7.92 MB | 19:44 Min
Dr. Leah Klungness is a psychologist and a recognized authority on single parenting and relationship issues. She is the co-author of the book The Complete Single Mother and co-founder of the website SingleMommyhood.com.
Mikki Morrissette is a Choice Mom (aka single mother by choice), author of Choosing Single Motherhood: The Thinking Woman’s Guide and founder of ChoiceMoms.org.
Liz Pulliam Weston is a personal finance columnist for MSN Money and author of the question-and-answer column “Money Talk,” which appears in newspapers throughout the country. She is the author of several books, including Easy Money: How to Simplify Your Finances and Get What You Want Out of Life, Deal with Your Debt and Your Credit Score: How to Fix, Protect and Improve the 3-Digit Number that Shapes Your Financial Future. Liz has much more fantastic financial information for you at her website AskLizWeston.com.
Welcome to your Pea in the Podcast. I’m Bonnie Petrie with everything you need to know about your body, your baby and the big changes ahead in your life in your journey to becoming a mommy.
This week, we’re talking to single moms.
“Single motherhood is relentless.”
And being pregnant without a partner can be intimidating. But we’ve got reassurance for you from a mom who has done it…
“It’s not you and your child alone. It’s, you know, when you’re actually consciously connecting to other people, it’s just amazing.”
A financial expert who will help you make ends meet…
“There is almost always some way that you can work out a budget that works.”
And the psychologist who wrote The Complete Single Mother . You can do this, mama. It’s Pregnancy Without a Partner in this Pea in the Podcast.
You’re pregnant, and by choice or by chance, you’re doing it without a partner. Dr. Leah, author of The Complete Single Mother, says you may be overwhelmed, and with good reason.
“Single motherhood is relentless. You are the person in charge, you are the person with all of the responsibilities, you’re pretty much on 24/7.”
So how can you make this work? Dr. Leah says the first thing you need to do is process any sadness that you may feel about not having a partner to share this experience with you.
“I don’t think little girls grow up pretending that they are going to be single moms. It is very typical to see little girls with bridal veils and being a mommy and making some hapless little four-year-old be the daddy and play house. So many women who come to the decision of choosing single motherhood have had some experiences of loss, relationships that have not worked out, fantasies that have not been fulfilled, it’s important to put those experiences of loss in perspective so that they aren’t baggage that you’re dragging into this new and quite challenging situation.”
So deal with that, because no matter your situation, Dr. Leah says your baby is something to celebrate.
“Without a doubt, and this is the kind of joy that you can bring into lives of friends and family. I’ve never seen anybody who wasn’t excited about one of those sonogram pictures. You don’t have to look too far to have somebody ooh and aah over your sonogram pictures, so by all means share the joy.”
And with this joyful news on your lips, now is the time to start building the network of people who will be your love and support through your pregnancy and beyond.
“This certainly doesn’t mean a formal support group, but that is certainly great if you can get that together. But you do need to have people that you can call in the middle of the night when you have a sick toddler or some kind of sudden crisis, someone that can listen to you talk about how you don’t think you’re doing a good job. And I think many single mothers by choice are used to having work friends and sitting around and talking about work issues and these kinds of things. It’s important to remember that work friends may not be the kind of forever friends that single moms really do need to have.”
Mikki Morrissette has had two children on her own. She wrote her experiences into a book called Choosing Single Motherhood, and she says she cannot stress enough the importance of building that network.
“Especially if you don’t have family in the area. That is something that you really need, you’re not going to know everybody in your support network yet, but you have to be kind of conscious about where you’re going to find those resources. I’m now very, very involved in my daughter’s school, very involved in a church community, which I wasn’t before. I’ve moved, I actually moved to Minnesota from New York so now I have more of a “neighborhoody” connection. I have lots of friends now with kids.”
Dr. Leah says you can cast a wide net as you build your network. There are all kinds of people out there who can enrich your family and offer a helping hand.
“Well, I think that one of the misconceptions many single moms have is that this support group can only be other single moms. Remember, all families, of every type, are really facing the same challenges you are, trying to bi-locate — which no one succeeds at, trying to be in two different places at once — time challenges, money challenges. I think we’re all a little sick of, at least I am, the phrase ‘it takes a village’ but I think you do need to seek out within your community people that can help you and then in turn you can support them. Now a good example is retired people, people that have a far more flexible schedule than you are going to have as a working single mom. Perhaps you can do some swapping, you can do some errands, carry some heavy groceries, do some simple household repairs and in turn they can help provide you with last minute childcare or just a sympathetic ear when things get tougher than you expected.”
