Originally published April 20, 2017
Justin Miller is a single gay man and the proud father of 2-year-old son Sam. They live together in the UK.
Although some people may doubt single men who want to have kids, Justin has some wise words for guys who are on the fence about single fatherhood.
Ignore the Haters
"Single men can definitely be successful parents," Justin said. "Sure, it will be hard, and you probably need to be sure you have at least some kind of reliable support network around you. But plenty of singletons raise kids who go on to be successful and well-adjusted adults."
Yes, ignoring the haters is key. But Justin said it's just as important that whenever you decide you are ready to start a family, be honest with yourself about that desire.
"If you're ready to be a dad now, don't feel that you have to waste time waiting around for the perfect partner," he said. "Don't wait for the perfect time. While there are probably better times than others to become a parent, there is no perfect time."
Unless you're lucky enough that money is no object, Justin said there will always be something that's not quite right. Maybe you think you have too many credit cards to pay, or your career is not in the perfect place. Perhaps you're not in the right house, or the right neighborhood. You might think you're too far from family, too busy, and so on.
But if you continue to wait for that 'perfect moment,' you may wake up one day to discover you're in your dotage, wondering why you didn't take the opportunity when you had it.
"Remember, there are all kinds of people, in all kinds of circumstances, both good and bad, who successfully have and raise kids," Justin said. "What a child needs is safety, stability, love, and positive role models. Everything else is gravy."
Resist Buying Every Book
Once you decide it's time to start your own family as a solo parent, Justin said it's important to do your research on which path to parenthood works best for you; surrogacy, adoption, fostering, or co-parenting.
Then, and this is key; resist the urge to purchase every single book you see on the topic.
"You may feel that you want to buy every parenting advice book out there. Don't," Justin smiled. "Either you'll read it once, and never bother with it again, or it'll become your rules bible and you'll work yourself into a frenzy of stress wondering why your baby isn't conforming to the narrative given in the books. Which isn't to say you won't need advice."
Another way to do your research (for free) is to check out the Becoming section of Gays With Kids' website.
"Parenting is hard work," Justin continued. "It needs skills, and knowledge. Sure, some of that you figure out for yourself, some you'll develop 'on the job,' some of it will be trial and error. But a lot will be talking to family and friends who have kids, other parents, and whatever support your care provider offers. The point is, don't buy a library of advice books, and try to stick to their rubric. Your kid sure as heck won't."
Don't Spend All You Got
Another sound piece of advice for single gay men planning to become dads; don't go crazy with your credit card in the baby store.
"You may feel you have to buy every single latest baby related product," Justin said. "Most of what you end up buying, you just won't need. Some, you'll use once, and once only. Some, you'll never use at all. My advice is get the basics (food, shelter, mobility), and let friends and family fill up the rest."
That advice is especially true if you're living on a budget. Not succumbing to the peer pressure to get every latest fad will help you save a lot. Babies cost a lot for many years to come, so save where you can whenever you can.
"These things are really just not necessary," Justin added. "Once you have the basics, you can improvise a lot of whatever else you end up needing, or buy it as and when it becomes an issue."
Buy Second-Hand, But Don't Cut Corners on Safety
Justin said it's important to never compromise on safety, but past that, as the items are clean and serviceable, buy second hand and accept hand-me-down items as soon as you can.
Babies don't care if something is used, and no one else who matters should, either. You'll be helping the environment out, too.
That being said, Justin said it's crucial not to cut corners on items that may have safety issues if they've been used before. Especially as a single parent-to-be.
"That includes cribs, car seats, strollers, stair gates, electrical outlet covers, and furniture," he said. "Kids absolutely will find all of the most life-threatening combination of furniture, fixtures and fittings in your house, and do their utmost to nuke themselves. Kids are freaking ninjas. I'm not kidding. They will have leopard-crawled past your radar, and scaled the your bookcases before you know it. Single parents need to know going into this that you can't watch your kids every second (you have to go pee, you have to eat), but if you can't take them with you, make sure the environment you leave them in is safe."
Know your Rights... And Then Go For It!
Make sure you rely on formal agreements and proper legal advice, rather than handshakes, friendships, or late night Internet surfing. Justin said for every success story of that kind, there's many more horror stories.
You can also waste time worrying about things that might not be an issue in your unique situation, and experts can make it a much less stressful experience.
"If you feel you want to be a father, and you have the opportunity, do it," Justin said. "Sure, it's going to be hard. There's no point pretending it won't be."
"Becoming a dad just might be the hardest thing you ever do," he continued. "I'm telling you there will be moments of existential crisis. I promise there will be moments when you're sitting in a shell-shocked silence, questioning your life choices. There will be moments when you will be on all fours, scrubbing vomit out of the carpet. There will be days when your baby just won't quit crying, and you'll feel like you're at your wits end. But you know what? That's also true for every other parent in the world right now, whether a dad or a mom, gay or straight. Investing in your child is always worth it, because the rewards are special. Every day, there will be something that makes you smile. What you get back – the love, the satisfaction, the sense of pride, the sheer stupid joy of it – makes it all worth it."