How I Became a Single Mother in My Mid-30s.

Via Kara-Leah Grant
on May 17, 2012
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This was not my plan, not my plan at all.

In fact, I’d been declaring vehemently since I was 11 years old that I was never getting married, or having children. Part of this certainty came from seeing the stress and overwhelm my mother experienced as a suddenly divorced mother in her 30s with three children to support. Not fun, not fun at all.

Nope, ending up a single mother in my mid-30s was my biggest fear in life.

Now here I am. A mother. Single. And mid-30s.

Funny how life dishes up that which we fear the most, eh?

Only life didn’t just dish this up.

I made it happen, every step of the way—every time I ignored my intuition, every time I neglected to stay present, every time I didn’t make a choice but allowed myself to be swept along in someone else’s life.

Here’s how:

I fell in love with the father of my child. (Children often start that way.) He already had a daughter from his recently ended marriage, and had a theory that all women wanted babies. I disagreed. I knew I didn’t. Therefore, all women didn’t want babies. He didn’t believe me though, and during the first year or so we were together, he often talked about women’s need for children, and how wonderful it would be to have another child, and how his daughter really needed a sibling.

Over time, like a tap slowly dripping on rock, I wore down. I began to think that maybe he was right. Maybe all women did want babies. Maybe there was something wrong with me. Maybe I was in denial about my desire to have a child. Maybe I didn’t really know what I wanted after all.


Upshot, on New Year’s Eve of 2009, after spending a heart-warming night at home watching a kid’s movie with his daughter, I finally said, “Yes. Lets do it. Lets have a child together.”

I remember the look of love in his eyes, and, I thought I’d finally figured out what would make this man happy.

Major Warning Sign: When your primary motivation for taking a particular action is to make someone else happy at the expense of yourself…Stop!

Deep down, I still knew, even though I was reframing my desire to not have children as a fear, and therefore something to be faced and overcome—that I did not want children. I delayed getting my IUD out. My partner got snippy. I finally made an appointment. He picked me up afterwards, and I knew from the look on his face I’d made a terrible mistake. This wasn’t going to make him happy at all. Nothing was going to change. Instead, I panicked.

I called the family planning clinic the next morning, walking fast-paced across the front courtyard of Parliament on my way to my job as speechwriter for the Ministry of Social Development. (Irony indeed—once I wrote speeches for the Ministry, now I’m receiving a benefit from the Ministry.) I fought back the tears when they told me they couldn’t get me in for four weeks… four weeks!

At no time during or after this phone call did it occur to me to:

A) Bring up my reluctance to have a child with my partner and discuss this monumental decision like two adults.

B) Use an alternative form of birth control until I could get another IUD.

C) Get the hell out of that relationship already.

Nope. Instead I was focused on: making that man happy.

So I sucked it up, and went ahead, and duly got pregnant within a month. The day I suspected, and made a doctors appointment to confirm, was also a day I’d broken up with my partner. I say, “a day” because there were a few of them in our three and a half year relationship. Nine of them in fact. On this particular day, I don’t remember what had triggered this break-up, I just remember being distraught, crying my eyes out. Again. And doing a Skype healing session with an old friend/ new age healer who told me that I didn’t have to play into those old childhood fears again…which was enough to play into my doubts and confusion and make me think that:

A) I was wrong.

B) I just had to face my fear.

C) It was all my fault & if I could just get it together our relationship would work.

So I saw the doctor. I asked about abortion options. My now ex-partner was waiting outside because he’d asked to come. Or, he’d shown up to pick me up. I can’t remember. What I do remember is walking out the doctors office and seeing my ex-partner and before I could even say anything my face smiled this smug, satisfied, happy smile and I realized that:

A) I truly wanted this child.

B) Abortion was not an option.

C) If I was going to have this child, I could make the relationship work. I couldn’t keep the baby without keeping the father.

I was seven weeks pregnant. By the time I was four months pregnant, the relationship had become so difficult (my ex-partner was an addict, we were co-dependent, there was emotional and verbal abuse, there was appeasement, accommodating and victimhood) that I’d moved out of our bedroom and into a room we’d dubbed The Blue Room because of its wallpaper. This was a house we were renovating. My ex-partner was doing most of the renovation himself, while I worked full-time as a speechwriter, taught five yoga classes a week, ran an online yoga website and managed all our finances and administration. I was also paying the mortgage.

