Surviving (and Thriving) as a Single Mom

Hold Your Head High

Will People Look Down on Me?

single moms

Divorce and birth out of wedlock don't have the stigma that they did in earlier eras. How could they, with half of all marriages ending in divorce and a third of all births happening outside of marriage? Statistics are not a cure-all, though. "I can't think of one single mom -- myself included -- who didn't worry a bit," says Darla Rainford, of Eagan, Minnesota.

Be prepared for any number of uncomfortable situations, from disapproving grandparents to gossiping coworkers. You may grow distant from some friends while drawing closer to others. "Surround yourself whenever possible with emotionally generous and secure people who boost your confidence," Klungness says.

How to keep your head high if people are judgmental? "Sitting at home with only your child for company isn't going to help," Klungness says. You may benefit from a new-moms group; search the Internet for ones in your neighborhood, or look for bulletins in local stores. Mingle at a library story hour or a Gymboree class. I never imagined I'd be checking out women's left hands for wedding rings, but I've done it! You can also meet single moms virtually through Web sites and blogs (some favorites: solomother.com, singlerose.com, and single2mother.org).

Will Baby Be Okay Without Dad?

There are as many variations on paternal involvement as there are fathers. Your child may see Dad all the time, or Dad may be out of the picture -- or anything in between. It's up to you, of course, to make your child feel loved no matter what.

"A well-balanced child tends to be raised by at least one attentive parent or guardian who can mediate stress and not play the role of victim," says Mikki Morrissette, a single mom of two in Minneapolis and author of Choosing Single Motherhood (choosingsinglemotherhood.com).

"My anger is my own," muses Anderson, whose daughter, Hailey, is now 7. "My daughter will have issues with each parent one day. I don't need to add fuel to that."

"If you're negative about men or your ex, your kid is going to figure that out," says Zola. "It will turn around and bite you later." Anderson agrees: "I let myself play out a gory fantasy in my head, have a good giggle over it, and then get on with doing what is truly best for my child."

And if your child's father is not in the picture, take heart. There are good male role models, if not in your own family, then among the coaches, teachers, and neighbors you know. Zola has befriended a single dad of two; she can depend on him to pick up her son from preschool when she needs to work late, and the two families often get together for playdates.

Having other people involved in your child's life also gives you a break. Since my ex is gone, I count on Grandpa to pick up my daughter from school every Monday and on Aunt Rebecca to host the occasional slumber party. I use the time to exercise and, yes, to date again.

"The essence of being a good parent is putting your own needs first," Klungness says. This does not mean compromising your parenting. It does mean keeping yourself as grounded and as stress free as possible so you can give your baby the wonderful childhood he or she deserves.

Originally publish in the October 2007 issue of American Baby magazine.

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