Is Single Parenthood Fair?

The question often comes up—or is brought up by others with strong opinions—about whether it’s fair to start a family as a single parent. About whether knowingly bringing a child into this world who won’t have a father is fair to the child.

I’ve thought about this a lot, both before beginning the Trying to Conceive stage and many times over the course of being a mother. And to me the answer just brings up many more questions.

Is it fair to bring a child into a love-less marriage? Is it fair to bring a child into a relationship hoping that child will heal an ailing love? Is it fair to bring a child into a world full of violence and terror? Is it fair to bring a child into family that struggles with alcoholism or drug addiction? Is it fair to bring a child into the “perfect” partnership and then have that child feel like a third wheel? I could go on and on. And chances are, honestly, if I were to take a close look at the all the pros and cons, the answer to most of these questions would be, “No, it isn’t fair.”

But you know what? Life isn’t fair. Is it fair to bring a child into a family that’s so full of love and want that the simple idea of that child lights up a woman’s heart? Is it fair to bring a child into the world, a child who will have a mother that thinks the world is a brighter place because that child exists? Is it fair to bring a child into the world with a mom who is open and honest, who can honestly say I wanted you so much that I took the risk of you being angry at me when you’re 10 or 15 or 21 about not having a father because I knew that this was the right choice, because I knew I could make us a family, because I just knew? To those questions, I would answer, “Yes, it is fair.”

I chose to have my child and I chose a donor who was anonymous (which most of the donors were at that time). He’s known his story from the very beginning and sometimes he’s mad, sometimes he feels left out—he’s the ONLY one who doesn’t have a dad—sometimes he feels like an oddball. But most of the time, we’re a pretty good family unit that likes to do things together. And he knows that because it’s just the two of us, we can go dinosaur digging, that his interests will often become my interests (okay, not Pokemon), that I will indulge his curiosity.

Is it fair to create a family out of love?  I’d say, “Sure, why not.”

by Nancy Nisselbaum

14 thoughts on “Is Single Parenthood Fair?”

  1. I am a black, female, 25 y/o doctor from South Africa who’s always felt the desire to adopt and never felt that I would get married. I realise I have youth and all it’s assumptions-including that of fertility, to dilute the seriousness of my statement to many but know that I really appreciate reading stories from women who have/are going through the process of choosing to become mothers.
    I have discussed my desire to adopt a child with my mother and a few close friends and have started making financial and lifestyle choices wrt a future where my child will come first. It is helpful to hear how other women are dealing with the same issues I’ve thought of, like would I be better off chasing the married-with-bio-kids dream (despite it never truly appealing to me) instead of choosing to take on the permanent, life-changing, challenging role of adopting a child as a single, working woman? Ultimately, would the adult I had helped to raise judge me as a generally capable, loving mother-single or not?
    So thanks for sharing, keep writing-we’re reading:-)

    1. Thank you for your thoughtful comment. We have had some members from your part of the world, and if you might want to participate in our online Forum, please do join us!

  2. After deciding I did not want any children of my own but would like to see my genetic line continue I sought to become an sperm donor with no involvement and potential contact in 18 years. I met a potential girl online and we become friends and then I met her in a public place
    and gave her some sperm in a cup that she used to get pregnant at home, alone.

    We both had blood tests and STI screening beforehand. We are keeping one another’s contact
    details via the Internet and intend on allowing this child to contact me in 18 years as per the right of any donor conceived child. So I may meet an offspring of my own in 18 years if it wants to know me.

    I am not seeking involvement and she’s not seeking child support.

    In hindsight I did some research and found out we could have used a clinic to do the transfer for around $1350. They clean sperm and check for any potential problems. Also, donor insemination agreements between people are common these days but expensive.
    We won’t have any problems as we both understand our rights as per the intentions
    of each of us.

    Those who believe both a mother and father are the only ideal form of family are kidding themselves. Although I do believe there are advantages of having two parents of any gender
    single parenting is not to much of a problem. It’s really just a different style of family which
    has different relationship dynamics and greater potential independence for children.

    One thing is for sure it’s the following. I’d much rather be raised by a single parent than have two parents that always fight. That’s how I grew up 🙁

  3. On the topic of fairness – I just had this come up the other night. I was out at dinner and a friend of a friend said to me, well, is it fair to the child? Have you thought about that? The implication alone – that I hadn’t though about it – raised my ire, but I managed to answer civilly that yes, of course I had thought of that! I pointed out to him some of the other ways in which things happen to children that aren’t fair – like the impact of this guy’s impending divorce is going to have on his five year old daughter. Like the fact that his dad was an alcoholic who abandoned his sons. There are so many ways in which we can judge what’s “fair.” I think it’s fair to bring a child into a loving home where you are emotionally and financially more than able to give that child what he needs. Great blog on fairness!

