An authentic letter from a Solo Mom to her child’s teacher
As we discussed on the phone, my child was conceived via donor insemination. I made the decision to have a child as a single mother by choice when I was 40. I figured I had the rest of my life to find love, but I didn’t have the rest of my life to have a biological child.
My child recently has begun asking about his daddy, and I imagine this curiosity will only intensify when he meets other kids at school with dads who live with them and pick them up from school. I always tell him the same story: Mama wanted a baby, and so a man called a donor helped her. There are lots of different kinds of families. Some families have two moms, some have two dads, some have a mom and a dad, some have a mom and a dad who live in different houses, some have one mom, and some have one dad. We’re a one-mom-and-child family.
We read two books as well: The Family Book (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2010) by Todd Parr and What Makes a Baby (Triangle Square, 2013) by Cory Silverberg. Recently, he asked me to tell him the name of his donor. I tell him that one day, I may meet a man who will be his daddy. My child’s donor is what is now called an identity-release donor, which is similar to open adoption. He’ll be able to meet his donor if he so chooses when turns 18. He has no legal or social connection to him now.
I’ve talked to many therapists and attended several seminars about how to talk to children about donor conception. The most important thing I’ve learned is to be consistent in your message early and often, and to talk about it as if it’s a totally normal family situation, which it increasingly is. (See this New York Times story.)
I also recommend reading this review of the book Modern Families: Parents and Children in New Family Forms (Cambridge University Press, 2015) by Susan Golombok, professor of Family Research and director of the Centre for Family Research at the University of Cambridge. The book includes a series of studies about single moms by choice and their children. Golombok sites stigmatization as one of the only negative aspects of the lives of donor-conceived children.
So in terms of the school community, the most important thing I ask is that my child’s family situation is treated like any other family situation. That means being sensitive with regard to any project that involves fathers/the traditional nuclear-family structure, educating the kids around him, and immediately dispelling any kind of stigmatization.
Solo Mom by Choice
Rachel Lehmann-Haupt is a Solo Mom by choice and the author of In Her Own Sweet Time: Unexpected Adventures in Finding Love, Commitment, and Motherhood, she is a leading expert on the role of science and technology in fertility and pregnancy. You can follow her on Twitter at @rlehmannhaupt.
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