I was only 26 years old when I first decided to pursue motherhood on my own. I was certainly young enough to receive side-eye from people who didn’t understand why I would choose this path.
To be fair, single motherhood was never a dream of mine. But when I was told that my fertility was quickly deteriorating and my chances of conceiving were now or never, I knew I would rather be a single mother than never a mother at all.
The universe had other plans, and my attempts to get pregnant failed miserably. But just a few years later, two months shy of my 30th birthday, I was given the opportunity to adopt a little girl. I said “yes” and never once regretted that choice.
Of course, if you were to pay attention to online comment sections, you might believe that my daughter is doomed. “The statistics about single mothers are horrible!” strangers declare. “Kids of single mothers are more likely to do drugs, fail out of high school and end up in jail!”
Those “statistics” are often thrown my way in opposition of my choices. But deep down in my heart, I’ve always known those statistics don’t represent me … or my daughter.
I came into my role as a single mother knowing full well what I was signing up for. I had a college degree, a good career, a stable lifestyle, and an incredible support system. Like most single mothers by choice (SMBC) I know, I never lived below the poverty line. I never battled addiction, faced an unplanned pregnancy, or suffered abandonment from a parenting partner. Those “statistics” so often included single mothers facing a host of other challenges that simply did not apply to my life — and I knew that had to count for something.
It turns out I was right. Because earlier this month, a study was released comparing the children of single mothers by choice to those of heterosexual two-parent families. And do you know what that study found? Absolutely “no differences in terms of parent-child relationship or child development.”
The kids are all right. Their well-being and development is right on track. They don’t fit in with those statistics grouping all single mothers together at all.
But what about those who believe a child must have a mother and a father to thrive? Well, investigator Mathilde Brewaeys addressed that as well.
“The assumption that growing up in a family without a father is not good for the child is based mainly on research into children whose parents are divorced and who have thus experienced parental conflict,” she explained. “However, it seems likely that any negative influence on child development depends more on a troubled parent-child relationship and not on the absence of father.”
Five years ago, a similar study about homosexual parents yielded similar results. I knew back then this research could likely extend to SMBCs, but it’s nice to have my gut feeling validated.
It’s nice to know that I haven’t damaged my daughter by not providing her with a father just yet.
What we’re learning is that nuclear families aren’t required for a child to grow up happy, healthy, and loved. And while this study specifically focused on SMBCs, I think it highlights the fact that no single mother is doomed to raise children who embody damning statistics. Simply being a single mother is not what contributes to those perceived outcomes; there are other factors at play.
The bottom line is that we’re not statistics. We’re just as capable of raising happy, successful, well-adjusted children as any other family might be.
If you don’t believe me, just check back in on my little girl in 20 years. I have a feeling she’s going to grow up to be a pretty spectacular adult.