THE REFRAIN was familiar: a divorce at twenty-something, a
fruitless search for a new partner, an imaginary life script that
assumed the presence of children - and a real-life scenario marked
by solitude and the steady ticking of a relentless biological clock.
But Don Viola was not about to let reality get in the way of
his dreams. He decided to adopt a child.
"It's just something I always thought I would be," said Viola,
whose son, Jordan, turned 3 in January. "A father."
In creating a family on his own, the 37-year-old software
engineer from Rocklin, Calif., outside Sacramento, joined a small
but growing fraternity of single fathers by choice. No hard data
exists, no longitudinal studies have been undertaken - but
anecdotal evidence suggests that a tiny cadre of men are heeding
their own needs to nurture, regardless of their marital status or,
in some cases, sexual orientation. Largely through private adoption
or by contracting with surrogates, they are embarking on solo
parenthood. In doing so, they are challenging broad cultural
expectations about men - and about parenting.
"These are the cosmonauts of gender space," said Harvard
Medical School psychologist Ron Levant, co-author of "Masculinity
Reconstructed" (Dutton, 1995) and the head of the American
Psychological Association's new section on men. "They are crafting
an entirely new role" - a blend, Levant said, of traditional and
Increasingly, single men are showing up at support groups for
prospective parents, said social worker Andrea Troy, director of
New York Singles Adopting Children. Arlene Tanenbaum, who
coordinates adoption information services for Work/Family
Directions in Boston, said "just in the last year and a half, the
number of calls has increased tremendously. There are definitely
more men looking at the possibility of becoming fathers on their
As the head of a chain of clinics called the Infertility
Centers of America, Michigan lawyer Noel Keane has acted as the
broker for dozens of unmarried men who have contracted with
surrogates to bear their children. Depending on the details of the
arrangements, and the state where the procedures are conducted, the
costs range from about $12,000 to $40,000, Keane said.
"These are pretty upright guys," he said, men who "may not want
the problems" of married life or, in the classic parlance of
dating, men who "haven't found the right girl."
Besides, Keane noted, "There is such a thing as a confirmed
bachelor. Why should he sacrifice becoming a father? I've always
looked at it as a constitutional right for someone to procreate a
University of Southern California social work professor Frances
S. Caple, author of "Women as Single Parents" (Auburn House, 1988),
observed that married or not, many men also feel the tug of "what
Erik Erikson called `generativity' - that is, how important it is
not to feel that your existence is bound to this time and space. …