For some women, becoming an unmarried mother is a deliberate decision. They are usually in their late 30s or early 40s, with no love match in sight, when the realization hits that a husband is not an absolute requirement for motherhood — and go on to become single parents. Yes, I know this is a hot potato, more acceptable in urban areas than in small towns, but it is much more common now than before. It’s a major new possibility for single women. But before we go any further, I need to tell you it’s a decision fraught with controversy over issues of morality, sexuality and legality. I will lay out the facts, but you must do the research — and the thinking. Personally, I suggest plenty of both.
To start, you need to know about Single Mothers by Choice, the pre-eminent New York-based group founded in 1981 by Jane Mattes. She and her staff have overseen groups of interested women so they can find answers (and, in some cases, inspiration) from women who’ve made the decision to parent alone. She tells me that 30,000 women worldwide have contacted SMC to explore this option more fully, but only about 10 percent actually go on to live their dream of motherhood. (Before we go further into controversy, you might want to make a note of this website: http://www.singlemothersbychoice.org. The site leads to a totally public blog.) And if you are weighing this decision but can’t visit New York, SMC can put you in touch with a member near you.
Whatever the final decision, it takes courage to even consider Madonna motherhood; wherever you raise the subject, I can guarantee fireworks. You need to think long and hard about why you are considering motherhood — as any respectable adult should think about parenthood before the time comes. Above all, you need to consider the ramifications of doing this alone. First and foremost, you owe it to yourself and your child to talk over this decision with your family and closest friends. Formulate a plan of action, and talk it through with the people who care — really care — about your well-being. Then, if you’re really serious, plan a visit to your attorney to find out your rights, the laws in your state and the possibilities inherent in what you are seriously considering. I can’t say this often enough: It’s best to work with an attorney every step of the way.
Whatever method of conception you choose, there are things you need to know before choosing the biological father for your child: blood type, history of mental health, presence of any emotional instability, history of physical health, willingness to pay child support (if you want it), willingness to give time and attention to the child (if you want it), propensity for legal battling, family background, place of origin, presence of any sexually transmitted disease, personality traits that suggest he might try to claim the child, and the name of his attorney.
If you are sincerely interested in motherhood, begin crystallizing your decision now. It takes some time to think all this through, and in this particular matter, you must not feel rushed. Even after the decision has been made, it will take time to complete the research and arrangements this very special project entails. Remember that you’re up against biological deadlines here.
But I don’t want to leave you on a negative note; nor do I want you to think the “Madonna” decision is cold and calculating. I’ve dwelt on some hard facts (more, I promise, in another column) because they’re so easy to push aside in the excitement of contemplating parenthood. And I’ve left the very best part, the emotional payoff, for last. That is the way motherhood links you to tomorrow. Bringing a baby into your life connects you, your parents and their parents with the future. It is, in the most fundamental sense, what life is all about: life perpetuating itself.
Have a question for Susan? You can reach her directly at [email protected] We’ve uncovered another treasure trove of “Single File” paperbacks — in perfect condition, signed by Susan, ready to enjoy. Send $15 and your address: Susan Deitz, C/O Creators Syndicate, 737 3rd Street, Hermosa Beach, CA 90254.