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Single Mothers By Choice

An Interview with Jane Mattes, Author of Single Mothers By Choice

Interview by Allison Martin

Single Mothers By Choice - Book ReviewJane Mattes is the author of Single Mothers By Choice, a book for women who are parenting children without partners. Psychotherapist Jane Mattes founded the national group Single Mothers by Choice (SMC) in 1981 as an outgrowth of her personal decision process of becoming a mother. Today, SMC provides local groups and workshops, an monthly newsletter and several online discussion lists.

In your introduction you describe the book as an outgrowth of your national organization Single Mothers by Choice (SMC). What has been the genesis and evolution of your group?

Our group started in 1981 when my son was about a year old and I was feeling a need for support from others who were parenting a baby alone. I decided to offer my apartment as a meeting place, and asked everyone I knew if they would spread the word that I'd like other single mothers by choice to come for coffee on a Sunday afternoon. Seven women arrived - none of us knew one another - and as we talked, we bonded quickly. From this original group of eight, we grew into a large organization with over 3000 members from all over. Most members found out about us through the media and word of mouth. We put members from the same area in touch with one another, which led to the formation of many local chapters.

What did you set out to accomplish in writing your book?

Although single motherhood by choice is not a viable choice for every woman, I feel that every single woman in her thirties should give the option some serious consideration rather than letting time make the decision for her and perhaps regretting that she didn't think about it before it was too late. My book addresses the concerns that arise when making such a major life decision. Another part of the book was written for those who have already become single mothers by choice. That part addresses issues such as societal reactions to single mothers, developing and using support networks, how to help the child with the "daddy questions", as we call them, dating and mothering, and other relevant topics.

Do you have advice for women considering single motherhood?

I think it's necessary to do some self-evaluation when considering parenting alone. For example, are you a person who can build support networks and allow other people to help you? Are you comfortable with devoting yourself to your child for several years while putting some other parts of your life on hold, such as career? Many more of these kinds of questions are addressed in my book.

What have you learned over the years about single parenting? Were there any surprises?

The biggest surprise was how rewarding parenting was, especially after those first few rough years - nothing else I've done in my life has brought me so much satisfaction over such a long period of time. The other surprise was that it really was doable. It was scary at first, but as time went by, I learned to trust that, as the Beatles' song says, "We can work it out" - and we did. My son is now 21, doing wonderfully in college, and I feel truly lucky to have had the opportunity to raise him.

What issues or considerations should single mothers be aware of?

The main one that comes to mind is that this decision will never get universal approval or support. Many people think it's a terrible decision, and that it will be bad for the children to grow up without a dad. I definitely was worried about this, but I've learned that a child can grow up well with one or two parents - it's the quality of the parenting that matters, not the number of parents.

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