The 10 most challenging aspects of choosing to raise kids alone
Societal trends are showing that women are choosing to parent solo more than any other time in his herstory, and if you were to imagine the 10 most challenging aspects of being a Solo Mom by choice, I am pretty sure you could come up with at least five on your own without needing to read an article listing them. Money, time, work, legal concerns (e.g., wills, adoption procedures), and parenting alone might quickly come to mind.
Having and caring for your child(ren) requires fortitude and the ability to wrangle logistics. Yet I wanted to find out more about these struggles or even some situations that the Solo Mom by choice experiences that might not readily come to mind. To gain some further insight beyond news reports and scholarly articles, I spoke with Ginette Rhodes, who conceived a child by artificial insemination, about what she thought were the 10 most challenging aspects of the Solo-Mom-by-choice experience.
Rhodes has been a stage and screen actress for more than 20 years and
has performed in countless commercials, off-Broadway shows, and
regional theater productions. An only child whose parents passed away at
an early age, she created familial bonds over the years through tight
friendships. However, she longed for that family unit and a love she had
not had for herself. Instead of waiting for the “perfect” man, she
chose to have her son, Finch, who is now three.
Rhodes has been a stage and screen actress for more than 20 years and has performed in countless commercials, off-Broadway shows, and regional theater productions. An only child whose parents passed away at an early age, she created familial bonds over the years through tight friendships. However, she longed for that family unit and a love she had not had for herself. Instead of waiting for the “perfect” man, she chose to have her son, Finch, who is now three.
If I were to describe Rhodes in one word, it would be If I were to describe Rhodes in one word, it would be feisty. We talked about it all, and it was a spirited, no-holds-barred conversation.
Here’s her list describing what she considers to be the more challenging aspects of being a Solo Mom by choice:
1. The economy of conceiving (or adopting): it can be expensive.
No one really wants to talk about this, but you have to be in a certain financial position to conceive the way I did. I could have just gotten pregnant with some random guy; it probably would have been cheaper but not necessarily less complicated. I wanted to be pregnant and have a child with my DNA. I am the last of my family, and it was important for me to pass down my genes. I spent $27,000 to have [my son]. I tried intrauterine insemination eight times and in vitro fertilization once. Not to mention the cost of childbirth, which is not cheap.
Side note: if you adopt through a foster care program, it can cost anywhere from $0 to $5,000. Private adoptions can run $25,000 and more if you desire to adopt internationally.
2. Conceiving: there can be unforeseen complications.
When I decided to use a sperm donor, I had found a guy who was smart, successful, and blond like me. That part for me was easy. I named [my baby] and everything. I had two miscarriages, which was tough to go through, but I got through it. Then they ran out of my guy’s sperm, so I had to pick a new guy.
Most people think of pregnancy as something that might become complicated, but when it does, there is a new level of understanding of what that means. I had friends say they would go with me to doctors’ appointments, but when it comes down to it, people have their own lives that they’re managing. I was fine with going by myself, but then you’re sitting in the waiting room with couples. It wasn’t bad, just uncomfortable.
I also had preeclampsia and other complications during pregnancy, including gestational diabetes, so I had a lot of appointments. I was at a regular checkup when I found out I was going to have him early. I was told I had to go to the hospital right then. I happened to have extra clothes on me. You have to be prepared.
Side note: Adoptions can fall apart. Older children are easier to adopt but might come with more emotional challenges. Babies might have health concerns, or the birth mother might want her child back.
3. Early motherhood: beginnings can be harder than you can imagine.
Hopefully other Solo Moms by choice won’t have to go through what I went through. There are things that happened I couldn’t have imagined.
Finch was born two months premature, so I had an experience where I didn’t even see him right afterward. He didn’t eat for a week. He had tubes in his mouth, so he couldn’t cry out loud. I couldn’t hold him to give him comfort. It was awful, and I had major post-traumatic stress disorder. I was pumping breast milk for 12 hours a day and sitting in the hospital alone for weeks on end.
Then when I had him at home, we had therapy four days a week. He had sensory and attachment problems, which means he didn’t look at me or coo. It was heartbreaking. I panicked. I knew I couldn’t parent an autistic child; I had [wanted] a child to communicate with and connect to. I felt horrible about myself for wanting that, and I became very depressed. I had to work through it because I was the only one there for him. There was no one else. We got through it, and he’s a very special boy, but man it was hard.
4. and 5. Time and energy: you will have little of both.
You have little time for yourself, which is what you sign up for, but to the extent in which you have to give your time and energy is intense. Even when the sitter is watching him and I have a break from him, I have to deal with shopping, errands, chores, and other things.
