Becoming a Mother While Single
June 6, 2019 7:24 AM   Subscribe

I'm 33, single, and want to have children. I've done a lot of dating but it hasn't worked out. At this point, I'm thinking of going the donor route. But is it really a good idea -- from the perspective of the child/children and from my own?

I'm very eager to have kids, and while the finances will be tight, my living situation is stable and kid-friendly. I don't have a huge or super tight support network, but I do have my parents nearby and some very old, dear friends who are also at this stage in their lives.

My primary worries:

Is it right to bring a kid into the world knowing they won't have a relationship with their biological father or his side of the family, and likely won't have any close male role model/father figure in their life? (No father, no uncles, no male family members at all -- except for my father, who is not a great role model).

What if something happens to me so I can no longer care for the child or children (like if I die)? I have friends who I can ask to be godparents and at least some amount of money I could leave them (not "pay for college" money, but "pay for school supplies and clothes, etc" money). But it still chills me to the bone to think of having children and then being unable to raise them, leaving them totally alone and vulnerable.

Will I be horribly lonely? Without a partner, there are probably going to be many days without real adult companionship. I struggle with loneliness now and dislike being single (just less than I dislike being with the men I've dated). Is this going to trap me in it forever? I want kids much more than I want a partner, and that's been the case for my whole life. I also don't want to get into a relationship just in the hopes of having kids with the man. But I am worried about the psychological/emotional toll of going it alone.

On an emotional level, I really want to do this -- I want children so much and am so ready. But on an intellectual level, I worry that it's a mistake for both the children and myself.

From the perspective of women who have considered or gone this route and from the perspective of the children of donors and "single parents by choice," how realistic are my worries? How heavily should I weight them? How can I mitigate them? What are some things that I'm not thinking about that I should be?
posted by nowadays to Human Relations (34 answers total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
The vast majority of women I know who went this route, have gone on to have a second child in the same manner, or are trying to conceive a second. Which says a lot to me about how they feel about their decisions. Single Mothers by Choice (SMC) has quite an active forum and lots of info about these questions and all others you can possibly think of. You can see the experiences of women at all the various stages of parenting.
posted by thegreatfleecircus at 7:37 AM on June 6, 2019 [8 favorites]

posted by Glomar response at 7:42 AM on June 6, 2019 [6 favorites]

Being a no child support single parent to the upper middle class child rearing standard is extremely expensive. If your career now or will require significant travel or long hours, even more so. The women I know who are doing it all make over $100,000/year and additionally have some significant control over their nights, weekends and travel for work.

BUT one thing you probably don’t have to worry about financially is death. If you have no adverse health history, don’t smoke, and are in decent shape you can buy a large amount of 20 year term life insurance for a very low premium.
posted by MattD at 7:44 AM on June 6, 2019 [12 favorites]

There was recently an article that single mothers have more free time than married mothers. Single motherhood is still stigmatized, but in many ways you have an advantage being single because you won’t have the added emotional drain of an unsupportive partner. And judging by the continued unequal division of housework and childcare between women and men, almost all male partners are not supportive.
posted by a strong female character at 7:51 AM on June 6, 2019 [27 favorites]

My mom didn't choose to be a single parent - she and my dad chose to be a parents and then my dad died when I was very young - but my experience might be relevant.

My dad's family lives in various place far overseas so I didn't grow up around them. Money/being raised frugally and not knowing my dad's family wasn't a huge deal, but I think my mom's not-terrific mental health and not having other adults involved in parenting was a big problem. As an adult I can see how my mom treated me like a partner and confidante in ways that felt great to me as a kid but were inappropriate developmentally. So I would look carefully at your support network, at adults who can be in your kids' lives to provide balance to your own quirks, and friends you can look to as confidantes so you don't accidentally put your kid in that role.
posted by needs more cowbell at 7:55 AM on June 6, 2019 [21 favorites]

Is it right to bring a kid into the world knowing they won't have a relationship with their biological father or his side of the family,

