Monday, January 14, 2008

Donor or Father ?

The other night I saw a post on the Yahoo DSR group by Tom, a donor conceived adult, that was part of a thread addressing the ongoing debate and fact that donors are indeed fathers, biological fathers at a minimum. Tom stated the following as part of a larger post:
My point is this: *all other things being equal* a biological parentwill be better than a non-biologically related parent. And quite significantly better too.

Something about his post made me respond with the following:

We live in a strange world all of us on this site. For each of the heterosexual families out here they certainly would have preferred to not go through infertility and the subsequent choices they made but here we are. Whether it was right or wrong no longer matters now that we are here.

The trick is now dealing with the deck we have created and determining what is best for the kids. I try my best every day to bethe best father, dad, whatever term you want to apply to my kids. Sometimes I do well and others I screw up and forget they are only 5 and 3 and expect to much of them but I believe in all cases I am acting as their dad through and through.

I was struck by Tom's use of the phrase "all other things being equal". Yes without a doubt the sperm donor is the natural father to my children. If he had married my wife and produced these kids with her and raised them I am sure he'd be a great father to him. But he did not and was not part of that particular equation.

His part in the process so far has been genetic and the kids have grown thus far due to a mix of his genetic and my nuture. Which one has played a greater part? The question is irrelevant and unfair to them and to each man involved. If we look at it in that manner it makes it a competition and does not serve any purpose but force the children to look at me as competing with a ghost.

If the kids someday look to find this man and create some sort of relationship so be it. But the fact is at this point his contribution has been in the creation and what his genes bring to these kids. I am not discounting this man as his contributions help define who these children are but I still believe until these children define him as the father that decision is their alone.


Bea said...

Very well put.

Personally, I don't buy the genes = better parent thing, and I don't think many people do. I think a lot of people believe a genetic relationship will provide more *incentive* to parent well, but saying a genetic relationship *makes your parenting better* is not how it works.

In the case of donor conception, there's a different - and also a huge - incentive to parent well. In fact, you don't have to look far to see genetically-related fathers taking their kids for granted, whereas I doubt this happens nearly as often with donor conception - although I'm sure the waters have been muddied a lot in the past by some couples' sense of insecurity over the issue.

The myth that a genetic relationship necessarily leads a parent to provide the best possible care for their children is (in my opinion) responsible for a lot of harm (in general). I'm thinking in terms of maladjustment to parenthood, where new parents are surprised to learn that it doesn't just come naturally, and are then resistant to getting outside help (from non-related, therefore less competent people!) resulting in decreased quality of care for their children.


Somewhat Ordinary said...

Wow, I really don't understand his point at all. What is the biological father "better" at? Yes, his sperm must be significantly better than the donor dad, but aside from that he isn't there to teach, nurture, love, and care for that child. I am eternally greatful to our donor, but he will never be a better father to my children than the one that will kiss them good night each night.

Rachel Inbar said...

OK, living in a step-family, I have a different angle. My husband is a MUCH better dad to my kids than their bio-dad... and this is despite the fact that the kids were 11 and 8 when we got married and has not changed even though we now have 2 more children.

I think that the person who can provide a child with tools to become a person who contributes positively to society, helps build his or her self-esteem, provides love and support in good times and bad wins in my book.

noswimmers said...

Very well said!

Unknown said...

Thats certainly not entirely true. I know so many horrible biological parents.

Richard said...


It takes a lot to get me to write these days, but the idea that our donor could be a 'better' father to my boys is, quite frankly absurd. The caveat, as you so rightly say, of 'all things being equal' is ridiculous. All things are not equal in this life. Is an adoptive parent that looks after a child whose genetic parents beat it, or are heroin addicts somehow a worse parent?

What defines a good parent? It's difficult to say. Love? A desire for happiness for your children? A preparedness to sacrifice anything to help your child achieve their potential? I don't know if there is a definitive answer so let me say this.

I would give up everything for my sons if it was asked of me or I had to. Every penny I have ever earned and will earn, ever hour of every day for the rest of my life, every other relationship I have ever had. I would literally give my blood, my liver, my lungs, my heart, my life and soul in my role as father to my boys, just as I know you would to your children. It is a cliche perhaps to say it, but I would die for either one of them. And with that in mind, try telling me that anyone in the world could be a 'better' father to them than me because they happen to share a combination of proteins.

These people seriously need to get some perspective.


Unknown said...

Things like what he said, shit like this, is why I don't post on the DSR message board. I don't even read the e-mails anymore, because it seems like so many other DI kids have divorced themselves of reason and chosen to pursue a fanciful ideal personified by their donor while sometimes neglecting their real dads.

I get hit coming and going here, both as a DI offspring and as an adoptive father. Am I the best father in the world? Nope. Am I better than my son's deadbeat bio-dad? You damn betcha.

... I feel ready to withdraw from the community again. I have nothing in common with other DI kids, it seems, in that I'm really fine with where life has put me.

damianhadams said...

What I find frustrating is when people try to make comparisons between apples and oranges.
I'm not about to say that anyone here will make a better or worse parent than the respective bio. This sort of comparison in individualistic terms is always fraught with problems. However, there is evidence which shows that those children raised in the traditional nuclear family do fair better than those that are not. There will always be exceptions.
Such evidence can be viewed in such scientific literature as:
Ginther and Pollack, Family Structure and Children's Educational Outcomes: Blended Families,
Stylized Facts, and Descriptive Regressions - which looks at the educational outcomes of being raised in various family structures.

beagle said...

Why do so many people who argue these issues so easily (and willfully) forget that there are a whole lot of really shitty and fully genetically related parents out there. Genes matter yes, but they don't make a mother or a father. Parenting is a behavior, not an act of biology.

Great post!