Are Some Forms of Single Motherhood More Acceptable?

December 16, 2011  |  

A headline questioning whether single women should have babies to become more attractive to men seems like a joke. Unless I missed the memo, I was unaware that single motherhood was in style.

But in a Huffington Post article, a woman discusses her experience at a panel when the topic of women and their fertility lifespan was brought up. Star Jones happened to be one of the panelists and she expressed regret never having children, while another woman said she chose to put her career first, then baby. The third panelist, a man, offered his advice for older women still hoping to get married and have children. He told them not to wait any longer: “Have a baby on your own. Trust me, men will find you even more attractive if you do.”

As I read more of the article, the attractiveness of having a baby on your own seemed to be rooted in the idea of attaining something you want and having the strength to go at it alone. There was also an undercurrent theme of “rich white people problems.” In a culture where single motherhood isn’t rare and not having children is a desirable dating quality, the strong, independent, go-getter light that single motherhood was shown under was a bit odd. I know there are still some evolutionary remnants of a woman’s attractiveness tied to perceptions of fertility, but I don’t think actually having a child ups the ante. At least it never has in my experience. Do you have kids is one of the top five questions a man ever seems to ask, and the expression of pleasant surprise when I answer with a “no” is palpable. For single motherhood to be attractive in some forms and not others, there has to be more at play than evolution.

If it’s OK to be a single mother by in vitro fertilization, what is it then that’s so undesirable about a woman who has had children with a man she is no longer with? Is it the assumption of responsibility for the former and the perception of irresponsibility for the latter? Is it the perceived complication of having to deal with the child’s father? Is it the expectation of a single mother by choice not needing the same financial assistance that a “baby mama” would? Regardless of how the child was conceived, both women made a choice to have their children and both women essentially deal with the same issues of motherhood. The absence or presence of a father in either situation can be seen as positive or negative.

The discussion doesn’t even have to be limited to opposite sex relationships. Women make assumptions every day about women they see touting children around without a wedding band on their finger. If she were to tell you that she chose to have her baby alone via in vitro fertilization, would that make a difference? Age may be the true separating factor in the discussion, as it is typically older women who choose to use artificial insemination as a means of achieving their dreams of becoming a mother, but age and money don’t equal a fit parent.

While I somewhat understand women’s desire to make use of a medical intervention to become a mother, I personally feel two parent households are the ideal setting for raising a child, therefore no form of single motherhood is particularly appealing to me. But what seems to be evident from discussions about single motherhood is that there are unfair stereotypes associated with some forms and not others, and that is unattractive in itself.

What are your thoughts on women who choose to have babies on their own via artificial insemination? Do you view that as an acceptable form of single motherhood? Do you experience stereotyping as a single mother regardless of your circumstances?

Brande Victorian is a blogger and culture writer in New York City. Follower her on Twitter at @be_vic.

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