More Black Mothers Are Becoming Single Parents by Choice—and Finding Fulfillment

Faced with the traditional constraints of marriage, rising divorce rates, and enjoying increased agency, more mothers are deciding to parent alone—and enjoying it.

Delighted black mother holding cute laughing daughter on hands while standing in lush sunny garden

Ezequiel Giménez/Stocksy

For as long as she can remember, Aisha Jenkins of Start to Finish Motherhood has always wanted to be a mother. Her earliest memory of wanting to become a mom was when her youngest brother was born. She was just 9 years old. “Growing up as part of a large blended family, I am one of 8 children. It was common for the older siblings to help with caring for the younger ones,” she says. “I got to help out with caring for my youngest brother. This experience nurtured my love for children and boosted my confidence in my ability to nurture and care for a child.“

Having grown up in a two-parent household, she grew up with the belief that there was a specific order to follow when it came to becoming a mother: dating, marriage, and then children. However, as life goes on, things didn’t turn out as she expected. “I met my (then) husband at the age of 19. We got married when I was 24, but unfortunately, our marriage ended in divorce when I was 29,” Jenkins explains. “I divorced knowing that I might risk never marrying again or having children.”

Jenkins says that she and her (then) husband had totally different visions of what starting a family would look like. He expected a traditional arrangement with a stay-at-home wife to care for the children, whereas she aspired to have both a fulfilling career and a family. These conflicting aspirations, among other reasons, eventually led to their divorce.

Jenkins then went through an introspective period during which she started reconsidering the order of marriage and motherhood. She consciously chose to decouple her relationship status with motherhood, and eventually learned of the single mother-by-choice path.

Research shows that the U.S. has the highest share of children living in single-parent households, with single mothers making up 80% of these households. While data indicates that 51% of single mothers have never been married and 29% are divorced, they do not reflect how many parents made the decision to start a family on their own. Still, low marriage rates among Black women and the general population, high divorce rates, and greater opportunities in the workplace make it easier for mothers to start their parenting journeys without partners.

“Making the decision to become a single mother by choice was not one I arrived at easily. However, after engaging in open and honest conversations with my family, outlining my plan and intentions, I mustered the courage to move forward with my dream of conceiving and raising a child on my own,” Jenkins says. 

Increasingly, the culture around marriage is shifting. When, once, it was the opportunity for women to find equal footing in society, today marriage is less of a contract and more of a choice—and some are deciding against it. But they're not deciding against families.

Jenkins sought the opinions of her family and friends regarding her desire to become a mom—among them, her foster/stepmother played a pivotal role. “She was a deeply religious woman in her mid-60s, who had experienced divorce and had gained wisdom and perspective from living a fulfilling life. It was her viewpoint that held significant weight for me,” she explains. “During a tearful conversation, I told her of my deep desire to have a baby. She said, ‘If you want a baby, go have a baby.’ So I did.”

While running a Facebook group for single moms by choice, Jenkins discovered that other women were also interested in the lifestyle for a variety of reasons. Some of them had health issues such as polycystic ovarian syndrome, premature ovarian failure or a prescription for hysterectomy due to uterine issues. Some were interested in the lifestyle due to sexual orientation, such as being asexual. Some already had children within the confines of a relationship that didn't work out but due to custody issues, they chose to have another as a solo parent.

Other women simply couldn't find a suitable dating partner and didn't want to miss out on motherhood due to the biological clock. Jenkins says that she started to notice women younger than 21 years old wanting to join the group, citing that they've just always wanted to be a mother. She decided to set an age limit for the group after that.

Jenkins now has two children, but the process wasn't easy. She successfully gave birth to her first child at 38 years old using intrauterine insemination (IUI). She enjoyed every moment of that pregnancy and immediately knew that she wanted to have a second child. However, when trying to conceive baby number two, she experienced secondary infertility. Her journey to conceive was marked by miscarriages and several unsuccessful rounds of IUI, IVF, and egg donors. She also had a difficult pregnancy having been diagnosed with gestational diabetes.

Despite the challenges and obstacles she faced, Jenkins pushed through and finally welcomed her second child in 2019 at age 43. “The difficulties I encountered during my second pregnancy served as a profound learning experience, akin to a graduate-level course. It equipped me with a wealth of knowledge and insights, inspiring me to create a podcast and provide support to others on their journeys towards intentional single motherhood,” she says.

Support is pivotal for all parents, including Jenkins. Prior to the pandemic, she had family nearby but they have since moved away. She now relies on a network of other people for support. “I have supportive friends and other single mothers by choice in the area. I have intentionally structured my life to accommodate my single mother by choice lifestyle. My work has a short commute, and I have been working in a hybrid model since 2020. The doctors for my children and I are conveniently located near home and work.”

Her days now consist of balancing parenting with work, as she always imagined. “I wake up at around 6 a.m., the kids are dropped off by 8:45 a.m., and I head to work from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. If my days are interrupted, I make up the work at night after the children go to bed,” she explains. “Evenings involve park time or homework, dinner, and bedtime routines. Weekends are hectic, with limited activities and some relaxed family time.”

“One important lesson I've learned as a single mother by choice is the value of slowing down and being present for my children. Sometimes, in the midst of our structured routines, it's crucial to pause and truly understand what they need, even when they can't express it clearly,” acknowledges Jenkins.

"I've learned to get down to their level, ask them directly, and provide the comfort they seek. Slowing down and embracing the messiness, joy, and beauty of each moment has become a mindful practice in my parenting journey. Parenting is just hard but clear priorities make it easier.”

Another realization Jenkins had was that she was determined to present her lifestyle choice as a simple fact and not open to discussion. Because of this, she has never felt particularly judged for her choice to become a single mother. “I believe it has taken roughly 400 years and many millions of people to get us to this point and my choice to forego motherhood against my will won't change the current state of things.”

When asked about the stigma that comes with being a single mother, Jenkins says that it definitely does exist. “I do think that single motherhood carries a stigma but I think that stigma matters more to people who became single parents unexpectedly and people who have experienced privilege up to the point of choosing to be a single mother.”

“I intentionally became a single mother and as a Black woman, privilege is already at a minimum. My choice to become a single mother doesn’t add or take away from that.”

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