Resources about having an unwanted child
January 24, 2021 11:25 AM   Subscribe

My friend recently graduated college and his girlfriend of 6 months is 15 weeks pregnant and plans on keeping the baby regardless of his involvement. He does not want a baby and is unsure whether he even wants to stay in the relationship. Assuming she has the baby and putting aside the financial support, what are resources for thinking through the options of what this will look like? In terms of his responsibilities to her, his new child, and himself and keeping his sanity.

It is easy to find materials from the potential mom's perspective and advice to take the leap and raise the child together, but it's harder to find information about other options and male perspectives beyond trying to get an abortion. My friend is feeling really trapped and increasingly resentful. He feels like he can either be "a failure and disappear completely" (other than financial support) or just bite the bullet and raise the child. He doesn't feel ready in any way to have a child and I agree with him. I worry that raising the child together from the beginning out of a fear of being a horrible person will be more destructive than finding flexible arrangements that work for what he is capable of right now. So questions that I thought would be useful to understand better:
-Other than financial support what types of support and being there is most important for him to give right now?
-What are healthy models of engagement if he's not ready to raise a child?

snowflakes:
-She already has two middle school age children and so seems prepared and capable of being a single mom.
-They attempted an abortion a number of weeks ago which was unsuccessful. Now that she is realizing my friend's uncertainty about the relationship she doesn't want to abort it.
posted by aaabbbccc to Human Relations (29 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
They attempted an abortion a number of weeks ago which was unsuccessful. Now that she is realizing my friend's uncertainty about the relationship she doesn't want to abort it.

I feel like you buried the lead here. Continuing with this pregnancy after an attempted abortion seems risky, to say the least.
posted by peacheater at 11:28 AM on January 24 [40 favorites]


Has he spoken with her honestly about the state of their relationship? If he wants to break up with her and he hasn't been able to sit down and do that, he needs to do that. If she's keeping the baby after an attempted abortion (?!?) because he is pulling away from her, she may be hoping the baby will fix things between them! so he needs to decide what relationship he wants to have with this woman first, and be clear with her about it. Then decide what kind of support he can offer as the baby's father.

Even if he breaks up with her, he can offer specific concrete support such as: I will drive you to prenatal care appointments, I will be present with you for the birth (if she wants that), I will pay x% of my income each month to you as child support, or contribute $X per month toward the child's expenses such as diapers and daycare and so forth. He can also arrange for visitation with the baby every couple of weeks if that's something he's interested in.

The main thing here is he should only commit to what he's actually going to do, or is legally obligated to do - he shouldn't say he'll do more, out of guilt, and then not follow through with it because in reality he doesn't want that level of involvement or cannot afford to be so involved.
posted by zdravo at 11:49 AM on January 24 [3 favorites]


Yeah, he needs to very clearly, no hedging or mixed messages, break up with her. They can move forward with how to raise the child from that point of clarity. He wants to be involved (or not ) with raising the child, but regardless of everything else they are breaking up and will not be together in the future. I probably shouldn't say this, I'm not trying to be snarky, but going forward for your friend, this is exactly the type situation condoms prevent.
posted by WalkerWestridge at 12:09 PM on January 24 [20 favorites]


Perhaps they can look into the options for open adoption. Not to say that they are going to give the baby up for adoption, necessarily, but it is an option and the arrangements with open adoption likely vary by quite a lot but there is a potentially legal way to "stay involved" and/or contribute without assuming guardianship. I think a consultation with a family lawyer (and maybe a therapist involved in adoption scenarios) would be a really good idea right away.

Anecdote: a friend has a child through open adoption. The mother already had two children. She had a kind of one-night-stand with a guy and got pregnant. She lived with her own mother already and so the two of them decided that an open adoption would be best. The father was not involved at all until shortly after the birth when he was tracked down to give legal consent. He did but then his mother got involved and revoked that. The legal arrangement was that visits would be arranged with both parental/grandparental families over the years, photos shared, video calls, letters exchanged, etc.. I won't go into more of the minutia but just to say that this is a way to go. This is a legal arrangement and, of course, the birth parents do not pay any child support because they are no longer the legal guardians of the baby in any way.