It's completely fine. but you should understand your child will probably not think so at all times, and you have to decide whose opinion counts most. the word of people with contented young donor-conceived children doesn't mean much; if your kid is angry about it, you probably won't see it or know it until they're adolescent or adult and if they have been sweet and happy their whole lives, seeing what they have been repressing can be a shock. there will always be this one issue where they have the moral high ground in a fight and depending on their temperament, they may want to fight about it. if you can deal with that and, when the time comes, resist the temptation to feel unjustly judged just because you thought about it beforehand, it will be fine in the long run. the hard thing isn't letting your kid get mad at you now and then, but letting them be in the right, which they will be.

just like it's better to be single than with a bad man, it's better to have no father than a bad one. but a kid who's never had one can't know that and you can't make them take it on faith. they may not ever wish their father was there, but knowing that he exists and they are not permitted to have the smallest things, like his name or a photograph of him, is a bitter pill for some. different from having a dead father, and I think emotionally harder for some, because theirs still exists somewhere but he is just absolutely forbidden to them.

you do absolutely have to have people lined up who are willing to adopt if something happens to you. parents in couples have the same obligation and not all of them bother. but they all should.

but it is fine not to have a father. personally I think it is good for kids in this society to grow up free of any conditioned emotional reflexes towards adult men as natural household authority figures, and I really mean that.
posted by queenofbithynia at 8:10 AM on June 6, 2019 [17 favorites]

Everyone I know that has done this has a lot of money. I'd certainly figure out more precisely how much donor sperm and insemination costs where you live (friends that are SMC had to do at least 3 cycles) as well as cost of childcare (lots of people are unaware of just how expensive it is - it can be thousands per month in major cities).

And yes you'll never get unpaid breaks - unless you have family willing to help. If you travel a lot for work this might be an issue. The SMCs I know pay for nanny services.

But if you want to do it - do it!
posted by k8t at 8:11 AM on June 6, 2019 [1 favorite]

I wasn't a single parent by choice, but I do have one comment about something that is easier, but almost no one ever talks about.

With just one parent, YOU and you alone decide how you raise your child(ren). There's no one with a differing opinion, there's no one else being lazier or more permissive. There's no one undermining you. There's no one for the kids to play against you and manipulate you with. (This is, of course, provided you don't allow other family or friends or even the public schoolcare system to be the primary parenting decision-maker and disciplinarian - or to undermine your status as.)

And the effect is HUGE, so long as you're a decent parent. If you decide how you want to parent, and you always follow through, you can end up with some pretty incredible people it would have been MUCH more difficult to create with two parents. No matter how much two people think they're on the same page about parenting, they're really not. And it has a huge effect on the children.

While we may perceive two parents as the social norm, it actually makes for a seriously different parenting experience to be single. And, despite stereotypes to the contrary, it can be pretty damn positive if the parent is a good one.
posted by stormyteal at 8:12 AM on June 6, 2019 [27 favorites]

I did it. AMA, including by memail if you like.

I think every day of how much it blows my mind that the most amazing person I know is someone I made. I can't even begin to describe what that feels like. I am the child of a single (by chance) mom and have had no relationship with my biological father's side of the family, so that part just didn't really bother me because I never had any issue with it, so I just kind of assumed it would be fine. There are lots of ways to make a family. I would want teach my kid that no matter what circumstances I'd had him in.

Anyway, I think in a lot of ways not having a partner is easier -- and I've talked about this with other SMCs (single mothers by choice) and they seem to agree. I think co-parenting is really hard. Everything has to be negotiated and compromised and blah-blah-blah. I don't have to do any of that. The only thing that's kind of sucky about the just-me thing is that once my kid goes to bed, I'm in "baby jail" as another SMC called it. I can't run down to the convenience store or just hop out to check the mail or anything because obviously I can't leave baby alone. I think a lot of mom's with partners say "My partner went away for a week and I..and I don't know how you..." but it's not the same thing at all. We've built our family with just me, so it's not the same as a disruption when you're used to having two people and you just have one.

Also, I look at mother's I know with partners and I see them carrying more than their share of the load: One whose partner gets home at 7 or 8 every night, another whose husband works a late-start shift so they keep the baby up until midnight so they can spend time together (me: but if he starts late can't they see each other in the morning? other mom: Oh, he likes to go to the gym in the morning). Moms who do all the mental work of parenting and their partners are "great dads" because they play with the kids. Even among progressive people I know, the woman carries so much more of the weight of parenting. And I see that and I remember what I said to myself for many years before having a kid: I would much rather do 100% of the work myself because there is only me to do it than do 70% of the work because my partner doesn't respect me enough to do his share.

