Pregnancy as a Single Mother
There can be many reasons and circumstances under which you’ve come into single motherhood. Maybe you’ve conceived intentionally through IVF and without a partner; or as an unexpected surprise from seeing an old flame. Or, something else happened. What matters is, you and baby are going to conquer this world! Here are some things to consider as you start this incredible journey:
You are not alone
Single parenthood in Australia is on the rise. Although it can feel like you are going it alone, chances are, other single mothers are in your area. It can be a good idea to look for groups within your community and make friends with those who are going through a similar situation. Friends and family are important but they often can’t share your experience. Meeting other mums-to-be in antenatal classes is also a good networking option. Being able to relate with someone about your day-to-day life can make navigating through it all, a lot less stressful. There are also various social media outlets available for connecting with other single parents. In itself, pregnancy has its ups and downs, so build yourself a support network.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help
It may sometimes be terrifying to disclose to your inner circle or even family about your pregnancy, more so if you are going to do it alone. Planned or not, no doubt there is a lot of stigma attached to single motherhood. Although you may receive mixed responses at first, when it’s time for baby to make an appearance, guests will be flooding in. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. This help can take shape in different ways. Whether it’s asking for a lift to the store when you’d usually take the bus, or getting a friend to help with the household chores— you don’t need to prove how strong you are on your own. Allowing yourself to ask for help takes strength in itself, and at the end of the day it will alleviate some of the stress.
Enjoy yourself and your pregnancy
It’s easy for mums-to-be to fall into a pattern of self-doubt and vacillation. Take your pregnancy for what it is— your body is creating another life. Be proud, dance, and enjoy it! Far too often we let ourselves be ridiculed by societal standards of what pregnancy should look like. Celebrate yours! Going it alone can be tough, sure, but you need to stay positive and believe in yourself. Taking pride in your independence will only set a good example for your child in the future. So take a luxurious bath or a vacation, for your own well-being and bub’s.
Consider your financial situation
Babies are expensive in general, let alone when you’re the sole caretaker and provider. It can be a tough topic to discuss, but you will come into new financial responsibilities with the arrival of your bub. It can be helpful to make some sort of financial plan and have a rough idea of the expenses you will incur with your plus one. Whether you choose to seek expert advice or go about creating a budget on your own, details like childcare and medical will need to be taken into account. What about schooling in the future, public or private? Or even in the nearer future, where do you want to give birth? There is government assistance (see below), but the majority of the costs will be on you. Unless you’re well-off to begin with, some of these new expenses can be a bit of a handful, so to speak. Being well prepared in advance—whether that’s saving or investing— can greatly take off some of the burden from later.
What kind of parent do you want to be?
Although you will have the support and advice of all the people you choose to include in your child’s upbringing, ultimately, you should consider that you will be the only one to make decisions. What parenting style do you want to employ? How do you want to show affection? At the end of the day, you’ll take on the role of both parents. It might be helpful to research and actively choose what kind of parent you want to be, rather than fall into it through circumstance. Do you want to consciously elect a male role model for your child? Do you even think it’s necessary? These, among others, are choices better made with thorough research. It’s great to go with the flow, but inform yourself along the way.
Seek legal advice
It may be wise to seek legal representation, if the father of the baby is in the picture. When the baby arrives, legal counsel can help you navigate tough decisions like custody, visitations, and finances. Even if the father does not want to be a participant, they may still be responsible for things like child support payments. You may not require representation per se, but getting legal advice on what you are entitled to, can at least give you peace of mind and the option to pursue it in the future. If legal costs are of concern, see if legal aid is available in your state.
Government resources that may be available to you
The Australian Government’s Department of Human Resources has many payment programs that you could qualify for as a single parent. Some of these are targeted for lower-income, however, there are plenty of services that apply even to the higher income brackets. Some services to keep in mind are: Newborn upfront payment, Family Tax Benefit and Parental Leave. You could also be entitled to child support from your baby’s father, if that’s what you want. It’s worth finding out what single parenting payments are available to you and exact amounts—whether you are in financial need or not. It’s helpful for knowing your rights, as well as obligations, when it comes to having a baby- with your employer (notice and leave entitlements) and the government (registering your child, enrolling in Medicare, etc.). There are also many great resources for advice, support, childcare options, all on a fairly easy-to-navigate platform.