  4. I am also in the “thinking” stage. I had an abortion at age 25 . It was the hardest, most traumatic decision of my life. I think I made the right decision for me at the time and did so in order for me to have the chance to do it “right” for me and a baby with the right person the “traditional” way. Now at 38 after walking away from a ltr last year ( because my bf that I moved in with and left my house for was still “unsure” after almost 3 years together ) I am starting to really feel like my bus will be leaving soon. Can I have a baby at 43 , sure but I have been ready to be a mom for a long time now. I just have not found the right person. I have jumped out of airplanes, traveled to foreign countries alone, dug trenches with those with nothing in Africa, cried on the Serengeti from the pure beauty of wild animals, laughed until I peed my pants, cried until I could not breathe, competed in triathlons, and am feel that I am mentally strong enough for single motherhood. However, financially is another story. This is my latest challenge. Trying to figure out how they heck to make it happen. I have accepted that Mr. right may come 2nd in this case, and there is nothing wrong with that. My head is spinning with several emotions. My goal is to run my first marathon this year. I figure that this will put me in good physical and mental shape to make the best decision. I look forward to joining your group.

    1. Karen – So hard to make this decision. Been through it. So awful! I want to address something you said – to help inform you and other blog readers: As someone who started ttcing at 42.10 with my own eggs, let me tell you, your chances of having a biological child at 43 are extremely low – almost nonexistent. Most women age 43 and over who give birth are using donor eggs – all the movie stars you hear about, etc. So if you are intent on having a biological child, I urge you to focus your concentration on this decision. I started thinking at 39 and thought I still had a few good years left to have a biological child – I waited and waited, wanting the traditional family. I didn’t understand the biology of it – that our bodies use up our good eggs first and by our 40s we are left with very few, if any, good ones. After I found out I had no good ones left, I went to donor egg and on a forum on that issue I saw hundreds of women in their 30s who had already found out they had low ovarian reserve – no good eggs left. I say this not to scare you but to help you understand the reality that I did NOT understand. You are already past the ideal time to get (and stay – the miscarriage rate goes up every year in your 30s and into your 40s because all you have left are the chromosomal damaged eggs) pg. I know it’s a hard decision, but I’m on a mission to not let what happened to me happen to other women. I have now spent five years and $30K trying to become a mom – it was only after trying with my own eggs seven times that they were able to find out I had diminished ovarian reserve. And it wasn’t until I went to donor egg that they found that I also have an immune issue that causes miscarriages. I’m now on an adoption waiting list – at 48 – have been waiting for 2.5 years for a baby girl. I sure wish when I first started thinking at age 39 I would have made the decision – it would have saved me time, money and heartbreak.

    2. I started thinking about going it alone at age of 36. Then unfortunately I had an accident and was laid up for numerous months. Then mid 37 I started “thinking” again to try to start the process. I was food shopping late one night around 11:30 very random. I went to check out and there was this young girl studying at the check out. I asked her what are you studying for? She told me I want to graduate with my associates so I can make a better life for me and my 3 kids. Yes 3! Then and there I realized money was not the real excuse it was missing the “perfect life” and if money really was an issue if this girl can do it so can I. I went to doctor 3 weeks later and started to talk with an actual person about what I was thinking. I had numerous tests done. Get your FSH done ASAP it will help give you an idea of how much time you really may or may not have. I then started to look at donor sites and casually talk about it with friends. Trying to pick sperm was frightening- I wouldn’t sleep with many of the folks that are offering up the sperm nevermind make them the father of my child. So use a good site- look for numerous pictures of the person. Some will allow a later picture which was more easing to my mind and made me more comfortable with the process. Some folks don’t want to put a face with the donor and I understand that as well. But at the very least start scanning the sites.

      I then was “offered” sperm by numerous friends. It was very difficult to say no thanks to some people who I was good friends with- one still has difficulty being around me. So be warned don’t share your ideas with too many people. You will be surprised how many men in their late 30’s want nothing more than to have a child as well with or without marriage.
      One who I thought would be excellent genetic match I spent months thinking is it fair for me to do alone vs with a father when I have numerous options?. So I then went back to him and we discussed his level of seriousness and wanting to be involved or not. I wanted him to have no involvement but was willing to allow him some visitation but not legal custody. At first he agreed completely. Then- —–
      Well that was a mess- that took up 8 months of my time in writing agreements. Then him changing his mind and wanting 50/50 custody which was not what I could agree to seeing as though all the women he dates or had married never wanted children and the current person he was dating had actually had her tubes tied she was so against having kids which he didn’t tell me until the second to last meeting. Before that I was under the impression she “couldn’t” have kids by some terrible twist of fate. Not that she never wanted them. I couldn’t go that route. It broke his heart but he would have to understand in having a child you pick your significant other for yourself and your child. The person he was possibly thinking of marrying DID NOT want kids.
      Since then I’ve found an excellent donor who the child can meet at 18 and know who he is but before then I am 100% sole care giver.
      Anyway, things happen things will get in the way but time is not on your side. I started IUIs after all was said and done at 39- I’ve had 6 of them to no success. I’ve done IVF and on my second round of it. Point being the longer you wait the more expensive it is to even have a child. Don’t concern yourself so much with having the money. You will find a way. Even if I get pregnant this coming month the child will have cost me almost $70k after tax dollars just to conceive.