I do find that because of the baby-jail problem I sometimes need more companionship than I get. I invite people over (because after a certain age kid needs to go to bed at home at certain hour so you can't really go out), but of course people can only come over so much. But it's really not terrible: First of all your baby will come with a whole new set of friends: your mat leave friends and your neighbours-with-kids friends. There are apps for hooking up parents on parental leave with others with same-age kids who have similar values and interests. I haven't used them because I met my mat leave friends at the library so I didn't need to.

I have a fabulous support network. That's important.

Anyway, there is surely a group for SMCs in your area and they have meetups. These are open to thinkers, too, not just actual moms. I suggest you go.

Oh, and if you haven't already done some window shopping, you might not know that lots and lots of sperm now is open-donor, which means that when your kid is 18 they get contact info for the donor if they want it. Also, there are dibling registeries -- that is, you can often get in contact with families of other kids born from the same donor. Whether you want either of these things is a decision to make after the do-it-or-don't-do-it decision, but just FYI, these are things that exist, if they matter to you and you can choose to participate in them or not.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 8:16 AM on June 6, 2019 [22 favorites]

There's no one undermining you.

Hah! One word. Grandmas.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 8:17 AM on June 6, 2019 [5 favorites]

There is a woman in my social circle who did this exact thing. She had a pretty stable job (working with the family business as a tax preparer, and now she RUNS that business) and her mother was around to help with child care. Her son is now nine and is an adorable li'l goofball. (I just had brunch with them, another family and another couple friends, and all the kids were exhaustively giving us their opinions on the Marvel movies.) Her Facebook is 75% pictures of her son and their adventures.

It should be said that she does have a number of male friends around that could be positive male role models. The lack of a formal "Dad" is made up for in that way, with a handful of guy friends.

The thing that gives me pause about your case is that you say that you're worried about being lonely. The companionship of a child is not the same as that of an adult, and I'd encourage you to build a friend network as well; this would not only assuage your own loneliness, it would give your child some other adult figures to look up to. A chosen family counts too. But I'd make sure that you build that up a bit. My friend had that network in place already before she had a child and that was a help (especially since another one of our friends also were having kids at the same time and they could compare notes and whinge to each other).

Otherwise, go for it.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:17 AM on June 6, 2019 [5 favorites]

I've never had kids and never will. But, I did grow up with a single mom from a young age. It was great. Our living situation was neither stable nor kid-friendly, but I wouldn't trade my childhood for that of anyone I've met. One great parent is worth more than a dozen average parents.

If you ask me, the male role model story is a myth invented to shame single mothers. Having many diverse role models and interacting with lots of adults and engaging with the world as a kid is fantastic. Whether or not the adults you interact with have penises isn't actually important.

Get a life insurance policy. And, go in fully understanding that having a kid is an incredible amount of work and will change your life for two decades. (I'm sure you know this already.)
posted by eotvos at 8:22 AM on June 6, 2019 [18 favorites]

I know a couple single mothers (though not by choice), and looking in from the outside, I think they're doing well as mothers, and their kiddos are having a happy life. Those dads are no role models for their kids, as far as I can see.

One odd thought: your kiddo(s) may want to know who dad was at some point, so you may want to keep track of him/them for purposes of helping your kid(s) find out more of their personal background.
posted by filthy light thief at 8:30 AM on June 6, 2019

Oh yeah, the cost of fertility treatment. I'm in Canada so most of the costs were covered by my government health insurance. I did 4 rounds of IUI and 1 of IVF. If you're not in Canada or somewhere else with universal healthcare and you can't buy private insurance that covers fertility treatment (can you? I have no idea), then there is one option that would keep costs down significantly which is self-inseminating with a known donor*.

