LIFESTYLE

Two in Five Women Would Consider Parenting Solo, According To New Poll

MUNICH, GERMANY - MAY 13:  Pregnant women pray during a holy ecumenical mass at the second day of the 2nd ecumenical Kirchentag on May 13, 2010 in Munich, Germany.  (Photo by Alexandra Beier/Getty Images)

MUNICH, GERMANY - MAY 13: Pregnant women pray during a holy ecumenical mass at the second day of the 2nd ecumenical Kirchentag on May 13, 2010 in Munich, Germany. (Photo by Alexandra Beier/Getty Images)  (2010 Getty Images)

A survey addressing America's changing family structures found that more than 2 in 5 unmarried women without children — or 42 percent — would consider having a child on their own without a partner, including more than a third, or 37 percent, who would consider adopting solo.

The Associated Press-WE tv poll dovetails with a recent report by the U.S. Census Bureau that single motherhood is on the rise: It found that of 4.1 million women who'd given birth in 2011, 36 percent were unmarried at the time of the survey, an increase from 31 percent in 2005. And among mothers 20-24, the percentage was 62 percent, or six in 10 mothers.

The poll also found that even though most Americans welcome the growing variety of family arrangements, 64 percent think single women having children without a partner is a bad thing for society.

Among those who said they would consider single parenthood, answers varied greatly as to the ways to go about it. Thirty-seven percent of women said they'd consider adopting solo (compared to 19 percent of men), about a third of women — 31 percent — said they'd consider freezing their eggs, and 27 percent would be willing to use artificial insemination and donor sperm.

Stacey Ehlinder, a 28-year-old event planner in Denver, says she would consider some of those options at some point if necessary — though she's currently in a relationship headed toward marriage. She says she's surprised by the high percentage of poll respondents who had doubts about single mothers. "It just seems like these days there are so many more definitions of a family," she says.

Ehlinder is confident that if she does have children, she'll be able to balance career and motherhood. "In my industry, and in companies I've worked for, I've seen flexibility given to mothers," she says. "It makes me feel confident that I could juggle things and be the mother I want to be."

However, at a time when the can-you-have-it-all debate rages for working mothers, women were more apt than men to say having children has negatively impacted their career.

And this was true especially among mothers who waited until age 30 or older to have children. Fully 47 percent of those mothers said having a child had a negative impact on their careers. Of women overall, 32 percent of mothers reported a negative effect, compared with 10 percent of men.

For Christy Everson, who has a toddler conceived via a sperm donor, being the only parent means daily responsibilities that naturally suck up some of the time she used to spend on her career as a financial consultant.

"To be honest about it, it's hard to be a rock star" when parenting a baby, she says. But she sees it as more of a temporary career setback, and feels she's already getting back on track with her toddler now over age 2. Soon, she says, "I'll be getting back on my A-game."

The poll was conducted in conjunction with WE tv ahead of the launch of the show "Pregnant and Dating," which looks at the dating lives of women on the verge of becoming single mothers. It was conducted May 15-23, 2013 using KnowledgePanel, GfK's probability-based online panel. It involved online interviews with 1,277 people age 18-49, including interviews with 298 women who have children or are currently pregnant with their first child and have never been married. The survey has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.8 percentage points for all respondents.

Based on reporting by The Associated Press.

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