Don’t be swayed by negative reactions
Deciding when to tell people you’re becoming a single mom by choice is a very personal decision. Maybe you wonder how people will react? Will they approve? Will they beg you to keep trying to find a partner or question your financial readiness? Or will they celebrate you and the joy of a new baby? You can never really be sure; I’ve heard of every scenario.
So, what should you consider when contemplating when to tell friends and family about your choice? Deciding when to tell others is a very personal decision that depends on your relationship with your family and friends as well as your personality.
Consider how you usually make decisions: Are you close to your family, regularly involving them in your decision-making process? Or do you usually keep your big decisions private, sharing only when it’s completely necessary? What do you usually share with friends? Do you like updating them, or would you prefer to keep things private?
Here’s an overview of some of the considerations at each stage of the journey.
When you’re thinking about having a baby. If you tell people while you are still deciding whether or not to have a baby, you get the added benefit of having sounding boards, those with whom you can discuss the big issues. But that can cut both ways, depending on the people surrounding you.
I make most of my decisions after doing lots of research and having conversations with my friends. When I was deciding to become a Solo Mom, I discussed it with many people. Most of them were supportive and encouraging. They were able to listen to me talk about the various issues I was grappling with, and some offered to introduce me to other women who were already Solo Moms by choice.
However, if you worry that your inner circle may not fully support your decision, it may be better not to tell them until later. Oftentimes people unwittingly project their own fears onto others. If you feel particularly vulnerable to others’ opinions, consider waiting to tell them. Find people who you believe will listen openly to the pros and cons and help you sort out what is best for you.
When you’re trying to conceive. Getting pregnant alone can be a long and difficult process for some. It may take many attempts and scientific intervention. Not having a partner along for the journey can make it feel very lonely and isolating. It’s important to have someone with whom you are sharing your journey.
For me, getting pregnant was a constant cycle of hope and despair. I needed friends with whom to strategize about my next move, shoulders to cry on when things didn’t go as I had hoped, and cheerleaders to keep me going when I was ready to give up. But it was also tedious at times to update numerous people about how it was going, especially when it wasn’t going well. For that reason, you want to think about including only those with whom you feel the closest.
Even if you’ve included some family or friends in the process, you can always change your mind and respectfully tell them that you will update them when it’s appropriate. Never feel obligated to provide updates. You can lovingly but firmly explain that it is difficult to be giving constant updates and that you will let them know when you have something to share.
On the other hand, if you are a more private person and don’t feel comfortable including friends or family, you can find a support group for other women who are making the same decisions and are on similar journeys. It’s possible to remain anonymous in many of those groups, or you may feel comfortable sharing more intimate details with women who are going through what you are going through.
When you’re already pregnant. Some women do not want to tell anyone about their choice until they are pregnant. They may fear that other people’s opinions will deter them from their conviction, or they simply don’t want to constantly update people about their process. Again, it’s a personal choice.
You may not want to tell people at work or in professional circles about your choice until you are through the first trimester of pregnancy or later. It can be very painful to update people about your situation if you are having trouble getting pregnant or miscarry.
In addition, your coworkers might start to worry about the timing of your maternity leave or how your work will get done. Although it is illegal to discriminate against a woman who is pregnant, I still hear stories about pregnant women being discriminated against that shock me all the time.
Line up support. If you fear that someone close to you may not be supportive, plan ahead and secure support for yourself ahead of time. In my case, I was really worried that my very old-fashioned parents may be incredibly upset and judgmental about my choice. I told my close friends that I was planning to have the conversation and rehearsed it with them ahead of time. I also made sure they were at the ready to support me if the conversation didn’t go well.
Don’t be swayed by the opinions of others. It’s easier said than done, but the bottom line is that everyone will have an opinion about your choice—sometimes supportive and other times not (and it will only get worse once you give birth). You cannot satisfy everyone!
Sometimes people will give you good advice that you should consider, but many times they are simply speaking from their own fears and biases. Try to discern between the two, and, when it’s the latter, filter out their opinions. Don’t be swayed by their reactions.
Most women report being very surprised by the overwhelmingly positive reactions of their family and friends. And those who had concerned family or friends often report that the naysayers and skeptics usually come around after the baby arrives.
Finally, most Solo Moms by choice have come to the decision to parent alone after much thought and consideration. If people push back, remember that this was not a rash or careless decision, and return to what you know in your heart—you want a baby!
This is your life and your choice. Would you give up your dream of being a mother just because someone did not approve? Make it part of your practice to stand proudly in your decisions.
Sarah Kowalski, ESME’s Solo Mom by Choice Resource Guide, is an attorney, somatic coach, Feldenkrais practitioner, and qigong teacher, specializing in the mind/body connection. As the founder of Motherhood Reimagined, she coaches women through their emotions and fears so that solo motherhood, egg donation, adoption, or other means can become an option to consider. She helps women redefine what it means to be a mother so they can cultivate the love, courage, and tenacity it takes to conceive and raise a child by unconventional means. Join her private Facebook group for juicy discussions and support, or follow her on Facebook or Twitter.
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