It is said that when a woman has a male child, a son, her husband becomes a Father; when she has a girl, her man becomes a Daddy. To me this simple statement encapsulates the fullness of emotion, responsibility and destiny that belongs to Dads everywhere. Most men are one or the other – Father or Daddy – and hopelessly delighted to be so. But what of the men, who through the circumstances and happenstance that is life, end up with the empty arms and hearts of childlessness? The men who desperately want to be Dads but whose life dealt them different cards?
The obvious set of men without kids are gay men. Amongst my gay male friends, most of whom are couples, there is an acceptance and comfort around the fact that they are not parents. Sure they’ve toyed with the idea from time to time of having kids but in most cases they have been socialised since a young age that they will not become parents because the person they love happens to be of the same sex and their options were limited. In the last 10 years or so gay couples are more likely to become parents through IVF, surrogacy or adoption but in my circle at least, the gay men I know are not desperate to become Dads.
The less obvious group of men, the forgotten ones, are those straight men who would love to be a parent, they just never met the right girl. Men like my darling friend Jesse. I’ve known Jesse all my life and in my book you will never meet a finer, more loving, kind or gentle man. When my husband and I split, Jesse lived thousands of miles away and so he rang the organic shop at the end of my street and convinced the darling girl who worked there to bring me a bottle of lemonade. Jesse asked her to remind me to let the lemonade go flat first because he remembered that that was what my grandmother used to do to make me feel better when I was a little girl. When the shop girl came to my door bearing the lemonade bottle at that dark time in my life, Jesse’s love was a beacon that shone brightly and gave me hope to keep going.
Jesse is quiet, he doesn’t smoke, drink or swear and his disciplined commitment to daily yoga means he has a killer body for a middle-aged man. He is gentle with most everyone he meets and it is only his few friends and family who are lucky enough to hear his magnificent singing voice or insanely brilliant and hilarious impersonations of Prince Charles, the old man or Mr Vindaloo. Jesse has lived a relatively simple life, he’s worked hard and saved his money and now has a beautiful home, in a lovely part of town, mortgage-free. What Jesse doesn’t have is a wife and kids. If ever there was a man made for parenthood it’s Jesse. I’ve seen him play with my grand-daughters and he’s brilliant. He holds them tenderly, makes them laugh and plays whatever silly games or roles he is instructed to do so by the little tots. Jesse told me once that more than anything, his deepest sadness was that he missed out on having a child of his own. I know his pain.
You may think the solution is easy, find a girl, get her pregnant, have a kid, there must be thousands out there who’d be happy to have a baby with such a lovely man. There probably is. But Jesse also has a well-protected heart. The one love of his life, a woman he worked with years ago, was married and going through a crisis in her relationship. Jesse was her rock. He listened to her pain. He comforted and cared for her. He held her when she cried. He fell in love with her fragility and when he’d helped put her back together again she patched things up with her husband and tearfully thanked her rock for his support. Jesse, being the gentleman that he is, moved away from the small town they all lived in to give his love and her husband the best chance possible to succeed in their marriage. He loved her enough to walk away but as he did he closed up his heart from further pain and never opened it again. It’s why he’s never met the right girl. He’s too afraid he’ll feel that agonising hurt again. In Jesse’s mind he must first fall in love, then when he has proven himself worthy of that beautiful woman, his wife, she will bless him with children of their own. In my mind, he’s set himself an almost impossible task. Perhaps he thinks its safer that way.
But there is hope: a female friend of Jesse’s who is both fun and capable, a woman whose biological alarm clock is screaming, the totally delightful Anna. She’s put it to Jesse that both of them want kids, they’re both good people, it makes sense and why not? I’m hoping Anna will convince him and that Jesse does become a Dad. I know there is a little boy out there waiting for his Father and a little girl somewhere wishing, hoping and dreaming of the moment when Jesse says Yes and he finally becomes her Daddy. Those two beautiful little souls I know will complete my darling Jesse and he’ll be one hell of a Dad.
To all those men like Jesse, gay or straight, who want to be Dads please don’t give up hope. We need you. The kids who want a loving Father and Daddy need you. The future full of people who grew up in the care of a loving male parent needs you. Most importantly, the you that will probably be heart-broken by your children at some stage in their life, the you that is a Dad needs you. It may be scary, it may not be the regular path to parenthood but whatever works for you is the right one. And yes, I’m available for babysitting.
With love and affection