Parenting in the absence of the child’s father

Becoming a single mom can be a choice for many women. Picture:iStock

There are many things to consider before choosing to be a single mother.

Nearly two thirds of South Africa children grow up without their fathers. Research previously conducted by Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) and the South African Race Relations Institute (SARRI) indicates that 60 per cent of children in our country have absent fathers, making 40 percent of mothers single parents.

“Motherhood is tough enough when there are two of you, so doing it on your own comes with a lot of extra challenges,” says Jodi Hepker, a clinical psychologist at a private practice in Johannesburg.

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Why single parenting?

You may be a single mom by accident or plan to go at it solo for your own reasons. There are many reasons women choose to be single moms and it may be motivated by emotional or physical abuse from their partner and not wanting to raise your child in that environment. Sometimes, the fathers themselves don’t want to be part of their children’s lives and make a run for it when the woman reveals she is pregnant.

“We’ve come a long way since the traditional nuclear family of the 60s. Today there are increasing numbers of well educated, financially successful, independent women in their thirties who have decided who embark on the journey alone.”

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Plan carefully

There are women who are lucky enough to have the opportunity to want children, plan to do it alone and do it alone, unlike those who find themselves in the deep end by force. But there are careful considerations they have to follow before going through with the single parenting- even if it is by choice.

“Making a choice about the direction you want your life to follow is vitally important. You’ve got to do this for all the right reasons too. Don’t have a child to alleviate loneliness, because motherhood is so all-encompassing that it may have the opposite effect and leave you feeling lonelier.”

Also Read: Raising two boys as a single mom

Be prepared

Dr Kelly Owen, a clinical psychologist, offers the following tips to prospective single moms:

  • There must be a good and explainable reason why you want to be a single mom. Consult a professional to identify and acknowledge your issues, particularly your attitude towards relationships, commitment, and men, as this will influence your decision and your parenting style later on.
  • If you choose to go at it alone, you need to face that this is not just about you and that there is a child involved. Children growing up without fathers may have disadvantages in relationships later in life. How do you explain to your child why they don’t have a father will be critically important for their emotional development, self-esteem and self-confidence. The motive needs to make-sense and mustn’t be for your selfish reasons
  • If this is your first child, you are used to doing life alone. You need to consider the cost of having a child. Life without emotional and financial support from another adult can weigh heavily on the single mom. Financial stress is one of the major problems that dual-income families face today and this can be significantly worsen if you’re parenting alone. Do you earn enough to give your baby the best childcare?
  • Evaluate how a baby will impact on your work or career and how work will impact on your child. Does your job allow your baby to have and give the best of yourself and can they understand that you need to achieve a work and life balance. Remember that bonding is vital and must not be sacrificed – quality time and quantity time are important.

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