Help Instigate Reform Through Empowerment!
Over the last few decades in our society there has been a subtle shift in power from its traditional and assumed place, in the hands of the male, to the hands of those who are strong, wise, and innovative, regardless of their gender. This shift in power is threatening to some, particularly to males whose only power lies in the observance of tradition and wives who are comfortable with their roles as subordinate to a man, but it opens doors of opportunity to any and all people who have anything but a very traditional life path.
You, as a single pregnant woman, are regarded as a threat to traditional thought, which is why there is so much propaganda dedicated to putting single pregnant women and unwed mothers in their “rightful place,” considered by many traditionalists to be welfare lines, strip joints, bad neighborhoods, exploitation talk shows, etceteras.
The people who subscribe to these beliefs are those who are resistant to change, but as you know, change is imminent and necessary. You have been given a golden opportunity to do the right thing with your situation, and to help instigate the necessary modification in the way the world looks at single mothers.
Following are ten things you can do to ensure that you are empowered from the very beginning of your journey:
This, however, is a bigger commitment than you might think. In the event that you later marry someone other than your child’s father, you may consider hyphenating your surname with that of your new husband, but do not abandon that child whose name is yours by completely changing your last name. Your child was your first commitment, and you are the only true parent your child has. Any man who would want to marry an empowered woman will respect that your first and foremost commitment is to your child.
If your child’s natural father is not present, willing, and enthusiastic about signing your child’s birth certificate, fill in your own information and submit it without his input. Although it may seem humiliating, in doing so you will have earned yourself a piece of legal documentation more powerful than a custody decree, and it will not have any bearing on whether or not you are entitled to child support. Your birth certificate will prove useful in many situations, including obtaining your child’s passport without needing consent of his father and proving a lack of cooperativeness on behalf of your child’s father in the event that you should ever need to do so. In my humble opinion: It’s best if he DOESN’T sign it!
Rest assured that regardless of the circumstances that led to you pregnancy, you are entitled to 20% of your child’s father’s gross income. In a perfect world, all single mothers-to-be could get child support to benefit herself, her child, and to help make deadbeat fathers responsible for the consequences of their actions, but in some circumstances, doing so is not worth the compromise.
In the event that you can obtain child support without compromising your autonomy and that of your child, go after child support with your hackles raised, and do not compromise with custody. If your child’s father has signed a paternity affidavit, start seeking child support while you are still pregnant. Even if your child’s father is being cooperative, go through your state Child Support Enforcement Division. They are there to help give you what you need in order to live a rewarding and productive life as a parent while decreasing your potential for dependence on government assistance, and will make sure your child support is paid in full and on time. If you have special circumstances and need an attorney, exercise caution. Sometimes the fees you pay will total more than your total child support for years to come.
You don’t have to be paranoid, and you don’t have to constantly intimidate everyone around you, but you do have to be wise. Have high standards for the company you keep, and keep your parenting standards high as well. Keep your eyes wide open around the employees at your childcare facilities, the people in your neighborhoods, the staff at your children’s schools, the pastors at your churches, and the men you include in your life; and do extensive research on the backgrounds of these people if you can. Do not allow yourself to be so dependent on any person or community that you don’t have the freedom or ability to leave if you find that something is dreadfully wrong, and remember to report or otherwise document anything that is illegal.
If you opt to see a psychological counselor, remember that psychologists differ. If you don’t like one, cut your losses and go to another one. Don’t stay with a psychological counselor that you don’t like, but if you need help, continue to seek it until you find it.
Although your first and foremost commitment is to your child, you must take at least two or three hours a week to do something for yourself: hiking, shopping, bike riding, going to a movie, going dancing, painting, whatever. Motherhood limits the time one can dedicate to making herself happy, but should not eliminate it. Do not deny yourself pleasure, or you’ll end up too bitter and depressed to get yourself back up again.
Some people don’t vote because they’ve never done it before and they’re afraid they’ll look dumb when they come to the voting area and don’t seem to know what they’re doing. If this is your story, relax. Regardless of how many times you’ve voted, the ballots, the systems, and the machinery change with just about every election. Nobody ever knows exactly what they’re doing. The volunteers at the voting booths will explain everything to you every time you vote regardless of whether you need them to or not.
You have no excuses not to. It costs no money. It happens rarely. Please, please vote.
Also, do not depend on government assistance for an extended period of time. This is teaching your children that it is preferable to depend on what’s free rather than working for what they want, and it perpetuates the damaging stereotype that single mothers sponge off “legitimate” members of society. Take government assistance if or when you really need it, and do everything you can to get yourself in a better position to tackle life when government assistance runs out.
Follow these ten easy rules, spread the word, and by the time our children are grown, there will be a different, more positive image associated with single mothers. Do this for yourself, your child, and our future.