So how do we assess the effect of the solomor?
What barometer do we use to measure it? Social? Economic? Political? Discussion centred on erosion of the family, for example, does little to advance debate and without demonstrable evidence to suggest a detrimental effect such pronouncements are effectively worthless. Existing studies have shown, however, that children born to ‘elective’ single mothers ( the term ‘elective’ here is an essential one) do slightly better in tests than other children and considerably better than those children of ‘unelective’ single mothers ( i.e. Those through divorce or unplanned pregnancies). And this point is important. Typically perceptions of single mothers tend to stem from the latter circumstances. Researchers at the University of Cambridge argue that that elective single mothers are a different proposition altogether for whereas an unelective single mother may face financial hardship ( for example, a drop in income) this situation is not faced by elective single mothers. Likewise stress deriving from an acrimonious split and anxiety surrounding a ‘changed’ financial and social future likewise do not affect them.
In Denmark this growing breed of financially secure solomors also benefit from social networks they have set up to support their community, a forum in which they can share experiences and discuss parenting problems. But it is not all good news. Academics at Copenhagen and the Minister for Education and Health warn that, although these women do a great job, they will not solve the greater problem of Denmark’s declining birth rate (currently at 1.9, which is below the replacement rate of 2.1). They suggest that men need to be educated about the fertility window for women. If current trends continue a question mark hangs over the future of Denmark’s population and economy. The wait until we are ready model is ultimately not sustainable. Men and women must be encouraged to not put off children until after completion of their studies (many Danes study until they are in their in 30s.) or for the sake of their careers but to manage these things together. This needn’t be a sacrifice. If partners are willing to cooperate and share the burden of parenting the goals of children, education and career are eminently doable. Indeed this point becomes more emphatic when one considers that Denmark has an enviable welfare state and a day care system with the highest unemployment rate among mothers in the world.
This is not the end for men but an urge to begin again. For many of Denmark’s existing solomors they have not given up the prospect of finding a partner and perhaps a father for their child. They understand the role that dads have to play, they just haven’t found them yet.