In this blog, I’m going to give it to you as straight as I can about being a single mother and more specifically, a baby mama. Oh, you thought those two were the same?
Not at all.
I’m not going to worry too much about form. I just want the truth to flow as organically as possible.
Here’s a quick list of truths I never heard before I became a single parent but that I had to learn the hard way:
1. There is a difference between being called a single parent and being called a “baby mama” and it is not subtle.
2. Don’t assume that your family, even if you all are close, can or will be able to help you every single time you need help.
3. Most people want to hold your baby. Few will want to keep your baby for you.
4. Daycare is expensive. How expensive? The decent ones are around $150 per child, per week and that’s CHEAP. If you have two or more small children, you do the math.
5. One of the hardest decisions you’ll ever be faced with is trying to balance quality childcare against what you can afford. Nothing worse than having to choose between allowing someone you’re not 100% comfortable with to watch your child or losing your job.
6. At home daycare providers are significantly more affordable than daycare centers but unfortunately, you get what you pay for. The less you pay, the more you’ll have to worry. Also, if you go the even cheaper route of choosing to allow a family member or friend to keep your child, make this a temporary arrangement. Most unlicensed sitters are not trained to prepare your child for kindergarten. So while your child may be safe with relatives, you may face learning delays when it is time to place your child in public school. Preschool or “Head Start” is the best investment you can make in your child’s acedemic future. You’ll thank me when your child is graduating from kindergarten knowing how to read and speak clearly. However, there’s one more word of caution when selecting a family member or close friend as a caregiver of your children. Unfortunately, tensions can flare and contention can arise when caregivers challenge your authority as a mother or when you give them specific care instructions for your child, which they ignore with a huff. I know it’s tempting to go with the cheapest solution when deciding on childcare, but consider everything that could go wrong. Weigh it out. Be prepared to have a plan B & C for every decision you make. People are fickle, even family members. There’s nothing like an hour before you’re scheduled to work having a sitter back out because she’s offended. Oh yea, that does happen, ya know.
7. Family Court is no place for families. I know the first thing people holler to single mothers is to take an irresponsible father to court. However, this is the last resort and once you’re inside a court room, you will realize this fact with sobering clarity. Oh, and it costs money to get things done through the judicial system- BIG money. Have you heard of retainer fees? You will.
8. Visitation orders suck. Yea, your children gets to see their father but every other week visits are tough to explain to small children-VERY tough. That’s a long time to go without seeing daddy.
9. Your family loves you but will often disagree with your decisions. Those you come to rely on for help cannot help but feel a sense of entitlement when it comes to voicing their opinions about your life and the care of your children. It will piss you off but it’s par for the course. You can’t bite the hand that feeds you and you’ll have to learn how to forgive family for caring about you.
10. Little boys’ hair grows sooo fast! Invest in a set of clippers. Learn how to do a basic line up.
12. Not every job is parent friendly. Thank God if you work on a job that understands you are a working parent and will provide you the flexibility you need to care for your children.
13. There will be many days that you’ll feel disconnected from the raising of your children as a working, single mom. You’ll feel as if other people are raising your children, and they are. It will hurt when your children become emotionally attached to their caregivers and it seems as if their caregivers are more in touch with their needs than you. But the sooner you accept that other people ARE helping you to raise your children and not resent that fact, you can enjoy the love and stability they bring to the life of your children and the peace of mind they give to you. There’s nothing like knowing your children are in good hands while you’re out earning a living.
14. If you have been given the title of “baby mama” by the father of your child or children, don’t assume that his side of the family will accept you. There may be those one or two family members who are open minded and will accept you and invite you into the family functions, but let’s be clear. Baby mama is not a wife and no generation makes this more clear than the old school. Respect is good if you can get it and appreciate it when it’s given. But do not assume it will be given by the other side of the family. You are NOT an in-law. It’s tight, but it’s right.
15. Unfortunately, along with the title of “baby mama” comes the assumption by family, friends and significant others of your children’s father that you=drama, automatically, without question and without fail. Of course this assumption is only validated when you become a collections agency, constantly calling and doing drive by’s to his job or house in an attempt to collect a child support payment or receive any other monetary help for your children. I don’t recommend this method. Some women will claim they’ve succeeded in getting the things their children need by harassing the father but that’s a decision you will have to make. For some, they don’t mind harassing people to get them to do things. Personally, I don’t have the time, energy or will to follow anyone around to do right by his children. Weigh the pro’s and the con’s of this type of behavior. If your relationship with your children’s father was already volatile, then you’re setting yourself up to meet a nasty confrontation somewhere along the line and most likely, this clash of the Titans will take place in front of the children. It’s NOT worth it-seriously.
16. Being a single parent is not easy! It sure as shootin’ isn’t glamorous! No one deserves a badge of honor for deliberately choosing to be a single parent. Some women are single parents due to divorce and others are widows. However, there’s nothing honorable about deliberately deciding that you will bring a child into this world with no connection to a father. Father figures aren’t fathers. They don’t tuck your children in at night, every single night. They don’t check under the bed for scary monsters. They don’t give them the daily dose of safety, security and authority that children need in order to thrive and develop as they should. Single mothers like me know this. We shake our heads when women boast confidently that they will get pregnant, with or without a man and raise their child alone, all to beat the biological clock. Lord help. How intensely selfish. You know what? There’s nothing selfish about parenting-at all. Think of how your life would have been had your mother or father decided to raise you with no knowledge of who the other parent was. Does that sound like fun? Does it seem like a good idea now? Please reconsider.