I don't recommend this for a whole host of reasons both legal (yes, of course you would get all the contracts, blah, blah, but your status as the sole parent is just more rock-solid legally if you use a bank. You don't want a donor suddently turning around and wanting to be daddy) and medical (banked sperm is tested out the wazoo, quarantined, and washed, it's not just semen). So I wouldn't recommend it, but just FYI, that option exists. and Since you are only 33, hopefully your fertility is fine and this could work for you.

*Known donor need not mean ask-a-friend. It just means you know who the donor is. I have heard of people doing this by finding donors on the internet who literally come over, go into the bathroom, come out and hand you the donation in a cup and then leave. There are literally apps for finding such donors. I don't know what they are but I can find out by searching old posts in my SMC group, if you want.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 8:32 AM on June 6, 2019

+1 the idea of "male role model" necessity is a misogynist trope. Have you ever heard of anyone moaning that a kid didn't get a female role model?

Having been the kid of an extremely lonely divorced mother, I also need to +1 the comments above that you have to be constantly guarding against the danger of using the kid as a spouse surrogate. But you say you have close friends and your parents nearby, so you'll have other outlets and intimate relationships where you can dump your adult agita (if not, do get a therapist so you'll have someone.) With that in place there's no reason you can't give a kid a great life.
posted by fingersandtoes at 8:38 AM on June 6, 2019 [7 favorites]

Apologies for use of the term "male role model" and re-directing to clarify: the lack of a father for a kid can be made up for by making sure you have male friends simply so that the kid has some experience with cool guys who aren't jerks to counteract the kind of toxic masculinity that pop culture dishes out. That's all I meant.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:45 AM on June 6, 2019 [2 favorites]

A very close family member did this last year. In fact, during the process they found out they couldn't have their own genetic child, so used a donor embryo. I don't know which country you're in, but check out the Donor Conception Network for info, resources, online communities and local meet ups. I know there are lots of Facebook groups too - 'Solo' Mums/Moms is another term to search for (as opposed to 'single').
posted by atlantica at 9:06 AM on June 6, 2019

I do think, especially for girls who end up straight or bi, that it can be good to grow up with a man in their life who cares for them generously and who is not sexually interested in them. I don't know that I'd keep from having a kid for that reason, though, honestly.

One thing you might consider is whether or not it is worth finding a man or men who are interested in fathering a child (or even just interested in providing sperm) but who are not interested in the romantic/partnership angle.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 9:07 AM on June 6, 2019 [2 favorites]

I have several friends who did this and none of them had a lot of money. Most, but not all, had emotionally supportive families. I also know several people, myself included, who ended up raising children because of divorce/abandonment/etc.

I think it's harder to do in a big city than in a smaller city because the cost of living tends to be higher in the former.

I know some women who solicited sperm from gay male friends. Those men, in every case, helped them to raise the kids. Two of those kids are now grown and maintain close ties with all parents. These kids were born before adoption by gay parents became commonplace.

I think you should expect that your kid will one to know more about his or her bio-father. One of my kids is adopted and it has meant a lot to him to learn about and make contact with bio-relatives. He's in his late forties.

Before you make a definite decision you might want to consider becoming a foster parent; that would give you some real life experience being a parent. At the very least start volunteering to babysit for friends who have young kids. If you don't have such friends you really need to make some.
posted by mareli at 9:45 AM on June 6, 2019 [1 favorite]

One thing you might consider is whether or not it is worth finding a man or men who are interested in fathering a child (or even just interested in providing sperm) but who are not interested in the romantic/partnership angle.

PLEASE do not do this lightly. I have never once seen it work successfully. People suggested that to me a million times, and it is like all the downsides of doing it with a partner, and no upsides, and generally devolves into a complete nightmare. Everyone I saw go into it planning to go that route quickly decided to use unknown (Open ID) donor sperm.
posted by thegreatfleecircus at 9:45 AM on June 6, 2019 [4 favorites]

There are a ton of Facebook groups if you search on SMC/SMBC (Single Mother by Choice) and SPC (Single Parent by Choice). I find them a little conservative, to be honest, but you'll get a lot of good advice on the logistics of conception, if people have regrets (mostly around not starting sooner), any questions you might have. And yes, SPCs as a whole tend to skew older and richer, but that seems to be changing a bit.

