Single Moms Join Forces To Make One Big Family

In this weekend's New York Times Magazine, Emily Bazelon profiles several groups of single mothers by choice — many with multiple kids — who support and live near each other with no men around.

The moms take care of each other's kids when needed, and provide a tight social network Bazelon refers to as "a kind of monastic motherhood." Fran McElhill, single mom to girls MeiLin and Lili, says, "If I had a great job opportunity somewhere else, I wouldn’t move now. If I went somewhere else, I’d have to reform what we have here, and I don’t know if I could." And Eileen Fishman describes her routine with friend and fellow single mom Tammy thus: "She calls at 6, and I’ll bring my kids over in their pajamas, or they’ll all take a bath together. It’s like what I’d do if my sister who has kids lived here."

Most of the women eschew dating in order to provide complete stability for their kids. Fran says, "my children don’t worry, Will Mommy get married, will he love us, does he like us, will he want to stay?" And most don't miss it. Single mom Anne-Marie (who didn't want her last name used) says, "for me, it seems like adding on a big mess to something that’s comparatively stable." Bazelon points out that, with no partners to negotiate with, the moms she spoke with "have the autonomy to raise their kids the way they want to."

But the women do struggle to find male role models for their kids. And Fran's limp — she needs a knee replacement, but put it off because "who would have taken care of MeiLin while she was laid up for weeks?" — shows that even though these women may have more financial means than other single moms, their job is still a hard one.

The most affecting part of the story comes when Bazelon watches Fran's daughter Lili play with her dolls. "This is the little sister," she says. "She broke her leg, so the doctors are operating on her [...] She is going to be O.K. Look, she has a lot of sisters. And friends. These are all sisters and friends." Some people never learn what Lili already seems to know — that love and support, not gender, are what make a family.

2 Kids + 0 Husbands = Family [NY Times]