It was a challenging time. I slept night after night on the fold-out couch in The Blue Room, playing mantra to my belly, practicing pranayama, and wondering what on earth I was doing wrong and how I could make it right.

With my maternity leave fast approaching and no hope of my ex-partner holding down a job, we sold the house. I was still living in the Blue Room. Seven months pregnant, I finally got up the guts to end it again. For good. Beyond the boy in my belly, there was nothing holding us together anymore. We could split our finances, and I could just split, taking my belly with me.

My ex-partner was in the South Island when he realized that I was finally doing it, I was finally leaving him—for good. He drove 12 hours and caught a 10 p.m. ferry to arrive in The Blue Room at 2 a.m., begging me to stay. I saw him cry for the first time and my heart broke. But I stood strong. With baby on the way, there was no way I was having an addict for a father. (I know, should’ve thought of that first, eh? There’d been promises, fewer since we first got together, promises stacked on top of promises on top of promises, held steady by my unending supply of hope. Hope’s a killer. Don’t ever have hope.)

In the wake of his tears, I still stood strong. I was proud of me. And the next day, when his parents came and picked him up, I cried my own tears—of relief and of grief—and played mantra to my belly.

Five days went by.

My ex-partner called me all the time. I spoke to him. I cared for this man, I loved this man. Sure, he had issues, but he was also an incredible man. Kind, caring, loving, a great cook, a talented musician, charming, charismatic, tall, dark, handsome. And he was the father of the boy in my belly.

He appeared to have a break-through. He started meditating regularly. The weed stopped. I cautiously agreed when he asked if he could come back to the house. We slept in separate rooms. I watched him. The change seemed real, and there was a sense of bliss around the way he was cooking me food and cleaning the house and looking after my needs.

It felt like we’d finally dropped into the kind of relationships I’d always known was possible. My hope had been true!

I took him back.

The bliss lasted four weeks. It was a magical time for me, him and the boy in the belly. Love infused everything, and the addiction seemed absent. We left the house we’d poured our hearts into and moved into a rental. My ex-partner made noises about finding work. We lived on the money from the house.

The addiction reared its head again and I cried and cried and cried and cried and cried.

Due in two weeks.

The baby came, and he was perfect. No sign of a job for my partner. Plenty signs of deceptive weed smoking. We moved south so my ex-partner could be close to his daughter, and his children could grow up as siblings. More promises about stopping smoking once we got to Dunedin. Everything would be okay if he was living close to his daughter.

A week into our new life, in our new rental, I discovered my ex-partner smoking.

I took our three month old baby boy and left.

I was running out of tears. I was away this time for three weeks. Again, my ex-partner wooed me back. Two months later, I left again, I went back again. All the while, raising my boy, looking after my ex-partner’s daughter as we now had shared care of her, supporting my ex-partner in his abortive attempts to start up his own company, teaching yoga, and publishing an online yoga magazine.

Finally, after doing a 10 day immersion training with Shiva Rea in Los Angeles, I woke up. I said, no more. I left my partner on New Year’s Eve 2010 (give or take a day or two).

There were no tears left to shed. Just relief. I’d finally done it. I was now a single mother in her 30s. I was my mother. I was all I’d ever dreaded being.

But I am not my mother. I have resources she never had access to, I have more family close by than she ever had, I have only one child where she had three. Being a single mother in her 30s isn’t at all what I thought it would be as an 11-year-old.

For one, I have a son. A child I never thought I’d have. No, I never wanted a child, but I want this child. He’s turned into the greatest blessing ever.

And, I have hindsight. I can see exactly how I ended up here, all those decision points where I didn’t listen to my intuition because I was holding on tight to something I wanted. I wanted that man, I wanted that love, I wanted that relationship. I didn’t want to see what was actually there, in the love, in the relating, in the man. I wanted the ideal moments, the high moments, the blissful moments.

