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:

The tradition of children taking their father’s surnames is reasonable in the event that the child’s father is providing for the children and their mother; but in the event that child’s father is not married to its mother and is thus in no way willingly committed to the family, this child should take the name of the parent who has been present and active from day one. If you are single, pregnant, and are not engaged to the father of your unborn child, do not even consider hyphenating your surname with that of the child’s father. If you feel your child’s father deserves something down the road, give him the option of adding his last name as an extra middle name, but do not change your child’s last name. Men have been given the privilege of carrying on their family names simply because they are male for too long. This has got to change.
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.
Don’t worry if your child’s father refuses or fails to sign the birth certificate. Instead, be thankful!
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!
It takes two people to make a baby, and it normally takes the efforts of two people to care for one as well. You did not make your baby by yourself, and thankfully your state government knows this and will help enforce that those responsible parties stay responsible. However, some states will enable you to get child support without compromising your full custody, and some won’t. Find out the laws for your state before taking any action.
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.
Sometimes the only way to coerce free thinkers into adhering to tradition is through intimidation. However, no matter how much stress is involved in any situation, threats of any kind can be turned around through calm, wise conduct. Physical threats should always be documented and reported to authorities and other witnesses. If every physical threat made is documented, then something legal will eventually be able to be done to stop the threatening behavior altogether. Social threats should simply be ignored with the confidence that nobody has enough influence to change the mind of a person with a pure heart and a clear mind. Let the world know that you will refuse to be intimidated by taking the right steps to eliminate anyone’s ability to negatively influence your life.
The most important job of a mother is to protect her children. Everyone knows that there is nothing more frightening than a mother bear protecting her cubs. It is important that your community see the mother bear within you. Let anyone who would victimize you or your children fear you rather than you fearing them.
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 feel that your state of mental health prevents you from doing the best possible job of being a parent, get help right away. A good way to find help is to talk to your Naturopath, your OBGYN, or a support group. They often have access to counselors who specialize in treating Postpartum Depression or Postpartum Psychosis, and they know that this is a hormonal condition that is aggrandized by the stress of motherhood. People who have seen this problem know that it plagues single and married mothers alike. Always stress that you need 100% confidentiality because of possible complications with custody and other issues down the road.
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.
Now that you have seen some of the unfairness in the world, you must make a commitment to do what you can to change it. Always read all the information on the candidates and ballot measures in your voting district. If you are not registered to vote, call your state Division of Elections office to find out where you can register (the public library is normally the most convenient place to register), and make sure your voice is heard.
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.
For your future and that of your children, you must strive to be the opposite of every negative stereotype associated with single mothers. You must strive to be strong, wise, independent, and ethical. You must examine your conscience with every decision you make, and do what you know is right (whether you are religious or not, you have an internal voice that helps guide you to what’s right or wrong). Do not turn against what you know to be right because some other people who mistakenly believe they’re interpreters of “God’s word” and “God’s will” seem to judge or condemn you for your decisions. Your status as a single pregnant woman or single mother will often provide you to more sympathy and leeway than other members of society, but do not take advantage of people for their money, their kindness, or their attention. Take offerings if you need them, but don’t forget where they came from, don’t forget to do your best to give back, and don’t ever accept anything so grand that it obligates you to a person or a belief.
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.
Although parenting takes up almost all of a single mother’s time, take advantage of every opportunity to better yourself, whether through education, exercise, career, volunteer work, religious work, home improvement, or even self beautification. Constantly look for signs from God or The Universe that you are going in the right direction and doing the right things. Figure out your short-term and long term goals, and chip away at them little by little. Focus on your future while you work through the present. Your life is worth much more than your mere existence.
Now that you have lived the struggles of single pregnancy and single motherhood, you must not forget where you came from. Take the power and pass it on! Always look for other women who can use your help, and be a positive influence on them. Once your life as a single parent stabilizes, pass your knowledge and experience on to others. Volunteer for a few hours a week to an emergency child care facility. Start an outreach program at your local church. Find single pregnant women, befriend them, and tell them everything you know about finding the empowering elements within their situations.
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.