Culture

Craigslist Confessional: I believe I was tricked into fatherhood

“I love our child but this is not the life I would have chosen for myself.”

Culture

Craigslist Confessional: I believe I was tricked into fatherhood

“I love our child but this is not the life I would have chosen for myself.”
Culture

Craigslist Confessional: I believe I was tricked into fatherhood

“I love our child but this is not the life I would have chosen for myself.”

This story is part of a series called Craigslist Confessional. Writer Helena Dea Bala started meeting people via a Craigslist ad in 2014 and has been documenting their lives ever since. By listening to their stories — anonymously and for free — she hopes to bear witness to her subjects’ lives, providing them with an outlet, a judgment-free ear, and a sense of catharsis. In sharing them with you, she wants to facilitate acceptance and understanding of issues that are seldom publicly discussed at the risk of fear, stigma, and ostracism. To share your story with Helena, e-mail her at helena@craigslistconfessional.com. Read prior Confessions here. Names and locations have been changed to protect her subjects’ anonymity.

“I love our child but this is not the life I would have chosen for myself.”

John, 42

I met my wife on a hiking trip. We were both staying at the same lodge with our significant others and there was an immediate attraction. The four of us hung out one night and we had a good time. I used that as a pretext to get their phone numbers so that we could “stay in touch.” I got up the nerve to text her and see if she’d like to get a drink, but I left it nebulous. I wanted it to be open to interpretation— so that if I’d misread her cues, I could always say I’d meant that all of us should go out for drinks. I shouldn’t have been so nervous about it. She wrote back, “I thought you’d never ask!”— and of course things naturally progressed from there.

I’ve always thought that this was a very dishonest way to start a relationship, a harbinger of trouble ahead. Her response, in retrospect, seems so flippant, so dismissive of her five-year relationship. At the time, I made excuses for her — for us both. Maybe both of our relationships were stale. Maybe it was kismet that we meet. I romanticized it.

Even so, I was always honest with her. I remember that one of the very first things we talked about was our respective thoughts on marriage and children. I told her that I didn’t really believe in marriage and that I was certain I didn’t want children. We had a hyper-intellectual conversation on the merits of not getting married “for the sake of a piece of paper.” She told me that she absolutely agreed — that marriage, in its original form, was a transfer of women as property between families, that it was an outdated and offensive institution. I’m not sure my approach was quite as feminist, but I was impressed by her, nonetheless. She seemed really grounded and sure of herself, and I’d always sought out women like her. I find that the more weighed down I feel, the less independent my partner is, the more I feel suffocated.

She is a couple of years older than I am, and I initially enjoyed that she was two steps ahead of me. In our relationship, she made the plans, she called the shots, and I was perfectly okay with letting her lead. I got comfortable in this role because we always had a good time and even though our years together were adding up, things never felt too serious, too heavy. So I think I got caught unawares.

When she was in her mid-thirties, things started to subtly change. The prospect of marriage started coming up more often. “It’s not really for me — you know I could care less — but it would really make a difference to my parents. It would set them at ease.” She is an only child and her parents had her later in life so I could kind of see where they were coming from — they wanted to see her happy and settled. So I gave in: it’s just a piece of paper, right?

To our credit, we didn’t do a traditional wedding. It was very small and quiet — it was a lovely night. And still, I didn’t see it coming.

She’d had an IUD for as long as I’d known her, and we were monogamous, so we always had unprotected sex. Very subtly, very artfully, the topic of children was brought up. At first every couple of months, then every couple of weeks. And every time she brought it up, I was very clear that my feelings hadn’t changed. I like my time. I like my freedom, my financial independence, my carefree lifestyle. I like being able to do what I want, when I want. I was very clear that children were not in my future — and I thought we had agreed that they weren’t in our future. Whenever I reminded her of that, she’d get defensive and say something like — “Don’t chew me out just because I happen to glance into a passing buggy.”

And then, one morning, she was pregnant. She was overjoyed and I was devastated. But what could I do? Seeing her reaction, her happiness, how could I tell her that I wanted her to get an abortion? I asked her about the IUD. She told me that it was an old one, and that there is always a small chance of getting pregnant even with an IUD. She acted like even the question was offensive.

So I had a choice: I could choose to believe her, or I could follow my gut. My gut told me that she got it taken out and willfully got pregnant, knowing that I didn’t want children.

But what kind of a choice is that? If I dug deeper, I risked ruining my marriage and whatever relationship I might still have with my child. It was too late anyways. Everyday, I struggle with her (suspected) duplicity.

I resent her deeply. I love our child but being a parent is exactly what I thought it would be, except harder. I refuse to leave — this is not his fault and he doesn't deserve to be punished for it. I don’t want to be an absentee parent, but I would be lying if I told you that I didn’t drag my feet at the end of my work day. This is not the life I would have chosen for myself. She made the choice for me, and I hate her for it.

Craigslist Confessional

Craigslist Confessional: Why don’t I feel guilty?

Craigslist Confessional: I was dating a pathological liar

Craigslist Confessional: Did I ruin my friends’ lives?

Craigslist Confessional: Have I already failed as a mother?

Craigslist Confessional: My parents ruined my life

Craigslist Confessional: I was a full-fledged alcoholic at 15

Helena Dea Bala is a former lobbyist turned professional listener. She lives in New York with her husband, Alex, and their dog, Stanley Zbornak.