For many women who have children, motherhood is a wonderful experience. It is an amazing journey that is complicated, challenging, exhilarating, and full of discovery.
While the benefits of parenthood are similar whether you’re in a committed relationship or going it alone, being a single parent has its own unique challenges. In the UK, the number of single parent families totals almost 3 million according to the Office for National Statistics. The majority of these families are headed up by single mothers. If you are included in this number, whether by choice or through circumstances, you are certainly not alone.
In this article, we will take the opportunity to offer some perspective on a family model shared by millions of women today, focusing specifically on the benefits of being a single mother. We will take a look at what help is available for single mothers in the UK, some of the extra pleasures and responsibilities that come with the territory, and provide information about the fertility treatment options available if you are interested in starting a journey as a single parent.
What help is available for single mothers?
Nowadays in the UK, the Universal Credit support scheme is meant to cover all of the previous targeted financial benefits including benefits for single parents. However, there are still aspects of the old support systems, such as Income Support, Child Tax Credit, Working Tax Credit and Housing Benefit that you may be able to access if you have not completed the transition to Universal Credit. During the transition period, which is intended to complete by December 2023, you may need some help in understanding your situation and what help is available for you. There are plenty of advisory bodies who can do just that. If you are unsure, you may wish to contact:
- Turn2us.org, a national charity set up to help anyone needing to access financial support.
- Gingerbread, a charity supporting single parent families.
- Care for the Family, a family support organization providing information about a wide range of support for single parent families.
While these institutions provide vital services and financial support for those who need it, you may be in a situation where you do not want or require these services. In fact, with the levelling of career opportunities and progress towards closing the gender pay gap in the UK, there is a whole generation of women who are becoming single mothers by choice each year. According to the HFEA, there are now more single woman than ever before accessing fertility treatment. The reality for many is that it is possible to build the family they want without the need or desire for a partner.
What are the benefits of being a single mother?
There is no doubt that taking on the role of a single parent can be challenging. If you are considering taking this route, it is essential that you thoroughly prepare yourself for what is to come. For example, by assessing your work flexibility, childcare options, support network and financial situation as the sole income earner. However, for many women, the decision to have a child alone brings its own unique benefits and rewards, which are also worth keeping in mind, too. Here are some of the potential advantages of becoming a single parent:
You’re in charge of the parenting decisions
Co-parenting can be challenging when parenting styles clash. For many single mothers, the responsibility of making decisions about everything that affects their child without interference can be a positive outcome. From where you shop to the food you provide, to how you spend your weekends and the trips and activities that you plan, single parents do not face the same potentially conflict-ridden situations with another adult who may have a different view.
You’re in control of your finances
As a single parent, you have authority over setting priorities for how your income is spent on your children, yourself and your living arrangements, and easily keep your focus as the sole person in charge.
You can build a powerful bond with your child
From the time they are born, you and your child will be a team of two. They will benefit from having the focus of your attention, without the need to juggle the competing priorities of a relationship, plus they will have a deeper connection with you as their sole parent.
Your child may grow up to be uniquely mature and responsible
Your situation may mean that you will need to encourage your child to take responsibility at an age-appropriate level for household tasks that may be overlooked in a more traditional family model. By understanding the demands and responsibilities of running a family , there’s an excellent chance that this will result in a considerate, mature and responsible outlook.
Whether you’ve decided that you would like to become a parent on your own, or you’re not quite sure if you’re ready to take the plunge, there are options that you can consider.
- If you are under 35, freezing your eggs allows you to preserve your fertility at a younger age which can give you a better chance of a successful pregnancy later on. In the future, your previously-frozen eggs can be thawed safely and used in a fertility treatment when you decide the time is right to build a family.
- If you’ve made up your mind, you can start considering fertility treatment options. Many single women opt for intrauterine insemination (IUI) using donor sperm. Before the procedure, we carry out rigorous medical assessments for your sperm donor and ensure the sperm sample has been prepared for optimum health and motility.
- If you would like to proceed with treatment but have concerns about your fertility, we would recommend a fertility assessment so your consultant can recommend the most effective treatment option for you. If a fertility issue is found, in vitro fertilization (IVF) using donor sperm could be your best option, or alternatively our egg donor program has a very high rate of success.
Pursuing parenthood on your own can be daunting. The good news is there is a huge community of single parents by choice which can offer help, guidance, and useful resources to make the journey easier. If you’re just starting this journey and would like to find out more about the options you have, don’t hesitate to get in touch with IVI for more information. Alternatively, join one of our free patient information events for impartial advice from one of our expert consultants, who can also answer any questions you have.