my new manager is someone I slept with years ago … and he doesn’t know we have a child

A reader writes:

The backstory: I went back to university in my late 20s to do my PhD, and shared an office with a few other students for many years. One of the students, Jacob, completed his thesis and was moving back to his home country, so we all went out for congratulatory/farewell drinks. One thing led to another and Jacob and I spent the night together. A few weeks later, I realized I was pregnant and I had no way to contact Jacob. His university email and mobile number had been deactivated since he’d left the university and the country. I didn’t need anything from him and was fine to raise the child alone, but I thought he had a right to know. I googled him a few times over the years but never found him.

This last week, our department head emailed everyone to introduce and welcome our new manager, Jacob, with a photo and a blurb about his education and work history so I know for sure it’s him. The night we spent together changed my life because it made me a parent, so I have thought about Jacob from time to time when my daughter asks about her dad or I notice a genetic trait she didn’t get from me. However, I doubt Jacob has given that night a second thought. I have no idea whether he will have any concerns about being my manager given our history, or whether I’m making a bigger deal of this than I should. For what it’s worth, in my years of sharing an office with Jacob, he seemed easy-going and practical.

In our company, it is common for everyone in the department to reply-all to these introduction emails and introduce themselves, welcome the newcomer aboard and explain how their role will interact with theirs. I’m not sure if my email should note that Jacob and I studied together years ago as a way to get that out in the open? Or should I email him individually and offer to have a discussion about keeping our history out of the workplace if he thinks it’s needed? I’d appreciate any suggestions for language that indicates I’m not concerned and will be completely professional.

And then, in direct contradiction to that, I’d also appreciate a script for a separate email saying “can we please meet outside of work because I need to tell you something important about our history” so I can tell him about his daughter. If you or any commenters think I shouldn’t tell him, or I should let him settle in to his new country and new job first, I would definitely take that on board.

Oh my goodness.

This is what is professionally referred to as a real clusterfudge.

The issue isn’t that you’re making too big a deal out of it; you’re not making a big enough deal of it. It’s a really big deal.

I’m less concerned about the one night together than I am about the fact that you share a child (and that he doesn’t know that yet). Normally the night together would give me some pause too — since he’s your manager and that can complicate things, even if you’re both scrupulously professional about it — but that’s vastly overshadowed by the shared child.

Jacob can’t possibly be assumed by any objective observer to be able to manage you objectively or credibly or fairly when you have a child together. Your employer almost certainly wouldn’t have hired him to manage you if they’d been aware of the situation.

Which is no one’s fault! Jacob didn’t know (and doesn’t know), your company didn’t know, and you had no way of knowing he was under consideration.

But here you all are.

One of you is almost certainly going to need to change jobs. Until that can happen, the best solution would be for you to report to someone other than Jacob, but how feasible that is depends on things I don’t know, like the nature of your jobs.

I strongly recommend doing one, and possibly two, things before you do anything else: definitely talk to a lawyer, and ideally talk to a therapist too. The lawyer because of potential legal ramifications that you want to be prepared for (how will you respond if Jacob wants shared custody? what if your employer tries to push you out? both of those could end up being non-issues, but the potential ramifications are significant enough that I’d want you going in prepared and with help lined up) and the therapist because the situation is serious enough that some professional guidance will help.

Good luck.

{ 758 comments… read them below }

  1. Ask a Manager* Post author

    Y’all: There’s a lot of debate below about how hard the letter-writer must have looked for the man, but we have no way of settling that (and as many people below have pointed out, it can be harder than you’d think in some cases, especially when you’re looking for someone in a different country) and it doesn’t matter now regardless because what’s done is done. But assuming she did genuinely look, a page full of people doubting her is not helpful. Please stick to advice for the situation she faces now. Thank you.

    Also, for people looking for it — the LW commented with more info here. (Or search for “LW*” without the quotes.)

    1. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

      This is the companion story to “I ghosted my live-in girlfriend of 3 years and now she’s going to be my boss.”

