Article I consulted on for ABC News by Kellie Scott
When Tessa Dijkgraaf swiped right on a Tinder bachelor who caught her eye, it was the start of a “friends with benefits” relationship they were both looking for.
Having just come out of long-term relationships, they weren’t chasing anything serious.
So when Tessa’s suspected food poisoning turned out to be pregnancy not long into their mutually beneficial arrangement, it was a shock.
“I remember bursting into tears, getting straight in my car to go to my friend’s place where I walked in the door and threw the test on the table and just cried,” 27-year-old Tessa of Sorrento, Victoria says.
“It was definitely not on my agenda.”
When she spoke to her then 35-year-old Tinder match a week later, it was clear a baby wasn’t something he planned on either.
“At first he was OK. But when I said an abortion was not on the table, he wasn’t calm about it I guess you could say.”
Tessa, who is pro-choice, said despite feeling external pressure to just “take care of it”, termination was never an option.
“As soon as I took the test, I knew I was a mother straight away.”
Tessa is now a proud single mum to 15-month-old daughter Memphis, and juggles the role with running her hospitality business.
“It’s full on, it’s difficult,” she said.
“But I run a successful business with confidence, I believe in myself, I make better choices and I really feel a sense of purpose that I didn’t have before [Memphis].”
Memphis’ dad does not pay child support and is not a part of her life, but Tessa says the door is open.
“Right from the start I told him I don’t expect anything from him, including financially,” she said.
“He is a good, kind person and when, and if, he’s ready [to be in her life], then he’ll always be welcome.
“I just asked him, if you do want a relationship, just commit to it.
“Don’t come in and out and break her heart.”
‘The father has little say’
Counselling psychotherapist and family dispute mediator Karen Phillip from the NSW Central Coast works with up to 12 sets of parents-to-be each year who have conceived during a one-night stand or “brief hook-up”.
“Often the father may not want the baby, yet the mother may decide to proceed, creating increased conflict between the parents-to-be,” she said.
“I have also counselled parents where the mother does not wish to proceed with the birth, yet the father does.
“Basically, the father has little say either way.”
Ms Phillip has also seen cases where the man is already in a relationship yet has engaged in sex outside of that and “wishes to delete the child and move on so his partner does not find out”.
She said co-parenting was often difficult when the parents did not really know one another.
“Co-parenting is about being on the same page, raising the child with similar values and standards,” she said.
“With people that don’t really know each other, this in itself can cause considerable conflict.
“Communication has not been developed … and they have little understanding of each other.”
She said that combined with work requirements, residential choices and future partners made it a complex issue.
Being judged for raising your child ‘alone’
National Council of Single Mothers and the Children chief executive officer Terese Edwards says she knows “amazing mums” who have raised children who “will enrich our world” outside of a committed relationship.
“All power to them,” she said.
But with the choice to raise the child outside a traditional family structure comes judgement, Ms Edwards says.
“Women will be judged. They are judged if they choose not to have children, they are judged if they have children,” she said.
“Mothers are judged if they work, or if they give up work.”
She said income was a major concern, and child support could be problematic if an agreement between parents was not reached.
Tessa says she mainly experienced criticism over her singledom while pregnant.
“I was really shocked at the amount of people that would ask about whether I would terminate or not,” Tessa says.
“A lot of ‘oh, it’s not fair on the child if the father’s not around’, those sorts of really judgemental comments.”
But there are no regrets over her Tinder match turning life upside down.
“Memphis has changed my life for the better,” she says.
“I found a strength in myself that I didn’t know I had through a single pregnancy, birth and motherhood, which has transferred to all areas of my life.”
Article available at ABC News
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