(NEW YORK) — Growing numbers of men who have never been married — gay and straight — are shattering that old stereotype of the befuddled dad struggling with how to care for a baby.
There are now more than one million single fathers raising children in the U.S., according to 2010 figures from the Williams Institute at UCLA.
The 2010 Census found that in 2.2 million households, fathers raised their children without a mother. That’s about one household in 45. And the number of single-father households rose 62 percent in 10 years.
“I always wanted kids and I never imagined my life without having a child,” said Steven Harris, the father of 5-year-old Ben. “I figured I’d get married, have a family.”
Harris, 57, a New York City lawyer, told ABC News he dated in his 30s and 40s and even got engaged at the age of 50. He later called the wedding off and set his sights on becoming a father.
Because surrogacy contracts were not legal in New York, he went to California, where he used a donor egg from an anonymous woman and hired another woman from Sioux Falls, S.D., to be the surrogate.
He said he met her and her husband twice in California and that he was present for her 10-week sonogram and the 20-week sonogram. The entire process, including forms, lawyers and more, totaled $200,000.
“I got a call at midnight on a Thursday night from the surrogate saying, ‘Steve, my water broke. … You better get out here.’ And I jumped on a plane and I was there at noon the next day when he was born, and I took him home on a Sunday,” Harris said.
He said there was nothing “not fun” about raising a child. Harris said even changing diapers was fun. And those 3 a.m. feedings? “You know what?” he told ABC News. “It wasn’t that bad.”
“It’s fantastic,” Harris said of being a father. “It’s enriched my life so much.”
Brian Tessier, 46, of Boston, adopted two boys through foster care after researching surrogacy and overseas adoption. He said he heard his “biological clock” ticking after ending a 10-year relationship.
“[I] decided at that point to look inside myself and see what I wanted to do and really what it came down to is that I really wanted to be a dad,” he told ABC News. “I think a lot of men do hear that biological clock. … I just don’t think we talk about it as men or admit it.”
Tessier started the hotline 411-4-DAD to give adoption and surrogacy advice and information to prospective single fathers. He said the hotline directed men interested in becoming parents to agencies that were welcoming and competent. Tessier said that men he encountered told him some agencies were chilly and questioned their intentions.
“I think that’s why a lot of men give up on that dream” of being a father, he said. “They think, ‘Oh, I can’t,’ rather than get the facts — and that’s really what we’re trying to do, to make sure that people do have the right information.”
Tessier said that the number of callers has tripled since the hotline started.
And when it comes to questions from others — and even Ben — about the whereabouts of the mother, Harris in New York says he answers honestly.
“He’s been asking for a long time and I started telling him the truth from the beginning,” Harris said. “I tell him there are all kinds of families. … We’re a family with you and me with one dad. And for now, that’s enough. … I’d like certain things to be different in my life but they’re not. You know, we’re very autonomous — me and Ben — and I don’t feel like there’s anything missing in my life.”
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Jackie Wattles, CNN