      1. cardigarden*

        I mean… only in the sense of “my new boss is someone with whom I have an intimate history”? OP isn’t ANYWHERE on the same culpability scale as Ghost. She did the best diligence she could!

        1. Hlao-roo*

          Yeah, I thought of the “a DNA test revealed the CEO is my half brother … and he’s freaking out” letter when I read this over the “I ghosted my ex, and she’s about to be my new boss” letter. Hopefully Jacob doesn’t freak out like the CEO half-brother did, but there definitely is potential for a lot of feelings around learning that you have a biological relative you were previously unaware of.

          1. Mister_L*

            The update to CE-brO was wild, especially the HR-sycophants.
            Fingers crossed this one goes better.

        2. AnotherOne*

          I do a lot of “finding people” for my day job and it’s really difficult to find people in foreign countries.

          The US? Generally, it’s pretty easy. I at least have maybe within an hour. Abroad? I’ve had to just give up on finding some people.

          1. Quill*

            Also given that “over the years” doesn’t give us a lot of information about the age of the shared child, and therefore how much the internet has evolved since OP and Jacob last saw each other, it could have been significantly harder to find him right away! Ten, thirteen years ago there was just less total information online. If the kid is seventeen? You’re looking at an era where myspace and geocities reigned.

      2. Observer*

        This is the companion story to “I ghosted my live-in girlfriend of 3 years and now she’s going to be my boss.”

        No it’s not. The LW didn’t ghost Jacob. Even if she never even tried to find him, it still wouldn’t be ghosting.

        To be clear, I do believe that she *did* try to find him. It’s not as easy as people think. Especially when you’re looking in a different country. I’m just saying that even in a case where someone decided that they don’t want to have to deal with the possibility of dealing with a cross country custody case, it wouldn’t be the same thing. Given that she tried, even if ineffectively, it’s just a gratuitously cruel thing to say.

        1. Grizabella the Glamour Cat*

          “Given that she tried, even if ineffectively, it’s just a gratuitously cruel thing to say.”

          Amen to this!

        2. EchoGirl*

          See, I read that and thought it was referring to Jacob being the “ghosting” one. Obviously not the same since it wasn’t an established relationship, but the comparison makes more sense to me that way.

    2. Peanut Hamper*

      Except that I find it hard to enjoy a story like this. There is a child involved.

      Other people’s misfortunes should not always be considered fodder for our entertainment. Outrageous coworkers? Sure. Situations like this one? Not really.

      1. ariel*

        +1. Best of luck and all my support to the LW and their kid. What a wiiiild and, frankly, unwelcome way to find someone you’ve been looking for. It would still be hard if he were a colleague, but supervisor? Alison’s advice about therapist and lawyer is spot on.

      2. connie*

        Seriously. This is so consequential for so many people in an irrevocable way. This is so far beyond a juicy gossip issue. This is not entertainment.

        1. AGD*

          I agree. This is a situation that is no one’s fault and depends on a whole pack of improbable coincidences. It’s going to be difficult for at least all three of these people and possibly those around them as well. I really feel for the OP and hope for the best!

      3. DJ Abbott*

        It’s not exactly entertainment. I find these stories fascinating because I like learning about people and relationships. And it’s much more satisfying knowing that they are real stories about real people than something someone made up.
        I am impressed that OP took an unplanned pregnancy and single parenthood in stride like she did. IME most people would freak out. I’m sure she’ll be able to handle things with the help of the lawyer and the therapist.

      4. Ellie*

        The child is the only one in this whole situation who should be considered. OP – ignore everyone here who is talking about his rights and what he deserves(?), and focus on the one person who matters above all others – your child. What is the best outcome for them? If you think they’d want to know their father, then investigate that option with a lawyer and a therapist, and try to get a read on what kind of father he’s likely to make before telling your child anything. This could turn out to be either wonderful or devastating so you need to move carefully. If however you believe right now that he’d be a net negative in both of your lives, then don’t tell him. Your obligation to your child is much, much more important than to a man you haven’t seen in years, no matter where his DNA is.

