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Who's My Daddy?

Becoming a single mother by choice is increasingly common, and their kids need a little more than the basic birds-and-bees talk when it's time. Some advice:

Be open. Explain things in simple terms, such as "I didn't have a husband but I really wanted a baby, so I decided to have you on my own." Don't give more details unless your child asks  -- she may not grasp the complexities of your choice at this age.

Put her situation in perspective. Jane Mattes, the founder of Single Mothers by Choice, suggests saying something like: "We don't have a daddy in our family, but everyone has a father. Yours is the man who gave the sperm that helped create you; he's also called a donor."

Help her figure out what to tell curious friends. Even though you've told her the details of her story, let her know that she doesn't have to share them with everyone who asks. While she shouldn't lie (as in "My daddy's dead"), the two of you can decide how much you want to tell outsiders  -- consider something like "He isn't a part of my life" or "That's private and I don't want to talk about it."

If she hasn't asked about her origins, gently bring up the topic yourself, perhaps by saying "Have you ever wondered about your father?" Otherwise, she might conclude that it's a secret, or that you're not comfortable with the subject and she shouldn't be, either.

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