Wednesday, February 4, 2009

2 Kids + 0 Husbands = Family

One of my students sent me this interesting article in the New York Times about single mothers by choice, including both mothers adopting and mothers using donor insemination. I was especially interested in the discussion of second children for single mothers by choice:

Unmarried college-educated mothers tend to be older: close to 40 percent of them give birth for the first time after age 30, compared with only about 8 percent overall. Many of these women followed a similar and familiar pattern in having their first child: they planned to marry, found they hadn’t by their 30s, looked some more and then decided to have a child without a husband.

What’s less familiar is what these women do next. Increasingly, instead of giving their children a father, they give them a sibling. Schmidt’s data show that second births to unmarried college-educated women have risen even more rapidly than first births — nearly sevenfold since 1980. For Fran and her friends, a second child, not a husband, becomes the path to normalcy. “This is exactly the difference between my generation of single mothers and the current one,” says Jane Mattes, who founded the national organization Single Mothers by Choice after her son, Eric, was born in 1980. Mattes has written of her own regret about not having had a second child. “It seemed to me such an amazing, daring thing to try to pull off, I never seriously considered it,” she says. “Now these women are saying, Why not? Why shouldn’t I have the family I always wanted?”

When I adopted Zoe, I expected that I would have only one child. Just about everyone I knew at the time -- married or single -- had only one child from China. But our family didn't feel complete. Then most of my friends started adopting their second children, and I thought, "Is it possible for me?" Being an older mom, it seemed that the best way to guarantee a family connection after I was gone was to have siblings who would have each other longer than they would have me. Still, it was an overwhelming thought at times, especially when Zoe was younger. How in the world would I manage two?! But as they say, "Fortune favors the foolish!" I'm so glad we added Maya to our family: 2 Kids + 1 Mom = Perfect For Us!


Wendy said...

I know two single moms that adopted two times. Both have indicated that it was about them having more kids and/or to provide a sibling in case one was left behind. Very interesting.

I also think as we age we won't settle when it comes to men and that is why it becomes harder to find a spouse--unmarried people in their late 30's and 40's don't want to make mistakes they made when they were married the first time or they have become set into their life routine, career, etc. and will not give up themselves so easily.

I won't speak for single moms, but I will say a lot of the reason we don't adopt a second time (M is an only child) is that we want certain things for her that adding another would not allow--we are becoming less able to settle for less when it comes to the life plans we have made. Very interesting--I think it is more about age than singleness.

Anonymous said...

Hi malinda,

Lurker here, but just wanted to comment as your post is timely for me. We are married, with one precious daughter from China. She is a complete joy, and we love her more than we knew possible. I am 41, my hubby is 43, and our daughter has been very challenging behaviour wise. Honestly I struggle with this every minute of the day, about whether we should adopt again. With all my heart if China was an option we would just go for it!

But we have to consider another country, and possibly an older child, and I am not sure how well I could handle trying to juggle 2 cultures, and issues and also the dynamics of just simply having 2 kids financially and time wise and life quality wise etc.

Like your previous commenter I want to give my daughter certain things in life that may not be possible if we had 2, also i wonder would the quality of my relatiosnship with her and time I have with her be compromised, and would I be a better Mom to 1, or a hassled frazzled Mum of 2????

BUT I do worry about her as she is an adult, the camaraderie of having a sibling, I know how I value my sisters especially and would love for her to have that, as you say when we are dead and gone, that she has her sister or brother........

sigh, it is just so hard to decide. I envy you, and your complete family, an your girls have a shared heritage.


Wendy said...

M--We struggled for a year with the same issues. I talked to many parents of two, of one, those that were only children who have only children, who had siblings who are raising only children, looked at books, websites, etc. The thing was that those who were only children seemed fine with being only children as adults and really developed stronger relationships with friends. Also, having a sibling did not guarantee closeness or even contact even with close childhood relations.
It came down to us thinking of our relationship with her and how that would change, did we want it to? Would we be able to give her what we had hoped? Would a sibling coming in as a toddler place added stress/resentment/etc? So many questions.

I think those of with siblings cannot imagine life without them (if we are close) and think it is a must have in order to find a deep connection once our parents are gone, from my research this seems to not hold weight.

Hope that helps.

Anonymous said...

When DH and I were trying to decide whether to adopt a second child I asked all the adult only children I knew how they felt about being an only. They all said it was okay, but they wouldn't want it for their children. They all had at least 3 children themselves. I'm not sure how to interpret this.

I was talking recently to a woman from mainland China (which, as we all know, is becoming a nation of only children) about this very issue. She thinks that many of the kids are very lonely. Her brother and sister each have one child. They don't get to see very much of each other as they don't live near each other. The kids are ecstatic when they can get together, and really grieve when they have to part again. This, of course, is only one person's observation.

I think a second (or third, fourth, etc.) child is a very individual decision. Like the decision to marry or to have any children, it is based on many factors - finances, health, age, experiences, values, family support, etc.

LAH - mom of 3 (so far) from China

Anonymous said...

Thanks guys, so much to think about, I go back and forth on the issue several times a DAY!!!!!

Can't wait til a decision is made...


mimifrancoise said...

My mother was an only child. She said she was lonely. And she had 5 children and wanted more. I am glad I had brothers and a sister. I did not feel deprived (financially) because I had so many siblings. We had a lot of fun and love. Of course I know it is an individual decision, but I would say "go for another child".I do not believe you would regret it.