So start building that network today. Dr. Leah says it is easier than you think. Introduce yourself to your neighbors, if you see a friendly face while you’re out shopping for baby gear or maybe at your prenatal yoga class. Say hi, maybe exchange numbers. After the baby comes, mom Mikki Morisette says you can post a note maybe at the pediatrician’s office or say hello to people at the playground or maybe join Mommy and Me type classes.
“And, you know a lot of them you are not going to connect with, but, you know, often times there is one or two. I actually in one class that I took because I wasn’t a real baby class person either but I did go to one and from the most invaluable thing was I met a woman who had a part-time babysitter who was going to be available a couple of days a week and that woman ended up, she stayed with us for a couple of years. You know as my daughter’s babysitter before we moved and we still, I mean my daughter is seven now. We still have a connection with her. She was wonderful. She was definitely a second mother.”
For single moms finances can often be a struggle. MSN Money Personal Finance Columnist Liz Pulliam Weston says building this network can help you cut costs.
“Some people that I know that are single parents have created some really nice networks of friends, other single parents where they can trade help. You know, you can get someone to look after your kids while you run an errand or have a moment to yourself without having to pay a fortune.”
And for single parents, in particular, the network can lead to a unique way of minimizing housing costs.
“That’s something that really gets people. I mean, I live here in L.A., 50% of the population is paying more than 40% of its income for housing and that is insane. If you want a balanced budget, you really shouldn’t be spending more than about 25% – 30% of your income on your housing. So if you’re in a high cost area or you know you have a very limited income, moving in with another family can really make the difference between struggling throughout the kids’ whole childhood and actually having some comfort, having a cushion there.”
Mikki did just that, and she says taking up residence with another single parent absolutely can work.
“I have a four-story house and I ended up finding a single mother through divorce, but, you know, that counts, too. You know, you still, and there is plenty of single women out there raising their kids and the mix of it is, of course, real key because you’ve got different parenting styles, you’ve got the parents, the kids have to get along a certain way, ideally they are about the same age. You have to get along with the other person, but she lived with us for a couple of years and it was wonderful. It was wonderful for my daughter and her son.”
Okay, so you’re building your support network now. Dr. Leah says you also need to get busy getting organized.
“Organization and preparedness are two qualities that all single moms share. And there is no time like bringing home a new baby to put your organizational skills to a test.”
I bet you’re saying now, ‘forget it, I cannot do this. I can’t organize my silverware drawer let alone my life.’ Dr. Leah says you can.
“I think you need to go to a mirror, look in the mirror and say ‘Hi, you used to be a disorganized person, but you’re going to do one thing today that adds organization to your life.’ Then decide what that is going to be. It’s just not an option if you are a single mom with a career and a child to just let things be very haphazard because what will happen is, you’ll begin to kind of feel sorry for yourself. Things will get very chaotic. There isn’t milk in the house; you don’t have any pantyhose without runs. There’s dust balls like tumbleweeds blowing across your living room that distress you. Basically, you got to decide that this is a change that you need to make and you need to decide in what sphere of your life it needs to occur. Do I need to be more organized about paperwork? Do I need to be more organized about my time? Do I need to be more organized about keeping our home clean? I mean, whatever it is, but you’ll find that your survival and happiness are kind of tied to how well you’re able to keep things organized. No matter what your financial circumstances are, we only all have the same 24 hours a day and how you use those, that allocation of time, will really determine the quality of your life.”
(More about getting organized in our Pea in the Podcast: Lifestyle Makeover.)
And getting organized will help you keep your finances straight. As I mentioned before, money really is a struggle for everyone, but it’s often a particular concern for a single mom. Money expert Liz Pulliam Weston says you may need to start making some tough choices.
