Think the unthinkable Preferably before your child's birth, see an attorney about appointing a legal guardian who would be willing and able to raise your child if you couldn't. "One of the hardest things is worrying about what would happen to my daughter if something terrible happened to me," says single mom Rose A. Lewis, author of I Love You Like Crazy Cakes (Little, Brown, 2000). "I have family and friends who would certainly take care of my daughter, but that is quite different from having a spouse, the father, who would be there."
Think carefully before choosing a guardian. Consider the person's ability to be there for your child now and in the future. "Most people can love a child, but not everyone can love, support, guide, nurture and discipline a child," says Charles Sophy, M.D., medical director of the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services.
Adjust your dating expectations As if dating weren't hard enough, it gets harder when you have a child. "The first thing I do when I meet someone is tell him I have a child," Hartley says. "My child is part of the package." Hartley recommends dating men who also are single parents, because they are more likely to understand when you have to cancel at the last minute because your baby has an ear infection. When she's dated a single father, they'd sometimes bring along the kids and head for the park.
Going on dates to the jungle gym is just one of many compromises single parents must make--but they say it's worth it. "Single parenthood is not easy," says Hartley, "but the choice of parenthood is priceless."