I have had contact recently with three families by sperm donation where the parents have split or are splitting up. Interestingly, it is the dads that I know best. I don’t know if the fact of their infertility or need to use donation to create their families has played a part in these separations, but I do know that continuing to be active parents to their kids is important for them.
It is always terribly sad when parents decide to go their separate ways but it may be that in donor conception families it is even more vital for the non-genetic parent to keep up good connections with their children, than with other parents. It is worth stressing from the start that genetic ties make no sense to small children. What is important to them is the emotional bond they have with the people who are there to pick them up when they fall, hold their hands crossing the road and love them even when they whine, moan and vomit. The world of psychology calls this attachment. Attachment can be healthy or unhealthy but good attachments come about through consistent, reliable, warm and responsive care. Dads who don’t live with their children are just as capable of this as dads who do. If non-genetic dads can keep up this sort of presence during their children’s early years there is very little chance that they will be rejected by their children, because of the lack of genetic tie, when they are older. Why would a child do this? There is no other genetic father to turn to. There may be a step-father at some point but he will not have the history or emotional bond that has been forged by good caring over the years. Dads by donor conception are dads. Full stop. And women must recognise this too.