(Cross posted at feministe as part of my guest blogging)
I was reading this article from the Washington Post earlier today, and thinking about the situation that this guy is in. It makes me wonder how common these sorts of situations are. I think that most of us, by now, realize how uncommon the Nuclear Family is. We have families with step-children and half-brothers and extended families that live in the same house and same-sex families and even families like this, where it's a same-sex couple and a "daddy" who isn't in a romantic relationship with either mommy. I think it's great that he's able to have this kind of relationship with his friends' children. His children.
On the other hand, I want to ask him how he feels about the situation in general. He answers the question "do you have children" really well, and I get that he's really proud and happy to be a part of these children's lives, but this is a guy who wanted children of his own, and while it's great that he was able to do this, part of me wants to ask him what it's like on a day-to-day basis. How hard is it to not be able to be there for them? How difficult is it to be in a situation like that, where you're the father, but they're not your children?
But, an even bigger part of me wants to know what it would have been like if he didn't want children of his own. How would he handle his role in the lives of children if he'd never wanted children of his own? How would that feel to see a child that is biologically yours, but that you don't have any fatherly claim to?
Because, as it turns out, I might find out for myself, and I've got questions, and for every question I have, I worry that there are at least six others I'm missing.
When I went to visit my friends Jenny* and Beth** at their home yesterday, I wasn't expecting them to ask me if I'd help them start a family. I knew we'd be playing some games, and I figured we might watch some television or a movie. I knew that Jenny was planning on making me dinner, and I figured that there was a good possibility we'd spend a lot of time laughing. Jenny and Beth are great, and I love them dearly- I've known them since my first year away at college, and I count myself lucky to know them, and to be a part of their lives. I was there the first time they met, and I helped them move after they bought their first house. They're absolutely wonderful, and I was overjoyed to learn that they plan on starting a family soon. I know that they'll make absolutely wonderful parents, and that any child will be lucky to have them as mothers.
Like the article's auther, Jenny had joked with me before about the possibility of my donating the sperm for potential children, but that was years ago, and I'd mostly forgotten about it. When they started talking seriously about having children, it wasn't the first thing that popped into my head. Now that they've asked, I'm thrilled and terrified by the prospect.
We're still talking about all the details, and nothing is set in stone, yet. The first thing we'd do is get a legal agreement drawn up making the nature of the relationship clear: I'd relinquish any parental rights over the child, and Jenny and Beth would give up any rights to child support. Legally, my only role would be in supplying the genetic material. But, these aren't random people, and I'm not a stranger. I'd still be a part of this child's life- these are two very important people in my life, and I'm not going to stop seeing them.
Which leads to some of the tough questions around this. Is this a good idea? After all, at some point, the child is likely to wonder who hir father is. I don't think it's a good idea to lie to children. Children have a right to know who their parents are, I think, and Jenny and Beth agree. So, they child would know that I'm hir biological father. But, Jenny and Beth aren't looking for a co-parent. Which is great. I don't want children, and I don't really want to co-parent. They're hoping I'll play more of the role of uncle to the child. I'd be Uncle Roy- I'd be the man that helped them start the family, and I'd provide a male role-model, but I wouldn't be a father, I'd be hir mommys' friend, and hir uncle.
And I love being an uncle. My sister had a beautiful daughter 3 years ago, and I love my niece dearly. She's a great kid. I love that I'm her cool uncle, and I love that I've already started to get her interested in computers and video games. Being an uncle is fun. How is it going to feel to be the uncle to a child that is biologically mine, though? How will the child feel when sie finds out that I'm the biological father? And, of course, my parents think that being grandparents is great too. I hadn't really thought about this, but Jenny mentioned "and if your parents want to be involved in the child's life, that'd be okay too." I'm not even sure how I'd approach that. Tell them? Don't tell them? I'm not sure yet.
Now, like I said, nothing is set in stone. I'm still thinking about it, and while I'm leaning towards saying "yes" right now, we've still got more talking to do. After all, I feel okay about it right now, but how will I feel in 8 years when the child wants to know hir father? How will I feel in 18 years? Obviously, I won't know until I'm there, but I'm still coming up with questions and we're still talking about the process.
Which is where you come in, fellow feministe readers. Here's where I beg you for information.
Have any of you been through this or know someone that has? If you know someone who donated to a friend, what was the experience like for him? What was it like for the couple? For the child? Any questions that are must-ask that I may have missed? Any advice?
*Not her real name.
**Not her real name, either.