These days, single men are pushing the boundaries of what defines fatherhood.
From dealing with diaper rash to getting through the trials of teething, anyone who is a parent knows just how much work raising a child can be. And yet all over the country, people who are not able to have children on their own spend amazing amounts of time, money and effort to become parents. When you hear about adoption or surrogacy, what usually comes to mind is an infertile couple seeking a way to build themselves a family. But while it is still true that, in the majority of cases, it is married couples who are building families like this, it is also true that an increasing number of single men (both gay and straight) who are pushing the boundaries of what defines fatherhood and creating families of their own.
Unmarried Men Increasingly Active Adopters
One trend that has largely gone unnoticed in the mainstream media is the fact that, although single men still represent a small percentage of the overall adopting couples every year, the number who have been doing this is growing. As of 2011, while around 13,000 single women became mothers by adoption, 1,400 men became fathers as well, one of the highest numbers ever.
This is not to say that single men, regardless of their sexual orientation, have an easy time of when it comes to adoption. They must meet the same qualifications as married couples who want to adopt and depending on the state, additional qualifications of age (state requirements range between 18 and 25 years of age) and residency (in some states, those who wish to adopt may also have to had lived in-state for at least six months before beginning the adoption process) may also have to be met. A few states still ban same-sex couples (or even unmarried heterosexual couples) from adopting and some international adoption agencies also do not allow single men to adopt. Despite these difficulties, however, more single men are choosing to go it alone when it comes to single fatherhood.
Single Men Revolutionize Use of Surrogate Moms
If a single man wants to become a father but does not want to adopt, another viable option (thanks to advances in reproductive technology) is surrogacy. Many men do not even realize at first that this is a possibility for them. But all that changed back in 2000, Ian Muckingham became the first single man to create his family – a set of triplets – with the use of surrogate services, paving the way for other single men to do the same. “What I find with men,” notes a surrogacy and fertility specialist, “is one of two things. Either they have been successful in their career and business and they have not had time to meet anyone or they have had a really bad divorce and are afraid to get married and share their business and they would prefer to go it alone.” Admittedly, this method of creating a family remains a controversial topic no matter who is using the services of surrogate. But despite the fact that this is a legal gray area in many ways, more men in America and even abroad are considering it.
The Guardian notes that California is becoming the destination of choice for single men seeking surrogacy services. This is because under state law, reproductive clinics must use the egg from one woman but that the resulting embryo must be carried by another woman who then gives birth. With these laws in place it becomes possible for the man in question to establish sole guardianship of the resulting children – though again, this isn’t foolproof.
However, the surrogacy route is still appealing to many men, such as to B.J. Holt, who became a father through surrogacy, talks about the joys – and challenges – of single fatherhood and about overcoming the biases and assumptions that people often make about single dads of any description. Like single male adoption, single male surrogacy is also a growing trend and in a 2010 study, the Walker Institute at the UCLA noted that, across America, around 1 million households are now being headed by single dads.
What might be most intriguing about all of this is not the increasing numbers of single male adoptions and or the fact that more men are turning to surrogacies services. What truly gives food for thought is what this trend says about the changing face of American fatherhood. Because men are getting more and more deeply involved as caregivers – and realizing that they can excel at these parenting skills and turn out healthy, adjusted, happy children as the result of their efforts – more of them are opting to go it alone and are even blazing new pathways that will continue to alter the definition of the American family.