As an adoptee who reconnected with my birth family in my college years, it has been very helpful to know them. It has given me a sense of peace. I think growing up with a connection to them would have been even better. There is counseling specific to adoptions and maybe your friend could look into that as well - how to be a presence over the long term without taking on the mantle of father. Honestly, it's quite easy for me to compartmentalize these things but I've also had a lot of practice. And so much depends on the disposition of the mother and the influences in her life.
posted by amanda at 12:10 PM on January 24 [7 favorites]


Also he should get a paternity test. That should be standard for anyone in this situation.
posted by WalkerWestridge at 12:26 PM on January 24 [22 favorites]


I believe he needs to get into therapy to develop maturity ASAP. He is a college graduate in a relationship with a single mom and he is only now releasing that sex can lead to children? The child did not ask to be born, he needs to get ready to be a parent and a supportive co-parent to the mother. Parenting classes would be a good start, as well as asking the mother when she requires. Please let’s not normalize the idea that parenting responsibility is something that can be bought off with a paltry amount of child support.
posted by saucysault at 12:31 PM on January 24 [52 favorites]


You also seem to be buying into a “trickster girlfriend” narrative of her “trapping” him in this relationship. Please stop encouraging this misogynistic view of pregnancy - he chose to have sex, he chose to risk being a parent; he is responsible for the consequences of his actions.
posted by saucysault at 12:34 PM on January 24 [93 favorites]


For background - I am a cis woman. I am pro-choice. I don't think accidental pregnancy-->children/parenthood should be some kind of enforced punishment for having sex for anyone. If he doesn't want to have a kid, and never presented himself as wanting a kid, I think his responsibility can end at being ready to find and pay for abortion services if she chooses that option (including, now, later term abortion, which is more expensive.) I would certainly not want someone telling me I had to carry a pregnancy to term (and further, to parent) simply because I had sex.
posted by needs more cowbell at 1:02 PM on January 24 [31 favorites]


[Folks OP has been super clear the woman is keeping the baby do not offer abortion suggestions/ideas.]
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 1:49 PM on January 24 [6 favorites]


This man child’s responsibilities don’t end with him spending five minutes googling abortion clinics, tossing some money for one at her, then skipping town and telling her she’s on her own should she not want to put her body through an invasive medical procedure to make life easy for him. If he was so anti parenthood, the time to consider that was before he had sex, not after. Now they’re in it together, the baby is happening and he needs to get on board.

To be clear, having a child isn’t a punishment. It’s the natural consequence of having sex. This probably isn’t the woman’s dream situation either (especially the lack of maturity he’s demonstrating right now) but he can up and run away. She’s still left dealing with the consequences either way so the idea that HE feels trapped is unbelievable.

So far as support, he should go to her and say, “it looks like we’re having a baby. I’m not sure where our relationship stands but I’m here for you and the child through this, if not romantically, in every other practical sense as your support and as a father. What do you need and how can I help?” Then listen and be prepared to have many open discussions about his role in this.

I get that this is an unwanted shock but it’s happening. How he manages from here sets the tone for their co parenting going forward and if he’s combative, resentful and unhelpful he may well be setting them up for literally decades of unpleasantness. Support her emotionally now, figure out the finer details as you go along.
posted by Jubey at 2:07 PM on January 24 [10 favorites]


-Other than financial support what types of support and being there is most important for him to give right now?
-What are healthy models of engagement if he's not ready to raise a child?


Well, I think I want to reframe this a bit for you. Both you and your friend seem to be operating under the assumption that his feelings are what's important in this situation. And certainly, his feelings are important to him and they are an important thing for him to manage - like, he's not a bad person for having sex or feeling unready to have a child or to not want to create a life where he is doing something he doesn't want to do all the time every day.

But, there's another way to think about this situation which is that - he's going to be a father. Everything from there is more an ethical decision than anything else. Feelings will come and go.

