Life without father

Life without father

Don’t be so quick to paint dad out of the life of your unborn child

By Patti Carmalt-Vener 10/20/2011

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­­Dear Patti,

My marriage is ending, and that’s OK. I was way too young when we got together, and it was never quite right with us. The only problem is that I’m pregnant. I know my soon-to-be ex won’t want anything to do with a child and probably won’t even believe it’s his.

I don’t care about that; I really want my baby.

Between the money I’ve saved, good insurance and assistance from my parents, I think my finances will be fine. I also have supportive friends and am not too worried about being a single parent. How hard will it be on my child, though, to have only a mom? I don’t know the sex of my baby yet, but either way, I know there’s a need for a male in his/her life. As excited as I am, I’m also scared, because I don’t want my child to have less of a life because of my marital situation. ~Monique

Dear Monique,
You may be right about your husband not wanting to be involved as a father, but don’t assume that divorce automatically translates to his being completely out of the picture. Just because you feel you’re better off without him doesn’t mean the same will hold true for your baby. He may even surprise you and want to share parenting responsibilities even though you’re apart. Whether he’s not quite as involved as you’d like or his participation impacts your own freedom as a single mom, this will take some time to adjust to. In either case, it’s essential that you always try to respect their relationship.

Studies on attachment theory maintain that a baby can still be OK without a dad if there’s a secure bond with at least one attentive, loving parent. Paternal involvement can come from many different sources. It’s important that you encourage and support your child to have healthy relationships with loving father figures, whether they’re family members or male role models not biologically related, such as a coach, teacher, friend, neighbor or — possibly down the line — a stepfather. One important factor is that your general attitude toward men is positive and that you model loving relationships between you and other males. This sends the message to your child that men are good. If you’re negative about your soon-to-be ex or men in general, however, it could be destructive to your child’s own identity as well as his/her future relationships with men.   

Support your child to be proud of his/her family, even if it’s a family of just two. I remember a child asking me why people said he came from a broken home. He indignantly responded, “Mom and I aren’t broken at all. Tom’s parents fight all the time; that’s what I call broken.”

It’s not uncommon for relationships with others to grow closer or more distant in situations like this, often as a result of judgmental reactions and negative labeling. In the interests of both you and your child, it’s best to surround yourself with people who love you and support and accept the decisions you’re making to move forward. It might also be good to get to know other single-parent families. Most people need a “tribe,” and that’s especially true for single moms and their children.   

I’m very glad to hear that you have support from friends and family as well as financial resources. One of the difficulties of single parenting — as well as a major ingredient in being good at it — is being able to take care of yourself and having the time to create a happy and fulfilling life separate from your child. This includes recognizing when you’re tired or lonely and need to reach out to others in order to restore your energy. Two loving, happy parents are usually better than one, but keep in mind that children in single-parent homes often develop maturity and self-reliance earlier, due to the fact that someone isn’t always doing everything for them. More than one single mother has told me that although it was sometimes the most difficult period of their lives, it was also one of the most rewarding. 

Patti Carmalt-Vener, a faculty member with the Southern California Society for Intensive Short Term Psychotherapy, has been a psychotherapist in private practice for 23 years and has offices in Pasadena, Santa Monica and Canoga Park. Contact her at (626) 584-8582 or email Visit her Web site:



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