Yesterday I was checking out reddit when I bumped into this video about a young pregnant woman not wanting to tell her boyfriend that the child wasn’t his. It was an act put on for a TV show that wanted to record the reactions of people sitting at the adjacent table listening in on the girlfriend’s conversation with a girl friend and later with the boyfriend. At one point the fake boyfriend is sitting alone at the table, and no one tells him that the baby he is excited about having is not actually is. One statistic they show during the video is that 28% of paternity tests come back negative for the assumed father. I have a lot of questions about that statistic, but what really got me thinking was a comment left on reddit by another guy.
“I think we should conduct paternity tests before a parent is named on a birth certificate, they should be manditory (sic).
I couldnt (sic) imagine what I would do if I found out my daughter wasnt (sic) mine.”
The first thing I thought after reading the second part of his comment was, “do you love your daughter because she came from your sperm, or do you love her because she is the child you are raising?”
My question isn’t directly related to the guy’s comment and I have no way of knowing if “what he would do if he found out” refers to the cuckolding wife or the innocent daughter he didn’t sire, or both. But his comment still made me once again reflect on how important it is to me that I beget the child(ren) I raise.
In my early 20s I leaned more toward not wanting kids, in large part because I couldn’t fathom having a kid at that age, especially given that I was already five years old when my parents were 21. When I was 21 I couldn’t possibly imagine having a five-year-old, so kids were banished from my thoughts. But now that I’m 31, I’m somewhere between indifference and wanting kids.
The thing is, I don’t really care if the kids have my DNA. I could just as easily see myself raising a partner’s children or adopting. To me the point of pride is not that I father the children, but rather that I teach them what I know, watch them grow and help them along the way in any way I can. Sure, my DNA is a part of who I am. But to my mind, what really makes me who I am is the collection of experience and knowledge I gain throughout my life, and that is by far the more precious gift I can give the children I nurture.
That’s not to say that I wouldn’t be livid if I were to find out that I had been lied to regarding the child’s paternity. But that anger would be a reaction to the gross violation of trust on the part of the mother, not to the fact that my genes didn’t contribute to the making of our kid. And the child can’t help who biologically brought it into this world, so how could I hold the mother’s actions against the child I’ve invested in?
I suppose a lot of this stems from being raised by my stepdad. My real dad didn’t enter the picture until I got sick and the state government sought him out. I remember going through a rough patch with my stepdad when I was 11 (like every child goes through with parental figures) and friends telling me that I shouldn’t listen to him because he wasn’t my dad, that I should try to find my “real” dad. Even back then I thought that was bullshit. My stepdad is my dad, the man who raised me (until he and my mom got a divorce, at least), the man who taught me a lot of what I know about being a human being. I would take him over the man who blew his sperm inside my mom any day.
I believe as a society we sometimes put too much stock into who biologically creates the children and not enough into who creates a loving, nurturing environment in which the children can grow up to become adults. I look around and see far more patchwork families than “traditional” two-parent families, more divorced single parents than happy couples. Personally, I would rather raise children in a patchwork family surrounded by people who love and care about each other or as a single parent who also creates a loving environment despite the hardships of single parenthood than in a dysfunctional two-parent family.
In my opinion it’s exceedingly more beneficial to society to raise children in a functioning constellation—however it may look—than to try to force a traditional family to work. The children don’t win and neither parent wins when no one is happy is in the relationship. We need to stop focusing so much on parentage, and more on parenting.
Whether or not I father the children I raise, I will love them dearly and give them the best upbringing I can—and will surround myself with whatever people I need to help make that happen. Maybe it’s time we all started remembering that it takes a village to raise a child, not just a birth mother and birth father.