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(Single) Mothered: Choosing to Parent Solo

An illustration of a child's drawing of a family tree, with the words "My Family Tree" at the top and a hand hovering over the drawing holding a picture of a kid with light brown skin and short hair being put on the drawing above the word "Me." The tree has a dark brown trunk and pink flowers. It features the names and photos of family members including "Grandpa," "Grandma," "Aunt" and "Mom." There is a ruler, crayon and pair of scissors sitting on top of the project. The words "Embodied" and "(Single) Mothered" are in the lower left hand corner of the illustration.
Charnel Hunter

More and more women are breaking up with the expectation that you need a partner to parent. What’s it like raising kids as a single mother by choice?

The old nursery rhyme goes, “First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes baby in a baby carriage!” This order of events is so culturally ingrained that it has become a societal expectation. But many women are challenging tradition and choosing to raise children on their own. This Mother’s Day, Host Anita Rao meets two single mothers by choice to discuss the ins and outs of solo motherhood.

Anita sits down with Hera McLeod, a mother, civil rights activist and author of the book “Defying Silence: A Memoir of a Mother's Loss and Courage in the Face of Injustice.” Hera shares each step in her motherhood journey, including what aspects she prioritized when selecting a sperm donor and her standout sources for childcare support. Hera’s 10-year old daughter Estela also joins the conversation to give her perspective on growing up with a single mommy. Hera and Estela co-host the podcast “Seeking Different,” which explores what it’s like to navigate the world as a non-traditional family.

Anita also talks with Dr. C. Nicole Mason, president and CEO of Future Forward Women, a policy network launching in fall 2024. Nicole details how her “Sex in the City'' lifestyle changed overnight when she decided to get pregnant — and then how she juggled a high-powered career after giving birth to twins. Nicole reflects back on the entire arc of her parenthood with Anita as her teens prepare to leave the nest.

Special thanks to Tara Ilsley, Maggie Ford, Mandi Miranda, Erin Molson and Kat Curtin for their contributions to the episode. Thank you to the SMC community for connecting us with members.

Read the transcript

Paige Miranda is a producer for "Embodied". Previously, she served as WUNC’s 2023 AAAS Mass Media Fellow.
Anita Rao is an award-winning journalist, host, creator, and executive editor of "Embodied," a weekly radio show and podcast about sex, relationships & health.