Biologically, opting out of parenthood once a child has been conceived, is impossible. Until birth, the mother may have the authority to decide the child’s fate, but no matter what her decision is, the father has participated in the creation of a new human being, and that fact cannot be erased, even if he wishes, after the fact, that he were able to do so.
Once the baby is born, the parents share equal responsibility for its welfare. The mother is usually responsible for the day-to-day care of the infant, since women seem to possess a strong maternal instinct which equips them for this task.
An ideal husband and father works to provide for the family and spends evenings and holidays bonding with his child and helping his wife with chores and decisions around the home.
In contemporary society, there seem to be more and more men who, for a variety of reasons, try to opt out of the duties and responsibilities of parenthood. They may be immature, selfish, suffer addiction problems, lack self-discipline skills, or have one or several character deficiencies which makes the thought of settling down to a normal family life unacceptable.
Sometimes, these men will break off all contact with the mother, and move far away from where she and the child live. Governments in many jurisdictions have methods of tracking down these “deadbeat dads” through drivers’ licenses, income tax returns and other means. They can be forced to pay child support until the child reaches the age of eighteen, or until he finishes his education.
As the years pass, if the man starts a new family, or fails to mature with age, and still does not wish to have any contact with his first child, he cannot be forced to do so. This will be painful for the child who cannot help but interpret his father’s lack of interest as rejection.
Meanwhile, the absentee father is missing all the important “firsts” in his child’s life: first words, first steps, first day at school, first date. If the mother remarries, the male parenting role may be filled by another, who will always be treasured as the dad the child knew and loved during his formative years.
Someday in the future, through curiosity, or perhaps through interest in family medical history, or maybe just to fill in a gap in his background, the grown-up child will search out his biological father. “Why didn’t you want me? I never did anything to you. How could you just walk away from your baby and never look back? Where were you when I needed you?’
These are a few of the questions and accusations biological fathers who have tried to opt out of parenthood may one day have to confront and respond to.
Fathers can never opt out of parenthood once the child has been conceived. The baby carries his DNA, and his genes. It shares his ancestry. It is part of his family. His physical presence or absence during the child’s early life is immaterial. He is that child’s biological father and he cannot opt out of the role.
He will have even more cause for feelings of guilt and regret, if he abandons the mother during pregnancy. She may be overwhelmed with despair and desperation and decide to have an abortion. The father will then carry through life the knowledge that his selfishness and irresponsibility contributed to the death of his child.
Undeniably then, both parents are responsible for the safety and nurture of the child they bring into being. A child needs both parents equally: a mother and a father.
They have different but complimentary roles to fulfill. While the mother may have primary role while the child is in the womb, once it is born the male parent is equally responsible for its welfare. For fathers, resigning their role is not an option.