Let’s get one thing straight. Despite how it might appear, I am not a single mother by choice.
For those who don’t know, that’s how the particular way I became a mother is often referred to. But it’s not a label I’m comfortable with.
Choice implies preference. Choice implies having a range of options to CHOOSE from. Neither of those applies to how I became a single mother.
I didn’t have freedom of choice. At 38, my fertile days were fast diminishing. I’d been dating since I was 16 and hadn’t met Mr Right yet. What were the chances of him coming along in the next couple of years?
Besides, even if I had met someone it could be a couple of years before we were ready to have kids.
I wasn’t prepared to take that kind of risk.
So it was either become a single mother or risk never becoming a mother at all. And never was something I wasn’t prepared to contemplate, not without having done everything I could first.
So there was only one path I could take.
I chose to use a sperm donor rather than adopt. I chose to have IVF. But I didn’t CHOOSE to do it all alone.
I’m proud of myself for going after what I wanted, for envisioning a future where I was a mother. I willed it, and it became. I built it, and she came.
BEING SINGLE WAS NOT MY CHOICE
What I wanted, what I CHOSE, was to be in a loving relationship, to share the parenting journey with someone. It’s the path I chose to pursue for 38 years of my life. Relentlessly. Painfully. Unsuccessfully.
But that door never opened.
I won’t get into the whys and wherefores here – that’s a whole separate post about our society and the changing role of men and women in it.
Let’s just say that none of the men I was with in my twenties and thirties wanted to become a parent. Not when they were with me anyway.
If the men in my life had been up for it, I’d have happily started popping out babies in my twenties.
(Ok I can’t resist the whys and wherefores. The picture the Daily Mail paints of my generation being ambitious women who forgot to have children because they were so busy pursuing their careers is a big lie – like so much of the ‘Hate’ Mails’ content.
It’s a lie that conveniently overlooks the male contribution to this modern social phenomenon. A phenomenon that means I have at least three close friends who despite their best efforts to find a more conventional family life have also either become a single mum or are seriously considering it.)
SINGLE BY CHANCE, MOTHER BY CHOICE
By 38 I felt my back was against the wall. I was flogging a dead horse in the dating world, and I didn’t want to force fatherhood on any Tom, Dick or Harry that came my way.
But most of all I didn’t want to risk never knowing what it was like to carry a child inside me. To feel my daughter or son stirring inside me. To have known that unique physical bond with another human being.
Going it alone, was the last resort. It was a path of action I wrestled with for years, and for a long time, I refused to accept it was something I might have to do.
Me? Could this really be happening to me? I still wrestle with it. I still wake up occasionally and feel hurt and angry that I was forced to go it alone.
So no, single motherhood wasn’t my CHOICE.
I realise that not all childless single women in their late thirties, faced with the end of their fertile years take the path I’ve taken. Maybe my friends who are still thinking about it won’t follow suit.
So yes, in that respect I did make a choice.
I chose action instead of inaction. I chose MOTHERHOOD. The single part of it was just circumstantial.
I didn’t see why I should miss out on motherhood because I’d been unlucky enough to be attracted men who weren’t ready for commitment. It could so easily have been otherwise.
I’d given it my best shot. I hadn’t done anything better or worse than my friends and contemporaries who by hook or by crook found themselves married with kids.
I felt powerless to make Plan A a reality so Plan Z became my way of making lemonade from the lemons life had dealt me.
It was a way of regaining control over my life, to make sure the thing I wanted most in life – to be a mother – didn’t pass me by.
I LONGED FOR MY LIFE TO BE ABOUT MORE THAN JUST ME
I’ve heard narrow-minded people call women who ‘choose’ single motherhood selfish, but that couldn’t be further from the truth.
Aside from the fact that any journey to parenthood starts with a selfish desire, being a parent is the total opposite of selfish.
For me, parenting has turned self-centredness on its head. I longed for my life to be about more than just me. And as a parent you have to put someone else first nearly all of the time.
You walk around with your heart beating outside your body.
SOLO PARENT REGRETS
Solo parenting isn’t all bad, it has its advantages – a double bed you can share with your child whenever you like for starters – and most of the time I don’t sit around worrying about what we lack.
But I’ll always feel sad that I missed out on sharing the parenting experience with someone. Of seeing my beloved in my child’s eyes, mannerisms or personality. Of knowing we’re irrevocably connected by the little person we created.
And of course, my daughter will never know a father’s love. But I feel that lack more than she does. I’ve known a father’s love, but she never has, so she doesn’t miss it.
(Not yet, anyway. I’m waiting for the day when she yells, ‘You such a mean mummy, I wish I had a daddy!’)
She’s still only six, so maybe as she gets older there’ll be more questions to answer, more gaps to fill in for her. But, don’t we all, no matter our origins, have questions, gaps, or worse?
We’re all just doing our best with the cards life dealt us, and becoming a parent isn’t a responsibility I took lightly.
It took a HUGE amount of thought, effort and resources to bring my daughter into the world. Far more than most parents ever put into their journey to parenthood.
But it’s a journey I took out of necessity, not choice.
If you’re a ‘single mother by choice’ or considering becoming one, how do you feel about the SMC label? Does it bother or you? Maybe you did CHOOSE single motherhood, or perhaps like me, you felt it the only option left?