Dear Wendy
Dear Wendy

“My Boyfriend Doesn’t Want to Raise My Baby”

Dad and daughter

I’m 19 years old, and I have an 8-month-old daughter with a man who hasn’t been involved in my daughter’s life since he found out I was pregnant earlier last year. I’m currently in a relationship with another man, Josh, 21, and we’ve been dating for about five months. Josh was a friend whom I could go to when I needed someone to talk to while I was pregnant. He recently told me that he doesn’t want to raise someone else’s child, but he still wants us to be together and that it doesn’t mean that in the future he couldn’t change his mind.

Although I haven’t given him any responsibility in raising my daughter, I did want to believe that, in the future, he would want to be something like a father to her and I’m not sure what I should do now. He talks about the future with me and says that he can see our relationship lasting for the long-term. But he also says that at the moment he doesn’t want to take anything to the “next step” as in moving in or marriage. And I understand where he’s coming from, but also I kind of want to know if there’s a time frame I should give him or what I should tell him. I have a lot of feelings for the guy and he’s really good with my daughter. So I’m also confused about what he thinks I want from him. I’m so clueless. Any advice? — Looking for Baby’s Father Figure

You and Josh are both so young, you’re a new mother, and your relationship is new. All of these are good reasons to not push any sort of agenda beyond enjoying each other’s company and continuing to get to know each other as you balance motherhood with your social life. Josh is being upfront and honest with you — qualities that are important in a father-figure, of course, but also in a friend. Let him be a friend to you for now. Let whatever romantic future you might have together reveal itself in time. Maybe his role in your life will be short-lived. Maybe he’ll end up being a life-long friend. And maybe your relationship will develop into something more. Maybe, in time, he WILL be ready for the enormous responsibility of fatherhood. But you can’t push that.

On the other hand, Josh has explicitly expressed that he doesn’t want to raise someone else’s baby, and you need to respect that. If your top priority is finding a father figure for your daughter, Josh isn’t your best bet at the moment. Obviously. But if a bigger priority is to enjoy the companionship of someone honest who has integrity and cares about you (and is “good with your daughter,” even if he isn’t ready to raise her), I wouldn’t sabotage that with demands of timetables and deadlines and so on. The guy’s 21 years old. He’s not going to hurry and make any decisions about marriage and family. But if you back off, give him some breathing room, and continue letting your relationship develop organically, the both of you may find that, despite your young age, you have a bond worth holding onto tightly.

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If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at [email protected].

26 comments… add one
  • avatar

    SpaceySteph January 12, 2016, 10:15 am

    Ah, this one is heartbreaking. My first reaction to the boyfriend saying he didn’t want to raise the daughter was “oh hell no” but Wendy is right… what 21 year old does want to raise a child? I sure didn’t.
    Unfortunately, though, the LW has a child and she doesn’t have that luxury. Her child has to come first and has to be protected. I agree that this guy is friend material (heck, even friends with benefits material*) but you and your daughter are a package deal now and I think it’s best not to get seriously involved with anyone who doesn’t want the whole package.
    And unfortunately at 19 I don’t think you will find that. Give it a few years to work on you and take care of your daughter and then you’ll have a whole pool of older, responsible men (including this guy who will be older and more responsible by then) and maybe ready to take on the challenge of step-parenthood.

    *BIRTH CONTROL!

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  • avatar

    ktfran January 12, 2016, 10:27 am

    Great, heartfelt responses by both Wendy and SpaceySteph!
    .
    LW, 19 is sooo young. Concentrate on you and your baby and learn a little bit about yourself. The right person will come along who wants to be with you and the little one. That might end up being this guy… but as Wendy and SS said, don’t push it. When you push an agenda, you’re more likely to be unhappy.
    .
    I see my sister and her husband and her family, which accidentally started when she was 19, and they struggle. They never had the time to learn who they were and what they wanted. They’re excellent parents and my nieces are very well taken care of. Still, you can see the hardship and it makes my heart sad for my sister. So… that’s why I think I and others say to take some time and don’t rush anything. It’s all truly coming from a good place.
    .
    Good luck and I wish you and your baby the best.

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  • Diablo

    Diablo January 12, 2016, 11:33 am

    Give it time and you’ll have your answer. When i was 20, i dated a woman with an 18 mo kid. Of course, i just wanted to get lucky at first, then a relationship. I didn’t want no babies – I still was one myself. Over the course of a few months, I came to love the kid and did more and more “parental” type stuff. The relationship didn’t work out, but it was nothing to do with the kid. If your guy is worth knowing, he’ll soon come to understand that your child is you, that you two are an indivisible package deal. If he doesn’t, you’ll know he isn’t worth investing in. Good luck.

