Single mom of choice: “Choosing to wait for the right moment is a wise move.”

“It was in those crazy years when dads were out of fashion… Oohou, she only had a baby  In the 1980s, the visionary Jean-Jacques Goldman told the story of a woman who embarked on motherhood alone. Juggling between diapers and feeding bottles, the heroine takes on her role as mother and wife. Thirty years later, Johanna Luyssen, “single, thirty years old, rather heterosexual” and perhaps a music lover, launches into life: she too is going to have a baby herself. In his book If I want toedited by Grasset, the deputy editor of the newspaper’s society pages Liberation trusts between emotion and humor on this journey that led her, seventeen months ago, to give birth to a little girl. Between social prohibitions, feminism and political brakes, the young mother joins us on her journey.

Why did you feel the need to write this book?

When I started to suggest that I might be able to have a child in a non-traditional way, I discovered that there was no model. I didn’t know where to start. I didn’t know what that meant. I soon realized there were stigmata attached to the solo mother figure. I knew full well that I wasn’t the only one asking myself these questions. I’ve seen it during the debates around the PMA for single women and lesbian couples…

To show that another model exists, I wanted to share my journey to situate myself in relation to the image of the traditional family and accept my celibacy. Because it is as much a book about celibacy as it is about motherhood. Many women have been led to think that celibacy was something negative, a passing state before the fullness that the couple would represent. Taming your celibacy means that in reality you don’t have to be two to live a full life.

This book is at the crossroads of this personal journey and many of the societal changes that occurred.

Your little girl is seventeen months old, in what context did you decide to start solo motherhood?

All of this happened in the middle of #MeToo, at a time when the system of domination as a whole was deeply questioned. I thought to myself, maybe it’s time for me to step into the anthill and stop being a “victim of time’. Because we keep explaining to women that their chances of having children are very slim. I didn’t want to say to myself “it’s too late, you’re all alone, let it go” …

Is it a feminist act to have a baby alone?

Yes of course! It’s a deeply feminist act, but that doesn’t mean if you don’t do it alone, you’re not a feminist. It’s not a matter of handing out good points. But obviously this approach encouraged me to think about my future outside the schedule we are all encouraged to follow. Being able to think differently about myself, without male validation, was enormously emancipatory. And either way, relegating the father’s place to a more satellite dimension is necessarily feminist.

Photo: Johanna Luyssen

You speak of a decision “mixed with pride and resignation†, what lies behind this formulation?

I didn’t want to give the impression that I had always been clear about my decision. To suggest that it was taken from A to Z from the beginning, without any questions, minor flaws and questioning. It is important to show that it is a path. Of course at some point I wondered: does that mean I’ve missed something in my life? These questions are, in fact, legitimate. After that it is interesting to catch up with them. I thought it important to show that during this journey I was always crossed by headwinds, not knowing whether these doubts were the result of socially constructed things or of a real feeling.

What are the biggest difficulties you encountered in this process?

To have a child alone is the biggest difficulty of a financial nature, as a PMA abroad costs an average of 5,000 euros. When I started, the law on PMA for all had not yet been passed. But to this day we cannot say that access is generalized as there is a shortage of gametes. It did the sorting, in the same way that in the 1970s abortion was the preserve of an elite who had the means to have an abortion in Switzerland.

This is where you have to get creative if you want to do it in a completely artisanal way like I did. I was finally lucky enough not to have to undergo a medical procedure thanks to a gracious donor.

“ Choosing to wait for the right moment is a great proof of wisdom for me.“

How do we look at single moms of choice?

During my trial I also had to face moral obstacles because my desire was seen as a completely selfish desire because I was alone. On the other hand, it is accepted to be a single mother if one is left behind because in this case one is a “brave mother”. However, I think it’s anything but selfish to have a child when you’re ready, rather than launching yourself under the influence of social pressure on the pretense that it’s the right time. Choosing to wait for the right moment is a great proof of wisdom for me. I had times when I was in a relationship, I was even married and I could have done it sooner, but I wasn’t ready yet. The underlying criticism is that listening to each other would be selfish. I think listening to yourself is feminist.

There is also the somewhat Manif pour Tous rhetoric of saying â€you deliberately deprive the child of a father†. There are so many families that are built that way and work very well. A child needs figures in his life, but they can be different. The obsession with the biological seems dangerous to me. There are countless models that deserve to exist. And all this existed long before we were told that the father is the alpha and omega of the family.

Photo: Shutterstock

You argue for parenthood that is separate from the couple, what does that mean?

I advocate parenthood separate from the couple, but not for the whole earth. Let’s just say I don’t make it a social project. I’m just explaining that in my case it’s something imposed on me and I just want us to integrate socially that it’s ONE of the options to start a family. † There have been such diverse models since the dawn of time. I argue that this does not seem incongruous.

In your book you explain that you carry the mental burden alone. How do we deal with this every day?

Obviously it’s harder when you’re alone and you don’t have daily shifts. I can count on my friends, my family… From day to day I actually manage on my own. But when I question my friends in a heterosexual couple, I see that they are the ones who manage diapers, meals, appointments and so on. In general, we know that in our societies, the care of children mainly rests with women. I am well aware that there are also progressive superdads who care, but they are less numerous.

Doing it alone will always leave you less alone than if you’re in a relationship and the work isn’t distributed fairly. In addition, we often also have to deal with the mental load of the other person with whom we have a relationship… I know why I am single. And if I need a hand, I won’t hesitate to ask, while women in a relationship are less daring. In the end, like many young parents, I am tired, but I am no more than my friends who are in a relationship.

Obviously everything I just explained is possible, provided you have a certain amount of financial capital, the great enemy of single parenting is insecurity.

If you had a last word for those who ask themselves the same questions as you?

Don’t hesitate to listen to you! Follow your pace, not the pace that society imposes on us…

To learn more about Johanna Luyssen’s maternity journey, immerse yourself in her book, If I Want, which is funny, moving and inspiring.

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