17. If you have to use public assistance, do not be ashamed to. There are plenty of people who decry public assistance, but if you’re struggling to make ends meet and have put forth a sincere effort to provide for your children, seek help. I’d rather help you with my tax dollars and know that your child can receive medical care when needed and live in a safe environment than for your children to suffer for the sake of your pride.
18. That leads me to my next, bare naked truth: At first swallowing your pride will feel like a horse pill. But as a single mother, you’ll have to do it so much and in so many situations and for so many different reasons, that it’ll eventually become second nature. I’m serious when I say this: mamas in general have to swallow their pride of the sake of their children, but single mamas get an extra dose.
19. The buck stops with you. If anything is lacking in your child’s life, you will be the first to be blamed for it and you will be the first person that everyone expects to assume responsibility for EVERYTHING. Now that’s the bare naked. Too bad it’s not fair and you don’t like it. HA! “Fair” left right along with your pre-stretch mark belly. It can be a heavy load to carry but that’s where God’s Grace is so crucial in the lives of single mothers. You can do it without the help of men, but you can’t do it without the help of the Lord. Never forget that.
20. One day you’ll have to answer some tough questions for your children. I know when you’re in the early stages of pregnancy or your child is still an infant, you feel as if you have plenty of time before you have to cross those difficult bridges. But take it from a single mother who has already been interrogated by a 5 year old child who is sharp as a tack, that those bridges come up on you QUICKLY. The bare naked truth is that your relationship to their father may not have been storybook. Maybe it was the result of a one night stand, a drunken moment of passion, or even an affair. Whatever the circumstances, don’t play your children for fools. Tell them the truth and establish a truthful relationship with them early and immediately. If they can count on mama to give it to them straight, they’ll come to respect you more and be more apt to receive your counsel when they need it. But if you paint yourself up to be perfect and never acknowledge your wrong turns, your children will look at you like a monument that they must admire from a distance and as a picture of perfection they can never imitate. Be real. Be honest. And for goodness sake, tell them about CONSEQUENCES.
21. If you don’t like women or have issues with being friends with women, deal with that. Women will show you how to care for your newborn. Women will help you raise your child. Women will teach your child to read and write. Some will even help you potty train your child. For goodness sake, respect those who are helping you to be a mom! Hating other women and refusing to engage other women is self hatred. Let go of the resentment and begin to see the beauty within other women and receive their love and support. Motherhood is a community. So many women are willing and eager to share with you what they know. They can teach you how to get out impossible stains, how to treat a high fever or even how to get a newborn on a sleep schedule. But this wealth of knowledge will never be yours if you continue to wall yourself off from other women and view them as your adversary.
22. You cannot afford to be petty. Petty single mothers spend most of their time in the judicial system and entertaining drama. There’s just some things you’re going to have to learn to let go. They eat candy and stay up til midnight when they visit their dad. Let it go. He has a “friend” that occasionally spends the night at his house when he has the children but he conveniently has never introduced her to you. Let it go. He pays his child support but it is ALWAYS late. Let it go. That’s right I said it!!! LET IT GO! Stop trying to be the police of his life! You’re going to wear yourself our trying to raise him AND your children. Let the payments be late as long as they’re made. Let him have the overnight visitor as long as he’s consistently spending time with his children and they’re safe. Here’s a sobering disclaimer: If you think you’re going to waltz into a Family Court and tell a Judge that you don’t want a girlfriend hanging around your children, you are going to be in for a rude awakening. First, you are not a wife. You are an ex, but you’re not an ex wife. Different laws apply. So if you’re trying to get all up in his personal life and prevent him from bringing another woman around your children, you will have to prove that your children are suffering psychological harm from being around her. That means you’ll have to hire an attorney, you may have to pay for a psychologist who will examine your children (are you sure you want this?) and then the court may appoint a guardian ad lid em to investigate both you AND the father to see who is fit to raise the children. You run the risk of losing custody of your children yourself. Do you see how being petty can quickly snowball into a very long, expensive and painful process? I never said being a single parent was fun. There’s NOTHING fun about the parts that no one wants to talk about. All you see are women who dress up their children in coordinating outfits and who celebrate their strength and independence. This has been a behind-the-scenes look at just a small portion of what many single mothers deal with on a daily basis. I’ve in no way covered it all because I’m STILL discovering some of the hardships involved in having children outside of wedlock as more and more women come forward and share their own stories.
These truths were in no way written to discourage any woman who has just found out that she is pregnant. Of course I support women who take the enormous step of faith to raise their children alone. However, no one should undertake such an endeavor without knowledge. No young woman who is daydreaming with her boyfriend between classes about having his baby should be lied to and denied the bare naked truth of such a decision. You may or may not get to finish school if you have a child while you’re in school. I’ve seen more women drop out and never go back than I’ve seen women complete their education. It’s tough to hold down a full time job (or two) raise a child or multiple children, attend their functions, and try to squeeze in having a life. By the time the day is done, completing your education gets moved to the bottom of the pile. There are plenty of women who are successfully raising their children without a man, owning their decisions and making the best of their circumstances. But it is HIGH TIME that such women stood up and told the TRUTH so that young women would stop signing up for a life they have no idea about.
I may write the bare naked truth about dating a man who has children when you don’t have any yourself.
Let me know in comments if that’s a post you’d like to see.
Also, tell me your thoughts concerning the bare naked truths I laid out tonight.
I’d love to hear your thoughts.