Will You Be a Single Mother?

In the past years, we have seen an increase in the number of single moms. Today, over 40% of all babies in the United States are born to unmarried women. The largest number of single moms is women in their 20s—the average age is 26½.

Nearly 75% of all unmarried moms-to-be got pregnant by accident. Under 15% of single mothers are divorced. Nearly 45% of single mothers consider themselves truly single. Eight percent of single moms have a same-sex partner.

Many women choose to have a child without a spouse; situations vary. Some women are deeply involved with baby’s father but have chosen not to marry. Some women are pregnant without their partner’s support. Still other single women have chosen donor (artificial) insemination as a means of getting pregnant.

No matter what the personal situation is, many concerns are shared by all single moms-to-be. This discussion reflects some of the issues they have raised.

In most situations—whether a mother is single, widowed or divorced—a child’s overall environment is more important than the presence of a man in the household. Over 85% of single-parent households in the United States are headed by women. Studies show if a woman has other supportive adults to depend on, a child can fare well in a home headed by a single woman. However, both boys and girls benefit from male involvement in their lives from an early age.

If you will be a single mother, seek support from family and friends. Mothers of young children can identify with your experiences—they’ve had similar ones recently. If you have friends or family members with young children, talk with them.

Raising a child alone can be both challenging and joyful. A single mother must take extra-good care of herself physically and emotionally. You may feel isolated and overwhelmed, so it’s important to have a strong support system of family and/or friends. Many single moms find it easier to live and parent when they share expenses and daily activities with family or friends by living together.

Find people you can count on for help during your pregnancy and after your baby arrives. One woman said she thought about whom she would call at 2am if her baby were crying uncontrollably. When she answered that question, she had the name of someone she believed she could count on in any type of emergency—during and after pregnancy!

You may want to choose someone to be with you when you labor and deliver, and who will be there to help afterward. A doula can be a good choice for you, if you’re going to have natural childbirth. Your insurance company may even pay for a doula’s services.

Childbirth classes are now offered in many places for single moms. Many hospitals and birthing centers have options for single women when they give birth. Ask at your healthcare provider’s office for further information.

The only part of the birth experience that might require special planning is your plan to get to the hospital when you go into labor. One woman wanted her friend to drive, but couldn’t reach her when the time came. Her next option (all part of her plan) was to call a taxi, which got her to the hospital in plenty of time.

Wondering how much it will cost you to raise your child until he or she is 18? The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has information on its website to help you figure it out. Visit the USDA website and search for Cost of Raising a Child Calculator for more information.

After the birth, you’ll need support when you go home with baby. Consider asking family members, friends, co-workers and neighbors to help out. You’ll probably need the most help the first month home. Some chores and errands people can do include some alone time for you, laundry, cooking, cleaning and shopping.

If you find yourself feeling apart from family and friends, make friends with other single moms for emotional and spiritual support. This can also provide you a support group for social interaction and exchanging child care and other tasks.

You Need a Will. You need a will. If you don’t have one, now’s the time to make one. If you already have a will, check it before baby’s birth for any changes or additions you may want to make.

If something happens to you, someone will have to care for your child. Your will should name a legal guardian for your child. Naming a guardian may be one of the most important things you can address at this time. Without a will that names a guardian, the courts decide who will care for your child.

After you decide on a guardian, ask that person before naming him or her as guardian in your will. He or she may have reasons you don’t know about for not being able to accept this important role. Choose at least two people who could be the guardian of your child. Ask your first choice, and if he or she accepts, put the name in your will. Choose an alternative guardian (again, be sure to ask the person you select about it first), and tell that person that he or she will be named as the alternative.

If you believe you would prefer to have someone else handle finances for your child, you can name a separate property guardian. This person’s main responsibility is to take care of any financial assets you leave your child.

Some people will say you don’t need an attorney to draw up your will if you don’t have a lot of property or many assets. They believe do-it-yourself will kits available in some stores or on various computer programs cover all the bases. Some are fairly thorough; however, if you’re not an attorney, you may be saving money now, but it could cost your child or family later. If you’re unmarried, an attorney may be helpful in covering all the necessary aspects so your child and/or partner will inherit your assets.

If you do use a do-it-yourself will kit, you may want to ask an attorney to check it over when you’re finished, to be sure you have covered everything. It may cost a little extra, but it could be well worth it if it saves your child problems in the future.

Check Your Insurance. Be sure to check your insurance coverage before baby’s birth. You must arrange where money will come from to care for your child in case of your death. You also need enough disability insurance to provide for your future and baby’s future.

If something happens to you, you want to know your child will be provided for and financially taken care of until he or she is an adult. This is most often provided through a life-insurance policy. When examining your life insurance, look at other types of insurance you have. Examine coverage you have now, and determine what type of coverage you’ll need after baby’s arrival. It’s time to make necessary changes!

When insurance is provided by your employer, check with the human resources (HR) representative for specific information about the insurance and its benefits. Don’t overlook this important resource.

It’s important to have enough life insurance to cover raising your child through college. The U.S. government estimates it costs between $225,000 and $300,000 to raise a child born today through the age of 18. Add to that what the projected costs of college may be in 18 years. This is the amount of coverage you should have. You need sufficient life-insurance coverage to be sure there will be enough money to care for your child into adulthood.

