Friday 2 December 2016

Should I tell his ex-wife that he is the father of my child?

Patricia Redlich

Published 03/07/2011 | 05:00

QI have a young child born out of wedlock following a brief relationship with a separated father-of-two. By the time I discovered I was pregnant, our relationship was over. My family are very conservative, and were unsupportive during the pregnancy and after the birth. They have now come around.

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I told the father shortly after I found out about the pregnancy and met him once before the birth. He then refused to have any contact with me, and we only met again recently, nearly six years on. This meeting was set up by me, following counselling, to get him to recognise our child. I tried the legal route for many years, which was costly and ineffective. He didn't turn up for the paternity test and it seems he cannot be forced to do so. I wasn't looking for financial support, but merely wanted his name on the birth certificate.

Clearly, my child wants to know about the father and this I have done. I have also shown pictures of him and of the half-siblings, and explained that a father's job is a responsible one and that sometimes the father cannot or will not accept that responsibility. In the telling, I have tried very hard to make it clear that none of this is my child's fault. I hope I've got that message across.

At the meeting with the counsellor, she suggested I write to his ex-wife to inform her of the existence of my child. His children will find out at some stage and I suppose the feeling was that it would be better if that happened sooner rather than later. I have to admit, though, I'm reluctant to follow this suggestion. This reluctance is not because I wish to protect him, or his ex-wife, or his other children. I simply have no desire to unleash unwelcome or unpleasant intrusions into my life. It has been difficult enough to date. What do you think I should do?

AIT is extremely wise of you to wish for peace -- which is what you are saying. Yes, you are right, you do not need any unpleasant intrusions into your life. From the sounds of it, there has been enough frustration and unpleasantness. You have a beautiful child, whom you love. Of course you want to just get on with your life.

I understand that you wanted your child recognised by the father. You wanted the reality of a pregnancy and the birth of a new human being to somehow be registered. You wanted your reality to be acknowledged. You didn't want something so momentous to go unremarked. The fact that your family didn't back you up at the beginning would have made that desire even stronger. You didn't want this precious child to be simply seen as a problem, somehow hidden away, denied. You didn't want this to be your secret, your responsibility alone. Fighting the father was a bit like fighting for breathing space. And, I'm sure too, there was anger. The two of you made this wonderful child. Why should one person just get to walk away? It's neither right nor fair.

All that is understandable -- and it's right. But sometimes we can take standing up for ourselves a step too far. Certainly, we shouldn't simply fade away into the background. There are, however, situations that are unmanageable. Or put another way, there are fights that ultimately drain us of life, rather than affirming our lives. And for what it's worth, I definitely think this is one such situation. This man is not for turning. He's a waste of space. He's not worthy of any more of your energy, or attention. It doesn't ultimately matter who you fought for -- I mean, whether it was for your child or for yourself. It's time to give yourself permission to stop fighting.

You've already explained to your child that some parents just don't make the grade. You've also made it clear that none of this is any reflection on your child. And you've passed on the necessary information, if and when at some later stage your child wishes to pursue the issue of paternity. Now you need to let go.

I do not for one minute believe that a name on a birth certificate is worth any more unhappy intrusions into your life. What you need now, like I said, is to build a happy and loving life. Let go of whatever drives you -- be it anger, a sense of responsibility towards your child, a sense of basic justice -- whatever, let it go. Put your energy, instead, into making a wonderful life.

So, yes, your instincts are entirely right. Allow yourself to shed this burden. You deserve the peace, tranquillity and that sense of ease which will quickly follow.

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