Thursday, 5 February 2009

Danonymous Dan: Parenthoodwinked

It’s been a few weeks since the Webb story broke now. Potted history for those of you who missed the woeful tale is as follows: Webb’s wife revealed in an argument the daughter he’d raised until she was 17 wasn’t actually his. After a paternity test confirmed it, Webb wigged out, cut the daughter out of his life and started legal action against the mother and her lover seeking damages for paternity fraud. I first clocked this when watching the ‘Wright Stuff’, a programme that is at least more interesting than other daytime offerings such as Cash in the Attic. (What is so great about watching stupid people rooting around their council flats desperately trying to find some shit to sell at auction so that Chesny can have his first sovereign ring?)

A panel of ‘experts’ including Anne ‘gastric band’ Diamond, Janet Street ‘face-like-a-railway’ Porter and some sanctimonious horse faced doctor called David, debated the case. They all thought Webb was despicable for disowning the girl and then dragging her into a long and arduous court case. But really how else could somebody react? JSP even went as far as to suggest that the woman’s actions were okay and quite justified especially if the lover didn’t want to raise the child. I think the point here is simply about choice, by making the decision to lie Webb’s wife stole Webb’s ability to make a choice at the beginning. Instead, 17 years of a man’s life are found to be a complete lie. Should he just sit there and take it?

Primarily this is a story about consequences and facing up to them. Whilst it doesn’t detract from this specific case I will say that when it comes to owning up to paternal responsibility men can be pretty shit.  But that is another blog piece.

Let’s look at what else has been potentially taken from Webb. Breeding is a strong biological imperative for most guys and he now finds himself in the position of not being a biological father, so unless he manages to have kids again age 47 (more likely 57 by the time he’s able to trust somebody again) then his genes end with him. Seventeen years of financially supporting a ‘loving’ wife and daughter, all the memories, the good times, are all based on a fiction that was deliberately engineered. If it was a mistake on her part, if she’d owned up to the cheating and then honestly believed the child was Webb’s, that would change things. But his wife knew and actively created the deception. I do not agree with the disowning of the daughter in the slightest – but it’s very easy for me to say that, as it isn’t happening to me.

The occurrence appears to be rather more prevalent than people might think. The statistic used on the ‘Wright Stuff’ suggested that one-in-ten children are in the same boat (including prince Harry?). To put that into context according to our beleaguered government’s office of national stats we have 12.2m children in the country, meaning that somebody else is raising 1,220,000 children.  That does seem very high and there is no way of knowing how many of those are actually cuckoo children as I assume this number would include adoptions and men who have married women with children.

Girls, I’m curious – if you found yourself in this situation what would you do? The women I’ve asked about it seem to think that while lying was regrettable if they found themselves pregnant by another man while in a relationship they might do the same thing with the main driver being survival and, not wanting to lose the security of a marriage with a baby on the way. Survival is an interesting point because I’d say that Webb’s actions fall loosely under the same umbrella. When faced with a crisis we often drop into fight or flight mode (the 3rd option people forget is ‘freeze’ roll over and get a good kicking) and act oddly as a result. If I was faced with this situation, I’m pretty sure I’d flee first and then fight second and justifiably I’d be very angry. And Guys, what about you? Fight, freeze or flight?


keff said...

Fight, but with the right person: The mother decided to lie, that's her fault, and the totally deserves the humiliation.

But the daughter did not do anything wrong, and I think that after all that time together, her origin doesn't matter - they have just as same father-daughter relationship like everyone else. If he wants to disown her, for example because the daughter is a mean bitch, well, that can happen (regardless of who's biological father), but disowning her because of something she couldn't choose is totally unfair.

Clair said...

I think the woman is despicable - lying in a circumstance like this is unforgivable. But I agree with Keff; the chap must have built a good relationship with his daughter, and you can only hope that his anger will subside and they'll make a relationship again.

This is so sad.

Ys said...

I hadn't heard about this story before.

Firstly: I would tell the truth if it happened to me. But as I only sleep with one man it isn't going to - some of us can be monogomous ;) I'm very truthful with my boyfriend. Always have been. So there's no question for me really.

But for the man in question: I can't understand why he'd feel so cheated. Perhaps because I'm kind of Save All the Children obsessed then I think parenting is not about actually biologically making a child it's about loving and raising them then I've never really understood the hysteria. I get that it was wrong of the woman to lie, wrong of her to sleep around, wrong of her to shout it out seventeen years later - she is wrong. But why then does the man feel cheated of a daughter/ of being a father? He HAS a daughter and he is STILL a father to her.

