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Elective Single Motherhood? Look Before You Leap!

19 Dec

A few months ago I came across this thought-provoking blog post (Single? You can still be a mother) by a Christian woman approaching 30, in which she mulled over the possiblity of not getting married in time to have children. Would she choose to have a baby before getting married and hope to meet Mr. Right later?

Jeremy says: With so many single mums out there, the temptation to go it alone if there’s not a suitable man on the horizon must be considerable for childless women in their thirties. However, God has instituted the two-parent family for good reasons – and bringing up a child on one’s own is not all plain sailing.

What follows is my answer to Hannah’s blog post, in which I point out some of the pitfalls and try to suggest a positive approach to her situation.

Hi Hannah! I enjoyed reading your article, and I think it’s good that you took the opportunity to think out loud. As a 37-year-old singleton, I sympathise (as far as a male person can!) with your plight. I wonder, however, if there are some other issues in this picture that are worth taking a look at.

Above all, I think some of your assumptions need to be gently challenged. Firstly, the idea that you have only a few more years in which to conceive, or indeed have children by any other method. You have more time than you are allowing yourself; even if it’s not “best-case scenario” by the time a woman hits 40, it’s by no means the end of the road. Nor should you fear losing your looks: as shallow as this may sound, the chances are you’re in much better shape than most women who have had children.

No easy path

Secondly, and more importantly, elective single motherhood is no easy path, for a number of reasons. While most single mums are fantastic parents, there are numerous disadvantages for both the mother and her children. Parenting is time-consuming and exhausting at the best of times, even when there are two parents around to share the load. You would be taking on a lot of stress, strain and responsibility, with fewer opportunities for recovery and time alone. You also need to think very hard about whether you want to bring a child into this world without a male role model, which is vital for the emotional development of both girls and boys. You could be laying the foundations for an insecure adulthood if your child does not grow up knowing the love of both parents. Yes, there are worthy exceptions: some women adopt orphans from the mission field, growing up with one parent being better for the child than growing up in an institution or in poverty. However, the fact that many children grow up with only one parent does not automatically make it a good course of action, even if it is socially accepted. Do some research into outcomes in the areas of crime, drugtaking, teenage sexual activity and pregnancy, educational welfare, and mental health issues as they each relate to single parenthood. I think you’ll be concerned. [1]

Wherefore art thou, Sir Galahad?

Thirdly, I think that the idea that the knight in shining armour will join you later also needs careful thought (which is a polite way of saying – and you’ll have to forgive me here – that you’re being a little bit naive). Ask your single-mum friends how much time they have for dating, or whether they feel like having any social life at all once they have taken care of earning a living, the school run, supervising homework, and all of the other activities that are neccessary to bringing up happy children. I bet most of them will reply that they love their children, but they miss the freedom they had to date before they had kids. They may also tell you sad stories of loneliness and longing. Being a single parent will significantly reduce your chances of meeting a suitable partner: you have less time, availability and energy; some men may not be willing to take on a ready-made family (and before you protest, bear in mind that this child is the result of *your* unorthodox lifestyle choice); you also have to factor in the necessity for your child to get on well with a prospective partner, which is by no means guaranteed. Those good looks you mentioned earlier: can you get them back after childbirth? Your move to have children before marriage could result in you being single for a lot longer than you hoped.

Where is God in all this?

Finally, as one Christian single to another, I wonder if it’s worth listening harder to what God may be saying to you in your situation. If God has not permitted you to meet Mr. Right, is it because He still has work to do in you? Ask the opinion of trusted Christian friends, including male ones: are you ready to marry? Read good Christian books (start with Dr. Henry Cloud, “How to Get a Date Worth Keeping”. As a person of considerable intellect, you may also get a lot out of “Affluenza” by secular psychologist Oliver James, which examines issues of family and career). Are you harbouring attitudes which are trapping you into patterns in which you are either meeting the wrong type of men or no men at all? Have you been obedient to everything God is telling you to do? No-one else is in a position to judge, but we know that it is true that if we delight ourselves in the Lord, He will give us the desires of our hearts (Psalm 37:4).

You seem to me to be an intelligent, well-motivated and attractive person, so there is no reason why you should be left on the shelf until you are old and grey, as long as you are taking appropriate steps to prepare yourself for a relationship. I pray God will guide you and speak to you clearly, and that you will soon meet, marry and have children with someone fantastic!

[1] I am not trying to suggest that every child who grows up with only one parent automatically goes on to commit crime, abuse drugs, drop out of school and get pregnant in their teens. What is clear, however, from the depressing statistics in this field is that children who do not have the love, support and presence of both parents in the home do not do as well in these key indicators. While not all children of lone parents go on to become official negative statistics, lack of both parents is a factor which affects a child’s development and wellbeing in ways that make them vulnerable to poorer life outcomes.
What the statistics also hint at is a huge amount of unhappiness and insecurity that is not always reported, but may manifest itself in other ways.

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