August 22, 2013

Through surrogacy, some men become single dads

By David Crary / The Associated Press

(Continued from page 1)

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Nanny Randy Hambley, right, hands Trey Powell his daughter, Kylan, as her twin sister, Ashton, sits in his lap at their home in Seattle. "I just wanted to be a dad. Time was not on my side, and I didn't have the luxury of waiting for an ideal mate," Powell said.

The Associated Press

"It helps to be really passionate about it," he said.

Bernstein, 48, is president of a property management company, able to adjust his working hours and also to afford an au pair who helps care for 9-year-old Isaac and 7-year-old twins Natalie and Naomi.

Like Trey Powell, Bernstein is gay and grew into adulthood never expecting that fatherhood would be a realistic and enticing option.

"When I came out in my early 20s, I felt it was a choice of leading an honest life but giving up on the idea of family," he said. "I'd always liked children – but for many years I didn't allowed myself to think about it. It seemed sad and inevitable that I wouldn't have any."

Though gays account for a substantial portion of Growing Generations' single-father clientele, it also caters to straight men, such as New York City lawyer Steven Harris, 58, whose 6-year-old son, Ben, is about to start first grade.

"Everybody thinks you're real sensitive. 'What a guy,' " Harris said. "They don't realize it's fun and wonderful."

He's had a few conversations with other men wondering whether to follow his example.

"I tell them, don't even think twice. Just do it," he said. "There's no downside, if you really want a child."

State laws on surrogacy vary widely. Some states forbid commercial transactions, while California has a reputation as perhaps the most receptive state.

Worldwide, commercial surrogacy is banned in most countries, and two that do allow it – India and Ukraine – have decided not make it available to single men. As a result, Growing Generations' clientele of single men includes an increasing number of foreigners seeking the option of a safe, legal surrogacy.

Among them is Simon Taylor, a 50-year-old Briton who had a son via a surrogate birth in Arkansas last year, and is now working on arrangements to have a second child.

Taylor, a self-employed businessman in the insurance industry, said in an email that he had extensive discussions with family and friends about his decision, with the upshot being strong support once those close to him realized how serious he was.

His son, Cal, is now 15 months old. A nanny helps with child care, but Taylor says he strives to be a hands-on dad, coming home early from work twice a week, putting the baby to bed, and spending all weekend with him.

"My life has completely changed now that my son has been born and it is all around Cal," Taylor wrote.

Was Cal losing out by not having a mother around?

"I honestly cannot answer that," said Taylor, adding that his sister, aunt and cousins were helping to provide "plenty of female love and attention."

Intentional single parenthood – whether sought by a man or woman – still draws some criticism from skeptics who say children fare best with a mix of masculine and feminine approaches to parenting.

However, some academics who study families say the gender stereotypes of parenting are breaking down.

"Fathers on average are more involved in their children's lives" than in the past, said University of Florida sociologist William Marsiglio. "More fathers are identifying parenthood as a key dimension of who they want to be – not just being bread winner, but providing nurturing and caregiving."

Diane Ehrensaft, a clinical psychologist in Oakland, Calif., says it's an outdated myth that men lack the inherent ability to be as nurturing a parent as women.

"The lack of warmth, attention and affection is what causes harm to children," she said. "No gender has a corner on the market for those three things."

One thing single moms and single dads have in common: Parenthood can complicate the prospects of kindling a romance.

"I did not grasp the degree to which having three children would be an impediment to dating," said Alan Bernstein, who does date occasionally when circumstances allow it and would like to forge a long-term relationship.

"That hasn't happened yet," he said. "I remain optimistic I will find someone who will want to be part of an awesome family."

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