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Relationships I might be a dad. Should I support the child even though I’m not certain of being the father?

The question

I’ve just found out I may be a dad. I slept with the possible mother, who told me she was on the pill. I also know that the weekend she conceived, she slept with another guy. When she told me I could be the father, after she had been pregnant for two weeks, I told her I would pay for an abortion. I have the money and would support her going for one. But this never happened, even though she had told me she would go through with it. What do I do now? Do I man up and support the child even though I’m not 100-per-cent certain of being the father?

The answer

First of all, I have news for you: Whatever DNA this child may carry, you are not his father. Not yet. Not by a long chalk.

Let me give a few (admittedly eccentric) brush strokes on what qualifies a person to be able to call himself a “father.”

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Doing your best to keep the kid clothed and fed and uninjured and with a roof between his/her head and the rain and snow. You may experience “provider panic” in this effort. Many do.

Constant worry, perpetually gnawing at your guts: Will he/she find love? Will there even be such a thing as a job when he/she grows up and if so will he/she be able to get one? And keep it? What about getting a house? Will he/she be able to go to a sporting event without a “dirty bomb” going off? Take potable water as much for granted as I have in my lifetime?

Et cetera and so forth. The list goes on and the worries never stop until the sweet release of death.

You’ll have to do things that would have grossed you out before you became a parent. I remember once, my youngest son Adam (toddler then, teenager now) dropped his toy in the toilet and started bawling. I rolled up my sleeve and fished it out, despite the fact the bowl was full of urine and floating turds. Why? Because I’m his father.

To mention an even grosser example, once a friend of mine took his baby (this story is famous among my friends: It’s called “The Neck Poo Story”) to a coffee shop and the kid turned beet-red. He got a faraway look that was also the look of deep concentration on his face – like a chess master contemplating a particularly thorny position – until a squirt of poo popped out of his collar!

Connect the dots and imagine the myriad horrors of changing that kid’s diaper on the floor of a coffee-shop washroom. But he did it. Why? Because he was the kid’s father.

You, on the other hand, may or may not have inseminated this woman, then followed that up by trying to pressure her into getting an abortion. Does that qualify you to say, “I may be a dad?” Not in my books.

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First of all, vis-à-vis keeping the baby, I say: her call. You stand back and let her make the decision on her own. I’m sure not everyone will agree, but as my wife tells our three boys: “If you impregnate a woman, even by accident, it’s her choice whether to have the child or not. You have no say.”

In your case, it’s mitigated by the fact that she told you she was on the pill and slept with someone else that same weekend. But still.

I would urge you to administer a DNA test on the child, once he/she is born. These kits are widely available these days and easy to use: Just swab the inside of the child’s cheek with a Q-Tip and mail it to the company’s lab.

If the baby is not yours – well, I don’t think you’re under any obligation to raise another man’s child. Though maybe you should consider it. Might be good for you. Might cause you, to use your phrase, to “man up.”

If it is yours, you don’t have to stay with the mother – the way it sounds, your relationship is quite problematically non-monogamous – but you should stay involved in the child’s life (which means getting along with the mother as well as possible): Teach him/her to bike and swim; apply bandages to his/her scrapes and cuts; take him/her to the hospital, the dentist.…

In short, do the million and one things it takes to qualify you to be able to say with justification what you say so prematurely now: “I might be a dad.”

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