Ask A Doula: I’m a single parent, can I do birth doula work?

Q I really want to be a birth doula. I’ve wanted to do it ever since a doula came and talked to my child development class in high school and I first heard about what doulas do. Here’s the thing: I’m a single mom. Now I’m 28 and ready to do it! Here’s the thing, I have two kids that are 7 and 5, and their father died in a car accident a year ago. I really want to be a doula, and attend births, but I don’t have a clue how to make this work when I am the only parent my kids have. Who will be there when I have to leave at 2 am? Who picks them up after school if I’m at a birth? Will they hate me for the instability that comes with being a birth doula?

A You absolutely can do birth doula work! As you know, sometimes the logistics are harder, but it is worth it to do work that you love. Consider the example you are setting for your children. You can drudge away in a job you hate and be miserable, or you can work hard to do something that is fulfilling and makes you happy. Katharine Louise, a doula, therapist and single parent living in Brazil pointed out “When parents are happy, children are happy, and vice-versa.” Even though I’m not a single parent, I’ve found this to be very true with my own children. So I think you can rest assured that your children will not hate you for living an on call life.

As for the logistics, if you are a birth doula you’ll need to have a rock solid child care plan, ready at any time day or night. What that plan looks like can vary widely. I do recommend multiple layers of coverage for child care (as I do for ALL doulas, partnered or not) to ensure you’ll be able to head off to a birth. Many single parent doulas choose to work in a partnership model, trading off every 6-12 hours so that the child care component is a known length of time.

Postpartum doulas tend to be more scheduled and therefore have an easier time making child care arrangements. I spoke to several doulas who are currently doing only postpartum work because it works better for them as single parents. All hoped to add birth work to their practice eventually and were working on logistics or waiting for their children to be older.

A backup doula is also an important logistic for all doulas, as sick children can really throw a wrench into your plans to serve clients. The postpartum doulas I spoke with did not necessarily have a dedicated backup so much as a network of postpartum doulas they can draw from to find coverage if they needed it.

PLEASE don’t let your worries prevent you from finding a way to do the work you are passionate about!

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