Welcome to fatherhood

dilemma's

Wrongly assuming his then girlfriend was on the Pill, Geoff was horrified when she became pregnant early in the relationship. Single, low-paid and 42, he has to think about maintenance. His ex-girlfriend, who is thrilled about the pregnancy, says she didn't discuss it with him because `discussion usually leads nowhere'. Was he cheated or should he have taken more care?

If a woman "forgets" to use contraception, it's usually assumed that she's either ambivalent about getting pregnant or that, subconsciously, she longs for a baby. Why shouldn't the same be true for men?

My own feeling is that Geoff is like a forgetful woman. Men are biologically programmed to father as many children as possible, and there is a bit of them - not, perhaps, their rational bit - that would probably like to have hundreds and hundreds and hundreds. When we use contraception, after all, our good sense is probably working against our basic instincts. And although yes, of course, Geoff was cheated by his girlfriend, who knew exactly what she was doing and almost certainly didn't ask Geoff his views on fatherhood out of fear in case he came down strongly against it, I think he has to take more responsibility than he thinks.

Obviously, if he's so utterly chumpish not to use contraception himself or find out exactly what the contraception situation is, he must take responsibility for his unthinking actions and be prepared to maintain the child. But Geoff is single, he is 42, he is, presumably, childless. I wonder if a bit of him didn't want a child, too? Perhaps not by this particular woman, but a child to carry on his genes. There is something so gobsmackingly naive about his assumption that she was using contraception, his failure to discuss the topic with her before having sex with her, his goofiness even in an age where condoms are quite the norm, not at least to burble something about them before having sex, that one can only be led to the conclusion that although he appears to be now taking responsibility for the result of his actions, he is still not taking responsibility for his actions in the first place.

"Don't blame me," he seems to be gabbling, like a child trying to excuse a broken window by saying that the stone literally flew out of his hand of its own accord.

Now is the time to grow up, however, and face the broken glass. Every adult knows that if you don't want kids, you don't have sex, or if you do have sex you take every possible precaution be you a man or a woman. Now that the pregnancy is confirmed and cannot, presumably, be undone, Geoff should resign himself to making the best of the present and not see this event as a burden and the result of a dastardly female plot. He should see the situation as a gift. Like his ex- girlfriend, perhaps Geoff could try feeling a bit "thrilled" about the pregnancy. He could think to himself that he is going to make the very best of it all. He may not be with his girlfriend but wow, he - single, low-paid, middle-aged, short-sighted old Geoff - is lucky enough to become a father in middle age.

Their baby - for it is their baby - does not need to be brought into a world where his two parents are wrangling about who's to blame for his arrival. The new baby deserves his entry into the world to be sufficiently joyous to eliminate all feelings of resentment . My advice to Geoff is to stop whining - for both parents have been pretty irresponsible, after all - and start realising he is one of the luckiest bunnies on earth because for the next few years he will, if he plays his cards right, have the privilege of part-time caring for a child of his own. Who knows, deep down it may be exactly what he wanted.

Cheating the child

Your extraordinary naivety has certainly resulted in somebody being cheated - the child you have fathered. Stop feeling sorry for yourself and think about how you are going to make your child feel a loved one.

Elaine Greene

Dyfed

Stop whingeing

Why should the man always have the final say over when, and if, his partner is allowed to have a baby? You should be flattered your ex is prepared to give birth to a child who carries your genes. As her actions prove, deeds speak louder than words. So if you want to be involved in your child's upbringing, stop whingeing and prove to your ex you're worth having around. If you can't be bothered to do that, get out of her life and just be grateful that she's given you the chance to contribute to the biological make-up of the next generation.

Vanessa Greatorex

Chester

Your part in contraception

"I thought she was on the Pill." No Geoff, you wanted sex so you chose to believe that she was on the Pill. She never said she was, did she?

At the risk of stating the obvious, when sexual intercourse takes place without contraception, both partners risk becoming parents. Fifty per cent of all biological parents are men. Should it really be necessary to explain this to a man of 42?

How come contraception was her responsibility and yours was just to have a good time? You should have asked her what plans she had for your spermatozoa, she would probably have told you the truth.

Penny Solomons

London N19

Get a vasectomy

What good to a child is an irresponsible, self-seeking opportunistic, buck-passing "father"? And what good is an irresponsible mother? Your ex-partner chose not to ask if you'd had a vasectomy or would wear a condom, and therefore shares in your irresponsibility. One can't guess whether she is stupid or cunning. Quite possibly she is a very nice woman who has been duped by a conman.

What we can be sure of is that a child is far better off with one such parent than two. It is simply an unfortunate fact of nature that a woman is always far more a parent than a man can ever be through his bringing home pennies and spending spare time with the offspring. Rather than add to this woman's worries and burdens by dumping your presence on her and the new baby, use the experience to make yourself a better person, someone that a woman will want to have around, someone who can be a substantial and constant help to her, someone who loves her totally and who realises that sex (real person-to-person sex, not opportunistic "screwing") is always a bit deal.

Do have the decency, Geoff, to inform any future women in your life about the child that has resulted from this encounter. Consider every aspect of love and sex to be your responsibility and you won't go far wrong. At the very least get a supply of condoms. Better still, consider a vasectomy. As you're pushing on a bit it's probably a more humane option in the long run rather than landing some unfortunate toddler with a middle-aged dad.

DA Anderson

Edinburgh

Think of the child

Geoff's outrage and sense of being used because his girlfriend got pregnant without telling him is perfectly understandable.

I can only hope that Geoff can put his bitterness behind him and think of the child. I also hope that the ghastly battles now raging within the divorce courts and the Child Support Agency are resolved by persons who understand current issues well enough to evolve a system that can deal with life hazards such as unemployment, low wages, family planning, homelessnessbetter than at present.

Zelda Harpum

Brussels

NEXT WEEK'S PROBLEM: HE WON'T WEAR THE FAMILY TARTAN

Dear Virginia,

My husband-to-be, Robbie, and I each have a 12-year-old son who get on very well together. Everything is fine except in one area. Robbie is very Scottish and has bought my son, Tom, a kilt, not just for the wedding but to wear regularly at home as he likes his own son, James, to do. This is a partly a patriotic belief that it is the ideal form of dress for growing boys, partly a genuine wish to welcome Tom into his clan. At first, Tom was very bashful so I said he would look marvellous in it, and Robbie offered a special trip to Scotland to put it on for the first time. But all our encouragement merely turned reluctance to stubborn refusal. Silly as it may sound, the issue is causing more tension, apprehension and dissension than everything else put together. How can we resolve the impasse?

Yours, Debbie.

All comments are welcome. Everyone who has a suggestion quoted will be sent a Dynagrip 50 ballpen from Paper:Mate. Please send comments to me at the `Independent', 1 Canada Square, London, E14 5DL; fax 0171-293-2182, by Tuesday morning. If you have any dilemmas of your own you would like to share, let me know.

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