July 22, 2011

Concept of Conception

I've always shied away from this particular subtopic on my blog. Not because I'm uncomfortable with the way my family was created, but because I've yet to find the right words to describe our beginnings.

I enjoy being a single mother by choice but how do I explain what that means to a preschooler...his teachers...his friends?  There are medical terms that are too clinical, slang that seems crude and biological vocabulary that is cumbersome. I feel strongly that the story of my sons' conceptions is truly their story.*  They should choose when and how they want it told but they must have basic information in order to do so and they must get that information from me.

I struggle to find the terms that feel right, words that are accurate but kind. Words that are honest and loving. Because above all, these children are loved.

In the SMC community, many moms coach their children to say, "I don't have a dad" when asked about their family composition.  I seem to be in the minority of this parenting minority because that's not the approach I want to take with my young children. The thing is, it's a simple biological and irrefutable fact: everyone has a male parent. Not a parent in the sense of one who parents and not in the sense of someone who teaches you to play baseball but a male human being who helped create you. What do you call that kind of male parent? Especially when speaking to a preschooler?

I feel strongly that my children see themselves as typical children. They are typical children. They have hundreds of things in common with their same age peers. How many times have we read Todd Parr together? (Don't his books just tell us what we already know anyway?) All families are different; all families are the same.

We don't have a daddy in our family. We eat macaroni and cheese. Mommy was never married. We watch Sesame Street and Dora the Explorer.

I've yet to hear of any other SMC who used a donor (known, id release or anonymous) tell her child that he or she has a daddy. There's some discussion as to which should be avoided more vehemently when speaking to your child, the term "father" or the term "dad". For my family, I'll make it clear that although my boys will never meet their male parent, there is a man who gave us a wonderful start. Their daddy is a donor.

*I  write about this deeply personal subject here because I am inspired by the many SMCs who have courageously shared their experiences before me.  I learn from this community of generous and honest women every day.


  1. Great post. It is a very individual subject and we all handle it differently, we all approach it in our own way. And our decisions about how to approach it will, I suspect, change and grow as our children change and grow. In our family we don't have a daddy, but there was a special man who helped us make our family. Well, actually two special men, but Eva's not old enough to start asking questions yet. Thanks for bravely sharing your ideas about a very complicated subject.

  2. I think it's wonderful that you focus on the positive (a male *is* part of this in some way) aspect, rather than the negagive (I don't have a dad). It's a very personal choice, and this entry is your expression of how you and your kids navigate this very personal subject.
    Thank you for sharing this very personal part of your family.

  3. check out Mama C and the boys dot com, she has one sone by adoption and one by donor and she does an incredible job talking to the boys about where they came from.

  4. I feel the same way you do. For now I tell her that our family just has a mommy, and I've heard her say that. When calls someone daddy, she corrects herself and says no, just a mommy. I plan to tell her she has a biological father, for she same reasons you explain, and he is called a donor. I'm always interested about other SMC perspective on this. Thanks for sharing.

  5. Before I had Elena, this issue seemed so "easy" & straightforward but now as I practice how I'll talk to her about it & what I'll say, it's harder than I imagined. Thank you for sharing your experience as I will learn from you. Hot mama makes a great point of focusing on the positive aspect rather than the 'i don't have a dad' side.

  6. Farty is just now starting to realize that some people, including his big sister, have 'dads.' He hasn't asked about his, but I know he will. And soon.
    I have always told BOTH kids that there are sooo many different kinds of families in the world, and ours is just one of them.
    Thanks for your perspective on this touchy subject!

  7. I thought I had posted a comment, but it seems it got lost in cyberspace...

    This may sound odd, but at 5+, Eliza has not asked where her "dad" is. We talk about all different kinds of families and she tells people we are a "mom and daughter" house. Her friends come from a pretty diverse set of family structures, so maybe that's why she hasn't been curious about our family being a bit different than Ozzie and Harriet.

    I don't know why she hasn't asked yet, but I hope when she does, I can explain it to her in a way she'll understand. I happen to be adopted and I always knew I was adopted. At a relatively young age, I knew the difference between my Daddy and my biological father. I met my biological father when I was an adult, and while we became friends, he was never a father figure to me, more like a really nice next door neighbor.

    One of Eliza's close friends, a boy her age, asked her where Eliza's dad was and she said "it's just mama an me in my house." Her friend (whose parents are in the midst of separating) replied "that sounds like a great idea!" Of course his mother spit her coffee out all over my dashboard as we were driving together to a play date.

    All we can do is our best to explain our family structure and hope that our kids feel secure and loved.

  8. Thanks for sharing your view on this subject! I am just starting the process of becoming a single mom by choice. If all goes as planned, my child will have a known donor who does not anticipate wanting much contact. I don't know how I will handle this subject but I know that it will have a lot to do with the demeanor of the child and what age they start asking about it. I like your positive approach a lot, it fits with how I think about the world.

  9. Thanks for sharing Lara, I think we are not used to thinking that we are "normal" families, and therefore think there is something missing, reason why we pause, and re-frame our world to establish a new set of parameters.

    More and more I realize that many children grow up with other "forms of families" due to circumstances outside of anyone's control. And this is yet another "form" that is starting to shape up in this era, which we have chosen with deep love, foresight and sacrifice; to bring children the lives that we dream of. We are a breed of our own, that have not yet started to be understood, but in time, we will be.

    No matter what you chose to tell your kids, you will do it right, because those kids are so adored, that they will know you love them and that you'd do anything for them, and that having chosen to have them this way was the right thing to do.

  10. Thank you for sharing this. I am in the same mindset - there is a man that gave my son life, but he is not a 'dad' or a 'father'. I am ever so grateful for this man - regardless if his donations were fueled by money or generosity - I have the most adorable son (yes, biased!) that I never imagined I would have. And this is exactly what I will share when Max asks.

    This is the one thing that I struggle with - considering myself a 'normal' family. I'll get there soon enough. =)