Becoming a Single Parent
Christine Sweeney, LICSW Program Manager, Parent Connection
MARCH 05, 2019
One of the most important things to consider as you approach the birth of your baby as a single parent is the need for community. If you are someone who prides yourself on going it alone, or struggle with asking for help, this is an opportunity to do it differently. Actually, it’s really important to do it differently.
A fitting example is the pre-flight instructions as your plane is about to take off. The flight attendants instructs that if the cabin pressure changes and oxygen masks release, adults travelling with small children should first put on their mask and then assist the child with theirs. The point being, take care of you, so you can take care of your child, and so, in anticipating birth as a single parent, pre-planning is a really good idea. There are a lot of reasons moms don’t ask for help. As a first-time mom, you might not realize that you’ll need help (trust me you will). You might think that it’s a sign of weakness to ask for help (it’s not,) or you might be a super achiever and think, “It’s a baby, how hard can this be?” (Harder than you’ve ever imagined.)
Who are your people? Start with your inner circle. Who is the person/people you can call when your child is sick and you have an essential meeting at work that you can’t miss? Or you’re so sick yourself with that nasty stomach bug that you need someone to come, and come now, even if it means they’re taking a sick day at work. Who is the person/people that will transport you and your new arrival home from the hospital and stay with you that first night, and who are the people that you can call at 2am when your baby just won’t go to sleep and you need some encouraging words? You get the picture.
So often, we help moms anticipate what to expect from pregnancy and childbirth, but very little on the physical healing after birth. After a baby is born, the focus dramatically shifts from mom to newborn and we just expect moms to get on with it. Think about the images we hold ourselves to— celebrities on the red carpet just a few short weeks after delivering, or British Royals heading home, perfectly gloved and coiffed.
This is not the reality of the postpartum experience. Your body will need to heal after birth. Whether you’ve delivered vaginally or via C-section, whether you had a very long labor, or your labor progressed smoothly and without complication, your body still needs time, rest, and good nutrition to heal. Say yes to all offers to help, whether it’s an offer to drop off food, or even better, an offer to come and spend a few hours so that you can take a nap or just lie on your bed with your feet up and close your eyes without having to respond to the needs of your newborn for just a little while.
In the weeks before your delivery, cook and freeze meals for yourself. If you are planning to breastfeed, look into the breastfeeding support resources in your area. Check with your human resource department at work about family leave and whether you are eligible for any paid leave. Determine if you might qualify for WIC benefits. If so, register. Research the resources in your community and if you can sign up prior to delivery, do so. But most importantly, identify or build your community, whether it’s family, friendships, church or Single Mothers By Choice.
Single moms and dads need support and it’s ok and necessary to ask. The more you can plan and set it up before your little one arrives, the better.