Aunt Juniper: CO-PARENTING ADVICE FOR GAY DAD

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Dear Aunt Juniper,

I’m a gay man and my friend has asked me to help her have a baby, I’ve got so many questions and concerns and yet I don’t want to say no as I’m also very excited about the opportunity to be a parent. I’m not sure how it all would work practically? I don’t even know if I will be a good dad. Help!

From Potential Dad.

Dear Potential Dad,

It is indeed a very exciting opportunity and it is entirely reasonable to have many questions and concerns. Whilst I have been in that position, there are so many variables and each individual’s personal circumstances are so very different that it’s impossible to be prescriptive in terms of advising you what it is exactly that you need to do.

When given the opportunity to have a child with a lesbian friend of mine, I had plenty of questions. All sorts of scenarios came to mind and it was an overwhelming time. My biggest fear was that once the child was born I would somehow outlive my usefulness and that my friend and her partner would change their mind as to the level of involvement they wanted me to have in our child’s life. What if something awful happened and I ended up a single dad? What if the child had a disability? What if I wasn’t a good dad? What if….?

Eventually I realised that I could go around in circles questioning and deliberating but ultimately it comes down to this: everything in life that involves making a decision of great importance is a leap of faith. I took that leap and so far so good. It’s not been without it’s ups and downs but you deal with that as you go along. I thought so many questions and concerns were unique to my being gay and yet when it comes to things like this, everybody has them.

The best person to talk to is your friend! You haven’t told me how long you have known each other and what it is exactly that she wants from you so a good place to start is to ascertain how she sees the arrangement. Does she want to use you as a sperm donor? Or does she want you to have an active role in the child’s upbringing and be its father? There are many issues to consider – you haven’t told me if you have a partner and if so, what his views are? Moreover, I don’t know if you friend is a single straight woman or in a same sex relationship herself? If she were single, how would it work if she met someone and fell in love? Having said that, you would be in no different a situation than a straight man who, after a separation from his partner, is navigating the dynamic of a new man being in his ex partner’s (and child’s).

Co-parenting, whether it is between two individuals who have separated, or two individuals who have made a decision to raise a child together outside of a relationship, is about honesty and respect.

Often, it’s about putting aside your own needs and ideas as to how something should be to accommodate the needs of the other person, just like any relationship. It involves effort, good communication and teamwork.

If you decide to do this there some things you might want to consider:

Before Conception

  • Keep the lines of communication clear and open at all times
  • Share your fears and concerns with each other instead of allowing them to grow bigger in your head
  • Don’t balance your laptop on your lap – it’s bad for your sperm
  • Don’t sit in hot baths for long periods too often
  • Eat plenty of blueberries – they are good for your sperm

During Pregnancy

  • Find out what goes on in a woman’s body during pregnancy
  • Be there for her
  • Keep the lines of communication clear and open at all times

 After the child is born

  • Be flexible and adaptable (parenting doesn’t run like clockwork)
  • Keep the lines of communication clear and open at all times
  • Put your name on the birth certificate. Under UK law, a woman is automatically given parental responsibility; a man has to be married to the mother OR on the birth certificate. Otherwise, he has to apply through the courts. Protect yourself in that respect.

It was an overwhelming time after my son was born. I was not exactly a single dad but I was single, and a dad! I did the sleepless nights alone, albeit for shorter bursts and when told by others that I didn’t have it all the time it didn’t make me feel any less shattered, only guilty for feeling that way. Moreover, I wasn’t sat at home watching daytime TV waiting to look after my son at the weekend so I had something to do – I worked 60 hour weeks.

And yet, it’s brought me great things, and my son is the greatest joy in my life, and the best thing I’ve done with my life. When he was born I couldn’t quite believe how somebody so flawed could have helped make something so perfect. I mentioned this to his mum and she said that maybe, two wrongs did make a right.

Good luck with your leap of faith.

Lots of Love,

Aunt Juniper* xx

 

*On this occasion, Aunt Juniper was Russell Aldersson.

 Russell Aldersson is a freelance interpreter and maths and English teacher at the City Lit. He lives in Greenwich and is father to a six year old boy, Christy.

 

FROM THE MUMMY’S GIN FUND FACEBOOK COLLECTIVE:

‘Send him over to the LGBT Families London FB group! There’s loads of guys with experience with this.’

 ‘Contact METRO in Greenwich.’

 ‘I agree that first of all you need to talk to your friend and have a frank discussion as to how you see your arrangement. I would wait a period of time before deciding what you want to do and setting the ball in motion as this allows you time to change your mind or process how you both feel about things.’

 ‘I would seek legal advice and ascertain what you parental rights as the father of a child not married to the mother.’

 ‘One of the things you will need to discuss is finances. It’s always awkward discussing money and yet you both need to be clear as to how much you can contribute – children are expensive!’

 ‘There’s a good book called: The Lesbian Guide to Conception, Pregnancy and Birth (http://www.amazon.co.uk/Essential-Guide-Lesbian-Conception-Pregnancy/dp/1555839401). Your friend (and perhaps yourself) might find this a great source of information.’

 

Note: These are suggestions from members of Mummy’s Gin Fund based on experience and should not be treated as official advice. Any action taken is at your own risk. Always seek professional advice if you have any questions or concerns about any aspect of your life.

Always consult NHS 111, your GP, health visitor or A&E for professional medical advice.

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Founder of MGF, Helen is a mum of four who spends way too much time on the interweb and not enough time in bed. She loves wearing her dressing gown, car boot sales and watching TV programmes featuring food. Her specialist subjects include 'how to overfill your car boot' and 'how to avoid dusting'. Follow her at Twitter: @Ginfund, Facebook: @MGFund, Instagram: @mummysginfund and online: www.mummysginfund.co.uk.