“Well, the housing is a big thing. You know, if you are paying too much for housing, you may need to move, you may need to take a roommate, you may need to do other things to get the housing payment down where you want. Car is another area where a lot of people overspend throughout our society. If you are spending more than maybe 15%-20% of your pay on a car and all of the attending costs, you’re going to be really, really tight. So, you know, an option might be for some people to give up the car, to sell the car, get a cheaper one, something like that. Childcare, this is a very touchy subject for people. They want the best possible childcare, but you know there are childcare options that simply aren’t affordable for people on certain incomes. So you may want a nanny, you may have to settle for daycare or in-home care, something like that. But I also talked to parents who said, you know, I thought there was no way that I could do X and then I found a wonderful daycare center or a wonderful sitter or whatever and it worked out. So that’s why I say don’t shut your mind to any possibility. Explore all of the possibilities before you commit yourself to one of them.”
Speaking of childcare, Weston says many families are getting a good deal on good care by taking advantage of what is called a childcare cooperative.
“Well, it’s basically a group of parents getting together to either, I mean it can vary, they can trade childcare, you know, sign up and one system I saw, you sort of get a set number of hours a month and you also donate a set numbers of hours, so you are the childcare provider. Or the cooperatives might simply pay for someone to look after the kids. They can be set up any different number of ways and if you’re interested, Google ‘childcare cooperative’ and see some of the possibilities pop up.”
Weston says no matter how tight things might be, there are some things that are non-negotiable like life insurance.
”Buy term, it’s cheap. If you try to go the whole life cash value type insurance, it is going to be way too expensive for most people. Because the most important thing is to get enough coverage and that means that you are probably going to go with term because trying to get enough coverage with those whole life policies is just really tough and really expensive. So life insurance is important. With a single parent you’ve got that and you also have, okay what happens if something happens to me? That is something that you know a two-parent household needs to think about, too. But, you know, it’s pretty rare that you’ll lose both parents but, you know, anybody can die. So you want to make sure that you have the guardianship in place, the wills, that kind of stuff taken care of so that nobody is fighting over your kids in court or they don’t wind up in foster care.”
And put away for your retirement, okay? Weston says it is not beyond your means.
“No, no. You may not be able to carve out the money to retire at 50, for example, but you really do have to place first your own retirement before things like saving for college education. That is hard for any parent, but you really do have to take care of yourself. Your child will not thank you for putting her through private school and a fancy college if she winds up supporting you in your old age. Retirement counts, everybody needs to be saving for retirement.”
So, Weston says you may have to be frugal. If you have never pinched a penny in your life, Weston says there are plenty of resources out there for you to get started.
“Oh, all over the place. MiserlyMoms.com is great, Mary Hunt has a website, I think it’s called Debt Proof Living, that’s another great one. One of my favorites is called the Dollar Stretcher, it’s just stretcher.com. A great, huge library of tips. Books like Amy Dacyczyn’s The Complete Tightwad Gazette are just invaluable, so go to the library and look at what’s there. You know, you’ll be going to the library a lot, so you might as well get used to it.”
You’ve got a lot on your plate, mom, and you’re going to be busy building those networks and getting organized and making plans, but you’re still growing a baby in there and you’ve got a lot of things to do to prepare for labor. How do you pick a labor partner, you ask? Dr. Leah says look around at your friends and your family.
“You want to pick somebody who is going to be time-available, who is going to not flinch when the going gets rough. You need to just kind of think about what your particular needs are. If you feel like you’re going into this experience not too strong, then you’re going to want to pick somebody who is strong and can kind of take charge. If you feel like you just want somebody there to provide the backrub and the ice chips and you feel like you can kind of handle this yourself, you pick somebody that you know has that good nurturing side. It’s a very personal decision, but it certainly should not be one that is postponed until you are 8 and a half months pregnant and the delivery imminent. It’s something you should think about early on.”
Long-time single mom Mikki Morisette says don’t be surprised if some of your grief over not having a partner resurfaces during this time.
“You know, for some they really do feel a strong loss there. That’s when they really feel the most lonely, when they show up at the Lamaze classes on their own when everybody else is there with their partner. That can really be when it hits home a lot and the time that’s supposed to be very, very joyous can also seem very, very sad because they’re not there with somebody else.”
Dr. Leah says do what you can to mitigate this by looking around when choosing a childbirth class.