        Above all, don’t jeopardize your own employment if you need that job. Move slowly, take your time and consider what’s best for your family.

        1. Stuart*

          You don’t think he has the right to be able decide whether he wants to be a part of his daughter’s life?

          1. Ellie*

            His right to know his child is less important than his child’s right to peace and happiness. The time to care about his rights was back when he slept with a woman he had no intention of ever seeing again, with no possible way to contact him. He presumably knows how baby’s are made, he should have done due diligence at the time.

          2. frank*

            not in this context, no. the kid’s been living their life for awhile now, their agency is what matters most. if jacob wanted to keep in touch he could have, she tried to find him and couldn’t, there’s nothing for it, shit happens.

    3. 8yellowbellies*

      I appreciate you, Allison, for monitoring and staying on top the comment section to keep it ral and relevant!

        1. Observer*

          Or with a lot of denial about how big a deal this could be for both of them.

          Very much this. And her daughter as well.

        2. Vio*

          Or just compartmentalisation. It’s a massive issue to process but there’s different, smaller aspects to break it down into. Of those aspects the work issue, which has the potential to effect income and quality of life, is the most urgent. It’s also common for the brain to put off dealing with the complex emotional aspects until there’s more time to process all of the emotional response.
          We have no way of knowing whether OP is handling it in a healthy or unhealthy way, hopefully the former but either way I definitely second Alison’s advice for a therapist because this is a situation that could so easily become extremely stressful but even if everything is resolved without incident there’s still going to be a lot of emotion to process

    1. Bobby Pins*

      Yes no other comment beyond wising you and your child the best over what is likely to be a possibly difficult time. I hope it all works out.

    2. Part time lab tech*

      Another suggestion. Assume good intent and his initial reaction might have more to do with shock than how he actually feels once he has time to absorb the information. (Still see a lawyer and therapist to protect your family and increase the chances of it going well.)

      1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

        This is a good point. His first reaction may not be awesome. This is a lot. He doesn’t get to be mean about it or punish the LW, but some grace for a sub-optimal reaction would be a kindness.

        1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

          A kindness to both of them. Because if his first reaction is sub-optimal, that doesn’t mean that’s where things are going to stay.

      2. LW*

        Good suggestion, thank you. I do recall how I felt when I found out and “shock” doesn’t begin to cover it, so I will give him some grace if he feels similarly.

    3. Panther Mom*

      Same here. Dear OP, definitely get a good therapist—both for you and you daughter. Sending you a giant hug. I’m rooting for you as you navigate this mess.

    4. Anonymous, Because Wow Do I Disagree*

      “Overwhelming,” “remarkable equanimity,” “denial.”

      Being a single parent who is financially stable and has been solo parenting from the beginning is just not the emotional minefield you’re imagining.

  2. Snarkus Aurelius*

    I have nothing to add because the advice was perfect, but Heart’s “All I Wanna Do is Make Love to You” is now in my head.

    1. Uranus Wars*

      Well now mine too!

      But agree, the advice here is spot on and I have nothing meaningful to add except I hope everything works out for the best OP!

    2. Cleopatra, Queen of Denial*

      That song came out when I was a preteen and I was singing it in the car while my mom was driving and I got to the “ooh he did everything right” part and my mom was like ABSOLUTELY NOT and made me stop singing :D

    3. short'n'stout*

      That song is sung by a woman with an infertile partner who deliberately used a stranger to get pregnant. Not the same scenario at all.

      “I said–Please! please! understand
      I’m in love with another man!
      And what he couldn’t give me
      Was the one little thing that you can”

        1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

          Yeah – didn’t make the connection till much older and finally seeing the video.

          My parents blocked MTV in my house growing up.

        2. short'n'stout*

          “I told him I am the flower
          You are the seed
          We walked in a garden
          We planted a tree”

          “You can imagine his surprise
          When he saw his own eyes” – accompanied in the video by a shot of his eyes and then the eyes of the small child she’s holding.

          1. allathian*

            Thanks for the earworm.

