Single Parent, Two Parent, Multi-Parent: Which would you choose?


I just read this interesting article by Jessica Olien about how she wants to be a single mom, not because her biological clock is ticking away but because she craves the sole intimacy and “simplicity” afforded by being the sole parent.

Many of the comments were not favorable. Some berated the author for her lackadaisical attitude towards child rearing, accusing her of being selfish and concerned only with her own desires.  Others were concerned with the potentially inappropriate emotional relationship between adult and child, one noting that “it’s almost like she thinks she will give birth to a new best friend and she doesn’t want any other friends getting in the way”.  A common theme throughout the article was that a child should have two parents, which of course made me wonder, why specifically two?

One commenter noted that “an important detail in this article that isn’t given due attention is the huge role her grandmother played in her upbringing” and followed with the thought that “kids need multiple responsible, loving, mature and pragmatic adults in life looking out for them”.

I couldn’t agree more.

While I don’t agree with Olien’s reasons for raising a child alone, I don’t believe that raising a child alone is necessarily a bad decision. The fact is, however, that nobody raises a child alone. Parents, grandparents, friends, family, siblings, paid carer, etc. all help in the raising of children. As long as there are numerous adults in the child’s life, why set a particular number of the type of adults?

Mutliple parents

Imagine a child with two stepparents.  As long as the step parents were loving and kind, very few people would be bothered by the child having 4 parents and likely nobody would be bothered by the child having 8 grandparents and potentially a plethora of aunts and uncles.  If anything, the concern would lie in the complications of living in a divorced household and having to shuttle between two homes with two different sets of rules.

Now imagine a child with four loving and kind parents that all lived in the same household. Just like the previous example there are four adults to protect, love and nurture the child. The only real difference is that the child would be in one household with one set of rules.

Of course, multi-parent families come in all shapes and sizes and may include more than one household as well, which hardly seems any different from children being raised by parents and stepparents.

Not mother material

Personally, I do not want to have a child. I did fluctuate between wanting and not for quite a while before I decided on not.  I do not feel that I’m  cut out to be a mother.  I have a lot to offer a child, but I do not want the stress and anxiety of being a mother.  To be quite frank, I don’t believe in my ability to raise a child with my very limited support network of family.  My husband, who would make the perfect father, is fine avoiding the financial and emotional expenses of a child.  My fiance, however, dearly wants a child and was even willing to have one by herself if the right person didn’t come along in time.

Babies on the horizon

My relationship with my fiance moved into serious territory and I had to contemplate having a child all over again. I wouldn’t have a child with just my husband because of a lack of financial and emotional resources.  Does adding another adult to the relationship make a difference? Yes.  Entirely.  While I still do not relish the thought of becoming a parent (goodbye money, goodbye time!) I do see the merits of having a child in a multi-parent family.  Forgive me, my reasons are (almost) totally selfish.

More is more.

More money.  More time. More experience. More love. Each adult in this relationship has something to bring to the family table that would benefit a child/children as well as the other adults.

As a multi-parent family we would be able to handle the financial aspects of raising a child more easily. With three adults working we would have more money and fewer expenses living in a shared household. If one of us decides to stay at home or work part-time we’ll save on childcare costs.

With three parents we have a wider variety of experiences and to draw upon. My husband is an IT wiz and an athlete.  I’m the “academic” in the relationship.  My fiance comes from another country and speaks a different language. He’s funny, I’m logical, she’s spiritual.  He’s a small town, country boy, I’m a medium-sized city girl and she’s from one of the biggest cities in the world. He’s a pessimist, I’m a realist, she’s an optimist. We are all loving in our own ways.

What works for me

Personally, I would not have a child in single parent household or a two parent household. Not because single parenthood or two parent households are inferior to multi-parent households.  home structure that is stable and loving is inherently inferior to another household structure.  I would not have a child without a third partner because I couldn’t be the parent I’d need to be without that additional structure.

For now, the decision to actually have children remains relegated to the murky, unknowable future. At least I know that when the time comes I’ll have two amazing people to navigate the responsibilities with me.