I have a 2 year old son whose father passed away when he was about 6 weeks old. I started dating a childhood friend a while later and he was around my son since. We are now expecting a child of our own and have people pushing us for 2 things that I would like some opinions on.
1. People seem to think that my son should call my boyfriend "Daddy" before we give him an explanation of who his father was (at an appropriate age) and let him have the option of if he wants to call him Daddy or by his actual name.
2. People are pressuring us to get married although we have known each other 18 years of our lives and have made a commitment to each other without being married. We both come from broken homes and feel that having a child is not a reason to jump into a marriage. It should be a natural thing and when people push for it, it makes it seem less natural even though the love is there. We want to be married, but after we build/buy our own home and have money to have the wedding we want to have.
Could I please get some opinions on what other people think is appropriate to maybe understand other views from people who do not know us personally to be biased?
1. The man who has coparented your son from infancy IS his daddy. "Daddy" is a job description. Call him Daddy. Someday, he'll learn that his biological father is a different guy. 2 years old is actually a pretty good time to start showing pictures and talking about your late partner and what a wonderful man he was etc., etc. But all of that is going to be theoretical, and tangential to your son's ACTUAL life with his ACTUAL Daddy. Particularly now that a new baby is coming, it's important for your son to realize that the relationship between him and your current partner is a full-on Daddy/son situation.
2. But NO, of course you don't have to get married! I'm completely with you on this one. I do think that you should make legal arrangements to prevent your son from being taken away from your current partner if you should die, but other than that, stand your ground and get married when YOU are ready, not when your relatives and friends think it's time.
First and foremost, I don't think people should feel entitled to pressure you about either subject, unless you've asked for their opinions. Even if you and the father were both still 16 years old (which sounds mathematically impossible), you have an adult situation and you must handle it as adults. People who wish to support you in your adult lives and responsibilities should begin by treating you as adults.
Since you have asked our opinions...
My strong instinct, if this were my 2-year-old child, is that he should be allowed/encouraged to call the man who's there to raise him "Daddy". Waiting until he's old enough to understand and letting him choose is likely based on two ideas, both of which are good-hearted, but illogical:
1 - Concern that, once he knows about his "real" father, he might feel disloyal and guilty for calling another man "Daddy"... You might feel guilty about it, since you had a relationship with his father; and you know his father would still be in his life, if he could. But to your son, it will feel like any other good adoption scenario:
* He should appreciate his father's role in giving him life.
* He will be relieved to know that the reason for his father's absence is NOT that he (your son) wasn't wanted, but because of something his father couldn't control - death.
* He may feel sad for his father, who has missed out on his life; or sad for himself, that he never got to know his father.
* But none of that will change the fact that the man who has been around all his life will be the one your son feels is "Daddy" (no matter what he calls him).
* He might feel temporary disappointment when he realizes "Daddy" isn't his biological father, but ultimately he'll feel a little more appreciative of him, and a little more loved, when he realizes "Daddy" is playing that role completely voluntarily.
2 - The belief that, if you let a child choose something for himself, you haven't influenced his choice... Parents teach their children what to call them, way before the kids are old enough to think about this for themselves. By consciously avoiding the term "Daddy", you won't remove yourself from the issue of what name is used, you will train your son not to call him "Daddy". Plus, by telling him (in the future) that you wanted to wait until he knew about his bio-Dad, before letting him decide whether to call his step-Dad "Daddy", you would necessarily introduce the idea that there might be something undesirable (disloyal) about it...an idea that might not occur to your son, if you didn't suggest it.
Regarding getting married:
If the hold-up is really what kind of wedding you can afford, then what's the hold-up? People have beautiful, touching, memorable weddings on the cheap every day.
DH and I used a wedding chapel that included everything - fresh flowers, music, photography, etc., etc. - in a package price. We had a charming dinner at an inn out in the country, rented cabins and stayed up all night with our family, closest friends and a local guy we hired to play guitar and sing. Oh, and I was nearly 6 months pregnant! I found a beautiful white, silk sundress from Pea in the Pod for ~$100 (nothing, compared to the cost of conventional wedding dresses). Nearly every guest took me aside in the next few weeks to say it was the best wedding they'd ever attended.
My brother and his wife rented a lake house for one night, had a friend ordained to do the ceremony right there in the yard and had friends and family members pitch in with food and drinks. We barbecued, had a bonfire and watched the kids swim, paddle-boat and chase each other with bubble wands. Everyone hated to leave and wants to go back, every year.
My uncle got married at sunrise in a little gazebo on a public beach and the reception was a nice breakfast, outside. It was one of the most beautiful, memorable weddings I've been to and it cost almost nothing.
I don't hear you saying you're opposed to marriage itself, nor that you're unsure about marrying this guy. In that case, why do you want to wait, if you have a kid on the way?
Having raised kids with someone I never married (we kept saying, "We're committed, we just want to wait until after the baby's born...after we've saved more money...after, after, after...") and now, raising kids with my husband; I do see a difference in our attitudes, when normal problems crop up. The unavoidable facts are:
* Especially when you have kids, there will be troubles, conflicts and hurt feelings that make you think - at least temporarily - "What a jerk! Why am I with this person?"
* It's legally, financially and socially easier to extricate yourself from an unmarried relationship; and that subliminal knowledge can affect the effort you put into resolving conflict.
