It turns out that Hollywood is a bit behind on the "choice mom" trend depicted in the romantic comedy, even though it has also cropped up this year in "The Back-Up Plan" and "The Kids Are All Right." Single women and lesbian couples now make up 60 percent of the clientele at Los Angeles-based Cryobank, the nation's largest sperm bank. And more and more women are deciding to make babies now, rather than waiting until they meet "the one," and solicit the services of a sperm bank or ask their male friends to donate the key "ingredient."
We talked with Scott Brown, director of communications at Cryobank, and Mikki Morrissette, author of "Choosing Single Motherhood: The Thinking Woman's Guide," about donors, dating, and what happens in real life when kids born this way want to meet dear old Dad.
What do you think of the recent wave of movies about characters who conceive via sperm donation?
Mikki Morrissette: I haven't seen any of them, but I know that all of them take a fairly superficial look at it. The whole pop culture thing comes and goes. Sometimes it's celebrities that are making these choices and it gets in the news again, so it seems a little more trendy.
Scott Brown: These movies are a little behind, but I think that when you start to see things in pop culture, it's generally a reflection of what's already been going on. In the last 10 or 15 years, there's been a significant rise in single mothers by choice and lesbian couples, who now make up about 60 percent of our business. 30 years ago, it was 99 percent heterosexual couples, but now, if you can find a single viable sperm in the male, [it can be inserted] directly into the egg, so [heterosexual couples often] don't need a donor.
How accurate is 'The Switch'? Are women really holding insemination parties?
Morrissette: I've never heard of anyone having an insemination party, but I have heard of picking a donor with your friends. You might have your mother, sisters, or girlfriends over to help you make the decision because choosing a donor can be an eerie, isolating experience.
What about 'The Kids Are All Right'?
Brown: It was pretty accurate. If any offspring turns 18 and wants to contact the donor, we then contact the donor on their behalf. But the actual interaction with the donor is usually not that direct. It usually involves a phone call or an email. It's a much more gradual getting-to-know-you process.
What percentage of children want to contact their sperm donor?
Brown: Not very many kids, at this point, are looking for their donors. The majority who are old enough now were born to heterosexual couples, and lots of them don't tell the kids at all, or, because they have a father in their lives, they're not necessarily as curious as if they were raised by a single mom or a same-sex couple. I think we will see an increase in years to come, based on the change in our demographic.
What's your take on 'The Back-Up Plan,' in which Jennifer Lopez finds the perfect man after deciding to become a single mother?
Morrissette: It is more common than you might think. A lot of times when a woman has decided what she's doing and isn't dating to find a husband, she just becomes a more natural person who's happily moving toward her goals; she becomes more attractive innately. A lot of women, myself included, who are pregnant or have recently become pregnant, find that they somehow -- I don't know if it's hormones kicking in or what -- get asked out a little bit more by men who don't necessarily know that they're pregnant. Then it becomes a big ethical question: When do you tell them? On the first date, or is that a bit much? Women do debate that quite a bit.
It doesn't sound that different from being divorced and having children.
Morrissette: The big difference is you don't have the child at the other parent's on weekends. You still have full-time care and women often don't want to spend a lot of money for a babysitter to go on a "let's see" date.
What's the biggest misconception about being a choice mom?
Morrissette: Making this choice doesn't mean that we hate men. It really doesn't. Bill O'Reilly was talking about how women end up diminishing men when they make choices like this. But so many women, once they have children, do still wish they had a partner and a lot of them end up finding one eventually. So finding a man is still a happy ending for them, like it is for the Jennifers.
Do you think movies like these are helping change the public perception of being a "choice mom?"
Brown: I think the most important thing is that the topic is out there and open for discussion. I think there are a lot of single women and lesbian couples who have been raising children for years and I think it's about time that they were credited for the great job that they're doing.
Morrissette: When I started my discussion board (on the Choice Moms web site) about six years ago, the common thread was that this was women in their late 30s and early 40s who realized this might be their only choice to have children. But the face of it is changing now. I do expect that some of it is the acceptability factor. It was a storyline on 'Friends' and that didn't cause the flak like it did on 'Murphy Brown.' A lot has changed in very short order. More women in their 20s are simply deciding that they have other options and they don't always feel as compelled to marry in order to have children.
Watch 'The Switch' Unscripted: Jennifer Aniston and Jason Bateman interview each other about poor life decisions