While single mothers have been around ever since fathers have been walking out on families, it wasn’t until the early 90s that the television character Murphy Brown rattled some nerves (and morals) by becoming an elective single mother on her titular sitcom. Famously then Republican Vice President Dan Quayle was highly critical of Murphy Brown (again, she was a fictional character) for endeavoring and choosing to be a single mother and “ignoring the importance of fathers by birthing a child alone.” This created a hell of a firestorm and brought forth the discussion of “family values” into the 1992 presidential campaign, ultimately yielding a democratic win by Bill Clinton.
Some 20 years later the incidence of elective single mothering is hardly rare, but still somewhat controversial in some circles. Hard to know what our former VP would think of the new development of single dads by choice.
With reproductive technology being what it is (exceptionally advanced, but still exceptionally expensive) many same-sex couples have proven that you no longer need a man and a woman to raise a child. But as NPR reported earlier this week, many single men are forgoing marriage or any sort of union and walking into single fatherhood with gusto. While many of these single fathers are gay men who have always wanted children but not yet found that life partner, some are also straight men satisfying their lifelong urge to be fathers. The Williams Institute, a think tank on same-sex issues at the University of California, Los Angeles, finds there were more than one million never-married men — both gay and straight — raising children in 2010. This number is three times more than in 1992 when Murphy Brown was deeply upsetting Dan Quayle.
Now as much as single mothers have become more acceptable to most (mind you, not all), contemporary society remains somewhat uncomfortable and/or suspicious of single fathers. Many people contend that raising a child without the influence of a mother and/or two parents puts children at a true developmental disadvantage. While some are confident that children can be raised just as well with the guidance and love of a single father. Is this reverse sexism or just viable concern? Is their something about a single father, whether by design or not, that makes you uncomfortable?