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    • Addie Pray

      Addie Pray January 12, 2016, 12:28 pm

      Such a sweet response!

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  • avatar

    Jax January 12, 2016, 12:26 pm

    My mom had me right after she turned 20 and was desperate to find a father figure for me since my biological father disappeared. When I was 4, she got married. She spent 8 years in a terrible marriage to a man that really was just awful for our lives because she thought having a house with two parents was better than a single mom.

    But I will say this – my memories of when my mom was a single parent are some of my proudest memories of her. She worked hard, took care of me and honestly was a much better single parent to me than a co-parent with the wrong man.
    I know how hard being a young single parent can be, but don’t push this guy to fit in a box he isn’t ready for yet. Make your daughter your number one focus and the rest will fall into place. Having a good support network is so important and can be better for the two of you than a father figure who isn’t right.

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    • Addie Pray

      Addie Pray January 12, 2016, 12:39 pm

      Loved reading your comment. Man, everyone is really good today!

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  • avatar

    SasLinna January 12, 2016, 12:57 pm

    Like Wendy, I think it’s a good sign that he has told you what he is and isn’t up for. That’s mature behavior for a 21 year old.
    I would say keep living your life focusing on your child and yourself. Be a single parent and don’t involve your boyfriend too much in your daughter’s life. His role should be similar to the way a good friend would be involved in her life (this may mean you have to limit the time you spend with him so she doesn’t get overly attached to him). Don’t pressure yourself to settle down with a romantic partner any time soon. Just because you had a child early in your life does not mean you need to jump ahead to a more ‘settled’ life in other areas as well.

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  • avatar

    cyndi January 12, 2016, 7:28 pm

    hey- slow down. let things develop. You are the parent. Be patient and see what happens. Take care of your baby girl- stop looking for a daddy. Also- are you getting any financial help from the biological father? y’all are so young. This may work out yet it may not. Be happy and see what happens. You are raising her.

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  • avatar

    dinoceros January 12, 2016, 10:21 pm

    I get that a 21-year-old wouldn’t necessarily want to raise a child, but I guess I’m viewing the comment differently. So, really, it comes down to what he means by it. Does he mean “I in general don’t want to raise someone else’s child” in that he, on principle, is uninterested in it because it’s not his child vs. that it’s a child, or does he mean that it’s not something that he actively is seeking right now? Because I feel like I’m reading it as the first one while everyone else is reading it as the second one. It’s like the difference between someone saying they don’t want to get married ever or saying they aren’t ready to get married right now. Very different.
    .
    I guess I’m confused because it seems like typically, folks are like “You need to move on because he isn’t interested in being a dad,” but seem to be leaning toward “just wait and if he changes his mind, slow down.” Is it age that makes it different? I guess I could see where a person would basically be in a holding pattern as a young parent because it’s rare that a guy of that age would be ready to be a dad yet. However, I also know a woman who got unexpectedly pregnant at 22 and her former college sweetheart ended up showing up and helping her through the delivery, and they got engaged like a year later and are happily married. But I think he’s just a special sort of fellow.
    .
    Anyway, I say all that because my inclination is to move on. Like I said, I get that he’s young, but even if they were together for YEARS, he’d still be young. I mean, they could be a couple for three years, and he’d still be at an age where he probably couldn’t determine if he wanted to raise a child. Then what? I feel like the LW would have to invest so much time in this to find out if he wants this, and by the time she found out, her kid would already be attached and she’d already be super invested. I just don’t really see how this would work unless he changes his mind in the next year or so, which seems unlikely.

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    • avatar

      keyblade January 12, 2016, 10:47 pm

      I think there is an age bias because the letter writer is only 19 and her baby is only eight months. I think the majority of posters around here tend to think 19 is too young for most people to know themselves well enough to predict what they will want from a relationship ten years from now. Because the baby is so young and the boyfriend is so casual and unwilling to move in or consider marriage, I don’t think people are looking ahead at the daughter being confused about him as a father figure. If anything it almost seems safer for the letter writer to pursue something casual than look for a husband and father-figure this early only to get serious and break-up in three or four years when the daughter might really be attached to the significant other as a parent figure.
      But you’re right that it is unlikely that this will be a “forever-relationship”. I think your interpretation that the boyfriend is laying it out that he is unwilling to ever be the “daddy” makes sense. Twenty-one year old men vary in maturity, but many aren’t at the stage of life where they feel they need to only date someone they plan to finish their life up with. It’s up to the letter writer to decide if the potential heartbreak is worth the ride of something that is likely temporary. I hope she figures out if its worth taking things as they come with this guy.