Boy, have I learned. Single motherhood, and the journey I took to get here, has turned me into the woman I always dreamed of being. I am no longer dependent, or co-dependent. I am no longer afraid to be who I am because of how the other might react. I am no longer afraid of being alone,  or of building a life alone. I am no longer afraid of children, or afraid of being a mother. I am no longer afraid.

I am no longer afraid.


Editor: Brianna Bemel


About Kara-Leah Grant

Kara-Leah Grant is an internationally renowned retreat leader, yoga teacher and writer. Along with fellow Elephant Journal writer, Ben Ralston, she runs Heart of Tribe, pouring her love into growing a world-wide tribe of courageous, committed, and empowered individuals through leading retreats in New Zealand, Mexico and Sri Lanka. Kara-Leah is also the founder of New Zealand’s own awesome yoga website, The Yoga Lunchbox, and author of Forty Days of Yoga—Breaking down the barriers to a home yoga practice and The No-More-Excuses Guide to Yoga. A born & bred Kiwi who spent her twenties wandering the world and living large, Kara-Leah has spent time in Canada, the USA, France, England, Mexico, and a handful of other luscious locations. She now lives and travels internationally with her son, a ninja-in-training. You can find Kara-Leah on her website, or on Facebook.


34 Responses to “How I Became a Single Mother in My Mid-30s.”

  1. Thanks for sharing this! I became a momma at 25, unexpected and with a man that was not ready for papa-hood. I had never changed a diaper. My daughter, now 10, is the most amazing, most love-inducing, most heart-opening being I have ever met. The journey we take with our children is ever changing and ever brilliant when we are present. I wish you and your son the best.

  2. Hey Nicole,

    It's just an entirely different level of practice isn't it… I'm loving being with my son now, and so curious to see how he's going to grow up.


  3. Andrea von Schoening says:

    I loved this – thank you! Really appreciate how honest you got with yourself … gives permission for others to go there too!

  4. Andrea von Schoening says:

    Your second last sentence … I think you want to say you are no longer afraid to be a Mom, not a month! Fix and delete my comment! 🙂

  5. Hey Andrea,

    That's the intention really – so much to gain from being honest with one's Self, in the midst of mistakes and failings!

  6. Doh! Thanks, will get on to it.

  7. Mee says:

    Please make shure you tell your son his story so he knows who he is, also never let him carry your frustrated dreams and ambition.

  8. Sarah Veitch says:

    Simply beautiful…..your words say all what it is…..!!!! xxxxxxx

  9. Hey Mee,

    Ok, I promise that if I ever pick up some frustrated dreams and ambition somewhere along the way, I won't ask my son to carry them. Come to think of it, I'll make the same promise to myself – no picking up any frustrated dreams or ambition!

  10. Hey Beautiful Sarah,

    Now words that say all what it is… how sweet is that? No better compliment for a writer!

  11. karlsaliter says:

    Loved it. As a former single daddy (attending my daughter's wedding next month!) I applaud you.

    I loved "Major Warning Sign: When your primary motivation for taking a particular action is to make someone else happy at the expense of yourself…Stop!"

    That's good perspective anytime.

  12. Yeah, that warning sign applies to pretty much anything eh! Should read "Stop! Self-Betrayal and Suffering up Ahead!"

  13. Richard says:

    Kia kaha Kara!
    After only experiencing hot yoga at the start of 2011 i truly believe it did open up the little voice inside me to give me the strength (spiritually and emotionally) for myself to make a life changing decision to spend some time apart from my fiance for both of our sakes, to give us time to be honest to each other and understand more clearly if we are right for each other. The spiritual awakening of yoga allowed me to look from outside in and made the picture more clear for me of my life present and the important people within it.
    My first thoughts and fear ( thinking ahead and not the now) of taking this action was always about my son and his feelings as I had already gone through this before with my daughter who is now 17 and her mum at the time and she was also 5yrs old, back then though my outlet was rugby which was physical outlet but not mentally/spiritually that hot yoga provides.
    Its been 6mths and my son is a happy and a loved little man-nothing changed there , my daughter now lives with me shifting over from aussie with her first year of uni and just finished her first semester of exams what a beautiful blessing this was, and the timing.

    "I am no longer afraid of being alone, or of building a life alone."
    At 40 I haven't yet found that strength.