You should also review your health insurance. If you don’t have healthcare coverage, you may find it difficult to get coverage at this time. Many companies have a waiting period of 1 year before they will cover costs associated with childbirth. You might want to check to see if there is any type of coverage that might be available through various community programs. Or check out children’s health-insurance programs in your state. Some provide medical coverage for a pregnant woman and her baby (after birth). Some programs are free; others are low-cost. These may be available to you even if you are working.

Check your health-insurance policy to see what the time limit is for adding baby to your health insurance. In some cases, a baby must be added within 30 days following the birth or no coverage will be provided.

If you have an accident that requires you to take time off your job, disability insurance is good coverage to have. It pays you a predetermined amount of money while you’re disabled. Most employers provide some disability insurance, but every working parent should have enough insurance to cover between 65 and 75% of his or her income.

Your employer may provide disability insurance. The drawback to disability insurance through your employment is coverage stops when you leave the job, and benefits may be fairly low. You may also need to be on the job a certain amount of time before you’re covered. If your employer doesn’t provide disability insurance, consider purchasing a policy on your own. Consult an insurance specialist for further information.

Protect Your Documents

Once you’ve made your will, keep the original in a safe place. If an attorney prepares yours, he or she will keep an original at the office. You might consider keeping a copy in a fireproof safety box at home.

If you use a do-it-yourself will kit, keep your original document in a safe-deposit box at the bank and a copy in a fireproof safety box at home. If you choose a relative to be the executor of your estate, you might also consider giving him or her a copy to have at hand.

Legal Questions. Because your situation is unique, various situations may occur that will raise questions. You may be wondering how to fill out baby’s birth certificate. You have options. You can fill in the father’s name or leave it blank. If you don’t want people to know the father’s identity, you can leave it off the birth certificate. If baby’s father is a donor, you can list the name as unknown or confidential.

Today, a father is required by law to pay child support, even if he isn’t involved in his child’s life. Consult an attorney to check the laws in your state. If you put baby’s father’s name on the birth certificate, it may be easier to ask legally for child support. However, this gives the father some legal rights. In some states, a man must sign a parental acknowledgment form before you can list him as baby’s father on the birth certificate.

You may also have questions about the last name to give your baby. You need to make a decision as to what it will be. Yours? Dad’s? In some states, if you’re not married, the father must grant permission for you to use his last name.

You don’t have to fill out a birth certificate before leaving the hospital. You may have a few months before this must be turned in. However, you can’t get a social-security number for your baby without providing a birth certificate. A social-security number is necessary to open a bank account in baby’s name and to claim him or her on tax forms. It may also be needed to add baby to your health insurance.

It’s important to have answers to your questions. The following questions have been posed by women who chose to be single mothers. We repeat them here without answers because they are legal questions that should be reviewed with an attorney in your area who specializes in family law. These can help you clarify the kinds of questions you need to consider as a single mother. If you become pregnant through donor insemination, much of the legal issues will be dealt with in your dealings with the organization through which you received your donor sperm.

• A friend who had a baby by herself told me I’d better consider the legal ramifications of this situation. What was she talking about?

• I’ve heard that in some states, if I’m unmarried, I have to get a special birth certificate. Is that true?

• I’m having my baby alone, and I’m concerned about who can make medical decisions for me and my expected baby. Can I do anything about this concern?

• I’m not married, but I am deeply involved with my baby’s father. Can my partner make medical decisions for me if I have problems during labor or after the birth?

• If anything happens to me, can my partner make medical decisions for our baby after it is born?

• What are the legal rights of my baby’s father if we are not married?

• Do my partner’s parents have legal rights in regard to their grandchild (my child)?

• My baby’s father and I went our separate ways before I knew I was pregnant. Do I have to tell him about the baby?

• I chose to have donor (artificial) insemination. If anything happens to me during my labor or delivery, who can make medical decisions for me? Who can make decisions for my baby?

• I got pregnant by donor insemination. What do I put on the birth certificate under “father’s name”?

• Is there a way I can find out more about my sperm donor’s family medical history?

• Will the sperm bank send me notices if medical problems appear in my sperm donor’s family?

• As my child grows up, she may need some sort of medical help (such as a donor kidney) from a sibling. Will the sperm bank supply family information?

• I had donor insemination, and I’m concerned about the rights of the baby’s father to be part of my child’s life in the future. Should I be concerned?

• Someone joked to me that my child could marry its sister or brother some day and wouldn’t know it because I had donor insemination. Is this possible?

• Are there any other things I should consider because of my unique situation?

If the baby’s father could claim custody of your child, it’s best to work out details with an attorney. Don’t assume you will automatically have sole custody if the father wasn’t a participant in the pregnancy and/ or birth.

Exercise for Week 19


Stand with your right side about 2 feet away from the wall. Put your left foot 12 inches in front of your right foot. Bend both knees slightly. Place your right hand on the wall for support. Lift your left arm up and stretch toward the wall, bending your head. Next, encircling your head with your left arm, touch your right ear. Hold for 5 seconds. Return to standing position. Repeat 5 times, then turn and stretch for the wall with your right arm. Stretches lower-back and side muscles.


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