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?