“Single moms — by choice or by chance – certainly want to find Lamaze or childbirth classes where all of the coaches are not husbands. You certainly, if you’ve got a little extra in the budget, may want to consider a doula, someone who can be with you to provide the comfort and support that a husband may. I think you have to realize that you’re in a challenging situation and do your very best to bring that support that a husband or a loving partner may have brought into your pregnancy.”
And you also need to start looking beyond birth to the first three months or so of your baby’s life. Dr. Leah says a parent without a partner needs to take extra care to prepare for those very trying months. We here at Pea in the Podcast call it Baby Boot Camp.
“I would call it the Zombie Time, just kind of making it through with the disrupted sleep and all the challenges that that new little creature brings into your life. I think single moms by choice or chance need to be more aware that there are going to be challenges after the birth. They want to do things. When people ask if there is anything that they can do to help, be ready with ‘gee, could you bring over some dinner? Gee, could you run an errand?’ and not be shy to ask for the help that you need. I think you want to make sure that your nursery and your refrigerator/freezer are stocked with things, that you have everything on hand that your obstetrician tells you that you’ll need, all of the little extra womanly supplies. It can be very disheartening to need something in the middle of the night and not have someone there to go get it for you. So you have to begin to be your own best friend and make sure that you have taken care of yourself and have provided and prepared for your own needs as carefully as you’ve tried to do for your new baby.”
Mikki made it through Baby Boot Camp with the support of her parents. She actually stayed with them for a few months, something she never thought she would do, but for her and for her daughter it was perfect.
“For one thing it was, I mean, you know, you feel like you need a PhD when you’re starting out, because there’s, you know, anything from running the Diaper Genie to figuring out how to get the baby in the baby carrier, to figuring out how to fold and unfold the stroller. Plus, you know, I’m sleep deprived and it was like it took three of us. And then, so in my case I was extremely fortunate because I pretty much focused on nursing Sophie. My mother loves to clean and my dad likes to cook, so it was a beautiful collection.”
Mikki says some single moms find people in their neighborhood or people in their church come together and they put their arms around the single mom and her baby by doing things like coordinating people to make meals for the new family, sometimes for months at a time. She says when the community comes together like this, you are reminded it’s not just you and your baby alone; your community is your family. But Dr. Leah wants to remind you that when you are part of a community, you are probably going to face some questions about your single parenthood.
“If it’s just somebody casually passing by and peeking in the carriage and making a comment, sometimes it’s just best for your own energy to just go ‘uh huh’ and keep strolling. If this is someone who is in your community, you’re likely to run into on a regular basis, you might want to respond in a way that lets them know that it’s just you and the baby. Like, ‘I don’t know, I think he looks a lot like me. I’m hoping he does because it’s just he and I, his dad isn’t going to be part of the family.’ Or whatever you decide is appropriate to whatever your situation might be. This doesn’t mean you have to spill your whole life story to every stranger, but you need to be kind of prepared with a little script so that you don’t feel bombarded or taken off-guard by people’s questions because people are going to ask about dad, people are going to ask about your circumstances. It’s kind of a natural thing, but you need to be prepared with a little script so that you kind of have a little something, a little comeback — it doesn’t mean a flashing comment — but a little comeback about when people ask questions about dad. You need to feel comfortable with whatever it is. There are no magic words, but you need to feel comfortable saying it.”
Sometimes people will judge you, and you may hear unkind comments sometimes. Dr. Leah says ignore them, they don’t matter, and try to keep those toxic people who make them at a distance. And if you sometimes succumb to the temptation of judging yourself for your choices or for your circumstances…
“You really need to say to yourself, I’m enough. One good, loving supportive parent is enough. And you only need to glance around at a playground or a McDonalds to see two-parent families that are not doing nearly as well as you’re doing as a single mom.”
You are enough.
And for more on Dr. Leah and her book The Complete Single Mother and Mikki Morrissette and her book Choosing Single Motherhood: The Thinking Woman’s Guide, go to our website www.peainthepodcast.com.
We hope you’ve enjoyed this Pea in the Podcast: Pregnancy without a Partner. Please visit our website, peainthepodcast.com, for more information about our experts, to find links and transcripts, and to register to get tailored week-by-week shows for each week and stage of your pregnancy. It’s everything you need to know about your body, your baby and the big changes ahead in your life in your journey to becoming a mom. For Pea in the Podcast, I’m Bonnie Petrie. Thanks for listening.