    Thank-you for sharing , I wish you and your son and your son's father all the best and hope that building a life alone is a statement that never eventuates for you. Love is like fire it never burns out , it may be reduced to cinders but all it takes is some oxygen for it to breathe life again, I hope that oxygen blows your way so that your fire burns brighter that you have ever seen it before.


  14. Kia Kaha indeed! So true…

    Thank you for your beautiful blessing, I receive it in it's fullest, and in it's highest. We are both always alone, and never alone. As you say, one day, deep love will again light my fire from within.

    May you recognise the strength that already dwells within you. That which we truly are is always there, we only need step into it.

    Much love,

  15. Danielle says:

    Kia ora Kara-Leah,
    I attended your yoga class in Island Bay a few weeks ago. Came across this website while searching for new class times. You have absolutely beautiful and soulful writing. I know what it's like to have something you once feared the most transform in to an ultimate blessing. Kia kaha.

  16. Suri says:

    Interesting story. I hope you find the strength and courage one day to dare to "hope". I know what it is to live without it and fortunately, to have rediscovered it's immense power and I for one, am glad that I will never say "Hope’s a killer. Don’t ever have hope." How sad. I hope that changes in time for you – it makes life so much more colourful and sweeter.

  17. Hey Suri,

    Concepts and words can be tricksy things – what hope means to you and what hope means to me could make it two different words, two different concepts.

    Me, I'm loving living without hope, and instead clear-sightedness of what actually is.

  18. TheAraucanaGypsy says:

    Hi there Kara…. it was amazing to read your article! .. and although I am in my 40's & my 2 teens are much older than your son, there are so many similarities between yours & my lives, or at least from what you have written about.

    Life is so much better for me now too.. but it has been a very challenging road, which still has it's hurdles, simply because of the choices I made early on.. being honest can hurt so much & in some ways is harder to get over than a broken relationship, when you see your kids suffering because of your own bad choices.. I am talking about the ripple effect here..

    … hindsight is a wonderful thing!

    Thank you for writing, I felt almost every one of your words xo

  19. Hello!

    It's so easy to see those choices in hindsight eh? Although now I'm realising I also felt the truth of them in the moment but ignored my knowingness is favour of what I wanted. In the end, it's all shaping who I am, and yes, who my son is as well. The more I can stand strong in a place of truth, the better for me and the better for him.

  20. […] I cannot express the amount of pain that comes from someone you love rejecting you and the child tha… I have had my fair share of pain during my 23 years but this was a new kind of pain that I didn’t know how to deal with. I sat on my bed that night and did nothing but stare at the stuffed otter he gave me when we visited his family earlier that year. There were no tears, no anger or sadness only a terrifying numbness that wrapped around me. […]

  21. Bree says:

    I just wrote an article on Ele about being single and pregnant at 23 and was referred to this article. I read it 3 times- cried the first time and smiled the last two times I read it. This was beautiful. I absolutely needed to read it. Thank you so very much for writing this and being willing to share your experiances

  22. Hey Bree,

    Thanks for your comment – it's a reminder of how much power there is in sharing our stories. I look forward to reading your article.

  23. […] single-handedly raising an awesome child who delights me every day, and I’m rocking it. Good times and the bad. And yeah, there are […]

  24. […] been eight years this September and I have never been crazy again. Oh I’ve made bad choices, and ignored my inner-knowing, but it’s all just been a part of the […]

  25. Stacy says:

    Dear Kara-Leah,

    Thank you for this story which resonates so much with my own. My boy turned 8 yesterday

  26. Erin says:

    This was so beautiful. I too was so afraid to be a single mom, yet find myself a single mother of twin boys in my thirties. I too kept trying to make someone else happy and hoping they would change, my former husband, who instead of changing left me pregnant and with no official home in NYC. We are thriving now but I too have grown so much and my fear of being alone etc. Is gone.

