If you’re facing an unplanned pregnancy, co-parenting with the baby’s father may not be an option for you. In this case, you may be considering becoming a single mother to raise your child on your own.

First, know that you are not alone. Being a single mother is much more accepted than it was decades ago. Today, more than a quarter of children in the United States are being raised by a single parent. Whether it’s due to children born out of wedlock or separated by divorce, or children brought into a single parent’s life through adoption or assisted reproductive technology, single mothers raising children are more common than ever.

However, raising a child as a single mother isn’t always as easy as it may look. There are certain single mother struggles that you may face when you embark on the parenting journey alone, and the life of a single mother can be one full of sacrifice as much as joy. Before you choose this path, it’s important to understand the pros and cons of being a single mother — and how they will apply in your individual situation.

If you are a pregnant single mother or expectant mother, consider these five important aspects before making the commitment to raising your child all on your own.

1. Timing

There is a time in the lives of most women when they are ready for and anticipate having a child. If they are prepared emotionally and financially for motherhood, they are more likely to be happy and comfortable in their new role when the baby comes.

However, some women who face unplanned pregnancies have difficult decisions to make. Some of these women know they want to have children at some point in their life, but their unplanned pregnancy comes at a time when they’re not quite prepared for the realities of parenting. Still, because of their desire to have children, they consider having a baby as a single mother and figuring out the rest as they go.

Timing will likely play a huge role in your decision to be a single mother or not. Can you realistically become a single mother at this time in your life? Can you provide all the opportunities your child deserves? If you can’t do so now, can you take necessary steps to successfully be a single mother and prepare for the arrival of your child before you give birth?

Every woman’s situation is different but, if your circumstances at this time are not conducive to life as a single mother, raising your child may not be the best choice for you.

2. Your Goals

For most young women, choosing the best option for their unplanned pregnancy can only be done after receiving counseling regarding each option and taking time to carefully think about their goals at this point in their life — and the next 18 years to come. Before deciding to become a single mother, think about how your choice will impact your personal goals moving forward.

What were your goals for career and family before you got pregnant? Did you plan to finish high school or go to college? Did you want to be married before starting your family?

Being a single mother does not mean you cannot achieve the goals you have, but your life may change in a way that will make it more difficult to achieve them, like going to school and working outside the home. When you become a parent, your child will be your first priority. Your own needs and desires will need to come second to give your child the life they deserve.

Therefore, being a single mother may require more commitment to your goals in order to realize them — and in a different way than you originally imagined.

3. Thinking, “My Baby is All I Will Need”

Some single expectant mothers feel that having and taking care of their baby will satisfy their own personal needs, and they’ll never need anything else.

But, studies have shown that many women (whether they raise a child on their own or with a partner) miss the freedom and spontaneity of their old lifestyle at times. Many will again want to do some of the things they used to do, such as dating, going out, and shopping. As a single mother, these become much more difficult to pursue when childcare must be arranged and money is in short supply.

If you decide that single parenting is the best choice for you, a counselor can help you plan ways to accomplish your goals while still allowing you to do some of the fun things you used to do. Much of this planning will include setting up a support system of family and friends to help you.

Still, you should consider the sacrifices you will need to make by being a single mother — before making this choice.

4. Emotional Challenges of Single Mothers

Contrary to what you may think, having a baby as a single mother will drastically change your life, no matter how prepared you may feel for parenthood. No matter how prepared you are for this change, it can still come as an emotional shock.

While some women might feel that the option of single parenting seems easier than adoption or abortion, they often soon recognize that single parenting can also bring sadness and disappointment. It may be because you had not planned to be a mother so soon, or because you may feel bad about not being able to provide all the opportunities and material things that you had hoped to give your child. You may also feel that you are missing out on the carefree life that your friends have.

If these are concerns that you feel you can address as a single mother, this may be the right choice for you. But if you feel that the responsibilities of parenting will seriously affect your happiness or future, you may want to reconsider other options.

5. The Advice of an Unplanned Pregnancy Options Counselor

You may be asking, “Why should I speak with a counselor, especially if I am supposed to make my own decision?”

Counselors are professionals who have been trained to work with young women in an objective manner. A counselor will paint a realistic picture of life, help you decide what you really want and help you be sure that your wishes are met by your decision. They will discuss all of your unplanned pregnancy options with you, including all of the pros and cons of being a single mother. If you choose to become a single mother, they will also help you start this journey with foresight and confidence.

You can seek counseling from your clergyman, high school counselor or a mental health professional, or you may want to get free counseling from a pregnancy counseling center or family planning clinic. Wherever you find it, make sure the professional is objective and not associated with any other organizations. You can find a list of unplanned pregnancy counselors here.

In the end, you are the only one who can decide whether raising your child on your own is right for you. Is it hard being a single mother? Certainly — but, when you approach this path with the proper mindset and preparation, it can also be an extremely rewarding journey.