Meet Sally: In her mid-30s, well-educated, financially stable and single, or as she put it “Single with a capitol S.” Sally had been in a few longterm relationships in the past but found herself still waiting for Mr Right.
She confided in me that while on the look out for her ideal mate, she noticed that she was becoming increasing distracted by the ticking of “Big Ben.” She was of course referring to her biological clock. Apparently, it ticked extremely loudly at weddings, baby showers and other social events.
It was that distraction that led her to my office.
“OK, I’m single and want a child. I know this sort of defies the conventional idea of what a family should look like, but what can I do? I can’t wait for Mr. Right forever. I know I don’t want casual sex to have a baby and so, I am looking into donor sperm. I’m really worried about that, though. I mean, how will others look at me? And will the child suffer in any way because of my decision?”
Sally is not alone in her fears. Many women who decide to travel this path (which is the one less travelled) have to face these questions.
Sally and I really focused on was the social stigma of what it means to be a single mother, particularly a single mother by choice.
Does social stigma exist? Yes, absolutely it does. Maybe not from your friends or family, but in society at large — yes, both covertly and overtly.
Although we know that the traditional family need not consist of 2.5 children with a mother and father at the head of the helm (think Modern Family or 2-1/2 Men), society in general still has the picture that a family constellation usually consists of opposite sex, married parents with child/ children (plus dog).
As Sally allowed that reality to sink in, courage replaced doubt and she was able to ask herself two important questions:
- Will I deny myself the opportunity to experience motherhood because of it?
- How much will I allow others to dictate how I should feel and what I should do?
The fact is, as daunting as single parenting is, many women contemplate this path making this choice more and more viable, with more and more resources for single mothers, including sites such as Single Mothers by Choice., Single Mothers and Choosing Single Motherhood.
As for Sally’s next question: If her child would be damaged or suffer by only having one parent and was her decision a selfish one?
Fortunately we could rely on some research to help her; studies have shown that there is no significant difference between women who are single mothers by choice- using donor sperm and married mothers using donor sperm with respect to depression and anxiety effects on the child.
In fact, the children of single mothers by choice were shown to have fewer emotional and behavioral problems than their counterparts . In other words, because having a baby this way is a conscious decision, the attachment and bonding between mother and child is strong and healthy.
Sally breathed a visible sigh of relief when she heard this.
I encourage single women who are contemplating becoming mothers to gather their ‘band of merry women’ for support, join an online forum, talk through why they want to do this and get their questions answered. Most of the answers are out there.
 Murray, C., & Golombok, S. (2005). Solo mothers and their donor insemination infants: follow-up at age 2. Human Reproduction 20: 1655-1660.
Fenella Das Gupta is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist ( #47275) working in Northern California, specializing in fertility counseling. She works with individuals and couples as they make their way through the fertility maze.