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    • avatar

      SasLinna January 13, 2016, 4:40 am

      I agree that that’s an important distinction to draw.
      I guess the way I see it, at the moment she should either date this guy casually or not at all. Pursuing something serious with him is out of the question due to what he said. If they still like each other after dating casually for a while, they should revisit the topic of whether he will want to be more involved in the daughter’s life. This wouldn’t necessarily mean a stepdad role, but assuming they want to live together at some point he at least has to be willing to establish a close relationship with the daughter as well.
      I think it’s very possible that she is hoping for more than he’s willing to give and that MOA is the easier solution. She just has to be aware that, in her age bracket, there are probably very few guys who will be willing to assume the step dad role, and (if willing) who will be able to perform such a role in a way that’s good for her child. Because of this, it will be difficult for her to pursue a serious relationship without endangering her child’s wellbeing. Which is tough but I think important to be aware of.

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    • avatar

      SpaceySteph January 18, 2016, 9:46 am

      I interpret the “someone else’s child” like him saying that if he did father a child he would step up and be responsible, but that he doesn’t want to take on that same responsibility by choice. To the LW who’s ex wants nothing to do with his kid, it’s saying “I wouldn’t do what that guy did.”
      It’s not the most admirable thing to say, but at 21 I think some slack is appropriate.

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  • avatar

    Debi January 17, 2016, 4:51 pm

    I think that you should consider putting the baby up for adopting. If you are just 19 with a baby from another guy and your focus isn’t 100% on the baby then let a couple that can’t have a baby care for your child. Your focus should not be on a relationship right now. Your baby needs your attention and once your child is 18 and out of the house then you can put your focus on a forming a relationship. Please get on birth control and use it religiously!! Since you likely won’t take me advice at least consider this, your BF is not the guy for you. It’s a BIG RED FLAG that he has told you he doesn’t want to raise your child. You know how many guys say this and then get pushed into a relationship and then are mean to the child? A LOT. Your child deserves a lot better than the life you are describing to us. You already messed up big time by not waiting to have a child until you were in a strong, stable marriage so why keep messing it up? There are literally millions of couples wanting to adopt your baby. Please at least give it some thought.

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    • Dear Wendy

      Dear Wendy January 17, 2016, 6:43 pm

      I agree that this LW’s focus should be on her baby, but it’s SUPER old-fashioned and close-minded and, frankly, pretty ridiculous to argue that not only should someone be married before having a kid, but that anyone who has the gall to have a kid while single, she has to wait 18 years before she can have a relationship.

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      • avatar

        Debi January 18, 2016, 1:37 pm

        Wendy, since when is it old-fashioned or close-minded to expect that a child should be entitled to have a mother and father raise them? The statistics are very clear that children do much better in all aspects of their life when they are raised by both vs. just one. Children deserve to have the best shot at a good, productive life. Do your really think it’s healthy for a child to have to pack up their belongings every few days to go visit their dad? Or not know their dad at all? Wow, we are really a messed up society when people think that making a child a priority is close-minded. I’m pretty liberal but when it comes to children I think that they deserve to be a priority by whoever is raising them.

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      • avatar

        RedRoverRedRover January 18, 2016, 1:43 pm

        I have a toddler and another on the way, but I’m not 100% focused on them. In your expert opinion, should I give them up for adoption? Also, no one’s entitled to parents. Life isn’t fair. My dad and his 7 siblings were orphaned at a young age and somehow survived. It’s not ideal, but people work with what they have. If everyone who isn’t in perfect circumstances gave up their babies for adoption, we’d have even more unwanted children in the foster care system than we have right now. That’s not a solution.

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      • avatar

        jlyfsh January 18, 2016, 2:33 pm

        I can’t imagine if every person I know who was raised by a single parent or was the product of divorce was put up for adoption.

        I survived quite well with just my Mom. And she had a life outside of us and it was a GOOD thing. I got to see her be a whole person. And she modeled for my sister and I how to be not just a good parent, but a good daughter, a good friend, a good employee and in general a good person. All while not being 100% focused on just us at all times.

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    • Skyblossom

      Skyblossom January 17, 2016, 8:44 pm

      I really don’t understand why you think she has to wait 18 years to date. She needs to do so carefully and with the welfare of her child always in mind but she doesn’t have to wait 18 years. The right partner, providing emotional support for the mother and making them a dual income household, will be able to provide more stability for this child than the mother can on her own. A mother with emotional support will have more to give to her child not less.

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    • avatar

      SpaceySteph January 18, 2016, 9:39 am

      Those millions of couples should adopt one of the millions of kids already in foster care. The LW gives no indication that she is an unfit mother or doing anything to “mess up” her kid, nor does dating responsibly (which she is trying to do) have to be off limits until the kid is 18.
      About the only useful thing you said was ‘birth control,’ the rest of this was flat ridiculous.

