I’ve been thinking about the whole thing of who does the parenting and how, and in what arrangements.
I think it’s clear that there are many arrangements which can work, and the most important thing is a stable, loving family life, whoever makes up the family. There are a lot of different possible arrangements, not all of which are chosen or intended, and a lot of parents do really good jobs under difficult circumstances. So I would like to point out that I really appreciate the difficult job that a lot of people do with great dedication and sacrifice.
But there are a few things which we used to take for granted (maybe too much for granted and too dogmatically) which it seems to me still hold some truth, and yet which have got brushed under the carpet.
Most people (with some exceptions) really want to know who their biological parents are. We do inherit things from our biological parents (way more than we start out conscious of I would say), and they do form part of our self understanding. And though it seems a rather unfashionable view, I would think that it’s pretty plain that the optimal arrangement for bringing up a child is in a loving family of which both of its biological parents are a major (indeed central) part. Obviously that can’t always be so. Death, absence, abuse, pathological dysfunction all preclude that being a workable possibility, but that doesn’t form the default assumption. The default assumption is that it can work, and when it doesn’t, people try and do something about it.
I have to admit, it seems to me that there are a lot of people who should never have children, and it goes without saying that inseminating an egg, or giving birth, does not make someone a real father or mother. We have to be thankful for good adoptive parents, for many reasons. The stringency of the hurdles that adoptive parents have to jump to qualify, as fit to parent, really show just how lacking the situation is in regard to the unavoidably unregulated nature of reproduction. Or rather it is self-regulated, with whatever wisdom, will and resources the people involved have (and I am an absolute supporter of accessible contraception and legal abortion, as a social and humanitarian necessity).
Children adapt to an amazing number of things and situations, and their capacity to love is immense. It is children that make parents, not the other way round. Parenting and reproduction are not the same thing. But I do believe that ideally a child has both its biological parents equally involved in its upbringing, genuine contraindications to its well being notwithstanding.
When I see gay and lesbian couples adopting children it makes me very happy, because they are doing a great service to a child in need, and it is all about the children, which is what parenthood should be. When I see gay and lesbian couples seeking to have their own children biologically, using donated sperm or a surrogate mother, I pause. I feel it is one thing to make the best of your situation and bring up a child without its other biological parent, when there is no workable alternative. But to bring a child into the world, with the intention that it will not meaningfully know either its mother or its father, well it seems to me that is more about the adults than the child. And that would be the wrong way round.
We are over populated, quite massively, and there are children that need adopting. Working to bring children into the world on the understanding that they will not know their biological mothers or fathers, that doesn’t make sense to me. I understand that people suffer from childlessness, and it is very real, but biology doesn’t make a parent. I think biology does something different, and important, but it isn’t (or shouldn’t be) for the parents’ sake.
I know that these issues are all fudged for many, but I don’t honestly feel that they should be.