So...my advice is what's important for him right now is to accept that he has made a baby, the mother is having the baby, and so regardless of whether or not he's ready, he is going to be a father. He just is. He is a biological father, or will be if the baby survives.

If he opts to just provide financial support, he will be The Dad That Only Provided Financial Support. If he opts for some kind of vague visitation schedule where he just sends letters, that's the dad he will be. If he opts to be in the child's life, he will be. Probably the worst scenario is to half be in the child's life, like be there and then vanish and then show up again, so he probably want to NOT pick that.

It sounds like you are trying to find a world where he won't feel bad about the situation and I don't think that world really exists. I wish I could say that parents always rise to the occasion, but they demonstrably don't. If your friend were my friend (or more likely, my son), I would say to him - you /are/ a father. Given that you will definitely be a financial support for sure - what kind of father are you going to be?
posted by warriorqueen at 2:13 PM on January 24 [69 favorites]


What kind of support does he have outside of you? Do his parents or other older family know, and would they help him (without recrimination) until he was in a better financial and emotional position? E.g., visitation with him and his parents.

I have a friend whose girlfriend found out she was pregnant after the break up, and they have shared custody. It is possible. He could be a less involved parent now, and more involved later (especially with family help). He could contribute monetarily only, and if he pays on time and in full, is a better parent than many. I too think it is worse for the child to force someone, regardless of gender, to be a parent for nearly 20 years. If he's up front with his girlfriend, then they can work out what he will do and how involved he will be.
posted by JawnBigboote at 2:17 PM on January 24 [3 favorites]


Folks, perhaps we can ease up on the moralizing here? The dude didn't want to become a father. We know nothing about whether the woman wanted to have another child or not. We have no reason to think either of them were not taking precautions to avoid pregnancy. Saying "well he should have thought about this before he had sex" is not exactly helpful, when no contraceptive method is 100% reliable.

The question being asked is about whether there are resources available to help this man think through what it might be like to become a father if he's not in a relationship with the child's mother. (Frankly its surprising that this isn't a well-resourced topic... I can only imagine there are a lot of guys in this situation.) In the absence of other better suggestions, I'm going to throw out Nick Horby's novel Slam, about a teenage boy whose girlfriend gets pregnant. (Spoiler: they break up but everything turns out ok.)
posted by EllaEm at 2:57 PM on January 24 [33 favorites]


I do some looking around and it is really hard to find resources on the different kind of arrangements that couples have worked out in this situation.

I think the best place to start is try to take in the idea that your friend is now going to be a father to a child and try to get his head around what that means to him. A good book that might help him work through his own ideas of what fathering means to him based on his own experiences is Parenting From the Inside Out.

Once he's wrapped his head around the idea of having a child that he fathered, he needs to think about what is best for the child and what his role can be in providing that. Children benefit hugely from having loving, consistent relationships with adults who are loving and caring. The child who gets this secure base when young is going to have much better chance at good outcomes in all dimensions of life than the one who doesn't. If your friend can do this for his child, it will be gift worth far more than child support. If he doesn't then who is going to be filling this role - asking the mother to do this all alone is a huge strain on her and makes it harder for the child to fully get what they needs - how does he feel about that?

Also, many people, especially men, find it hard to get excited about the abstract idea of a child but find an unexpected emotional connection with the actual little person. My advice is try to keep good relationships with the mother to allow him time to figure out how things change when the baby is really here.
posted by metahawk at 3:12 PM on January 24 [5 favorites]


-Other than financial support what types of support and being there is most important for him to give right now?

None. The most important thing right now is that he have clear boundaries and avoid ongoing, stressful conflict with the mother-to-be. If he wants to break up, he should do so and make a clean break. He should avoid arguing with her or engaging in ongoing conflict. That said, he should show ongoing interest in the pregnancy in a way that is documented and documentable -- this might matter for custody later.

I'm getting a vibe of some sort of serious issue with this woman that is leading him to this black-and-white thinking. If that's the case he needs to get clear of her ASAP and process any trauma or other resentment that he has towards his child's mother.