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  • avatar

    Debi January 18, 2016, 1:31 pm

    It’s really sad that we’ve become a society that sees nothing wrong with having a child out of wedlock or a 19 year old single mother focusing on what she should do about her boyfriend instead of on being a good mother. Yes, I am a Dr. Laura listener, for over 25 years. I can tell you that I have witnessed callers who took her advice to wait to date until the child was 18 and those that didn’t and there was a very big and important difference. Those that didn’t wait very often have child that end up with serious behavioral problems and self esteem issues. It all comes down to how important your child is. If I had a child they would be my top priority but I can see that there are people on here that look at a child as if it’s about as important as a plant.

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    • Skyblossom

      Skyblossom January 18, 2016, 1:53 pm

      Having a baby out of wedlock at 19 is not an ideal situation. Getting married to have the baby born in wedlock usually results in divorce so not any better than having the baby out of wedlock. Her alternative, once pregnant, would have been to have an abortion. Is that what you are advocating here?
      .
      I’ve known young women who had babies and later married and the marriage has been good for them and their child. Since young, single mothers usually have low incomes the mother and child benefit from a marriage that brings both emotional and financial security. I’ve seen mother and child move up from apartment to home. From moving every year to a stable home. I’ve seen mother and child move up from trailer house to regular house. I’ve seen mother and child go from food stamps and little heat in their home to being able to buy food without government assistance and able to heat their home. I’ve seen single mothers struggling to provide basics like shoes for a growing child and that changes when there is a second income. None of those dating then marriage relationships meant that the child was valued at the level of a plant. Marriage is more likely to provide long term stability for both her and her child than waiting until her child is 18.
      .
      The LW wrote in because she does care about her child. She wants a good step-parent relationship and saw a difference between what he said and the way he treated her daughter. He treated her daughter very well but said he didn’t want to be a step-father. She questioned whether she should continue the relationship if he was great with the child but said he didn’t want to raise a child that wasn’t his. There is nothing wrong with asking questions to determine the best course for both her daughter and herself. She asked because she does care.

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    • avatar

      keyblade January 18, 2016, 1:55 pm

      I’m assuming you’re a troll. But I’ll go with it. I’m actually encouraged by the current generation. Finally divorce is on the decline and marriage is a safer a more equal institution! Finally people are waiting to get married when they are more self-sufficient rather than women seeing marriage as a means to security only to have both spouses struggle to view a woman as an equal rather than a dependent. Finally, we have stopped telling teenagers that they have to get married if one of they have a baby! And a women’s life isn’t “ruined” by 19. She can still take out loans, learn a skill, and support herself (though we haven’t progressed nearly enough on this issue). Finally when people get divorced, there are some resources about co-parenting and having a relationship that is about the children without being stuck in a dead marriage. Finally, we have the stories of grown children of single parents, such as president Obama, who remind us what a dedicated, loving, single parent can accomplish.

      I too, think I would have had a difficult time finding my footing if I was 19. I probably wouldn’t have been able to balance the demands of motherhood and work/school with a serious dating life. But I’m not enough of an egomaniac to assume every human being must follow my path without exception. You sound bitter, troll. Perhaps, you should listen to more uplifting advice?

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      • avatar

        RedRoverRedRover January 18, 2016, 3:17 pm

        Good point about Obama! Who knows how he would have turned out if he’d been adopted? Unlikely he would have become president on that path as well.

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    • Skyblossom

      Skyblossom January 18, 2016, 1:55 pm

      Dr. Laura also conceived her son while her now husband was married to his previous wife. She wouldn’t condone that behavior in anyone else but she did it herself. She also says to not put kids into daycare but she started her radio broadcast while her son was preschool age and left him in daycare during the hours she worked. She says things she has never applied to her own life.

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    • avatar

      SpaceySteph January 18, 2016, 3:05 pm

      It’s not that we are all saying that 19 year olds should be out having babies. But the LW did. It’s not ideal, it’s not perfect, but it happened. There’s room for middle ground between patting her on the back and telling her to give her baby up for adoption.
      There is no guarantee of a happy family, regardless of whether it is made up of a single mother, a mother and father, same sex parents, 8 polygamist mothers, or whatever. There is no magical formula for success. Everyone must work with the situation at hand, LW included.

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      • avatar

        RedRoverRedRover January 18, 2016, 3:16 pm

        Exactly. No one’s saying this should be your ideal plan. But it happened, this is the current situation. Adoption is not the answer everytime this situation occurs. Not even close. Especially considering that nothing in her letter indicated she was struggling with it at all. She may have a very close family, with parents, siblings etc who are helping out. And I believe if you look at the research, all a child needs are good, steady “parental figures”. They don’t necessarily need two parents to have just as good an outcome.

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