Is it right to bring a kid into the world knowing they won't have a relationship with their biological father or his side of the family, and likely won't have any close male role model/father figure in their life? I'm in basically this situation and I think it's fine. My kid does tend to enjoy the company of friends' dads (which is also fine).

What if something happens to me so I can no longer care for the child or children (like if I die)? I mean, two parent households have to consider this too, right? Car accidents, etc? I did stop riding a motorcycle because I do want to stay alive for my kids, but I don't think this fear should stop you from living your best life.

Will I be horribly lonely? There's nothing more lonely than being in a bad relationship. You will need to work at maintaining friendships - and will have opportunities to meet a lot of new people through kid stuff, but will need to work to make those relationships deeper rather than shallow/all about the kids. But everyone has to do this! You can also still date!

I think meeting people who have done this will mitigate your fears. If you're in any city, you should be able to find an SMC group who meets in real life, and if you're in a rural area, you can find that community online.
posted by valeries at 9:45 AM on June 6, 2019

My mom left my biological father when I was a baby, and I never had any contact with him. My mom dated, and had a few long-term relationships, but none were "dads" until she got remarried - and by that time I was almost an adult. I never felt the lack of a male role model. I never felt angry or sad that I didn't know my father's side of the family. I never even asked questions about him, and don't even remember his name. I know this isn't a universal experience, but I want to put it out there.

And, honestly, I think no male role model is better than the male role models than many children get. There's no perfect family, but there are lots of good families, and they can be any size.

I'm a woman, so that might matter to you if you're worried about a potential boy having a male role model. But, to be honest, boys can learn both good and bad things from their dads. I have known boys who were either raised by a single mother or wished that they had been, and I don't think that the lack of a good male role model made them into bad men.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 10:20 AM on June 6, 2019 [1 favorite]

Re: finances

I am an accountant and have done a lot of pricing and budgeting to see if this is financially feasible, and am satisfied that it is. The younger I am, the more feasible it is likely to be, too. Finances are always a concern, of course, and I'm not sitting on Easy Street, but they're not a deal breaker here.

Re: father figures

I don't have a good relationship with my father and wished so much for a more "traditional" father figure growing up, which is why a child not having a good father figure is so concerning to me. I do take it to heart, though, that a bad father is worse than no father (and I know for a fact that a bad partner is worse than no partner).

I am not interested in involving a donor in child rearing, because the best thing about having a child on my own for me (selfishly, maybe) is not having to deal with the father or trying to coparent, and because I don't trust some donor to necessarily be a good parent or child rearing partner anyway.

Although obviously it's so individual, my baseline expectation is that, at best, any child I have as a single mother will feel similar jealousy, resentment, bewilderment, etc, about other kids' relationships with their fathers as I did as a child. I just wish I could give any future children a relationship with a man who loves them and who they can trust and look up to, but it looks like I can't.

Re: support networks

How successful I am at it may be arguable, but I care a lot about and put a lot of effort into maintaining a strong support network (community, friendships, emotional outlets, etc) for myself, and with an eye to that support network being welcoming and supportive to any future children as well. I am very worried about children feeling insecure, vulnerable, and alienated. I want them to feel safe and protected and to have a strong sense of belonging. My biggest fear is not being able to give them that.

Before you make a definite decision you might want to consider becoming a foster parent; that would give you some real life experience being a parent. At the very least start volunteering to babysit for friends who have young kids. If you don't have such friends you really need to make some.

Being around children is part of what makes me want my own so much. One of my good friends is a single mother by choice about to give birth to her first baby, and her (wonderful so far, knock on wood!) experience is part of what is influencing me in this direction.

I have since childhood and still do intend to foster parent one day (and would be open to adopting through the foster care system), but frankly I think that that requires advanced parenting skills that I don't have yet. Children in the foster care system aren't guinea pigs or a learning opportunity for their foster parents, I don't want to "practice" parenting on them. I also think it's disingenuous or at least naive to say that fostering and especially adopting are free from ethical considerations.

I am concerned about the ethics of bringing children into the world, but I think bringing in foster care or adoption as the more ethical alternative is complicated and way beyond the scope of this question.
posted by nowadays at 10:31 AM on June 6, 2019 [5 favorites]

Although obviously it's so individual, my baseline expectation is that, at best, any child I have as a single mother will feel similar jealousy, resentment, bewilderment, etc, about other kids' relationships with their fathers as I did as a child.