      Go for it now. Don’t keep waiting. at the very least get the tests to see if even it’s a possibility and good luck – once pregnant everything else will fall into place 🙂

  5. I struggle with this myself as I am in the thinking stage. I know that there are many other situations that are not fair to children, but to consciously make this decision that I know may hurt my child someday is something I worry a bit about. I applaud all of you who have made the decision and aren’t looking back, I’m just not at that point yet. I agree with Mona that I still am in the mourning stage of not having the whole package. I too made choices that I know were best for me but nonetheless I am having a hard time giving up the dream of a mom, dad, and baby makes 3!

    1. Michele, many of our members feel the way you do in the early “thinking” stage (as we call it). It often can be important to grieve the dream of having a traditional family in order to be able to move on.

    2. Yes, grieving is a part of the process. I went to a counselor because I got stuck. I just kept feeling like, it’s not fair! I was stuck on that and couldn’t let go of it. One thing that helped me get through, aside from the counseling, was to start looking around at other people’s situations: I had friends who had lost parents at a young age; friends who had children with serious physical challenges; friends who’d been divorced; friends who had diseases; friends who’ve lost limbs…I could go on. But generally, life is not fair. It was eye opening to me and actually changed me for the better as a person – hey, life is not fair! It was freeing. I seriously wanted to go around telling everyone – guess what – life isn’t fair – I get it now! Whoohooo! Also – you may still end up getting married to a great partner. You can always find someone, but the time to become a mom is somewhat limited – especially for those wanting biological children. There are all sorts of family structures out there – I know many people now who are having second families after being married young, they have remarried and are starting over. Life is crazy and unpredictable – and uncontrollable. We think we can control getting married and having kids, but come to find out — we can’t! A coworker of mine just got married a few years ago – at age 40 – she was lucky enough to get pg and have two biological kids. Her husband just a couple of weeks ago died suddenly at work – he was only 38. Sad, yes. Unpredictable, yes. You don’t know what will happen in the future, and you do need to grieve, but when you’re ready, take a look around you at who has been dealt a worse deck of cards than you. I’m sure you’ll find a lot of people. There’s always a chance for you to find a partner, but you can’t undo crippling disease, loss of a parent at a young age, etc. Maybe a higher power has a plan for you to have a child (or two) and then the most incredible partner will come to you. Maybe you’ll have one and then you’ll meet someone and you’ll have one together – or adopt another one. As the saying goes, dare to dream another dream.

  6. I have recently decided to go ahead with my plans to become a single mom using donor sperm. I have been thinking a great deal lately about the need to be comfortable with my decision for my child’s sake. That its important that I don’t feel anything is missing so that neither will he/she.
    With so many family’s ending in divorce, there are definate advantages to being a single parent family which does not have to split holidays or weekends. My child will never feel like a pawn in some game of revenge/or tug of war… at least I didn’t marry the wrong guy and go that route.
    But it would be a lie if i didn’t admit that I’m still a little sad that I didn’t end up with the fairy tale ending. Looking back I had chances I didn’t take to go the traditional route. Chances I didn’t take because I wanted better. Was I selfish? Unrealistic? Or simply wise enough to recoginze a relationship that wouldn’t last?
    How do I get from “oh well, I guess I’m old and no longer have a choice.” to “my family is perfect and whole just as it is.” ? For my sake and my child’s.
    Sounds like you’ve already traveled that road.

    1. Mona – It comes in stages. Grieving is a process. And it can pop up unexpectedly. It’s sort of a two steps forward, one step back. After 4 years of knowing I can’t have biological children, most of the time, I’ve come to terms with it, but sometimes it’s still painful. I don’t think I’ll understand it until I meet my maker. Maybe once I have my own child (currently on adoption waiting list) I’ll feel it less. I certainly don’t feel it the way I did when I first found out. But I have moments of anger and resentment at people who got pg easily. Maybe once you have a child you’ll feel that wholeness and satisfaction? Or maybe once your child is old enough, you’ll begin to date and try to find a life partner? Many people these days find their spouse at an older age.

  7. I remember telling my neighbor that I was expecting (as a single parent) and she said that she didn’t support that. Her husband went to inpatient rehab and she went to outpatient rehab. So, much for her opinion!

    Now that my children are almost grown and I have the benefit of experience, I’d suggest that confident decision-making is important. That way you can convey your thoughts regarding single parenthood to your child, without conveying that he or she has been shortchanged. What’s great about single parenthood is that children are raised in a stable family environment with a strong role-model.

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