Family life

I didn’t become a solo parent as a last resort

Tara-Michelle Ziniuk wants people to know she chose to become a solo parent.

Single-parents-TMZ

Tara-Michelle Ziniuk, with baby Anna.

I’m not great at relationships. I had a messy childhood, and my current situation is often messy too, which makes for complicated relationships. Honestly, I can’t recall ever dreaming of marriage while I was growing up, and I’ve never been in a relationship where I considered having kids with a partner.

I think it’s common for queer people to imagine starting a family much later in life. Where some young people in heterosexual relationships, especially women, feel pressured by family and friends to have babies, this happens less—if at all—for queer women (and even less so for queer men). It’s possible I’ve been with people who planned to be parents at some point, but it was never a conversation when we were together.

I do know with certainty that I was actively against having kids for a long time. In fact, I considered a hysterectomy to deal with my endometriosis when I was 24, but my doctors were worried I’d regret my decision and want to have a child down the road.

At some point in my life, people around me started making plans for the future with their partners. For some couples that meant travelling or relocating to other cities; others made big financial or lifestyle choices together. But that didn’t really happen for me. Not to say things are reliant on fate and destiny but, for whatever reason, making plans for the future with a partner never worked out for me.

Instead, I set goals on my own. I wanted to publish a book and I wanted to move out of the city, so I did both those things. I wanted to deal with some of my health problems, do therapy, sort out career goals. I did what I could to figure those out, too. I grew accustomed to not having to check in with anyone or run my plans by another person. Not having strong familial ties combined with frequently being single meant that doing things by and for myself was the norm. It had already been that way for a long time: I moved out on my own at 16 and supported myself—navigating the world solo was just my way.

So when I decided I wanted to have a baby, it didn’t seem strange to go it alone. I knew it would be difficult, and I didn’t rush into it. I gave myself time to weigh all the options, especially while trying to secure a known sperm donor. I did what was necessary for my planned pregnancy.

My family treated my decision to get pregnant on my own as a disappointment and failure on my part—like I was intentionally resigning myself to a difficult life. They saw my queerness as a failure, and my working in the arts and non-profit sectors as failures. While my upbringing was far from “normal,” my family was dead-set on the façade that we were living in the most traditional of ways. One relative even asked if I knew that “babies are forever.” (Talk about undermining my intelligence.)

When I got pregnant and had my now-four-year-old daughter, Anna, and people found out, they often responded with pity. I’d hear things like, “Don’t worry, you can still find somebody,” despite the fact that I hadn’t expressed any desire to be in a relationship. Other people would call me “brave” or “strong” to have gone “that route,” and some would essentially say they might have to do the same one day “if nothing else works out.” Though I know solo parenting is a last resort for some women, it wasn’t for me.

Often, in romantic comedies and sitcoms there are the best friends who plan to get married if they’re not with other people by a certain age. I’ve seen it even more so lately, where characters have babies together outside a romantic relationship, or on their own, again, “if nothing else works out.” I understand that art often imitates life, and that this is a reflection of our current society and evolving notions of what makes a family—but it’s not a reflection of me, and I don’t appreciate when people assume that it is. I had Anna on my own by choice because it was what made the most sense to me.

Tara-Michelle Ziniuk is a Toronto-based queer mom to a four-year-old. She started off as a single-mom-by-choice, and now co-parents. You can read more of her posts here and follow her on Twitter @therealrealTMZ.

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