I never felt this. I think that having a father you don't have a strong or good relationship with is completely different from never knowing your father (my situation) or not having a father (donor-conceived kids of SMCs). It's not that not having a father is somehow the ultimate "not close," it's just a completely different thing. You can't predict how your hypothetical kid will feel, but I wouldn't take your experience as somehow indicative of it. Your kid will be a different person in a very different situation.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 10:49 AM on June 6, 2019 [5 favorites]

My sister in law is an SMC... she does talk about being lonely but echoing what others have said above, she actually says it's most lonely when her dad is visiting her, which he does periodically to help with childcare - while she appreciates having him watch my nephew over spring break and such, the long evenings spent with someone who's glued to their iPad makes her feel more lonely than when she's by herself.

And you say that you think your potential future child might feel jealousy towards other families that have a male parent - but they'll probably also probably have friends whose parents are in a crappy marriage or one parent is a nightmare or whatever and every time imaginary kid is over there and sees what a disaster it is they'll walk out and think "thank the heavens I don't have to deal with THAT at my house." And they'll also feel jealousy of their friends who have a pet if you don't have one, or their friends who go on a cruise every winter break... all kids are jealous of something. Not to diminish the important contribution a parent makes in a 2-parent household but at this point (my nephew is 5), he is WAY more jealous of the fact we got a kitten than that my kids have a great dad.
And not sure if you've seen the research on this, but it's pretty well established that single parents are also capable of doing a great job.
posted by dotparker at 10:49 AM on June 6, 2019 [1 favorite]

once, one of my friends decided to be a single parent. She had a beautiful boy and was happy while she was on child leave. Then when she was back to work, she sent out an angry FB message asking: "why didn't you all tell me how hard this is??" And then I almost didn't hear from her for several years. (Actually, I, a single mother of two, had warned her. But who gets righteous when someone is struggling?)
It is really hard during those first years. Like really hard. So a lot of this depends on your ability to tell yourself to hold out. It will get better.
About your specific worries:
- it's OK that there is no "father figure", commenters above have all made good points.
- Get yourself a life insurance and make a will. I did that. It was never necessary but it made me sleep better.
- Do stuff (after the first year). This is the hard part. My kids remember their childhood as full of life. We had friends over and parties all the time. When you think about it, it stresses you out, but when I did it, it was just lovely. The people who came over for just hanging out or partying all helped with all the stuff, and btw, there were "father figures" among them. Men who enjoyed spending time with women and children and doing the dishes and generally being civilized.

When my second child was about a year old, I was offered a larger apartment and a friend moved in with me. She was ten years younger, anoretic, and generally not exactly mature, but it was still a really happy time when she lived here. I miss her more than anything. A friend of mine did the same, but with a more equal friend, to great succes. Co-habitation might be an idea for you as well.
posted by mumimor at 1:47 PM on June 6, 2019 [1 favorite]

Okay, you'll need to adjust your grain of salt on my experience and how much you consider its relevance to your situation.

I spent about half my childhood in a two-parent, upwardly mobile home and the other half with a single mother, low income, and no paternal relatives in the picture. My parents' marriage was dysfunctional enough from the start that the latter situation was infinitely happier than the former. The lesson I took from the experience is that it takes a particularly strong marriage/pattnership to create a happier home for children than one led by a happy, fulfilled single parent.

I do kind of wish I had had some kind of positive male role model to look up to; my grandfather died young and my uncles are, well, bless their hearts I guess. But there is no guarantee that the biological father of your children is going to be able to be that role model, either.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 2:13 PM on June 6, 2019 [2 favorites]

I never intended to have kids but decided to go through with an accidental pregnancy eight years ago for various reasons, including that I was financially equipped to have a kid on my own and had the family and community support to do so. I also grew up with a single mom who was in turn the daughter of a single mom, so I haven't ever had qualms about the male role model crap.

