Would You Choose to Become a Single Mother?

When you commit your life to a partner who is unable or unwilling to have children with you, you make a choice. You give up motherhood or fatherhood in exchange for the love of this man or woman. Many of us at Childless by Marriage have made this choice. But what about the other option? What if you decide having a child is more important than having this partner?

We haven’t talked much here about single parenthood, but more and more women are going that route. When I was growing up, it was a huge scandal to become pregnant outside of marriage, and for many, keeping the baby was not an option. You had an abortion or gave the child up for adoption. But now, 41 percent of births in the U.S. are to single mothers. Of those, at least a third were planned. Many of today’s young adults grew up in single-parent homes or other forms of non-traditional family. To them, it doesn’t seem so strange to embark on single parenthood.

In a Nov. 3 interview on the “Ladies Like Us” podcast, Lori Wear, a single mom who coaches other single moms, told her story. Her first marriage didn’t work out, and she was not finding a suitable partner among the men she dated. In her 30s, she decided that if she didn’t have a child by age 40, she would do it alone. Now she has two children, conceived with donor sperm. She had wanted to use her own eggs, but when those proved not viable, she used donor eggs.

There’s no shame in it, Wear says. “Single mothers by choice is another version of a family.”

When you start looking around, single mothers pop up everywhere. In the past, one became a single parent only by divorce or death of the other parent. That still happens, of course. But now women are becoming single mothers on purpose.

An HBOmax movie titled “Single Mother by Choice” follows a woman who becomes pregnant on her own during the pandemic. It shows the joys and the challenges of going solo.

Two websites, http://www.choicemoms.org and https://www.singlemothersbychoice.org, offer information and support for the whole process, from thinking about having a child to taking care of it after it’s born.

Choosing to have a baby on your own is a bold choice, but more and more women are making it. Some get pregnant with sperm from a friend. Some use an anonymous sperm donor. Some freeze their eggs so that they can become pregnant when they feel ready. Some skip the pregnancy and adopt. None of this is easy, but they are determined to be parents and not willing to wait for the perfect partner.

Rachel Lehmann-Haupt, author of “Single Motherhood by Choice” for medium.com, wrote that she decided when she turned 40 to conceive with donor sperm. “I figured that I had the rest of my life to meet Mr. Right and a father for my child, but only a tiny window to have that child.”

The stigma of being an unmarried mother has eased. Only the most conservative among us would speak ill of an unmarried mother or call her children bastards. They’re just children now. With most women working, we can support ourselves and a child without the help of a husband. It may not be easy, the wage disparity is still there, but it can be done.

I believe it’s easier to have children with a partner and two incomes. But if you find yourself without that partner, that doesn’t mean you can’t have children.

I’m not going into the nitty gritty of how to become a single parent. This is the Childless by Marriage blog, after all, and I don’t want to leave the men out. Guys, have you thought about acquiring a child or two on your own? What, besides the obvious lack of a uterus, would stop you? Women, what do you think? Have you considered adopting or getting pregnant on your own? Do you know any single parents? Would you do it? Why or why not?

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Having babies twice as hard for gay couple

The Other Mothers by Jennifer Berney, Sourcebooks, 2021.

Many couples struggle to have children. Various circumstances, including infertility, work against them. But it’s twice as hard when the couple is two women.

In this marvelous memoir, Jenn and Kellie struggle first to decide whether they both want to try. Kellie is older and not as keen on having a baby, but ultimately she agrees. Then they need sperm to get Jenn pregnant. They try to go through the system, but medical professionals are mostly disapproving or clueless. They look for a husband, not accepting Kellie as Jenn’s life partner. The first doctor they see diagnoses their problem as “lack of sperm.” He also says he won’t do any diagnostic tests until they have been “trying” for a year, the same thing he tells heterosexual couples. Only after they have used up 10 units of donor sperm and Jenn has suffered multiple miscarriages do they find a doctor who is willing to take a closer look to see why all of the pregnancies have failed. By then, they’re out of money and losing hope. Ultimately the couple finds a solution with the help of their friends, but I won’t spoil the story with details. This book is an eye-opener, laced with research on the challenges facing same-sex couples who want to have children. It’s also a darned good story.

For readers here at Childless by Marriage, I have to include a trigger warning. Kellie and Jenn do end up having babies. If this bothers you, you might want to skip this one or stop reading when sperm and egg unite. But I think you might identify with much of the story, even if you’re straight.

I haven’t written much here about gay couples. Being straight, I can’t claim to know what it’s really like. I’m not even sure “gay” is the acceptable word anymore. Too much of my thinking is colored by the same-sex couples I see on TV, which is probably not realistic. The LGBTQ couples I know in real life are all childfree by choice.

It has only been a few decades since parenthood was even considered a possibility for the LGBTQ community. It was assumed that couples of the same gender would never have children because one of the ingredients was missing. But there are ways to make it happen. Adoption. A male friend and a turkey baster. Sperm donors, egg donors, surrogates, and fertility clinics.

But one critical ingredient remains: Both partners must want to have children and be willing to put in the time, money and misery to make it happen. It’s not going to happen by accident. If they’re not on the same page, they’ll be childless by marriage like the rest of us.

Help me fill in the blanks. I would love to hear about your real-life experiences with same-sex couples and parenthood.

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The Nomo Crones are meeting again for another Childless Elderwomen chat. On Sunday, June 20, noon PDT, I will join Jody Day, Donna Ward, Karen Kaufmann, Jackie Shannon Hollis, Maria Hill, Karen Malone Wright and Stella Duffy. We’ll talk about coming out of the COVID cocoon and the skills we’ve learned from our childless lives. No doubt, our talk will range all over the place. We’re a rowdy bunch. To register to listen live or receive the recording later, click here.

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Sunday is also Father’s Day in the U.S. Or as frequent commenter Tony calls it, “Chopped Liver Day” because that’s how he feels. This week, Childless Not by Choice podcaster Civilla Morgan gathered several men to share their views and suggestions for surviving the day. Click here to listen.

Online co-parenting sites offer an alternative to childless marriages

Can’t find a husband or wife who is willing or able to have children with you? Reluctant to be a single parent? Some folks in that situation are finding people on the Internet to co-parent with them. Much like computer dating, they fill out forms and record videos describing themselves and what they’re looking for, and people who are interested respond. If everything works out, they arrange to make a baby together, either by having sex or by some form of donating and implanting. They will share in the birthing experience and be co-parents, mother and father, but not romantically involved, not married.
According to a recent article in the UK’s Mail Online, the trend is growing like wildfire. In theory, the co-parents can put all of their attention on the child or children without the pressures of marriage and sex. They can choose parenting partners who share their values and want very much to have children. It’s the opposite of the anonymous sperm or egg donor. Both parties are fully involved. One might think that gay couples would be the ones doing this the most, but figures show heterosexuals are making most of the matches.

Comments on the Daily Mail article leaned toward the negative, saying it’s a shame people can’t commit to marriage and children, that children are being turned into a commodity, and that it’s just a sad reflection of our society. But on the plus side, they say that you have two people who definitely want children and will support each other throughout the process, which is better than bringing a child into a marriage where one partner doesn’t want him.
What do you think? Is this good? Bad? Wonderful? Terrible? The best thing since gluten-free pancakes or doomed to failure? Let’s talk about it.
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By the way, I have been getting tons of spam comments and very few legitimate ones lately. If you have problems commenting, please let me know at sufalick@gmail.com. Thanks.