Change of Plans: What to Expect on the Road to Becoming a Single Parent
Single parenting is not a new phenomenon, however the process of discovering that you will not be able to raise your child while in a loving relationship with their other parent is one that negatively impacts are large number of individuals worldwide. If you always planned to be a single parent then you may be all set. However, breaking up, being on a break, or not knowing your sex partner well when a pregnancy occurs can be a life-changing experience. Here are 3 common feelings you might experience as you try to adjust to the idea of parenting without a romantic or civil connection to your child’s other parent:
Grief is a normal reaction to loss or change of any kind. Ending or disrupting a familiar pattern of behavior can produce conflicting feelings. While many of us reserve grief for the death of someone or something like a pet, it can also be applied to drastic changes in our dreams, goals, or plans. You may feel tremendous sadness over the state of your relationship with your child’s other parent while celebrating the prospect of a new life. You may also be scared of parenting alone. In either case, it’s a hard pill to swallow that you will be forever connected to someone who may not want to be a part of his or her child’s life or yours. It’s normal to feel grief, excitement, fear, sadness, confusion, frustration, anger, uncertainty and other emotions during this phase of becoming a single parent.
If you envisioned being in a happy, connected relationship with your child’s other parent, learning that you and your partner are expecting may spark a deep sense of longing to make your romantic relationship work, regardless of the state it’s in. However, you may discover that both of you aren’t on the same page. If you’ve been unfulfilled by your partner, you may find yourself pushing them to meet your expectations and needs versus admitting to yourself that it may be in your best interest to let the romance go. This can be a dangerous practice over time that leads to feelings of resentment.
Resentment is the strong or painful bitterness that you feel when you believe you’ve been wronged or treated unfairly. In some cases, learning that a child is on the way brings out opposing attitudes and behaviors that partners didn’t previously know existed. It’s not uncommon to discover that your partner isn’t quite ready for the responsibilities of a child if the pregnancy was unplanned. If your romantic relationship felt healthy and satisfying until the pregnancy, you may experience feelings of resentment as you discover that an unexpected child could sever your meaningful connection. You may also come to resent any circumstances or behaviors from your child’s other parent that show a lack of involvement and support of you or the child. In fact, it’s not uncommon to become preoccupied with what your child’s other parent is not doing to help. Resentment goes beyond anger, and is unhealthy if left unaddressed. Take the time to assess the severity of your feelings about the pregnancy and your child’s other parent. Notice if it starts to negatively affect your daily functioning. Carrying stress can have negative effects for both expecting parents and your child.
If you’ve experienced any of these feelings and are struggling to move forward in a positive direction, here are some helpful tips:
1.Face your fears.
Becoming a parent is a scary process for many. Raising a child without the other parent can arouse even greater fears. Confront any deviation from your dreams, visions for a family, or life goals that having your child will cause. Talking to a therapist or other healthcare professional can help you confront and manage the negative aspects of the situation and unburden you. Your emotional bandwidth needs to be free to love and nurture your child.
2. Activate your community of support.
It takes a village to raise some children, and that’s okay. While many people idealize 2-parent families in western culture, statistics show that healthy children are the bi-product of many alternative family makeups. Love, support, safety, and consistency are most important in the life of any child. Surround yourself with positive people from different facets of your life, who can be available in any capacity to help you get through each phase of your single parenting journey. Be creative.
3. Leave any false promises behind.
Hanging onto the dream that you and your child’s other parent will peacefully live together and raise your child may be overshadowing the reality that your involvement or pursuit of a relationship is unhealthy. Monitor how many disappointments and failed connections you endure and how it impacts your life. It can be difficult to set new boundaries in your relationship with your child’s other parent. However, it’s necessary if you determine that it’s causing you more harm than good. The sooner you get to a healthy place, the sooner you can give positive parenting the attention it requires.
4. Forgive yourself.
Confront any guilt, regret, or remorse you feel about not creating the ideal life for your child. It takes two people to create a life, but you can’t control the other person. Focus on your emotional stability, capacity to love, and the resources you are able to provide your child. Don’t allow guilt to make you compromise your standards or overcompensate in ways that will ultimately harm your child.
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