Delstudie 1: Motvilligt solo?

Helena Wahlström Henriksson and Disa Bergnehr (2021) “Reluctantly “Solo”? Representations of Single Mothers via Donor Procedure, Insemination and IVF in Swedish Newspapers”, in Single Parents: Representation and Resistance in an International Context, Disa Bergnehr and Berit Åström (eds), New York: Palgrave Macmillan


In 2016, the law in Sweden changed to allow single women access to ART treatment via public health care, a procedure previously only accessible to heterosexual and lesbian couples. Before this juridical change, numerous Swedish women have “gone to Denmark,” that is, utilised insemination treatment and donor sperm in commercial clinics in Denmark to achieve pregnancy. This fertility tourism continues also after the legal shift, due to a lack of donors in Sweden.

Although a minority phenomenon – whereas 25 per cent of Swedish children have separated parents, and lone motherhood is thus widespread, only approximately 1–2 % of mothers in Sweden are lone mothers via adoption or ARTs on their own – ART lone mothers are symbolically and gender-politically interesting. This, because they stand as an example of “families we choose” that seemingly subverts the hegemony of the nuclear family ideal, as well as the ideal of coupledom. As well, they have been termed single mothers “by choice” in previous research, and do activate pertinent questions around reproductive choice and reproductive practices.

This chapter explores narratives of, and about, ART mothers as these figure in Swedish newspapers during the period 2014-2018. In major newspapers, these mothers are given relatively large amounts of space, and their perspective on motherhood is represented in lengthy interviews and in-depth journalism. This category of lone mothers is marked by relative affluence, high level of education and establishment in professions. Hence, they offer a “counter-image” to common understandings of lone mothers as materially and otherwise deprived and struggling.

However, as middle-class (often white, typically heterosexual and urban) women they cohere with the kind of subject that is generally most visible in news media, and to demographic groups often linked to the ideal of “intensive mothering” (Hays 1996). Interestingly, while there is general agreement that there is little or no stigma attached to lone motherhood in Sweden, the narratives of lone mothers via ARTs signal that they do have to defend their choices in particular ways, in order to signal “respectability” (Skeggs 1997).

A central element of this is reflections regarding the (missing) father in the life of the (future) child. We focus on how temporalities feature as motivations for solo mothering in the data, and on how  ideals and values around parenting alone or with a co-parent are activated in the texts.

Senast uppdaterad: 2022-02-04