Wednesday 4 April 2012

Sperm Donors and Deadbeat Dads. One of These Things is not Like the Other.

I was standing in the elevator with a couple of moms the other day. The two of them, clearly friends, were venting about the fathers of their children.

“Well at least yours shows up occasionally.  My daughter hasn’t seen her sperm donor in 6 months.” One says to the other and the conversation morphs into a strange competition of whose child has the most deadbeat dad. Each is certain that she is going to win this contest. I think the dad who uses the nickname ShouldaBeenAborted to refer to his daughter is the winner (looser?) but mom #2 makes some compelling arguments for her ex as well. 

I can’t help but compare our “sperm donor” to theirs.  Of course, there are some very substantial differences. The most obvious being that Andy isn’t an asshole. However, there are some similarities too.  Sporadic visitation? Check. No child support payments? Check. But, unlike the men who conceived children “the old fashioned way,” Andy is doing everything we wanted him to do. And everything he agreed to do upfront. 

Of course, he’s more than “just” a sperm donor (he's a special guest star!). Mac will call him Dad and a relationship will be established as he ages. And Mac is fortunate enough to take a place in his extended family as well. You might say that Andy is carving out a new identity as a parent (noun) who doesn't parent (verb) daily. And it bothers me to have his role lumped in with a group of deadbeat dads. 

I think of the act of sperm donation as something very noble. Men are giving of themselves so that another person or couple can have a child. And now that I have experienced the true magic that is parenthood I can say with complete sincerity that it is a debt those of us who need sperm could never repay. Without Andy’s generous gift I wouldn’t ever get to see this smile. 

Or wipe away this tear. 

What a tragedy that would be.

And what about the anonymous sperm donors? The men who visit clinics, magazines in hand, ready to offer up the biological contribution required to create a child? What they are doing is honorable as well. I had the pleasure of reading a few of their application essays as my friend was trying to select sperm and it was immediately clear that their motivations were to be of service rather than to gain financially. With the amount of meetings and testing that needs to be done before one can donate, the payout for being a donor is actually quite small. And I hate to see these men lumped in with deadbeat dads as well.

Sometimes words are just words. But more often than not they are sites of power that invest meaning onto that which they name. The habit of referring to deadbeat dads as sperm donors turns the label into something to be scorned and condemned. And while I understand that it is a clever linguistic trick used to convey that the man is not behaving as a father should, I can’t help but wonder if there is a better term we could use to convey that meaning?


  1. Christine Wright4 April 2012 at 12:58

    What I find interesting about those conversations is how these women abdicate all personal responsibility for having chosen this person to be the father for their child. When you make a child with someone, you should take a bit more care in whom you pick.

  2. Agree that sperm donors should not be lumped with deadbeat dads. I find it odd that the 2 women were equally comparing the 2. Glad you have Andy in your lives!

  3. I don't think I could love your blog more. As a fellow blogger I wish I was as eloquent as you. Keep up the amazing work! You deserve that #1 spot!

  4. And congrats on the #1 spot! Well deserved. You have great readers to support you!

  5. Congrats on the being #1! Love your post! I have never put very much thought into the topic but I can certainly see why it needed to be adressed!

  6. I think deadbeat is good enough, because the fact is, those "men" (and I use the term loosely) knew that they had created a child, knew that having sex, especially if it was unprotected, could make a child. They know this child exists, and yet they choose not to be a part of said child's life. That is a deadbeat, a loser, a poor excuse for a man, scratch that, a poor excuse for a human being. You are right, sperm donors are NONE of those things.

  7. Hmm... I might have to change how I refer to my ex. :)

  8. Excellent post! It's interesting to read because I there is the possibility that Cori and I will have a sperm donor in the distant future. Also... Congrats on Number 1!!! xo

  9. Thank you, Kris! I was unaware of the negative connotation to this term, but in any case, you are giving me Sperm Donor Pride :)

    And I do truly loving being a parent who doesn't have to parent - I lucked out completely with you and Tracy, and our amazing little man Mac.

  10. Well, as Leslie up there said, maybe I need to find a different term. I'm sure there are a fair few that do like the idea of the monetary gain more than the baby creation portion (or those who think so mighty of themselves, whether it be for intelligence or otherwise & need MORE of "him" in the world), but after reading about Andy, and how amazing he is for you two, I admit that I need a new perspective on things! :)
    But I do disagree with Christine at the top because yes, there are plenty of women who have "picked" the wrong kind of man. However, they don't seem like the wrong kind of man to start with. I was, for example, engaged to be married when I got pregnanat (and I am very picky with men... sadly even more so now) but I thought things were going to be great, even after we broke up, he swore he'd be there physically, emotionally, and monetarily (which was the least important of the 3) and that lasted all of 9 months of my son's life... til he met someone new. BUT the point of this ramble (sorry for it being on your blog!) is that I personally use "SD" as a defense mechanism (yeah, I know I do it) and because my almost 6 year old has enough questions already so I don't use his name, or the words Dad or Father.. even when I talk to my own dad, I always call him Grandpa, and sometimes Sir :)

  11. I ADORE your blog! I'm so glad you made # 1 on the top mommy blog list.

    Meanwhile, you have made my top 5 Fave blogs (Liebster Awards)

  12. As a former single parent, I always cringed at the words "sperm donor" and "baby daddy".


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