby while you work; finding a doctor; can I pump my breasts here; taking a shower; walking the dog at night; will my breasts ever feel like mine again; deciding on a school; the cost of childcare; saving for college; how do I take care of me; when can I bring a boyfriend home. Just to name a few.
I don’t mention them to deter you in any way. Any life lived well will have it’s share of challenges, it’s what makes us who we are. By deciding to have a child you open the door to a certain subset of challenges that will be part of what shapes who you become. One night we did some night sledding in our backyard, on our way in Lulu asked to do one more little run that took her into a tree. We were way up on a hill, she was screaming in pain and I didn’t have my phone. I had to leave her there, in the dark, crying, (with what turned out to be a broken leg) to run get the car, the phone and a neighbor to help get her up. I told the neighbor “She’s going to scream at you not to move her, just keep going with me.”. You call on strength within you that you may never have met before, but it will be there for you.
When I tell people the first few years of my daughters’ life were blissful I often get sideways glances, because a lot of people consider those to be the hardest years. But for me they were more than I imagined—the love thing was so encompassing, my work life balance was near perfect and my finances were secure. It was at about 8 or 9 years that things got tougher. We lived in the suburbs, which had great benefits, but meant a commute for me so my days were longer, the school in our town didn’t work out so she ended up in private school, which meant a commute for her, and a lot more money. You can see why those younger years were so idyllic.
It can be lonely when you go to the school play alone, or your friends get together as couples and don’t include you, or you’re home on the weekend with no plans and a 6 year old, or you’re hanging out with parents you have no interest in, or you’re up at 5:30am watching your ‘favorite’ kid movie for the nth time. Hanging out with kids can look so adorable and dear from a distance, but it can also be tedious and mundane at times—which is why community is so important (see #3 below).
To me what is extraordinary about being a mother has as much to do with my beautiful daughter as it does with appreciating who I’ve become. They are inextricably connected and I am lucky to have had the experience.
And finally, the advice part, I have 3 pieces for you:
- Don’t put your head in the sand about your finances. Whatever you plan for, there will be unexpected expenses that come up, whether they’re medical, educational, recreational, vocational, home related or something else. Be prepared and have a plan, don’t just wing it. You’ll also be doing your child a favor by setting an example of being financially literate and responsible
- Time for your self is an investment in good parenting . When you take care of yourself you are better able to take care of your family. If you are tired, drained, stressed or overdoing, you will be a tired, drained, stressed parent. Take the time to find what actually restores you emotionally and spiritually, and in between make sure you get some good girlfriend time.
- Community . Be part of a community, whether it’s your family, school, neighborhood, church, ski club, music school, it doesn’t matter, find something that you want to be a part of. It’s been shown that feeling part of a community contributes to better emotional and physical well being.
Donna Agajanian, ACC, ICF