Having “energy” means go, go, go. It’s hard to exercise. I got gestational diabetes, and it didn’t go away. Usually moms eat what their kid eats to save time, but I can’t do that. I haven’t been able to focus on my health. And no one is cuddling you at the end of the day. All of that cuddling goes to your kid. It’s hard to parent when you’re alone and physically exhausted; you’re missing that extra voice telling you it’s going to be OK. You’re also missing out on having someone just for you, which might be selfish.
6. The economy of parenting solo: working and affording child care is tough, but the day to day, in some ways, can be much easier.
I didn’t think about this before I had my son, but the question to ask yourself is: What is the amount of income I need to cover child care before taxes, and how much does that leave me? For example, if I’m spending over $300 a week on full-time child care and only taking home $600 a week before taxes, my take-home after taxes would not leave me with very much. So I’ve had to be more resourceful and strategic around my work life and taking care of Finch. For some jobs, it’s cheaper to pass on child care and take care of my son myself. I have yet to find a job that will cover my child-care expenses.
When it comes to parenting alone, I think it’s harder for people who’ve had marriages before and then had to do it alone. I’m not used to parenting with someone else, so there isn’t a loss there. I make all of the decisions. It might seem hard because you are the one doing it by yourself, but not having to keep a relationship afloat or defend my actions to someone in terms of how I raise Finch is a benefit.
7. Partnership: if you want it, finding someone becomes way more complicated, but sex does, too.
Dating can be ridiculous without children involved let alone with. There are those concerns about the safety of my child and finding someone that likes kids, etc., etc. I’d like to have sex again, but women rarely talk about what happens to their body after childbirth. It’s not like I was with someone who knows what my body looked like before I had Finch. I’ll be meeting someone new, and for the first time I’ll have a C-section scar and a fat pouch around my lower abs that no amount of sit-ups can get rid of. It makes me very self-conscious.
8. Dealing with other people’s bullshit.
I hated “Mommy and Me” classes because I didn’t want to talk about how my nipples hurt when I breastfed. I wanted to talk about real shit. Women don’t talk about the fact that you don’t always have a baby and fall madly in love right away. I’m so tired of women saying, “It’s the strongest love you ever feel.” For me, that’s bullshit.
Also, people can get real funny around you when they realize you’re doing it on your own. I tell strangers all the time when they say how cute my son is. I say, “Yes, this is my son and I used a sperm donor” because I want to break the stigma. I’ve become an activist about it. I went through feeling embarrassed and feeling bad that I had to have a child this way because “I couldn’t find a man.” I deal with the bullshit by talking about it. I talk to other moms who have had children more traditionally about my struggles, too.
9. Learning what motherhood really is about.
I had a child to get the love I never had, to give love and have that love returned. But Finch is very independent and not a cuddly child. He is not going to love me the way I thought he would love me. I would hear him cry in the middle of the night; I was exhausted, and he wouldn’t look at me or connect with me. It’s not your child’s job to make you feel a certain way.
He is my greatest teacher. I had to learn that is not what motherhood is about. Motherhood is not getting love back. It’s about giving love, period. We’re in a much better place now. He’s a very special boy, and I’m grateful for him.
10. There is a struggle to get comfortable with who you are versus who you were versus who you will become.
What you think you’re going to be afraid of, you’re not. And what you didn’t think you would be afraid of, you are. He was sick so many times with pneumonia and fevers, and I was in the hospital a lot. I thought him being sick was something I was going to have an issue with, but I didn’t; yet I was in a constant state of anxiety wondering if all of his therapies were working. I was watching him improve, but I still struggled.
There are many days I don’t feel like an artist, but I push through and don’t have time to cry about not getting a part. When I make my mind up, I just do shit. I’m an actress, makeup artist, and stylist. That’s what I do—and I take care of my kid. I’m not quite sure what that means for me yet, going forward. I’m used to being tough and doing shit alone, but you don’t get to really celebrate things when you’re by yourself, if you know what I mean. You just move on to the next thing. But, hey, I didn’t think I would live through all of this—but even with the struggles, I would do it all over again.
After a challenging beginning, Rhodes is taking an activist stance in her Solo-Mom-by-choice journey. As many Solo Moms have shared, on the other side of challenge there are also the successes and greater rewards of parenting.
Tanisha Christie is an interdisciplinary performing artist and filmmaker. After years of working at the nexus of arts, media, social justice, and healing, she is currently finishing her master of social work (clinical specialization) at Hunter College in New York City. A child of a Solo Mom, she loves to ride her bike to the beach.
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