How can I encourage my boyfriend to embrace his role as a father-to-be? I'm due to deliver our baby next month, and up to this point he's been completely uninvolved. It's not just a matter of feeling unsure of himself – he has actually told me straight out that he's just not interested in being a dad. He may not even be present for the birth of the child. He's been emotionally detached and distant throughout most of our two-year relationship, but I thought that having a baby together would help nurture a deeper connection between us. I've become so disappointed in him that I'd be willing to dump him altogether if it weren't for the baby. I can't raise a child on my own, and wouldn't want to even if I could. Can you help me?
Perhaps. A great deal depends on your response to what we have to say. We sincerely believe that, by God's grace and with His assistance, you can do a lot to help yourself. But before presenting our thoughts in detail, we want to commend you on your desire to create an intact family and keep the father of your child involved in the life he's helped bring into the world. This aspect of what you've told us makes perfect sense. In fact, it reveals the beauty of your heart as a woman and reflects God's original perfect plan for the family. It's sad that your boyfriend can't see things the same way.
That said, we have a few observations to offer. It seems to us that you have two different motives for wanting to "encourage" your boyfriend to embrace his role as a father. The first we've already mentioned – your keen interest in raising your child within the context of a two-parent home. The second isn't quite so positive or healthy: it seems as if you might also be operating on the basis of fear. You're afraid that you won't be able to manage parenthood on your own, and so you're ready to do whatever it takes – perhaps up to and including begging, pleading, and sacrificing your own self-respect – to persuade the baby's father to stick around. From our perspective, this doesn't sound like a good idea.
In the first place, it's never wise to act or react out of fear. That will only lead you to make poor and ill-considered decisions. Far better to take some time to think through your options slowly and carefully. If you sense, as we do, that you're looking to your boyfriend to provide you with the security you need, hit the pause button and reconsider. There are healthier and more effective ways of achieving your goals.
In the second place, given the fact that your boyfriend has already told you in no uncertain terms that he wants nothing to do with raising a child, we'd suggest that there's little to be gained by hounding him any further about it. As a matter of fact, the harder you push, the more likely he is to resent you and think of you as a "nag." He may even come to resent the baby, and that could create a very dangerous situation for all concerned, particularly if you somehow manage to convince him to stay. The bottom line is that having a child with a man who has not committed himself to you in matrimony will not necessarily bind that man to you for life. In many cases, it will only drive him away.
That being the case, what can you do? We have a couple of thoughts. First, you can't control your boyfriend, but you can control yourself. At this point you need to see your situation for what it is, assume responsibility for your own actions, and make up your mind to take ownership of your own life. You've made a mistake but you can't fix it by making another.
This is not the time to beg your boyfriend to help you. That will only be counterproductive. On the contrary, this is your opportunity to rise up and become your own woman. Tell him that whether he stays or goes, you're prepared to have your baby and move on with your life. If you adopt this approach, it's always possible that he will feel compelled to rethink what he's doing. But even if he doesn't, you'll be free to find your own way forward. Don't dwell on what he should do, but on what he could do if you allow him the freedom to choose – and on what you can do if you place your child and yourself in God's hands.
Second, start taking stock of your options. Your boyfriend isn't your only ticket to a meaningful future. Pull together a support system – parents, siblings, other family members, and friends – who will be willing to walk with you through this challenging season in your life. Find a mentor or coach – your mother or some other woman who has experienced childbirth – to accompany you to the hospital and assist you with the details of taking care of an infant. Talk to a pastor or a professional Christian counselor. Find out what resources are available to single mothers. You may want to consider the alternative of placing your child in an adoptive home and family.
Whatever your circumstances, you can be absolutely certain that the practical help you need is available. Local Pregnancy Resource Centers are an excellent source of such assistance. For referrals to PRCs in your area, we suggest you visit the OptionLine website.
You may also want to explore the possibility of accessing community resources. WIC (Women, Infants, and Children) is a federally funded and locally administered program that provides food for pregnant women, new mothers, infants, and children through age five. State welfare services are another good source of potential assistance. So is your state or county Department of Health and Human Services. These agencies can help you with finances, housing, transportation, child daycare, and job training. And there's a good chance that you can qualify for most of this aid even while living with parents or family members. You may also find it worth your while to get in touch with a local chapter of MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers), an organization that exists to "connect moms all over the world to a community of women in their own neighborhoods who meet together to laugh, cry, and embrace the journey of motherhood." You can find out more by visiting the MOPS home page. Finally, if you aren't already involved in a local church, we'd encourage you to find a good one in your area – a church that loves people and lives by the teachings of Jesus Christ and the Bible. You'd be amazed at what a difference it can make to have the warm and loving support of a genuinely caring congregation of Christian people.
And don't hesitate to call us. Here at Focus on the Family we have a staff of trained family therapists available to provide you with sound advice and practical assistance over the phone. They can also refer you to reputable counselors working in your area.
Red Flags in a Relationship