In no circumstances is it a black-and-white "you raise the kid in a married partnership or you fuck off forever" kind of choice.

-What are healthy models of engagement if he's not ready to raise a child?

He needs to start thinking about how to separate his feelings from his behavior and from reality. His feelings are important. They are! I understand how frustrated and unhappy he must be right now. But his feelings do not dictate reality. He will be a father, regardless of how he feels.

It is also the case that his behavior will have an impact on his child regardless of his feelings. Kids don't really care how you feel. They care that you're there and that you're nice to them and that you're reliable and that you're not scary. That's pretty much it.

He should consider it like a job in the sense that you don't always like the job or have the perfect attitude towards the job, but if you put in the time and are polite, you will be rewarded eventually.

Frankly, paying child support is the shittiest part of parenting. I never really get the guys who just want to pay child support and then otherwise fuck off; it's actually quite rewarding and fun to have a child and watch them grow and develop.

So, perhaps that is a model that he understands and that will provide some help for him mentally in framing this.

Ultimately, it is not actually morally okay to limit your parenting to the parenting that you "feel like" doing. It's a job, and not one that he picked, but it's more rewarding than most jobs and doing it well will pay dividends for years and years to come.
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 3:22 PM on January 24 [16 favorites]


This may sound dumb, but he could binge-watch Gilmore Girls. One of the side characters is Rory's father, who abandoned her from the start but keeps dropping in for some light emotional blackmail as he gradually realizes what a dick he was for not sticking around to help in at least some fashion. (One of the main characters discovers he has a teenage daughter the mother never told him about and works very hard to become a real parent to her after he discovers her, so it's not all doom and gloom.) Does your friend want to be the fuckup who's never around? Or the fuckup who drops by from time to time never really contributing anything of value? Because, even placing no moral judgment on him and his choices up to this point, that's how this kid will grow up to see him if he skips out on serious and sustained parenting. If he's okay with his kid seeing him that way, it's his choice to make.
posted by rikschell at 4:01 PM on January 24 [1 favorite]


Thank you everyone for your thoughts. Her mind appears to be made up and so I’m proceeding assuming the baby will be born. My main concern is what is best for the child. Not in a hypothetical sort of way. But in a very realistic sense of what is my friend actually capable of delivering. His feelings are only relevant in that they’re a clue for how I expect he’ll show up.

Obviously one option is they stay together and raise the child. And the other extreme is he has no contact whatsoever. What is in between and what is healthiest for the child? Consistently visiting every 3 months? Living nearby and seeing the kid once a week for an afternoon? Taking the kid every weekend? Even if these options aren’t ideal I think it will help for him to slowly come to term with some of the responsibilities of parenthood.

Their relationship has been based around insane adventures and mutual appetites for risk far beyond anyone I’ve met. A relationship based around responsibility is a completely different story and they don’t have the foundation for that built at the moment. I hope they can grow that. But knowing my friend I don’t know that they’ll be able to do that under these intense circumstances.

I’m not a parent. I only have my own experience, of a dad who has admitted that he didn’t really want to have all of my siblings and a marriage that at best can be described as mediocre. My reaction is colored by that and thinking that both parents being happy and taking at least some responsibility is better for the child than the “on paper ideal of married parents” but not do secretely unhappy.

The suggestions on materials to look at are very welcome!! Gilmore girls included :)
posted by aaabbbccc at 5:15 PM on January 24 [6 favorites]


And to acknowledge the judgments. I think they have both been completely irresponsible in this situation and another human being who had no say in the matter will pay the price. It is utterly unacceptable for him to avoid all responsibility and he will hear that from me over and over until he recognizes that. But right now he is in over his head, overwhelmed, withdrawing and I am very worried for him. I want to at least help him see there are non black and white options so he doesn’t feel like he’s at the edge of a cliff. I am thinking of this as one week at a time. There is always time later to add responsibility and I want to make sure that for right now he doesn’t make things worse and reaches a healthier perspective about it.

