Single Parent By Choice: Exploring The Facts And Implications

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Mar. 20 2024, Published 8:00 a.m. ET

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For single women of a certain age, the desire to become a mom, coupled with the diminishing health of the reproductive system, can often lead to conversations about considering to be a single mom by choice (SMC). These are woman who choose to have a child when they are not partnered, in a long-term relationship or married.

As a single woman seriously considering becoming an SMC, I’m considering the major impact this could have on my life – both the pros and the cons. I left a long-term relationship a few years ago after realizing I wanted children and my partner did not. I re-entered the dating pool and realized I do not want to wait for the right partner to come along to start my family. That realization was daunting and heavy: How could I possibly afford to do it on my own? Who would help me? What would people think of me? Would anyone date me if I had a child? The list goes on.

There are several things to consider when deciding to become a parent, and those are amplified when deciding to do solo. The big ones, especially for single women, are finances, support systems and lifestyle changes.

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Financial Impact

It can cost approximately $233,000 to raise a child from birth through age 17, according to CNBC. When considering whether to embark on the single parent journey, experts say it’s important to have a significant amount of money saved and to establish consistent saving habits.

The average cost of giving birth in the United States is $18,865, according to Forbes. Health insurance often covers a significant portion of that cost, but the total fee varies greatly. That price doesn’t include the cost of IUI (up to $1,000 without insurance) or IVF (up to $30,000) if you plan to get pregnant, or the cost of adoption (up to $50,000).

As a single woman with a decent salary, I decided that the best way to tackle the financial concern was to lay out a highly detailed financial plan for the next year. I’d prioritize paying off any debts and then focus on saving as much as possible. In a (long) discussion on this topic with my mom – herself a single parent via divorce – she advised having at least a year’s living costs saved away so I could stay home and be completely present with my child. 

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Support System

For an SMC, the responsibility of all that comes with parenting sits solely on their shoulders, but there are other ways to think about and approach getting support. Aisha Jenkins, founder of the podcast “Start to Finish Motherhood,” shared important advice with PopSugar, encouraging women to build a support system of friends, family, and fellow single parents. This is the quintessential “village” SMCs will rely on most. 

I’ve started sharing with my close friends that I’m considering being an SMC and have been overwhelmed by the immediate and unprompted support they’ve shown me. “Add me to the rotation!” one text read after I shared my new goal. Another – good humored and potentially seriously – offered to remodel her basement to an in-law apartment so my child and I could move in. I know that I will be relying on my village and it’s helpful to have them already offering their support. 

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Lifestyle Changes

Besides the obvious physical and mental transitions involved in giving birth and becoming a parent, women who are considering single parenthood may be concerned about how it will impact multiple aspects of their lives. I thought about things like whether people will want to date me or whether people think differently of me if they know I chose to have a child on my own? There are also questions about the impact on the child, with questions like “Will being raised in a single parent household negatively impact their mental health and well-being?”

I know this decision will completely transform my life and lifestyle, and part of the preparation process will be finding communities of people in similar situations who can share some insight into the lifestyle changes and questions I have. All in all, thinking about the implications of the choice and what each major issues entails is key when thinking about embarking on a path of single motherhood.

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By: Gillian Smith

Gillian Smith is a professional communicator by day and night, leveraging more than a decade in the news industry to share stories that have a positive impact on society. Gillian believes everyone has a story worth telling, and she has made it her professional mission to tell those stories in a responsible way. Gillian received a BA in journalism from Ithaca College and a Master's in Journalism Innovation from Syracuse University. She is currently the director of external communication and media relations at Suffolk University.

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