I did anticipate that being a parent of any kind would be hard. I did not anticipate having a kid with special needs, and how much harder that would be. I'd still rather be doing it on my own (or more precisely, on my own with an enormous amount of help from my mom and friends) than with a partner for many of the reasons cited above, but as it's not one of the many things that floated through my head when I found out I was pregnant, I mention it here.

That said, I think you should go for it. Sometimes it is very, very lonely. But sometimes so is life. Best of luck to you, and feel free to memail me.
posted by newrambler at 2:31 PM on June 6, 2019 [2 favorites]

Get a really good life insurance policy, such that if you were to pass away your kid would have enough money for someone to take care of them up until adulthood. This is good advice for anyone having children, but especially so for a single parent without a lot of family.
posted by permiechickie at 4:40 PM on June 6, 2019 [1 favorite]

I wrestled with the same question for a long time and ultimately decided against single parenthood. I made lists and lists, and I came up with so many of the things that have already been said here.

But when I looked at the lists, it seemed like all the "positives" were things that made it better for ME: I would get to experience pregnancy and parenthood and feel connected to "the female experience" but with no partner negotiations about child-rearing, no being in a bad marriage, no time and energy required to maintain a romantic relationship outside the kiddo.

And all the "negatives" were things that would most directly affect the CHILD, who most certainly would not be volunteering for any of it: no fundamental love from a father (mine was very important to me), no intimate, consistent male role model, no connection to half of his/her genetic lineage, no aunts/uncles/cousins (I am an only), no grandparents (both my parents are dead). The child would permanently not know the roots of half of his/her being. (I am strongly connected to my family and I consider my lineage and "my people" to be a very important part of who I am, where I came from and what shaped me.)

In the end, I decided it was fundamentally wrong to bring a child into the world that would face, through no fault of his/her own, all those negatives just so that I could have the positive experience of fulfilling my desire to have a baby. I would be asking the child to bear the burden of my desires, to sacrifice for me, which seemed like the exact opposite of what a parent should do.

I still sometimes mourn the loss of the opportunity to bear a child and be a parent, although it has gotten easier as I have aged and made efforts to develop other connections in life. I will never not be sorry that I didn't get to have the essential female experience, but I will also always know that I made, in a way, the most parent-like decision in that I sacrificed for the sake of "my child". If there is another life after this one, maybe I'll have another chance at it in some way.
posted by mccxxiii at 4:56 PM on June 6, 2019 [7 favorites]

I'm a woman who has had long-term relationships with two men who grew up with single mothers, never knowing their fathers at all. Neither of them cared one bit - I was more curious than they were. They honestly seem less damaged by the lack of a father figure than I am by my own - relatively normal - dad.
posted by ohsnapdragon at 7:04 PM on June 6, 2019 [1 favorite]

To hop into the "baby jail" point, I feel like that's less of a concern now in many urban/suburban areas than it was even 5 years ago - there are SO many services that can run those after-bedtime errands for you these days. I'm not a single parent but my husband has to travel a lot for work, so unlike many parents for whom this is a less regular occurrence, I've had to develop strategies around what happens if he's not home and we need milk for breakfast, or run out of dog food, or whatever. And so often the answer is, "There's an app for that."
posted by potrzebie at 10:54 PM on June 6, 2019

Adding perspective from a donor- conceived individual:
Please go the open donor route, understanding that eventually the person you create may to want to know where they came from. It will feel better when they go looking if that donor is expecting it, instead of one that's supposedly guaranteed anonymity (in as much as that's possible with DNA testing these days) and refuses contact. Be upfront with your kid as soon as they are able to understand.
posted by danapiper at 4:53 AM on June 7, 2019 [2 favorites]

Thanks everybody! It's especially reassuring hearing from people who grew up in happy one-parent families. It's a good point that having a difficult relationship with your father is different from not knowing your father, and the feelings/experiences are likely to be different. Also, it's funny, I just remembered that aside from my good friend, my cousin is also an SMC. Her son is five or six years old now. I only have three cousins and I was talking about the little boy to a coworker yesterday, you'd think I'd have remembered.

Anyhow, this morning I made an appointment for a fertility workup at the OBGYN. Fingers crossed!
posted by nowadays at 7:57 AM on June 7, 2019 [8 favorites]

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