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How to address the assumption they have a dad?(50 Posts)
When you are a single parent, but your situation is different to most because of choosing down the route of being a single parent due to fertility treatment with donated sperm.
Obviously, you are honest with the children themselves about this but just the same it's not necessarily something everyone needs to know about you or them.
I suppose I'm wondering how to handle the inevitable comments and questions and assumptions - 'do they see much of their dad, how old were they when you split?' and things that crop up at school relating to family trees, Father's Day, healthcare professionals, and so on.
I mostly try to go for deflection which works with questions but not with schools and so on!
"They don't have a dad, they have me". Repeat if necessary.
Why not just say it? There is nothing wrong with the situation.
That works fine - deflection is great with 'how old was she when her dad left' - it's easy enough to reply 'oh, he's never been on the scene.'
I suppose it's more the sort of situations that arise at school and the like - like family trees and so on.
I would just say it to be honest but I'm not a very private person and would feel there is nothing to be ashamed of. I know you are probably not 'ashamed' but by not saying it I think it adds to the mystery and negative view of using a doner.
I'd say politely - they actually don't have a father as I had them on my own.
If they gave a negative face I'd probably also say - you're clearly not impressed!
I'm not ashamed but I suppose I feel it's my children's business and not mine to share, if that makes sense. My decision but their life sort of thing.
I'm being completely open with everyone re how I conceived. I want my child to not feel like we have a 'secret' and to feel as normal as possible about it. I've only had positive reactions so far when I've told people.
Baby isn't here yet (I'm 35 weeks pregnant) so I can't be sure this approach will work but I don't want to give my child the impression that there is anything to be ashamed of.
By trying to keep it quiet there's the capacity for it to be 'gossip' when someone does find out, where as it's not ever going to be gossip if everyone else already knows about it at the point the school-mum gossip finds out and tries to share the juicy details.
Yes, but you misunderstand me slightly INeed, it's not about feeling like a secret but about recognising my feelings about it may not marry with my children's.
I know the general view is 'Tell everybody! Announce it from the rooftops, trumpet it across town, be open with everyone!'
I differ in my view. Not because I'm ashamed but because I feel a child may not necessarily want everyone to know that they are a child conceived from donor sperm. They may - in which case they decide who and how they tell.
Plus I do live somewhere a little 'conventional' (although possibly may be moving but we'll see ) and I know there would be unkind gossip. I can live with that but don't want my children to.
I think the only time it really is relevant is from a medical point of view. If DC were ill and family medical history could be important you could say that donors have been screened to a degree with regard to inheritance conditions. That could assist HP.
Otherwise a simple statement he has not been involved since conception should prevent any further questions from others asking the questions that are often understandably being asked.
Absolutely, yes thank you.
You don't have to tell people how you conceived. They don't have a father (maybe add: in their life) can also mean that he left or died. Obviously there was sperm at the beginning but how it got there is nobody's business. You can also add to that: I don't want to talk about it.
Do they still do family trees in school? Maybe you can have a quiet word with the teacher how they proceed in class so your kid doesn't feel different.
They do, I believe, in reception. I probably wouldn't be as stark as 'I don't want to talk about it' - it's more when people make a harmless assumption ('will she go to her dads?') and you respond, he is not in her life and then people indignantly start ranting about deadbeat dads and wastes of space and I am
I suppose I am worried about family trees and their equivalents cropping up, silly really.
You are right that it's not just your information but your children's too. However they will spend their lives having to answer the same questions so now is the time to decide what tools you want to give them to answer with.
Indeed, I give them the tools but they need to decide how to use them
A lot of children don't have a dad in their life from conception so your kids won't likely be alone in that when doing the family tree exercises!
But when they are little the only thing that helps them decide how to use them is their experience of seeing you deal with the questions and assumptions. So I'd be careful never to show embarrassment or hesitation with whatever you decide to say about their father.
Certainly on a national level, there are children who won't know their father. But I suppose in a typical reception classroom it wouldn't be usual - in other words, the children there who don't live with or even see their fathers will still know a little about who he is and so on.
I suppose it's possible just to make something up but I'm obviously reluctant to do that!
Oh, absolutely, never embarrassment or hesitation. I'd agree that could potentially be very damaging.
