The Daddy Questions

Sometimes I hear members of Single Mothers by Choice (SMC) talking about the “dreaded Daddy questions” but I don’t think it needs to be a “dreaded question”. In fact, I set things up so it wasn’t a question at all. By that I mean that from the time he was born, I told my son “our story” about how there was a mama who was sad because she didn’t have a baby, and she didn’t have a husband to be a daddy. So a nice man called the donor gave the special seeds to a doctor who put them into the mama to make a baby with her eggs, who of course turned out to be my son! (That was my version of it, I never bought any of the books on this topic). When he was around 3, he could tell the story back to me and it was just an inherent part of his self-identity, so he never had to ask the question of where his father is.

So far, at age 6.5, it’s not a big deal to him and he is pretty matter of fact about knowing he doesn’t have a dad. Sometimes I even push a little bit, to let him know that if he’s sad about not having a dad, he can talk to me about it. The last time (just a couple of weeks ago) he went into an overly fake boo-hoo routine and then said “that’s how I’d be if I were sad about not having a dad but I’m not!”

There was a time when I didn’t talk about it as much because I didn’t know how much he would start talking about it at pre-school, and I wasn’t sure that I wanted him to trigger questions that he might not have been prepared for. And we’ve revisited and revised the details as he’s gotten older, particularly after he started talking about eating the eggs and seeds to grow a baby inside his own tummy! lol!

To me, this is very similar to being open with a child about adoption. I think it should be something they understand organically, that never has to be a “I need to tell you something” conversation because they just have always known it and it’s not some secret.

I’d suggest that rather than waiting for a question that might come at a time when you are caught off guard, to think about what you feel comfortable saying, and then practice with your infant, before s/he has any idea what you’re saying. Then go ahead and initiate the conversation at an age-appropriate time.  You can clarify the details as s/he gets older.


8 thoughts on “The Daddy Questions”

  1. Thanks for your post. My babies are only 3 months old, but I’ve been thinking about this question a lot lately. I like the idea of starting from the very beginning.

  2. Just got my copy of “Just the baby for me”. Beautifully written! Love it. Thanks so much for putting it in a book that takes some of the pressure off of saying the right thing. Now I am waiting for the other children’s book I found “Why dont I have a daddy?” by George Ann Clay. Im really looking forward to taking bits and pieces of both books to make my own version to tell over and over. THANKS TO THE AUTHORS

  3. This blog is so important and helpful, thank you. I will save it. It is greatly reassuring to hear from those that have gone through this. I feel better prepared to navigate the topic when the time comes.

  4. A comment from farther down the road . . . like Marsha, I took the “organic” route in talking to my daughter about her origins. I was lucky to be able to look at some older cousins, who adopted a daughter when I was a child. Everyone in the extended family knew that this girl was adopted; it was never a secret and was presented so matter-of-factly to us that no one ever thought twice about it. She was our cousin, like any of our other cousins.

    My daughter is now almost 15 and her origin, and our SMC status, has rarely been a big deal to anyone. I won’t say it’s _never_ been an issue; in preschool I had to go to school to confirm to the other children that my daughter “didn’t have a dad,” which is the way she’s explained it since she was about 3. But that was more a matter of helping the other little kids adjust their worldview than of having to go into a big explanation about being an SMC. They just wanted to have an adult tell them that yes, it was possible not to have a dad. (This particularly makes me laugh because in the years since my daughter attended that school, they’ve had other SMC students as well as students with only a dad and students with two mommies. I guess we were the vanguard.)

    For several years when she was in grade school, my daughter used her SMC status as something of a litmus test. If someone was weirded out by her not having a dad, or later, by her having a donor–yes, she told her schoolmates about that–then they weren’t worthy of being her friends.

    At the beginning, I always differentiated between “dad” (the person who participates in raising you) and “father” (the person who contributed genes to you), and I always referred to my daughter’s donor when I talked to her about being a DI child. Now we talk about donor and father and mean the same thing, though usually we say donor out of habit.

    The older she’s gotten, the less her origins have mattered.

  5. I am in the trying stage and have been giving this topic A LOT of consideration. I struggle with wanting this to be “my business” (or those I have chosen to know) while at the same time wanting my future child to be proud of who they are and where they come from. I really love the concept of our story being something that is just known organically, never needing a “talk” to explain things. Reading this has really helped me to think more clearly about my decision and to be proud of this history I am creating everyday for my child, who already is so loved and wanted, even before conception. I absolutely love this blog, it has been so reassuring and is a wonderful connection to other women going through the same thing.

  6. Like Marsha, I wanted my daughter to know as early as possible “where she came from”. Her bedtime story (from 18 months of age onward) started with a little girl who always wanted to grow up to be a Mommy, and ended with the birth of a new baby and the creation of a new family. I also feel that it helped her develop a strong sense of self and security; she always knew how very much she was wanted. She felt free to ask about her biological father (14 years old now, she refers to him as the “bifa”), and interestingly, always let me know how much she was ready to hear at each stage of her questions. She also felt free to tell me she wanted a dad (I answered I wished I could give her one, as well as someday find a partner for myself). I loved it, though, when she came home from a sleep over and said, “Remember what I said about wanting a dad? I changed my mind! They yell a lot!”. Anyway, to get back on track, I dared to write down and illustrate our bedtime story (NOT a writer by trade!), and if anyone feels they need some help in telling their own story, it’s available (here comes the shameless self-promotion) at Look for “Just The Baby For Me” by Barbara Levin. It helped us, like Marsha said, to diminish the “dread of the Daddy question”.

    1. I recently bought the book by Barbara Levin. Although we’ve been sharing the story about my daughter’s conception and birth since she was less than 2 years old and it’s a very familiar story, when we started reading Barbara’s book, she couldn’t get enough of it! She’s not a kid who wants to hear the same story repeatedly, but she had me read that story to her at least five times that night, and more on the following nights. We are a recently separated two mom family so the book doesn’t quite match our story, but it does normalize our experience nonetheless.

  7. I agree with Marsha. I know that some women avoid the topics of dads, don’t want their kids to have too many books with dads, etc., but personally, I feel that avoiding the whole dad thing just adds mystery and stigma to it.

    I also have told my child about how I wanted a baby and didn’t have a special man to be the dad and so I went to the doctor . . .

    She is very matter of fact about her family dynamic – she can actually make adults blink when she says, “Our family doesn’t have a dad. We have a Mommy, McKenna, Grandma and PapPap.”

    JMHO, but I think our children take their cues from us, even the ones we think we hide. So if the daddy question is dreaded and avoided, then they will sense that and think there is something wrong with how they were conceived.

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