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Part 1 of a 3-part series

If there’s a place in the United States where families are not expected to conform to the nuclear ideal, it’s Portland, Oregon. There are “Keep Portland Weird” stickers pasted on cars all over town.

Try opening a Wal-Mart here and you’d better be ready to battle.

Walk into the country’s largest independent bookstore, Powell’s City of Books, and along with any title you can imagine, you can grab a “People’s Republic of Portland” T-shirt.

In a city that’s been labeled the most livable and also among the most bike-, baby-, dog-, public transportation-, and sex shop-friendly in the county, the reigning dress code is come as you are.

While single parenting may be less stigmatized here than it is in more conservative places (read: just about everywhere else), no amount of progressive thought, sustainable building practices, or micro-brews can change the universal truth: being a single mom (or dad) is isolating.

Enter Morgan Siler and Clare Bean. The two suburban-Portland women recently launched, a website aimed at creating virtual and physical connections among single parents.

Siler, 28, and Bean, 29, were introduced last year by a mutual friend. They were each going it alone with a 1 year-old son. The connection was a godsend.

Siler had just finished graduate school when she became pregnant. She wasn’t married, and her baby’s father wasn’t interested in becoming a daddy.

From the beginning, she was on her own and searching for others like her — a mentor or a role model to give her perspective, just someone who “got it.”

“I was just interested in meeting other single moms who’d been doing it for a couple years and were genuinely happy, who felt like they had reached a level of success however they define that,” she says.

What she found, in Portland and in cyberspace, was a void. There are 11 million single parents in this country, so who and where were they?

It’s the same question Bean was asking herself. A couple months into her pregnancy with her son, Colby, Bean’s boyfriend realized he wasn’t ready.

The two women, and their two boys, became fast friends, and ideas started flying.

“We’re really interested in pulling single parenthood out of the stigma,” Siler said. “Empowering people to make good decisions ... showing people that they are empowered and responsible for creating the happiness in their lives, regardless of the situation.”

[In Part II: Setting Up a Site] 

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