Father's Day is just around the corner. A single mom prepares to answer the tough questions.
I’m a single mother by choice. My choice can be a bit controversial, I know. When I came to the decision to move forward with my plans to have a child on my own I fully expected to get an earful from some people. But I was surprised by how many people were supportive of my choice. And perhaps once I was out of earshot their opinions changed. But it didn’t feel like that. The support felt - and still feels - genuine.
I says, pardon?
I did get a few negative reactions when I started sharing my big news. For obvious reasons I had volunteered to be a designated driver for a night out and one of the women in our group asked me why I’d stepped up for the position. It was the early days of my pregnancy – just around the three-month mark – and I had only just started telling a few select people but I decided to give her the goods. She said she didn’t know that I had a partner. I said that I didn’t, that I was doing it on my own. “Oh, I’m so sorry,” was her answer. It kind of shocked me. Sorry? I had imagined a variety of responses when thinking about telling people but never “sorry”.
I had worked so hard to get to this point. Had spent many years going over the scenarios in my head with careful consideration. Thinking I had made the choice to/not to have a child, only to waiver and change my mind again. Listening, with an open mind, to family who had legitimate concerns about what I was thinking of doing. Having very emotional, very difficult and drawn out conversations with two different close male friends of mine about them possibly being the donor and having a relationship of some kind with the child. But for various and different reasons we decided it wasn’t a good idea. And so, in the end, I was left with a decision: Have a child entirely on my own or don’t have one at all. I’ve always wanted to be a mom and I knew I would have regrets if I didn’t at least try. So when I found out I was pregnant, “sorry” was the farthest thing from my mind.
I decided from the beginning to be honest with everyone about my baby’s paternity since being secretive about it felt akin to shame for me. And I’m not ashamed. But at the same time I am mindful that it isn’t only my story. It is also my child’s story and he is due some privacy as well. One of the big questions that people have had for me is about the lack of a father and the ramifications of that. It was the biggest stumbling block for me as well and one I still think about a great deal.
I have amazing parents who are both very involved in my son’s life and my relationship with my father is so incredibly important to me. He is a great man and wonderful role model. And so I am indeed sad that my son won’t have a father that he can feel the same way about because I know very well the value of that relationship. But here we are, and my son will be okay.
Part of the process of getting pregnant through the fertility clinic was a mandatory therapy session. Not to see if I was a fit parent necessarily, but to make sure I was being realistic with myself about the challenges of parenthood and the unique situation of donor insemination, whether in a partnership or not. One of the first questions I was asked by the therapist was if I’d thought about how to address questions about the donor and questions of paternity from my child. Of course I had. And I wasn’t sure what the answer was.
I’m lucky. My son and I live in a city that is very culturally and ethnically diverse. There are lots of different kinds of families here. Mixed race parents of all backgrounds, adoptive parents, same sex parents, stepparents, grandparents raising grandchildren, single parents of all kinds. And so the therapist and I talked about putting the conversation with my future child in those terms. There are lots of different types of families with varied origins and makeup, and with unique challenges. We are no different.
My son is 19 months old. He says “bird” and “bubbles” and “mama”. He hasn’t wrapped his head around full sentences yet, never mind the bigger questions like, “Why don’t I have a daddy?” With Father’s Day around the corner, it’s certainly a question I’ve been thinking about a lot. And I know I’ll likely need to be prepared to start talking about it with him by Father’s Day next year. But in the meantime he has me, and I will do everything in my power to make sure that’s enough.
MamaSolo lives in Canada with her 19-month-old son. When not pulling him down off of high ledges and other precarious perches, she works part-time at an entertainment research company. The rest of her days are filled with walks in the park, play-dates, grilled cheese sandwiches, navel contemplation and laundry. Lots and lots of laundry. And she wouldn't have it any other way. You can follow her on Twitter @MamaMamaSolo