Stories based on data or “emerging trends” can be boring, so I waited on this one until I could find an actual face to put behind an emerging statistic _ in this case, a growing number of unmarried women raising children. It was worth it, Alison’s story made for a much more compelling depiction of what was happening.

Here’s my story:

Alison Eschen may be among a growing number of unmarried women raising children, according to new data from the U.S. Census Bureau, but she wouldn’t know it.

Raising a kid on your own, she said, can be lonely.

She had given birth a month before she turned 21 and couldn’t really engage in the same social activities as other people her age. She had followed her sister to Dubuque to attend a community college, but dropped out before her son was born, unsure of what she wanted to study.

“I kind of got really depressed for a while because I didn’t really have a social life,” she said. “A lot of the people that I knew who had kids were older, and married.”

Now at 28, Eschen is enrolled at Iowa State University and lives in student family housing off 24th Street in Ames. She still feels isolated more often than not, she said, and most of the other residents in the development are married.

On a recent Saturday, she sat on her front steps and watched her son, Dominic, who just turned 7, play with a group of children. He wore a blue shirt and shorts emblazoned with pictures of sharks. He screamed to get her attention as he climbed onto a picnic table and looked disappointed when she told him to get down.

Eschen pointed out a boy who was playing with her son, noting that he has two parents, as do most of her son’s friends.

“I haven’t really found anybody that’s single and has kids. I don’t know, maybe they’re just hiding,” she said, adding that she’d heard there were lots of other single parents at ISU.

“I’m like, well, where the heck are they?” she said with a laugh.

You can read the rest of it here 


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