Dads Alone: Men choosing to raise children without a partner
We have all heard of ‘single moms’, some of them by choice, others having to raise children without the benefit of a partner. But a growing phenomenon in the world is men, straight and gay, who are choosing to create families for themselves despite being single.
Jennifer Ludden, in a report broadcast on National Public Radio, describes this new development.
Ludden’s story tells of the experience of B.J. Holt, who in his late thirties began to realize that he was endless postponing his lifelong want to be a father, since he was still single. This even began to take priority over finding a partner. So Holt, who is gay, decided “to go it alone”.
Using an egg donor program, he has has a daughter (aged 4) and a son (aged 2). His new children Christina and Payson, represented a challenge for Holt, who knew of no other men who had chosen to be single fathers. But he soon found he had a support network in his family and friends.
Like every single parent of either sex, he has to deal with stereotypes and assumptions, including the predicable comments about his kid’s ‘mom’ being part of the family when they all go out in public.
Holt’s family represents a new direction in a world in which gay men once believed that, if they wanted to be fathers, they would have to settle for entering into a heterosexual relationship.
Despite the large number of men and women who are raising children alone, the underlying assumption that single men, straight or gay could not raise a family without a partner has held firm until quite recently.
And, in a world with more stay-at-home dads, with fathers striving to spend more time as childcare givers instead of absent breadwinners, more heterosexual men are realizing that they don’t need a wife to be a parent themselves.
Brian Tessier who recently started a hotline for prospective single fathers says: “Right now, I think we are probably up to about 30 calls a month,”
Tessier, as a single father, adopted his two sons through foster care. While he is gay himself, half the calls he gets are from straight men, many of whom still can’t believe that single men are allowed to adopt children without a partner. Tessier, while reassuring them on this point, does point out that they may still face “stigma and suspicion”. “I think that it’s a bias on the part of the agencies and the system itself that questions men’s ability and their intentions of why they would want to be a single father,” he says.
Tessier’s work also throws a light on the double standard regarding childcare that still often pervades in work situations. “If a mom is in a meeting and all of a sudden she gets called because her kid is sick, nobody raises an eyebrow,” he says. “But if a guy gets called because his kid is sick and he has to leave, it’s kind of like, ‘Where’s your wife?'”
The Williams Institute, a think-tank on same-sex issues at the University of California, Los Angeles, finds there were more than one million never-married men — both gay and straight — raising children in 2010. This represents a 300% increase over the last twenty years. Although not formally recorded by the US Census, which does not ask if men raising children have an unmarried partner, the trend continues to grow.
Nor is this exclusively an American phenomenon. Israeli Avi Brecher, is the father of three month month-old Ariel, born this spring to a surrogate in Minnesota. His older son, Daniel, adopted from Guatemala, is now six. Brecher, whose brief marriage “did not work out” would still love to find a wife, but as a pediatrician, he’s sure he knows how to raise his children without one.
Brecher wants his sons to spend time with women as well, so they experience care from his mother and a woman nurse who baby sits them.
And what of the time when, as they get older, Christina and Payson, ask questions about their mother? B.J. Holt keeps a photo of their surrogate mom by the door, and she has already paid some visits. Like any single parent, male or female, gay or straight, Holt can say, that with or without their other parent present: “they will always know that I’m there to care for them. I will always be there to love them. And that’s all that ultimately matters.”
You can read the original story Single Dads By Choice: More Men Going It Alone on the NPR website.
Chris Callahan – Associate Editor
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