I'd also heard those stats before, though. I guess it does happen a lot. A lot of people obviously have never hard of condoms ;)

Ys said...

*heard of condoms... hard? What an excellent typo to make! ;)

Anonymous said...

if i was the woman? abortion. if that wasn't possible, i'd be honest because the truth tends to come out sooner or later. and later is always worse.

M said...

Was it right of this woman to lie? Absolutely not. Is it okay for him to disavow his daughter? Fuck no. She is an innocent in this.

Personally, what I don't get, is why the "biological need to procreate" or whatever seems to be so important? It doesn't MATTER whose sperm entered whose vagina. donations of sperm or eggs does not make a person a parent.

If you've been there for a child every day, changed their diapers, picked them up when they fell, cheered when they succeeded and cursed at their silly teenage antics then guess what? You're their parent.

My biological father died in a car crash before I was born. Four months into my life my mom met a new man and they stayed with each other until I was seventeen. That man is, and will always be, my father. The man in the car crash is nothing more than a vague "what if". My father has no "real", that is to say, biological children of his own, but somehow he's managed to be fine with "just" having me and my brother.

The biological bond is a hoax.

thene said...

I wouldn't sleep around without talking it over with my husband, and if that happened? I'd abort, pronto.

Kriss said...

No, being a mum or dad is not just about the biological stuff, but I think those of you who are dismissing it as trivial might think with a bit more compassion of people who are still trying to come to terms with infertility. A sense of biological connection is really really important to some and I honestly don't see what's wrong with that.

The problem with such situations is that once you've lied the lie gets bigger and bigger. You're not just letting the man down you're depriving his parents of a grandchild, etc, and the longer it goes on the harder it is to be honest.

I hope to god I'd have the courage not to lie in her situation, but I did get myself into a difficult situation in my early 20s, lied about it, then got completely trapped. I would do differently now based on that fairly grim experience (which didn't involve lies about parenthood, and also came to a sticky end) but immaturity, inexperience and sheer lack of courage got me into it in the first place - I can see how it happens, and also how badly such a betrayal of trust can affect someone.

Z said...

Hard to believe the chap didn't love the girl as a daughter. The mother should have told him at the start or never. Telling him that she'd lied for all those years was the unforgivable thing. An implication that the actual father was still in the picture makes her and his behaviour worse.

Abortion wasn't that easy to get 18 years ago and it's easy to blithely say you'd get one now. She might have really wanted the baby and I daresay she loves her daughter a great deal, however stupid and badly behaved she's been.

Anonymous said...

I don't know how it works legally in the UK, but something similar happened to my Uncle here in the US.

Anyway he was advised by his lawyer to stop all communication with his non-biological daughter since otherwise it would make the court proceedings more difficult.

Anonymous said...

All the women 'talking-heads' on the telly seem to think there is nothing wrong with this. So I suggest at the maternity ward they remove all the ID wrist bands and have a baby lottery and then we'll no doubt discover that they actually do care a lot about genetic off-spring.

The daughter should also be angry with her mother because she has missed a part of her biological fathers heritage (not to mention a medical history). And the biological father has missed out on raising his biological child.

Dave said...

There's a word for a guy who decides to make someone utterly blameless part of this story. The word is 'cunt'.

Anna said...

It would be easy for me to say 'she should have told the truth' and 'he shouldn't have overreacted' - and I do believe he's overreacted - but I've never been in that situation and can't really imagine what they're going through. All I can really say it that it must be VERY difficult for the daughter, who now probably feels like she can't rely on either of them.

As for the biological link, Anon makes a good point that almost all mothers would do anything to ensure that their child was their own. The connection between a mother and her child has been brewing for 9 months before the kid's even born. But I've heard some say that the moment a man becomes a father is when he first sees and holds his newborn. Perhaps for men the bond is forged through experiences shared and time spent with the child.

Perhaps that's a sexist thing to say, and maybe I'm way off with that, but I'd argue that he is that girl's father in every way that counts.

Anonymous said...

There is a simple demarcation between 'raising children' and 'having children'. If the child is not yours biologically then you don't have a child.

I agree that he shouldn't throw everything he's built in terms of a relationship with the child, but he certainly has a right to be pissed off.

The biological father should pay him back for of the costs of raising his daughter.

Anonymous said...

I think that this is one of the most tragic things I've ever heard of.

Somebody has been betrayed and then deceived for nearly 15 years, somebody has lost their father for no fault of her own, and somebody has evaded child support payments for 14 years presumably he now faces some sort of legal punishment.

The only 'winners' seem to be the mum (who presumably got some satisfaction in breaking the good news to the 'father') and the lawyers!