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    Can Surrogate Fathering Make Up for the Loss of the Real Thing?

    By Seth Mullins     

    One typical consequence of divorce is the separation of one parent from the children. In our society, this happens more often to fathers than to mothers. Children of divorced parents might then find themselves growing up in a household with a mother and stepfather, a mother and live-in boyfriend, or even a mother and a series of short-lived boyfriends.

    These surrogate father figures often step into a vacuum created by the absence of the biological father. Statistics have been used to conclude that greater incidents of child-abuse occur in households consisting of a mother and a stepfather/ boyfriend rather than those that consist of a married couple and their children. However, this does not mean that men cannot take to heart, and love, children who are not biologically theirs. Also, we should keep in mind that in many of these cases the children would have little or no interaction with a father figure at all if not for the stepfather/ boyfriend replacement.

    So what possible positive impact can a surrogate father have in the household? For one thing, he and the mother can model, for the children, what a healthy partnership is – something that the mother and biological father cannot do. Under ideal circumstances, the young ones can see how adults express affection and mutual respect for each other, how they work together to reach compromises for the good of the whole family. Surrogate dads – if they stay – can contradict the image in children’s minds that a man leaves and doesn’t come back, or that he comes back unexpectedly for brief periods of time and then disappears again.

    This makes commitment a crucial issue. Obviously, if a mother moves through a series of temporary relationships then this offers little in the way of stability and consistency for the children. But when a man truly falls in love with a woman this can extend to love for her children, who are in some ways reflections of her. The initial love that men may feel, then, which derives first from their relationship with a mother, can deepen and grow over time – if they remain committed.

    Our society in general seems suspicious of the paternal instinct. Many people doubt the existence of such a thing. Fathers are perceived as natural tomcats, rootless and without loyalty, given to roam. But I discovered in my own relationship with my partner (a mother of four girls) that I feel a protective instinct when I’m around her kids. I’m conscientious of the ways in which my presence might nourish their developing minds and emotional bodies.

    Are surrogate father figures capable of loving their partners’ children as fully as they could love their own biological children? This is a subjective question that can probably never be answered to satisfaction. One fact, however, is obvious: love, in non-traditional family settings, can and does take root and grow between these mothers’ children and their new intimate partners. Kids in such a situation have already lost something that is very difficult to replace. We’d do well to respect and support surrogate dads in their efforts to fill the empty space left behind by absent or indifferent and emotionally unavailable fathers.

    Written by Seth MullinsRate this article:

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