Book Review: Choosing Single Motherhood

Choosing Single Motherhood
I wasn’t prepared when my two and a half year old son asked, ‘So did my dad die or what?’ I thought the question would come up later than that. [. . .] By the time he was 6, he’d introduce himself by shaking hands and saying ‘Hi, I’m Ryan and I’m a donor baby.’ It wasn’t intended to shock people. For him it was simply part of who he was
— Wendy Kramer, Choosing Single Motherhood (270)

Perhaps you're thinking about being a single mom, parent, or you have a friend who has been considering it, and every time you look for a resource online, in the library, or book store, your search is largely dominated by resources targeted toward two-parent families. Although the #choicemom community has been around for decades (yes! decades), unfortunately, there are still limited resources for those looking to be a parent on their own. However, we are lucky that Mikki Morrissette, founder of ChoiceMoms.org (another fantastic resource), has written a wonderfully comprehensive book about Choosing Single Motherhood.

Choosing to be a choice mom (a woman who chooses to conceive or adopt without a life partner) is not a choice that comes without significant thought and planning around finances, security, sacrifices, and changes that will need to be made to support this new little family member. And this is before any thought is given to how this little one will come to meet us. In Choosing Single Motherhood: The Thinking Woman's Guide (2008) Mikki Morrissette walks you through each step from those initial considerations whether being a single parent is right for you, choosing how to bring this little one in to your life, and the challenges faced by choice mothers.

Where this book succeeds

Considering this book is nearly 10 years old, it is still very relevant. It does justice to the very serious questions around how to conceive as a single mom, key issues to consider when weighing the pros and cons between choosing a known donor (i.e. someone you know), or unknown donor (i.e. sperm bank), and if an unknown donor is chosen the debate between an open ID donor versus a closed donor, and of course Morrissette dedicates a whole chapter to adoption as an option.

With every topic that Morrissette covers, whether it be about loss of a family dream, the debate around being raised 'without' a father (and how to answer the 'daddy' question), or how to get through the day-to-day parenting grind when doing it solo, she provides an array of anecdotes from choice moms, some of them positive, some of them not so ideal, but providing a full spectrum of considerations to each thoughtfully chosen topic.

Points worth noting

Morrissette shares several anecdotes from her choice mom peers about discrimination from various doctors and fertility clinics who either denied or made it difficult for single women to receive fertility support. I do genuinely hope that there has been a shift in care for single women seeking to conceive or adopt as a solo parent since this book has been published. I can attest that this kind of discrimination is exceptionally uncommon or nonexistent among fertility clinics in Toronto. Because Morrisette is based in the United States it is also important, whether you plan to use a known or unknown donor, co-parent with a known-donor, get help from a surrogate, or adopt, to explore the legalities in your community. Parental and legal rights vary from province to province, and state to state, and of course from country to country and it is important that you be fully aware of any legal roadblocks no matter how you choose to create your family. 

This book is written specifically for cis-gendered women who want to be single parents, and is not trans-inclusive. Despite the lack of inclusivity, this book can still be used as a springboard to harvest more information for single trans-men who may want to use donor sperm or adopt, OR trans-women who may be interested in adoption (unfortunately the book does not talk about surrogacy as an option). Many of those basic questions around finances, security, how to handle the daily grind are relatively universal to all parents doing it solo, although every person has unique circumstances that play a role in their family structure.  

Becoming Single Mother

We would definitely recommend this book to anyone who is considering being a single parent. There are not a lot of resources out there in print for women considering to be choice moms, and although there is room for some updating, Morrissette a choice mom herself, provides a relatively unbiased perspective on all the major topics around choosing single motherhood (plus a ton of solo parenting and self-care survival tips).

At Spectrum Doula Collective we work with new parents daily, and parenting can be and feel very isolating. One thing that Morrissette talks about as essential for the solo mom is widening that social circle even if this is something that doesn't come naturally, she explains: "Most of them won't become close, long-term friends" (236), but a network is necessary for support, to normalize your experiences, and to provide balance for both you and your child's.

Have you heard the parable of the glass of water? Lift a glass of water and it doesn’t take much effort. One minute, okay. One hour, your arm start to ache. One day, you need a doctor. The weight never changes, but the longer you lift it without a break the heavier it becomes. You need to put it down and rest before holding it again. After we’re refreshed, it doesn’t seem like such an effort again.
— Mikki Morrissette, Choosing Single Motherhood (250)