But mostly I’m shocked at how hard it is to find resources for the male parent in a support role if there isn’t a relationship and want to at least be able to find those so we’re both better informed.
posted by aaabbbccc at 5:43 PM on January 24 [11 favorites]


Look for resources targeted at divorced parents. Literally "good dad after divorce" will get you millions of results, and they will cover all levels of ongoing relationship with the mother.
posted by bashing rocks together at 6:14 PM on January 24 [5 favorites]


I think searching for terms like "co-parenting" will help uncover more descriptions of the kinds of functional, healthy options you and your friend are looking for.

There is a vast array of options between them staying together and him disappearing altogether. One major thing that he needs to realize is that his involvement will necessarily likely change over time. Taking the baby one afternoon a week in the first year is going to be really different from taking a middle schooler to the movies once a week - it might not even be possible at first. If the mother's exclusively breastfeeding, solo visits of more than a few hours are not going to be possible for a while. If she's using formula, they could literally split the time from the get-go and he can keep the baby overnights. A lot of this can't be sorted out right now, but will have to be negotiated and re-negotiated over time, as the child grows and is able to express his or her own preferences. While consistency on the dad's part is super, super important for the kid's sake, it's also important that he realize that the responsibilities of parenting do change over time, and it's not realistic to expect that a custody or visitation arrangement for a newborn is going to work for a teenager.

Speaking as a parent, it's common to feel like you're not ready to be a parent and raise a kid. Even when the kid in question isn't your first kid! That feeling is not a good enough reason for him to abandon his responsibilities and the truly awesome joys of raising a human.
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 7:14 PM on January 24 [3 favorites]


Honestly, how things go will vary depending on the child's needs and the mother's behavior. Having a child can be overwhelming if you want to do it perfectly but he doesn't have to be perfect every day or at all.

Look at the concept of the "good enough" parent, that might help.

Another analogy that might help is schooling/education. If you just take a 5 year old and give them a college essay assignment, they won't be able to do it and they'd feel overwhelmed and nervous and shut down. Instead, you slowly but surely give them lots of practice and over the course of years and years they learn more and have a reasonably good foundation in writing. Parenting is much the same. You're not super experienced and great at it on day one but you don't have to be great or perfect on day one. It's a process. Over years and years you slowly but surely put a reasonable amount of effort in and you will eventually have a good result (a reasonably well-parented child). You don't have to love every day, you should take breaks, you will be able to build on your past work, you don't have to be perfect all the time in order to do okay. Maybe that concept will help.
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 7:54 PM on January 24 [1 favorite]


The other thing I want to note is that he won't really be in a "support" role. He will be parenting the child. Possibly less often, for less time, and with different responsibilities than the mother. But his role is NOT to "support" the mother, it's to have a relationship of his own with the child. Emphasizing that he doesn't have to be entangled with her and this doesn't have to be about her or about "supporting" her is important if their relationship is stressful. I talk to my son's other parent...basically never. I don't help him with things, I don't share anything about my life with him, I don't worry about how he feels. I do have a great relationship with my son and play a unique and important role in his life. But that's not as a "support" of his father, it's as a parent to my son.
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 7:59 PM on January 24 [12 favorites]


Continuing with this pregnancy after an attempted abortion seems risky, to say the least.

That depends. 2 "morning after pills" did not work and well, my grand-daughter will be 2 years old next month, healthy, happy, etc.

When we first found out - we were completely supportive - his parents were not... (..."OMG, this will ruin his education", etc.) - we told them in no uncertain terms that neither him, nor they were necessary if they chose to not be part of the child's life. Our ultimatum was that he needed to be actively involved - or not at all - no one needs the half-hearted involvement of a parent who periodically parachutes in to do the odd weekend here and there - and doesn't really want to be doing it- children will sense the resentment and it will just cause more hurt long-term.

However - he stepped-up (for him, there was never a choice of not being involved!), even behind his parent's back he was going to medical appointments during pregnancy and helping prepare the nursery, etc.

Fast-forward to the birth and a few months after... Guess what? Those parents of his who had qualms? Completely on-board, our daughter and their son have been co-parenting wonderfully ever since.

