Growing your family on the timeline that’s right for you – whether or not you have a partner – is an empowering decision. And there are a lot of reasons why you might choose to enter your parenting journey solo. For example… simply wanting to be a parent! Or you may have a medical condition that may make it challenging to have a child later. You may decide that it’s right for you to become a parent first, and find a partner second. Whatever your reason, becoming a single parent by choice (1) means you’ll join an increasing number of people deciding to pursue parenthood on their own.
If you want to start your family as a single parent, there are many options available to you. One is by adopting or fostering a child. In fact, an increasing percentage of adoptions occur with single parents in the US; in 2017, the Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System (AFCARS) reported that over a quarter of adoptions from foster care in the US occurred within single parent families (2).
If it’s important to you to be biologically related to your child or you wish to have more control over the process of becoming a parent, there are assisted reproductive technologies you can try. If you are able to carry a child and wish to do so, the treatment options your fertility clinic may suggest include IUI (intrauterine insemination) or IVF (in vitro fertilization). If this is the case for you, you will likely need a sperm donor to get pregnant, and may need an egg donor or embryo donor. The donor may be someone close to you, or (depending on where you live) you could find a known or anonymous donor through an agency. The costs vary depending on the kind of donor you’re seeking: donated eggs are more expensive than donated sperm. In either case, it will be good to prepare for those costs as well as the costs of fertility treatment.
If you are unable to carry a child or do not wish to do so, you can find a surrogate, also known as a gestational carrier. While there are two types of surrogacy – traditional surrogacy (in which the surrogate uses their own egg to become pregnant) and gestational surrogacy (in which an embryo created through IVF is implanted in the surrogate) – gestational surrogacy makes up the majority of surrogacy arrangements today. The surrogate could be someone known to you (such as a friend or family member), or someone you find through an agency. The surrogate can use your egg or donated eggs, your sperm or donor sperm, or a donor embryo as part of the IVF process. As you can see, there are many options! The costs for surrogacy are high, but for many, the costs are worth it.
While ART increases options for family building and helps people work through infertility, the financial costs of ART (especially IVF) are often high and can be difficult to predict. As a result, it’s good to know the potential range of costs ahead of you, how much you’re able to spend, and which financing options are available before you begin. In some cases, your insurance plan may cover part of the costs of ART. You can also seek grants, medical financing, or take out a loan.
Regardless of how you decide to grow your family as a single parent by choice, strengthening your support system will help you manage childcare as well as keep you cared for as an adult!
Before you become a parent, being able to speak honestly with loved ones about your experiences you work through the challenges of adoption, IVF, pregnancy, etc. will be invaluable. Finding a support group or reading the experiences of other people who chose to become a single parent will help you discover the myriad paths and shared experiences for people growing their families in this way.
Once you are a parent, having other adults nearby who can help care for your child when you are sick or need a second pair of hands can not only relieve you at important moments, but strengthen your and your child’s relationship with your community. Many single parents have also found support online in support groups made up of other single parents by choice, whether on social media or through organizations established to support single mothers by choice and fathers by choice.
Many people have misconceptions about single parenthood, which they might even share with you! It may encourage you to know that a study published in European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology in 2017 found that children raised in homes with a single mother by choice “found no differences in terms of parent-child relationship or child development” vs. children raised in a heterosexual, two-parent household (3). The amount of care and attention in a home versus how much conflict there is is a much better indicator of a child’s well-being and success than whether there is one parent or more.
Making the intentional choice to be a single parent means that the road toward parenthood may be more complex than for most heterosexual couples. But you will discover – as so many already have – that deciding to become a single parent can be a joyful way to begin growing the family you desire.
Van Gasse, D., & Mortelmans, D. (n.d.). With or without you starting single parent families - researchgate. ResearchGate. Retrieved September 23, 2022, from https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Dries-Van-Gasse-2/publication/339953979_With_or_Without_You_-_Starting_Single-parent_Families_A_Qualitative_Study_on_How_Single_Parents_by_Choice_Reorganise_Their_Lives_to_Facilitate_Single_Parenthood_from_a_Life_Course_Perspective/links/5e6fa5c692851ce30dfbb961/With-or-Without-You-Starting-Single-parent-Families-A-Qualitative-Study-on-How-Single-Parents-by-Choice-Reorganise-Their-Lives-to-Facilitate-Single-Parenthood-from-a-Life-Course-Perspective.pdf
Child Welfare Information Gateway. (2019). Adopting as a single parent. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Children’s Bureau.
European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology. (2017, July 5). Children in single-mother-by-choice families do just as well as those in two-parent families: Family social support services are valued. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 22, 2022 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/07/170705095332.htm
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