February 08, 2007

What happens to the "social" fathers?

While many would have us believe that the relationship between donor sperm children and their "social" fathers is hunkey-dorey, the reality is often quite different. Here is an excerpt from Plotz on this subject:
The mothers seem ferociously close to their children but, with a couple of exceptions, the "social" fathers seem distant. In the divorced families, the mothers have assumed essentially all parenting responsibility. Three divorcees uttered almost exactly the same sentence to me: "My husband is not emotionally involved with the children." Even in most of the intact families, the mother dominates the relationship with the child. Ruby notes that her son has always called his father by his first name, never "Dad."

The mothers ignore—perhaps intentionally—a painful question: Is it the lack of genetic connection that chills the father-kid relationships? You can see why the mothers don't want to address this: If genetic distance causes the chill, then the mothers might feel responsible, because they chose the sperm bank. The moms tend to attribute the fathers' distance to temperament, to their inherent emotional unavailability.

But I suspect sociobiology matters enormously here. The mother has a genetic connection to her child. The father has none. The father also knows that his wife chose a man who is supposed to be smarter, healthier, and more physically gifted than him to father their child. It's easy to see how that could squash his paternal self-esteem and alienate him from his kids. And the artifice of pretending a child is your own flesh and blood must be wearing. ...
And get this, regarding why some moms told their kids they were the children of sperm donors:
Several moms say they told because they wanted to encourage their kids not to be like their fathers. One mother, for example, revealed her son's origin to him two weeks ago, after he told her he wanted to attend professional wrestling school instead of college. "I told him so that he would know that he is better than that, that his genes are better than his father's," says "Sarah."

(This case is especially awkward for another reason. Sarah, like another mom I talked to, told her son he is Nobel sperm-bank offspring, but did not tell the father that the son knows. In other words, the son knows his father is not his genetic father, but the father doesn't know that his son knows.)

Oh what tangled webs we weave. Of course, there's always ONE sure loser in these games: the child.

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