I don’t like to say that I gave up on dating. It implies a sense of reluctance, or resignation. In reality, when I decided to stop dating, I felt an immense sense of relief. No more desperately searching for Mr. Not-quite-right-but-good-enough. No more ambivalent swipes to the right. No more terrified calculating of how fast I would need to move in and join bank accounts with a near-stranger, in order to procreate while my body allowed it.
I don’t think I had previously appreciated the pressure I felt to ‘pair up’. This pressure had me disregarding what I’d probably known for quite a while: I’m happiest when I’m single. Perhaps it is because I just haven’t met the right person, that I feel this way. Or maybe it’s because I AM the right, and only, person who can give myself the life I want. Either way, you play the cards you’re dealt.
For those of us who have not met our ‘other half,’ when it comes time to acknowledge the limits of our fertility and settle down, there is a progressive and urgent angst that ‘settling down’ will just mean ‘settling’. When I finally gave myself permission to contemplate life, and parenthood, without a partner, I could not then imagine becoming a mother any other way.
I know that there will be things that are more difficult as a solo parent, but I also love the idea that I will retain unbridled autonomy over my parenting choices and priorities. Furthermore, allowing yourself to contemplate a single pass to parenthood doesn’t exclude you from partnering-up later: it just releases you from the constraints of your biological clock.
I’m fortunate that my family and friends are all very supportive of my decision. But to begin with, I don’t think they all really understood it. When expressing my plans for the first time, I got a lot of: ‘oh but you’re still so young,’ ‘you never know, you might still meet someone,’ and ‘I’m sure your person is out there somewhere.’ I even had one friend in tears, telling me I could still meet someone, and not to ‘give up hope’. It was such a jarring concept to me that the decision to take control of my life and my fertility was seen by others as a relinquishing of hope, rather than an expression of it. However, I know this was all kindly meant, and with time these placaters have become my fervent cheerleaders, and promised ‘village’ of helpers.
One of the most beautiful things about this process, is that since I started talking about my plans to become a single mother by choice (SMC), I have had several friends voice an interest in this path to parenthood as well. Still more friends have expressed an interest in learning more about fertility options and fertility preservation. Whether they are still pursuing a relationship, or aiming to achieve certain career goals before having a family, or because they are in a same-sex relationship – it’s become clear to me that this is something that many people have been aching to talk about. It has really opened up a candid dialogue in several of my circles about fertility and different family structures, which has been so heartening.
In a similar way, discovering an online community of SMCs has been one of the most encouraging and instructive experiences on this journey. Hearing about shared family holidays, hilariously heartwarming exchanges between children about their family structures, and the good, bad and ugly about the SMC road, has been absolutely invaluable. These women are independent and empowered. They plan, wait and work for, create and grow their families despite many and varied barriers. They are also unendingly supportive towards one another.
For me, and for many, the SMC lifestyle is not about ‘giving up’, it’s not about compromise: it’s quite the opposite. It is the adamant refusal to compromise on what matters most.