Thank you for your thoughts and input as I do greatly appreciate it and understand a little more of what some of our loved ones are trying to express without doing it in a well mannered way. The reasons we aren't getting married right now is not just because of finances but because we just want the "Will you Marry me?" and the "I do's" to come naturally and not feel like people are pushing and trying to tell us what we need to do. We love each other VERY much and have no plans whatsoever to leave. We are in it for the long haul and I dont see where right now JUST because we have a baby on the way means that we should go to the court house to get a marriage certificate and say I do. A great question I have heard is what is the difference if we said we were married and put on some rings? People dont ask to see your marriage certificate. Its a touchy subject because we are both from broken homes where there have been 8-9 marriages.. We arent saying that we arent 100% sure or we arent ready or we dont believe in it but we have other things that we want to come before a wedding. We have tried to explain these things to our families but they seem to think that we are outrageous for our ideas and opinions and cant seem to have a conversation without this subject being brought up.
As far as the "Daddy" situation goes I am glad to hear of what other people would do and would think because its by NO means easy to decide what we as a family should do as of right now. Thank you for all of your opinions! They have been greatly appreciated!
So how would I make arrangements for him to not be taken from my current partner. I have never thought of that and I certainly wouldnt want him with anyone else other than him. He has been a great man to my son "father figure" if you will. Thank you also for your help and advice and insights.
The easiest and most ironclad way is marriage followed by stepparent adoption. Sorry, probably not what you wanted to hear. But that's how most parents with a deceased partner go about designating their new partner as the person who will have custody of the kids if the worst should happen.
You can also make a will and designate your current partner as guardian in the event of your death. Family courts can ignore your will, however, if another relative sues for custody and the court believes that the best interests of the child are served by giving custody to Grandma or whoever.
Do you have relatives who would try to take your son away from his Daddy? Does your partner have any kind of criminal or mental health record that might make Family Court ignore your will and give your son to another relative who steps forward? The answers to those questions are very important. Your partner's risk of losing a custody battle might be very small, or it might be huge.
My husband and I both came from terrible relationships and had no plans to get married. We decided to have a baby together and had a planned pregnancy before we were married. We did not plan to get married. WE got LOTS of pressure to get married, even from people who I never would have thought would say something or people I was shocked to hear how strongly they believed we should be married.
Then, I was pregnant, and we heard the baby's heartbeat, and it started being real and we started to feel like we were making a family... and something changed for me. It suddenly felt bigger than me, bigger than us. We were creating a family, and I wanted it to be a solid, genuine, traditional family. Which felt weird to me because I didn't think, before that day, that there was anything "illegitimate" about our little family... but I felt, overwhelmingly, that I wanted to do something to make it feel complete, and I felt like my kids deserved to have the stability of married parents.
The biggest stumbling block for me at that point became this: I wanted to get married now because it was what *I* wanted, but I didn't want to look like I was just caving into what everyone had been pressuring me to do. I didn't want to look like I was admitting that all these people knew better than I did, and I didn't want my previous ideas of staying unmarried to look silly. It was a HUGE thing for me to get over, and I had to do a lot of soul-searching to figure out how *I* felt about it, and come to terms with whether or not it mattered what other people thought.
We did get married at city hall soon after, when I was 6 months pregnant. My dad flew out to witness the "ceremony," and my step-daughter was our "flower girl." My dad took us out to eat afterward, and we went on fun trip that weekend while my step-daughter was with her mom. Eight months after we'd gotten married, after the baby was born, we had a reception with our families and friends to celebrate our wedding.
I did make an extra effort to talk to the people whose opinions mattered to me. In some cases I said, "I think you knew something I didn't," and in some cases I just said "something changed, and we decided it was what we wanted."
I have never regretted getting married the way that we did. It was what was right for us at the time, and there is no way I can regret that. If you and your partner feel strongly one way or the other, then follow your hearts (and make arrangements to protect your kids if you need to). But I do encourage you to really explore *why* you feel the way you do, and make sure it is truly what is best for your family, and that you are not making either decision based on what other people think, or what you worry other people will think.
...The biggest stumbling block for me at that point became this: I wanted to get married now because it was what *I* wanted, but I didn't want to look like I was just caving into what everyone had been pressuring me to do. I didn't want to look like I was admitting that all these people knew better than I did, and I didn't want my previous ideas of staying unmarried to look silly. It was a HUGE thing for me to get over, and I had to do a lot of soul-searching to figure out how *I* felt about it, and come to terms with whether or not it mattered what other people thought.
We did get married at city hall soon after, when I was 6 months pregnant...
In some cases I said, "I think you knew something I didn't," and in some cases I just said "something changed, and we decided it was what we wanted."
FTR, I am impressed! I can empathize so well with the mental struggle you describe. To be able to say afterward, "I think you knew something I didn't"...when that may not have been exactly the case, but it was certainly what that person would have liked to think...was so graceful of you and speaks volumes about your character.
I have no idea if it's at all useful here, but I thought I'd share my sister's situation. She and her SO were both divorced once before and feel that "marriage leads to divorce." They don't have kids, but did want to make sure that things would go smoothly for wills and in emergencies and such. They are in California and declared themselves Life Partners. While it was intended for same sex couples, it would be descrimination to exclude heterosexual couples (lets not get into double standards now, though). They don't have quite all the benefits of married couples, but have the same ones homosexual couples are afforded. I do believe that would cover something akin to step-parent adoption, too.