  27. Christine says:

    Warning signs…yes…and I ignored them as well…raised 3 sons who are incredible friends for life. Was it hard? yes! did I make many sacrifices? Indeed I did! Would I change any of it? Never! My sons are adults, I'm 58 years old…I have grandchildren now…my life has unfolded in beautiful ways that it never would have. My inner voice yelled caution but had I listened, my life and life lessons would have been so different. My father hasn't spoken to me for over half of my life. His outrage at my choice to be a mother and willfully single was something he could not accept…so be it! Here I am with 3 incredible men in my life that I love more than life itself. While raising them, I was raising me…and I wouldn't have it any other way! My father asked "Have you no shame?" The answer is simple…no. I have no shame…I chose to walk the path that led me to amazing places and experience and brought me to where I am today…joyfully and blissfully in love with my children!

  28. Charlie says:

    You were so right to get away from your ex-partner's addiction before it was too late. And you're right about hope. It is a killer, especially when addiction is involved. Addicts promise to change and will lie through their teeth, saying what you want to hear, to keep you on the hook as their enablers. The addiction takes over their soul. Addiction can be relationship, soul, life destroying. But I do hope your son's father finds a way to recover and be part of his son's life. A boy needs his father. I lost mine to workaholism and a brain tumor.

    Addiction destroyed my own marriage of 11 years. Now I'm homeless and living out of my vehicle and hardly ever get to see my two young daughters. However, it wasn't my addiction, it was my ex-wife's addiction to credit cards that did us in. We don't talk much in this consumer society about the destructiveness of debt addiction, shopaholism, whatever you want to call it. But when I stopped enabling my ex, tried to break the co-dependency and insist she get help, she plotted with her wealthy mother, a lifetime enabler, to get rid of me and ruin me financially in the process so I would not be able to see my daughters. Now she has the home, the kids, the friends, and a new husband to enable her, and I'm the one left with the consequences of her addiction.

  29. tosh says:

    I can fully relate to your story, though it took me 10 years and 3 beautiful daughters before I broke free from the disastrous co-dependant relationship I’d gotten myself into. There’s only one thing that broke my heart in your story: you said “Hope’s a killer. Don’t ever have hope.” I hope you’ve healed enough to have hope agaib since writing these lines. I understand that statement all to well…. but hope is what has gotten me through many bad days. Love & light to you and your son.

  30. elaine says:

    Hi there, this is somewhat old now but I was inspired to write as your story is so similar to my own. I am 40 and 6 months ago ended an 8 year relationship to the father of my 5 year old daughter. He is an addict (cannabis and at times amphetamines), we were co dependent and life just got sucked away on his promises, on his debts, worklessness abd his chaos. He was also clever, loving, funny, kind, charming and handsome. Our relationship was significantly emotionally abusive. I started yoga in March 2013 and ended the relationship fir good in June. I don’t regret anything now as I can see how strong it had made me. I an going through the processes I need to, feeling my feelings and being present and loving to myself and my three children. I an also no longer afraid and that is an amazing feeling.

    Ps I agree in the hope thing. no need for hope just be with what is and that is ok. Hope sets up expectation on a certain outcome. I an not attached to outcome, but I know with all my heart that everything that happens in my life has a reason and gives me opportunity to grow. I don’t need hope I have optimism and a positive attitude, which are different.

    Much love and blessings

  31. Ash says:

    Thank you for this. Fortunately no children were produced during the 5-year long abusive relationship with my addict. But, the knowledge of 'why' I went in, why I kept talking myself out of leaving, why I kept believing things would get better….these things are only coming clear now (it's been 3 months–the BEST 3 months!!) and it can only get better. The main thing I have learned, while spending time alone…lonely times….is as much as it sucks to feel lonely and alone, is to not do anything about it. It's the doing something about it that got me into trouble in the first place. Two lonely people getting together to not be lonely isn't exactly the right choice. In fact, feeling lonely is 100% better than being with him–even during the good times.

  32. Hey Elaine,

    Good on you. It's bloody tough to walk away, there's always the good and the bad but in the end, it's so destructive. Glad you've found yoga! It's a god sent!

    Much love,

  33. Hey Charlie,

    That's a bloody hard road to walk. Addiction is addiction, although it comes in many forms, some of which are more socially acceptable than others for sure. May your own strength carry you far.

  34. Hey Christine,

    So true… we end up where we are and so there we learn and grow. You sound so delightfully strong and joyful!