Can you be the father of a child who isn’t biologically yours?

Is it love or genetics that creates the strongest bond?

Being a dad is tough. But some argue it gets even tougher when the child in question isn’t related to you genetically. Whether you are a step parent, an adoptive parent or the non-biological parent in a same-sex couple, just what is that special spark that creates the magic bond joining father and child? We wanted to lift the lid on fatherhood and examine exactly what it is that makes you the daddy. Oh, and spoiler alert, it’s not a few strands of DNA that makes you an amazing dad.

A father vs a dad

Most men have the capacity to become a biological father. This could mean fathering a child through a brief sexual relationship with a woman. Or perhaps by becoming a sperm donor and donating to a fertility clinic or privately to a family in need. Being a father in the biological sense is the work of minutes, rather than a lifetime. It requires little effort or input.

But just because you have the capacity to kickstart that spark of life, doesn’t mean you have earnt the right to be a dad. Being a dad implies a deep emotional connection; being there to rock your baby to sleep or kiss bruised knees and elbows. To be the person who can always, whatever happens, make things right. A true dad puts his children before anything else and does everything he can to make them feel loved and secure – building a bond that will be at the centre of their lives forever. And there is little evidence that sharing a biological connection makes this process any easier. Simply, if you have the drive to be a great dad, you will be.

A tougher road to parenthood

For non-biological dads, the road to parenthood is often tougher. They may have been through a gruelling surrogacy process. They may have adopted a child or come into the life of their partner’s child at an early age. They might not have been involved from a child’s earliest years and come into the relationship with a little ground to make up. But this harder road, this struggle to become a parent, can make the daddy-child relationship even more special. This is a child you have fought for. A special and cherished child that you will never take for granted. In other words, the connection for these hard-working non-bio dads can be incredibly strong.

The genetic argument

Some evolutionary scientists have argued that we are hardwired to look after and care for our children because we see ourselves in them. We quite literally see our genes looking back at us when we look at our biological children. And although this theory may have held water for our cavemen ancestors, it seems much less relevant to our modern lives today. You only have to look at the millions of happy blended, adopted, and homoparental families around the world to see that being a biological parent isn’t everything when it comes to loving and caring for children.

Changing family structures

The traditional nuclear family may still be alive and kicking but there is a huge rainbow of family styles out there and the diversity of our family groups is growing. From blended and adopted families to homoparental families, single-parent families, and co-parents, there just isn’t a norm anymore. Family is what you make it and it’s not only defined by blood relationships. Children may have two daddies, two mummies, step parents, adoptive parents and more. And, as long as children are raised in a secure, stable environment of love, does it really matter what the family tree says?

So yes, you can be a non-biological father. But more importantly, you can be an awesome dad. It turns out that love really is all you need.