This week in the media, much attention has been focused on Jennifer Aniston’s comments regarding single parenthood. During a Los Angeles press conference promoting her new movie, ‘The Switch,’ Aniston stated she didn’t believe women needed to settle for a less-than-ideal man in order to fulfill their dreams of having children. Since her statements, a firestorm of controversy has ensued, including Fox News host Bill O’Reilly calling her “destructive to society” on his program this week.
I am not a single parent. There are two of us, and my husband is a devoted, wonderful dad to E. But due to J’s job circumstances, I’m currently on my own about 85 percent of the time. It’s not a situation either of us enjoys, but we’re doing what we have to until things change, or we can find a better solution. So single parenthood, and single pregnancy, is something I’m somewhat familiar with. True, I’m definitely not in this alone, but there are days when it sure feels like it.
There are pluses to flying solo during pregnancy. No one is around to complain when I make asparagus five nights a row, or set the air conditioner in the bedroom to freezing. I can take up the whole bed with my tossing and turning, and no one is going to complain. It’s hard enough to watch my body grow larger by the minute; at least there’s no one else in the bathroom trying to sneak peeks at the scale. And all the ice cream in the house is mine and mine alone.
But there’s also no one to rub my back in the middle of the night when I wake up with my crazy pregnancy nightmares, and no one to lug the groceries from the car to the house when my back is aching at the end of the day. I may get to make all the day-to-day decisions about E’s health and wellbeing (hurray for dictatorship!) but no one else is here to listen to the funny things she says at breakfast or see her proud face when she finishes a puzzle on her own. When she wakes up crying in the middle of the night, or gets up an un-godly hour of the morning, I can’t roll over, bury my face in my pillow and mutter “You can get this one, I’m exhausted.” It’s all on me.
When it comes to single parenting, I can’t express my respect enough for women who go it alone. No matter how great families and friends can be, nothing is more terrifying than trying to decide at 3am whether your baby’s fever is high enough for a trip to the ER, with no one to consult or take a turn with the thermometer. On my more paranoid nights, I’ve laid in bed obsessing over how, in the event of a fire, I’d get the baby and the dog out of the house safely. Add #2 to that mix, and it is astounding to think of the weight a truly single mom carries on her shoulders. Every health scare, every financial decision, every moment of your child’s life is up to you and only you. Amazing—and so, so hard.
I understand where Jennifer Aniston is coming from when she says women don’t need to raise children. There are times when waiting around for Mr. Right just isn’t possible. And I wholeheartedly believe in her statements about love being enough to make all kinds of families. There are lots of ways to raise happy, healthy children—a household with both Mom and Dad is just one of them. But are dads (or dedicated partners) unnecessary in today’s turkey baster world? Absolutely not.
No one will ever love my children as much as I do, except for their dad. No one will ever worry about them as much or think they’re as hilarious (with the possible exception of the grandparents.) A father who is present in his kids’ lives—no matter how little circumstances may allow that to be—is irreplaceable. Women do need men to have babies, and not just for the obvious reasons. Parenting is hard enough. We should all be lucky enough to find someone to share it with along the way.