It may seem unconventional to choose to have kids without choosing marriage. The reasons are varied such as accidental pregnancy with a man you haven’t fallen in love with, a desire to have a child but haven’t found the right partner to share your life with, or a belief that marriage doesn’t work for you. However, you may very much want to be a mother and become pregnant or adopt and despite societal pressures enjoy your parenting and raise a happy, healthy child.
This doesn’t mean you must be a single parent though of course that’s an option. If you know who the father is it’s very possible to work out an arrangement where you co-parent by living together or apart. Clearly this type of family situation isn’t often talked about but is more common than one might expect.
It’s very important that you accept the parenting style you choose without letting others’ judgments make you feel like you are letting your child down. Being an effective mother doesn’t mean meeting others’ expectations about parenthood, but clarifying and accepting your own.
Tips for Motherhood without Marriage
1. Clarify for yourself why you want to be a mother. Consider your present and future goals for parenting and of course the needs of your child.
2.Clarify your goals as a parent including the values you want to impart to your child as they go through various developmental stages.
3.If you are parenting with someone else, share these values regularly so you can come to agreements about how to raise your child.
4.If you are living with your child’s other parent, make clear to each other what your expectations are for each other as parents.
5.If you are living with your child’s other parent, also make clear to each other what your expectations are for your child at each stage of development.
6.If you are not living with your child’s parent, but both want to be deeply involved with child rearing, once again clarify your expectations for each other and for your child.
7.As your child grows older, they may question why you are not married to their father when they compare their situation to that of other children. Discuss this early on with your co-parent before the question arises so you both agree on how you want to approach this. For example, you may want to share with your child that there are many kinds of families and this is what you’ve chosen and of course you love your child very much.
8.Settle parenting disputes away from your child’s view. Learning how to compromise and be flexible about different parenting values is part of all child rearing. Children feel secure when they believe their parents are united about their beliefs or can clarify openly their differences yet reach agreements.
9.You may be the primary parent in which case learn to take the reins in child raising but also engage the less involved parent in your child’s life if possible. This builds the child’s sense of security.
10. As your child gets older and you get older as well, your feelings may shift about single or co-parenting based on your parenting experiences and your child’s personality. If you are open and flexible you may find you get to know your child’s other parent much better over time and do or don’t want to share more time together than before if you have been living a part. Keep considering your options but have these adult discussions away from your child so he or she is not confused and insecure.
In today’s world it’s important to accept what you value as a parent and give your child a safe and secure feeling of being cared for. There is no one script for how you choose to accomplish this. Clarify your goals and values for you and your child as you grow together and you will find you have a strong parent-child bond, the ultimate goal.
Laurie Hollman, Ph.D., is a psychoanalyst and author of Unlocking Parental Intelligence: Finding Meaning in Your Child’s Behavior found on Amazon and wherever books are sold. Visit her website at: www.lauriehollmanphd.com.