When Should You Take The Leap To Be A Single Mother By Choice?
If you’re anything like me, you grew up believing you’d eventually meet Prince (or Princess) Charming, make beautiful babies together, and live happily ever after. But if your Prince Charming is taking his sweet time, you might be wondering if it’s time you made the journey into motherhood on your own as a single mom by choice.
But is choosing to be a single mom right for you and are you ready to be a single mother by choice (SMC) ? Many women have asked me, “How do I decide whether to start now or hold out just a little bit longer to find a partner?”
Of course, it’s an impossible question because no one can ever predict when you might meet the partner of your dreams. But it’s also largely dependent on your own priorities.
Here are some questions you can ask yourself to help clarify when it’s time to stop hoping for Mr. or Mrs. Right and start pursuing your path to motherhood solo.
1) Do you want your child(ren) to be genetically yours?
This is the biggie. Your answer to this question will largely determine your next steps.
What are your reasons for wanting a child? Do you long to be pregnant? Are you excited about creating an entirely new person from scratch? Or is it more about watching someone discover the world and helping them to find their place in it?
If your motivations center around dreams of raising a child and passing on your values, ask yourself if you really need a biological connection. Or do you feel the need to carry a child, give birth, or pass on your genes?
For many, a genetic connection would be ideal but they are open to other possibilities. Some people have always envisioned adoption or otherwise don’t balk at the idea of using donor eggs.
If you’re less concerned about the biological side of things, there are a few of options that might buy you more time – adoption, egg donation, and embryo adoption. If you’d be happy with any of these options, there’s less of a need to rush.
You can use donor eggs and embryos until the age of 50 in most places. And while, in the US, birth parents get to decide who gets to parent their child, there isn’t an official upper age limit for most adoption agencies.
For others,if they can’t have a genetic child, they aren’t interested in motherhood. And, if this is you, the earlier you can start trying, the better your chances are. You may want to give up on dating until after you are pregnant or have a child.
Regardless, you can’t predict how easily you will get pregnant until you start trying. It’s so tempting to keep putting it off, but from a fertility standpoint, time is of the essence.
But even if you feel wedded to a genetic child, try to stay open to all the possibilities. It will serve you in the long run to remain flexible and open the unfolding of your path.
2) How old are you?
If a biologically-related child is a must for you, your age will determine what you do next. There are two “fertility cliffs” at 35 and 40 when your fertility will drop sharply. Whereas your chances of getting pregnant when you’re 30 are around 20%, they drop to 5% by the time you’re 40. The harsh truth is that it’s hard to get pregnant in your 40s, even with fertility treatment.
If you’re 35 or under and you’re not sure you’re ready to have a baby just yet, consider freezing your eggs or even embryos. The earlier you do this the better. Here is a great article by Fertility IQ about the success rates by age to help you decide when you should freeze your eggs. The younger you are, the more eggs you’re likely to get, which should increase your chances of a live birth.
You could then try dating to find a partner, get your finances into a good state, and enjoy your freedom for a little longer!
Unfortunately, if you’re over 37, freezing your eggs may not be worth it–though you need to talk to a doctor to assess your own fertility. Instead, I’d advise getting a fertility check so you have a baseline idea of how your fertility is doing.
Many of us spend ample time and energy trying not to get pregnant. We forget that our OB/GYN can also be a guide if you want to get pregnant, giving you an overview of your fertility by running some basic blood tests such as FSH, estradiol and other hormones. You can also ask them to check your AMH and resting follicle count, though sometimes these tests are only done by fertility specialists. (Check out my article on how to prepare for your first visit to a fertility doctor).
Your results should give you an idea of where your body’s at. Yet, the numbers from these tests only reveal an indication of what’s going on. They are not predictive. And, remember that fertility can change overnight but it’s better to have some sense of how fertile you are at this point in time in order to assess egg freezing and/or waiting longer.
3) Do you have any known health issues?
If you have fertility issues such as endometriosis or PCOS, and you’d like a baby that’s genetically yours, it’s best to start trying as soon as you can. Fertility issues usually only get worse with age.
4) How old do you want to be when you have your first child?
Another factor to take into account is the age you’ll be when you have your child. If you have strong feelings about this, work backwards from that age and make plans accordingly.
It’s also worth thinking about your age further down the road. How old do you want to be when your kid graduates? What about when (if!) they get married or have kids themselves?
As someone who had a baby at 42, I don’t want you to get deterred by your age. Check out my article about why being an older mom can actually be great. but if it’s something you personally feel strongly about, then it’s better to think about your options sooner rather than later.
5) Do you want more than one child?
Starting early enough to have a baby is one thing, but if you want siblings you’ll need even more time. A 2015 study showed that for a 90% chance of having 2 children, you should start trying by age 27. If you don’t start until you’re 38, your chances drop to 50%.
If you’re over 35 and want two kids, your doctor may suggest doing an IVF cycle or two to bank embryos for future. By the time you get pregnant with your first baby, give birth and wait a year or two to have your second, your fertility is waning. Having embryos produced at your current age will ensure fewer issues in the future.
If you definitely want more than one child, start sooner rather than later or freeze your eggs if you’re still young.
As you can see, there’s no correct answer. The important thing is that you know the reality about fertility and explore what’s important to you so you can weigh the options and decide what to do.
I’ve personally found that being a single mom is incredible. And census data shows that single moms are happier than those who marry. Certainly there are ways it’s more difficult, but there are also many ways that it’s simpler and more streamlined. I’ll never risk a custody battle and there’s no one to disagree with my parenting choices. Choosing to be a single mom and raising a baby alone was the right choice for me.
Honestly, the only thing I regret is waiting so long to make the choice. When you’re in front of the choice to take an unconventional path, it’s hard and scary. It feels incredibly daunting. But from my own experience and my conversations with hundreds of single moms by choice, women rarely regret choosing to be a single mom–though many say they wish they had started sooner.
So, the question is: are you ready to be a single mother by choice?