A friend of mine brought up an interesting conversation in her own blog: Should a man be able to opt out of parenthood in a situation where he made it clear that he did not want to be a father, took reasonable steps to avoid doing so, but a child is conceived.
This is an issue close to my heart because my niece is one of those babies. Sure, perhaps a little more accountability should rest on my brother’s shoulders for having unprotected sex with a girl he barely knew, regardless of whether she said she was on birth control or not. But the fact is, she said she was on Depo. She was not. She got pregnant. She bailed. Now my niece is 9 years old and living without a mom and while I wouldn’t change that she’s in my life, the circumstances surrounding her existence give me pause.
Take the example of my friend’s boyfriend, who had a lengthy discussion with his former “friend with benefits” about not wanting another child before agreeing to take their friendship to a sexual level. She assured him she was taking birth control and they continued to mess around when one or the other was single, over the course of a couple years. And then she turned up pregnant.
It would be one thing if this was just an accident. But when a mutual friend came to him with what babymama had confided in him, this is where it gets sketchy. What she confided was this:
I just kept seeing him with his son (from his previous marriage) and thought what a great father he was, and I couldn’t stop thinking of us as a family, so I stopped taking the Pills and if I got pregnant, then clearly it was meant to be.
Additionally, she had “been in love with him for-like-EVER” and this was the only way she thought she could get him to consider having a serious relationship with her. She never confided in him about this, never said that her feelings had changed. She continued to maintain the f***buddy relationship because “that’s what she thought he wanted”. And now there’s a baby, there’s child support that he can’t afford, and he not only had no say in the matter. He was deceived into this situation.
What recourse does he have? NONE. The baby tied him inextricably to this woman, like a contract he never signed. How is this fair?
The problem is that it’s not fair. That said, I don’t think there’s a fair solution. Because as much as I’d like to say screw the babymama, the manipulative psycho who roped a good man, a good father, into something he wasn’t prepared for and something he didn’t sign up for, it’s just not that simple. Her manipulation amounted to a breach of contract—their agreement that their relationship was just about sex and that if anyone developed any deeper feelings they should come to each other and talk it out—and he shouldn’t be liable.
But then there’s this kid, who didn’t have anything to do with it. Should the baby be punished for his mother’s lack ethical vacancy? Or did babymama sign on to be a single mother when she intentionally manipulated a situation to bring about a pregnancy?
I lean toward the latter and don’t believe that single parenthood is necessarily “punishing” a child. But should a father in such a situation “opt out” of fatherhood society will eventually tell this child that he was rejected by his father, which, regardless of whether this was an oversimplification of the facts, can be extremely damaging.
Here’s the thing: there are so many ways to screw up a kid. Single parents can raise awesome kids, grandparents can raise awesome kids, “traditional” families can raise disastrous children. As I’ve said many times, it’s a crapshoot.
But while in principle I think men should be able to opt out of fatherhood in situations like my friend’s, it’s far more complicated than just that. Once you get another human being involved, situations need to be looked at beyond just considering them “in principle.” I have no good answers for how to resolve this.
All that leads to me being really glad I’m not a single guy. As if navigating the dating world isn’t scary enough, I can’t imagine the added possibility of being unwillingly or, worse, unwittingly roped into parenthood. The moral of the story: men need to take responsibility for their own birth control—period—because that’s clearly the only way that men can “opt out” of parenthood without the moral and ethical dilemmas that ensue AFTER an accidental child is born.