Thinking about your goals and making plans to reach them can keep you on track to making the best life for you and your child. Whether you’re a mother or a father, your choices impact your child, so it’s important to make plans and set goals early on.
With the added responsibilities of being a parent, some of your goals may take longer to achieve—but you can still accomplish them. If you want to go to college, get a great job, and establish a healthy family, you can! Don’t let anyone tell you that being a parent means you have to forget your goals, you just may need to approach them differently.
Things you may want to consider include:
These are the basic things you need to live your life and support your child—food, housing, medical care, and the items that you need to care for your baby. You may be eligible for help from the State of Michigan or from other organizations in your community. Try to find out more about these programs before you need them so you will have plenty of time to apply for them if you are eligible. Here is a list of programs you might be eligible for.
Finishing high school is important. It puts you on the path to better jobs, better pay, more independence, and more choices in your future. Talk with your school counselor, teacher or an adult you trust to learn more about options and alternative education programs for students who are parents, and make a plan for how you will complete high school. Learn more about your education rights here.
You are not your child’s only parent—you share that responsibility with your child’s mother or father. Think about what kind of relationship you would like to have as parents, and how you will share the responsibilities of caring for your child. Even if you are no longer together, talking about how you want to parent is important. This will look different for different people.
One of the most important things you can do, whether you are the mother or father of your baby is establish the legal father of your baby. If you are not married to your child’s other parent, only the mother is automatically considered a legal parent. If you are a father, you must “establish paternity” and be declared the legal father—this ensures your child will have the same benefits as children whose parents are married to each other, like financial support from both parents, and insurance benefits, veteran’s benefits and inheritance rights. It also makes sure you have certain rights in your child’s life, like the opportunity to ask the court for parenting time with your child.
You can establish paternity by signing an affidavit (legal form) at the hospital when your baby is born, free of charge. To establish paternity later, both parents must sign the legal form in the presence of a notary public. Contact the Department of Human Services child support specialist at 1-866-540-0008 for assistance establishing paternity. If the father of the baby denies his paternity, the court may order genetic testing. Parents and children share genes—a genetic test will show if a child shares genes with you. A genetic test is done by using a swab (like a Q-tip) from the inside of your cheek to collect cells that contain your genetic information (DNA). The collected cells are compared with the baby’s cells. The test is painless.
To learn more about establishing paternity, take a look at this web page from the Department of Human Services.
Right now, the pregnancy and approaching parenthood demand a lot of your attention. But in a few years your child will be a toddler—not a baby—how do you see your life by then? What about in six years, when your child is a first grader and going to school all day? You have a lot of time between now and then to do things to prepare for a great future for you and your child. Other things you might think about: What kind of job do I want? Is there any special training or education I’ll need?
Spend some time thinking about your future, and start to make a plan for when and how you’ll pursue your goals.