Single Mothers by Choice: Can we call this *extremely* conscious parenting?

The other night, I accompanied my younger son to the end-of-season pizza party for his basketball team. In attendance were eight fourth-grade boys, one younger brother, seven fathers and me.
At first, I felt a little awkward. Then, I remembered all the corporate meetings that I’ve attended over the years, where I was pretty much in the same situation. Once we get beyond the golf talk, these events usually go pretty well.

It’s not so bad, being the center of attention. On occasion.

Still, it is symptomatic of being a totally single parent. By that I mean, there is no current or former husband around for co-parenting duty. I adopted my children as a single mother and single I have remained.

As with most things, there are good and bad elements. I get to make all the big and small family decisions without negotiations or arguments. There is no partner to depend upon and therefore no frustration to deal with when parent number two fails to live up to expectations.

My children have never hidden in their bedrooms, listening to their parents yell at each other.

I also get to do all the fun things with my sons, like playing catch in the backyard (yes, I throw like a girl), or going indoor skydiving.

Some days, though, being a totally single parent is really, really hard. Like Saturday, when my older son took a kick to the head in his final basketball game, developed a debilitating headache and vomited a couple hours later.

Diagnosing a possible concussion over the phone with the doctor’s office is not fun, period. Worrying about a possible concussion, all by yourself, is worse.

By the way, is there a universal law proclaiming that all serious injuries only happen after office hours or on weekends? What’s up with that??

The good news is, my son is doing fine. He’s still a little dumb from all the hormones running amok in his growing eleven-year-old body, but he seems to be functioning pretty much the same as he did before the basketball game / head injury.

Yippee. This is exactly what I signed up for.

I knew going into this that there would be hard, scary, crazy days. I also knew, deep down, that parenting would be the most incredibly rewarding thing I would ever do in my life.

I was as prepared as one can be... if one can ever be truly prepared to jump off a cliff.

I was the oldest of nine children and had done my share of babysitting, starting somewhere around the age of four. Okay, maybe twelve.

I’d read about a hundred books on adoption and parenting. I’d taken twenty hours of training with the Department of Social Services, designed to scare you away, if possible or necessary. I’d completed an exhaustive home study.

And I’d waited, for what seemed like forever.

If conscious parenting starts with being present and thinking carefully about your parenting decisions, I guess I qualify.

What I didn’t realize, when I started this journey (eight years ago), was that I was joining a social trend: That of older (30’s and 40’s), college-educated, unmarried professional women building families on their own.

In a recent piece, the New York Times reported that the birthrate for this group has climbed 145 percent since 1980. Other unmarried women (like me) adopt about 13,000 children each year from the U.S. child-welfare system – this in addition to thousands of private and international adoptions.1

We are called “single mothers by choice,” and I guess that’s accurate. Still, it puts a huge emphasis on the whole single thing, when I know that my focus has been much more on the parenting thing.

I wasn’t trying to make some political statement when I started my family; I was simply following my heart... which told me it was time to become a mother.

I chose to become a single parent because: 1) I was single and, 2) I felt a deep need in my heart to share my love with a child (or two); 3) I knew that I had a good, strong home and family to offer to this child (children); and 4) I knew that together, we could build a family that would bring more love to this planet.

Which, I suspect, is why married people choose to become parents as well (except for the being single part.)

I’ve come to believe that being a mother – or father – is a vocation. Some are called, some are not. Either way is okay. If you are called to be a parent and happen to be single, I can only say go for it.

Build your support network and then double it. Prepare, but know that you can never be totally prepared. Get ready for the most amazing, awe-inspiring, frightening, thrilling and grace-filled experience of your life.

If you are married and feel called to be a parent, ditto.

Blessings and Happy Parenting!


1. Bazelon, Emily, 2 Kids + 0 Husbands = Family, The New York Times (February 1, 2009).

Read more: If you would like to read more on this topic, here are a couple good options:

Single by Chance, Mothers by Choice: How Women are Choosing Parenthood without Marriage and Creating the New American Family, by Rosanna Hertz.

Single Mothers by Choice: A Guidebook for Single Women Who Are Considering or Have Chosen Motherhood, by Jane Mattes.

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