I think you're overthinking the school element. I'm a teacher and in my class at least half the children don't have the 'standard' mum and dad model. Many have stepmums or stepdads, only mums or only dad's, two mums etc. It's very very normal for there to be only one parent. We are always sensitive when doing any work on families and discuss all the various combinations of people that children live with (including some extended families, aunts/uncles etc).
I live on the edge of a big city but the school is in a pretty traditional white working class area so not the most cosmopolitan really!
If you're concerned a chat with the teacher at the start of nursery or reception would probably sort out any misunderstandings on their part.
Oh, absolutely, having one parent is normal. But not to know the 'other parent' at all, not so much. And occasionally this matter will come up in school. I would hope to avoid a conversation with the teachers about our circumstances, really. Thank you
I think if you're talking to another parent (or someone of that ilk) you could always say 'Ah, that's a bit of a complicated subject' and smile if they ask about the dad. Most people will interpret that as a polite request to back off and will comply. You don't have to be as stark as 'I don't want to talk about it' - well with most people anyway!!
With teachers/HCPs I'd just be upfront and state the facts plainly. They are asking in their professional capacity, so must deal with whatever you say to them in a professional manner. Therefore you can
probably rely on them to show good manners and not be nosy/rude.
I think you're right about that La I have only once come across someone who did "push it" - I said something like, "Oh, long story!" and trilled out a laugh - she said "well go on then, tell me"
whilst staring at me quite intently
I really wouldn't want to be sharing the finer details with teachers or with HCPs ideally though I accept in the case of the latter that's sometimes unavoidable.
I would urge you to tell the teacher if you possibly can. There will be children they've taught who come from all sort of backgrounds - abuse, neglect, abandonment etc. As far as they're concerned, a loving mother who's chosen and fought for this child will be one of the positive families in their class.
But this sort of thing will come up, as you say, with father's day and so forth, and it's helpful both for them and for your child if they're aware of it. The last thing you want is for your child to tell them about it and for them not to know how to respond.
In my experience, the children who are happy and confident and safe in their families will tell all and sundry about where they came from. The children who feel unhappy or embarrassed or ashamed about it won't. My father was brought up by distant relations, and well into adulthood would talk about 'my folks' rather than 'my parents'. He hated that relationship so much that some of his closest friends didn't know he didn't have parents.
OTOH, my cousins have adopted a little girl, she's fit happily into the family, feels very loved, and will tell all and sundry about it. Her parents - quite rightly - take that as a compliment, that she feels settled and not ashamed.
I quite agree that if your child doesn't want to share those details, you shouldn't expect them to. But please at least tell their teacher. They will keep it confidential. And do think very hard about being more open about it. If you make a big thing about not telling anyone about it, the message they will pick up very, very fast is that it's something to be ashamed of. Which it isn't.
I am a teacher. I wish I shared your confidence in my profession!
Oh, God, I'm sure they'll gossip in the staff room. (I'm not a teacher, but I do find myself in staff rooms now and then, and I'm always astonished by the gossip.) But you wouldn't tell another parent, would you?
If it comes up in a classroom situation, it will be your child who chooses how to answer surely? So in your family tree example they would choose what to share - you won't be there?
I do think what your child chooses to share will depend on what they see you sharing and how you seem to feel about it. Young children don't make distinctions so easily between things "people don't need to know", "conversations you'd rather not have with teachers", and things which 'need' to be hidden because they are shameful - the level of reasoning required for that is more sophisticated than the average reception aged child is going to grasp!
With regard to the conversations with other people where they make assumptions - dead beat dads etc, I personally expect to treat it the same as I would treat any other situation I might be in. So if I was a single mother because the dad had left, I guess I wouldn't have any qualms about revealing that if it came up in conversation - I wouldn't be thinking that it was the child's story and so they should decide what's shared. Hence I plan to be open in the same way about donor conception.
I suppose what I'm saying is that for a four year old there's not much difference between not sharing and hiding, and that things that feel hidden tend to generate shame. So you might not be ashamed but you do seem to think it requires special handling of sorts and it might be tough for a child to understand that reason for that, however much you also give the message that there's nothing wrong with it?