How I discovered the secret to being a happy family of one

When life upends your plans, make new plans.

By Sharon Paine

If you had asked me about my goals at the beginning of this year, I would probably have said “to get pregnant by the end of the year.”

I was on track to have “Everything I ever wanted”. We were going to get married, and we were going to try for a baby.

We were already living as a family with two dogs, a cat, and my fiancé’s son. However, before the year was even two months old, everything changed. I was suddenly single and reassessing everything.

It’s taken six months for the penny to drop. Having a baby can’t be my goal. I don’t remember the full acronym for “SMART” goals, but I do remember that goals should be measurable and achievable. This would mean that there was margin for failure.

That somehow, if I don’t get pregnant, I will be a failure. I hate to admit that I’ve spent most of my life feeling like my job in life was to be a wife and mother.

But what happens when the circumstances change? Can I really think of these things as goals? The answer is no. Some things are just hopes and dreams.

My real goals morphed, and new goals joined them as I stepped forward into single life. Small goals like “find a new place to live” were set and achieved in a matter of weeks.

I set my mind to creating a safe and beautiful space for myself. I owned a house with my ex, and now I’ve set a goal to own property again in the next two years.

My health and fitness goals now have nothing to do with having perfectly toned arms at my wedding, and are more about being able to carry groceries up the stairs to my flat without breaking a sweat.

I’ve wanted to take ballet classes for many years. Having never done any kind of dance class as a child, this felt daunting. I’ve made so many excuses about time and money.

I set a goal to find a studio where I could do an adult ballet class. You’ll never see me on stage in a production of Swan Lake, but I have a new confidence. Every Tuesday, I wrestle myself into my pink tights and escape for an hour.

Travel goals now centre around solo trips, visiting friends, or group holidays. I suppose this is a case where the goal of travelling has remained the same, but the plan is different.

The itinerary doesn’t need to include family-friendly activities like the Harry Potter studio tour.

I can look lovingly at a chocolate croissant while I explore Paris, spend hours in the Louvre, maybe meet a Frenchman. I don’t have to feel obliged to learn how to water ski.

Sure, travelling as a couple or a family is lovely, but it’s not the only way. But what about motherhood? I’ve explored the options and had to make some hard decisions.

Freezing eggs is expensive, and given the age of my eggs, they might not be too happy to “wake up” when I want to defrost them. I’m not convinced a sperm donor is the right route for me.

Given my medical history, a pregnancy would be considered high risk to me and the baby. Single parenthood is not something that I want to intentionally enter into.

If I’m going to become a parent, by any means, be it through pregnancy, adoption or blending, I want to do it with a partner. My goal, our goal, would be to have a healthy family. A family who play outside and bake together.

For now, I am a family of one. I have my extended family and my friends. I’ll always have a place to go to for Christmas. Maybe the whole motley crew will end up crammed into my lounge.

There will always be a kid to spoil with noisy presents. There will always be someone to share in tears and laughter. Single doesn’t mean alone, and alone doesn’t mean lonely.

  • This article first appeared on the Change Exchange, an online platform by BrightRock, provider of the first-ever life insurance that changes as your life changes. The opinions expressed in this piece are the writer’s own and don’t necessarily reflect the views of BrightRock.
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