Now - our situation is unique - our daughter had just moved back in with us about 2 months before the pregnancy happened. We work from home, and my in-laws also live with us - so, there is plenty of help with the baby. We also ended-up moving to essentially the same neighborhood as the father (and his parents) - walkable.

We cannot imagine life without her, she is amazing.
posted by rozcakj at 8:58 AM on January 25 [3 favorites]


To add after your update - if he's a physical risk taker, he might really enjoy an Infant and Child First Aid/CPR course. The ones I'm familiar with also go over choking hazards and SIDS and things, and he would be likely to meet some parents-to-be in the group. There should also be labour/baby courses available - again, those can hook him up with people who are going through similar experiences.
posted by warriorqueen at 9:51 AM on January 25 [1 favorite]


If you search on "co-parent Infant" you will get some good models for how parents might share responsibilities for a young a child. This one has guidelines that make sense to me: baby lives with one parent and the other comes over daily or several times a week and gets to spend an hour or more with child (ideally alone if they can - gives them a chance to really engage in their own style and gives the other parent a much needed break) That is enough to get them started.

Usually, as time goes on the child spends regular time at the home of each parent but it doesn't have to be evenly split. I know at least one situation where dad doesn't have a living situation appropriate for kids staying there overnight. So the kids live their mom, dad comes over after dinner and stays until bed-time twice a week and then the dad takes the kids for a half day every other weekend. Note mom either goes out or goes to her room when dad is there in the evening and dad takes the kids out on the weekends. So, still very involved with the kids (and pretty distant with the mom) but not at all 50/50 physical custody.
posted by metahawk at 5:41 PM on January 25 [2 favorites]


Also, if he thinks he might have opinions about how the kid is raised and/or not be absolutely 100% in agreement with every choice that the his (ex) girl friend makes, then he will want to have joint legal custody. This gives him the right to be involved and impact the decisions that are being made about his child even if the kid isn't living with him. So, might be something important to consider as he makes choices going forward.
posted by metahawk at 5:46 PM on January 25


He needs to be ready to 50/50 parent. Not weekends, not once a week. He should be with that child 50% of the time. I understand he doesn't want to but that mom certainly doesn't deserve 18 years of professional hindrance because he feels trapped.

It's a burden. A beautiful burden, but a burden. Paying child support is the absolute bare minimum.
posted by pintapicasso at 9:37 AM on January 26


I think it'd be really good for him to connect with other fathers out there in his community -- older, younger, married, single, etc. -- because being a young single dad can be incredibly lonely and difficult. Finding mentors and friends who can relate and offer him non-judgmental support is so valuable. I wish them all luck! This wasn't planned or completely wanted but it still can turn out to be the best-case scenario of a difficult situation where the kid grows up loved and supported by both parents in a form that works best for the two of them and their child.
posted by smorgasbord at 12:59 PM on January 26


Her OB will probably work for a hospital which will offer parenting classes. This would be a good thing, though your friend might panic at the thought, as he sounds very wary of anything that could telegraph "lean in". My thought is that there is someone in the OB department who will be a social worker. That social worker will have experience with this situation and will have practical suggestions for expectant reluctant fathers who are very unsure of their roles. I am sure that there are moderated groups of such fathers led by social workers who help with both the emotional deep waters, but also provide practical suggestions on things like how to handle scheduling time with their child. Wading into this with the girlfriend to the extent that he shares with her that it's also hard for him to figure this out could take the tense atmosphere down a notch and allow them to think in practical steps, which is much easier than dealing with all the intense emotion. It can also provide a map on how to move forward and give them mentors and advisors to lean on as they make their way. If by chance the practice doesn't offer these kinds of classes, or the mother rebuffs him, he should contact Planned Parenthood and ask if they offer this. It's possible something is available on-line if not locally in person.
posted by citygirl at 10:33 PM on January 26


« Older Is it time to euthanize my cat?   |   How to get our blue mailboxes back? Newer »

You are not logged in, either login or create an account to post comments