Care and Feeding

How Does a Single Parent Deal With Having Fewer Resources?

Are my child and I in for a rough ride because I don’t have the spending power I would if I had a partner?

Woman standing with a child in a baby carrier.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photo by muaotphoto/iStock/Getty Images Plus.

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Dear Care and Feeding,

I am 32, single, and about to undergo fertility treatments, which I hope will result in my entry into parenthood within the next 18 months. I decided to embark on this journey without a partner about a year ago. I’ve never been good at committing to romantic relationships (and, quite frankly, as a heterosexual woman, I have always had misgivings about the prospect of shared parenthood, given the stats on men’s caregiving and housework).

I have known that I want to be a parent for a few years now, but as a single person living in an expensive city, I don’t have the kinds of resources that my partnered peers have. I live in a 550-square-foot, one-bedroom apartment. I don’t have a ton of disposable income, but I live comfortably and within my means. I know the answer to the question of “Can I give my future child a good life?” is, of course, yes. But how do I deal with the constant reminders that I don’t have things that my peers with children have, like a house with multiple bedrooms, a backyard, or a car? Am I in for a rough ride because I don’t have the spending power I would have if I had a partner?

—Feeling Underresourced

Dear F.U., (LOL! Sorry, I am 12.)

What you are describing is incredibly close to my own childhood, minus a slightly larger apartment and the presence of an active dad. But it was because of my resourceful single mother that it took me a very long time to realize that we didn’t have much money at all, and even when I did begin to obsess over class markers and pine for my own bedroom, I still had a very good life.

One of the benefits to living in an “expensive” city is that there are typically things to do, see, eat that will expand a child’s worldview and/or entertain them at a wide range of price points. You don’t have to be as well-off as your two-income friends to go to free day at the local museum, or take a special trip to a famed local ice-cream shop, or run around one of the city’s most beautiful parks.

Focus not on what you don’t have at your disposal but what you do, and your child will be better for it. All the best, and good luck.

—Jamilah