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Dear Demetria: 

I am currently single and dealing with the father of my daughter. We were never in a formal relationship, but he refuses to see our daughter unless there is sex involved. He also has other children, with multiple women, whom he sees and acknowledges. I don’t want anything to do with him, but my daughter needs her father. What do I do? —Anonymous 

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The father of your child has opted not to play a role in your daughter’s life unless he can get something out of it—namely, sex with you. That’s a really unfortunate stance that he’s taken. But no, you should not have sex with a man you “don’t want anything to do with” in exchange for him fulfilling his responsibilities as a father. Mothers make sacrifices for their kids, of course. But this is asking entirely too much. 

He should be present because he’s her father, period, not because there’s quid pro quo where he gets a treat for doing what he’s supposed to. Tell him flatly that sex with him is no longer an option. He may choose not to come around anymore; and as sorry as that will make him as a man and father, and as sad as it may make your daughter, do know that his absence in your daughter’s life will not be your fault. You’re not telling him not to come around; you’re telling him that he no longer has sexual access to you. His absence will be solely on him. He will be making the choice not to be a part of her life, not you.

What your daughter needs is a father who is actually invested in her well-being and who genuinely cares about her. Her current father isn’t demonstrating this if he will spend time with her only when he is enticed with sex from you. Even though he may be present in her life now, present isn’t enough.

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Your daughter doesn’t just need a father; she needs a good father. And by no one’s definition would her biological father’s current actions count as being a good father. Also know that what your daughter needs, too, is a mom who respects herself.

About that: This is a messy situation, and you’re not entirely blameless in how it got this way. You chose to have a sexual relationship with a man who had already demonstrated that he was sexually irresponsible, in that he had multiple children with multiple women. And while he might “see and acknowledge” the other women he’s had children with, that sounds like a long way from being a hands-on, active father. It sounds as if he did the bare minimum and wasn’t all that great a father or co-parent to his other children. Frankly, he wasn’t a great choice to get involved with from the get-go.

So now you have a child with him. While he absolutely should step up to the plate and take responsibility for the child you share, I can’t overlook that he’s maintaining the exact relationship with you now that he had with you before the child was born. You weren’t in a “formal relationship” but you were having sex. He was a “friend with benefits.” And whether you realized it or not, he always required sex with you to spend time with you.

You probably thought that would change because you have a child together, and unfortunately, it has not. You entered into a messy situation. While it would have been nice if it were suddenly “cleaned up” after you became pregnant, it was naive to expect such.

Hopefully this guy will get it together someday and be a better father and co-parent. Until that time, introduce your daughter to some positive male influences in the form of a reliable brother, uncle, grandfather or family friend (in your presence). Of course, no one can replace a father. But a strong, positive presence is better than an AWOL biological dad or, worse, no one at all.

Demetria Lucas D’Oyley is a contributing editor at The Root, a life coach and the author of Don’t Waste Your Pretty: The Go-to Guide for Making Smarter Decisions in Life & Love as well as A Belle in Brooklyn: The Go-to Girl for Advice on Living Your Best Single Life. She answers your dating and relationship questions on The Root each week. Feel free to ask anything at askdemetria@theroot.com.

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Previously in Ask Demetria: “He’s Not That Into You Because Your Moms Are All Up in Your Business