Known as SMC’s – Single Mothers by Choice, or simply ‘Choice Moms’ – there are a growing number of women who have opted of their own volition to become mothers without the assistance of a spouse, partner or significant other. For a number of reasons, these women choose to undertake the responsibility of raising, providing for and caring for a child all on their own. Here we take a look at why some women make this decision, what unique challenges they may face as a result, and if this might be the right solution for you.
For women who want biological children of their own, time frequently becomes their greatest enemy. Because a woman is born with a set number of eggs and will be unable to conceive after she reaches menopause, it can feel like there is a looming (if fuzzy) deadline attached to her ability to have a baby, at least without specialist fertility treatment.
For women who find themselves in their late 30’s or even early 40’s without a spouse or stable relationship, the desire to explore other options is natural and understandable. It can be particularly difficult for women who are surrounded by friends who all seem to be having babies – a constant reminder of the thing she feels she is missing out on. At some point, however, if you truly desire a child of your own, you need to stop waiting for ‘Mr. Right’ and move forward. As author Rachel Lehmann-Haupt, puts it:
“I decided that I had the rest of my life to find my true love, and my hope would be that this man would understand my choice and also become the father of my child.”
Some women may make the decision to have children on their own after the breakup of a long-term relationship, or if they have had a bad experience in such a relationship before. Some women may feel reluctant to enter into marriage simply for the sake of having a child, especially if they are not certain that their current partner would make good parenting material, so to speak.
Deciding to go it alone takes a huge amount of courage, as many societies are still reluctant to let go of their old ideas of what constitutes a functioning family. Aside from these social pressures and influences, a would-be choice mom faces some very real-world considerations too – how will she pay for fertility services, support herself through her pregnancy, and take care of her new infant when she goes back to work?
Options for women looking to become single moms by choice
The most obvious consideration a woman thinking of becoming a choice mom has on her plate is a simple, yet somehow simultaneously complex question:
How is she going to get pregnant?
Some women have close single male friends who might make good candidates but choosing someone you know to be the father of your child, yet not play a role in its upbringing, brings with it the potential for complications. What if the father decides he does want to be involved? What are you going to tell the child when they’re old enough to start asking questions? Should there be some kind of emergency, would the father be expected to assist? While the male friend may feel distant from the pregnancy before the child is born, it’s difficult to predict how you or the father may react once he meets the child – if he meets the child. If he doesn’t want to be involved at all, how are you going to manage to stay friends?
For these and many other reasons, many women choose to make use of the services of a sperm bank. After a donor has been selected – either anonymous or identified – the woman will generally be given drugs to stimulate her ovaries, and undergo artificial insemination and monitoring at the clinic which is providing the donor sperm. You can also opt for a DIY approach by getting an at-home insemination kit.
What if I’m not sure yet?
Another option, if you are 37 years old or younger, is to freeze some of your eggs to give yourself more time to solidify your career, continue dating or looking for a potential partner, or do the things you’ve always wanted to before you settle down for good. While this is not an indefinite solution, it takes the immediate pressure to make a decision off so you can spend more time clarifying your goals, seeking outside advice or counseling, or investigating other options. Because it is the eggs and ovaries which are affected by aging rather than the uterus itself, having access to healthy eggs makes a successful pregnancy later on – even into your 50’s – a realistic option.