            The big difference in this case is that the LW didn’t try to get pregnant on purpose.

        3. Princess Sparklepony*

          You need to see the video, it explains it all. Infertile husband and she wants (and gets!) a baby.

      1. Peanut Hamper*

        Thank you for pointing this out. This song is not in the least comparable to this situation.

      2. chewingle*

        Of course it’s not, but some things vaguely remind people of other things? That’s just how brains work occasionally.

  3. Carlie*

    Wow, what an awkward situation that’s nobody’s fault. Would love an update on this one when update season comes around!

  4. kidofasinglemom*

    Unless Jacob’s real name is John Smith I find it utterly impossible to believe in this day and age that OP has been unable to trace him ‘over the years’ to tell him that he has a child.

    1. cosmicgorilla*

      Believe it or not, some folks don’t have an online presence. If LW really really really wanted to track him down, I imagine a private investigator could have found him. But with just the casual google searches she describes? Totally plausible.

      1. Not Australian*

        Plus, he was from a different country where – for all we know – access to Internet/social media could be extremely limited. Trying and failing is perfectly possible even ‘in this day and age’ when you consider that this wasn’t a significant long-term relationship and some of the details might have got lost/fudged in OP’s memory. If the suggestion is that OP was reluctant to open a particular can of worms, well, maybe OP isn’t perfect. Very few of us are.

      2. Gemstones*

        But what about getting in touch with the university to ask if he had contact info…or the other students…or someone? Surely someone from the institution might have some contact…

        1. I'm just here for the cats!*

          I’m pretty sure per FERPA laws (assuming it’s the US) the university cannot disclose contact info unless the person has given permission. So if he signed up for the alumi newsletter and gave contact info to share with others then the OP would have been able to help. But otherwise I don’t think the university would have been helpful. Plus it would depend on what info he gave them. If he only gave local contacts it would not of helped.

          the only thing I could think of is if the OP had hired a lawyer at the beginning and maybe they could have gotten a court order for that info. But I can see the OP not going that route since she wasn’t going after him for child support.

          1. Eric*

            FERPA permits schools to disclose directory information (i.e. contact info) in many circumstances, unless the student has opted out.

            1. CowWhisperer*

              Sure – but a lot of people don’t leave updated contact info at the college when leaving. I didn’t and I live nearby.

            2. Rapunzel Rider*

              True, but disclosure of directory information is a “may”, not a “must” (with a few exceptions that are not this) so it would be at the school’s discretion. Depending on how much info OP provided, the school official may have determined that it would not have been appropriate to give out or they may not have included external addresses/phone number/email as directory info. I do not have my AACRAO FERPA book on hand, but I think address and phone are optional for the school to include as directory. Plus with international students, some of that information can change drastically between when they apply and graduate and students are terrible about updating their info.
              Or on OP’s side, she was a kid fresh out of school who probably figured there was no way the school would give her the info.

          2. Gemstones*

            Not one of his friends had any contact info for him, though? They’re all friendly enough to go out and celebrate. You’d think someone would have a phone number or email address or something…

      3. Antilles*

        I would also note that OP’s attitude around finding the father seems very “don’t need/want anything, just an FYI” so I’m guessing she didn’t exactly go super deep into those casual Google search results, researching the best ways to track someone down online, hiring investigators, etc.

      4. I Licked Your Salt Lamp*

        This. When I met my partner, she was using a nickname that is not her real name for safety reasons and the nickname was different enough that she is practically impossible to find online without knowing her legal first name since she has a common last name, & little to no social media presence. If we had not exchanged numbers I never would have seen or heard from her again most likely.

        1. Frickityfrack*

          Yeah it’s kind of crazy that people assume everyone is as online as they are. I use a fake name and a picture that isn’t me on my facebook page and have for years after a customer at work sent me a friend request about 5 minutes after leaving my office. I don’t have any other social media. My current job comes up when you google me, but it’s a public-facing position and none of my previous jobs had my info online, so if someone was looking for me several years ago, they wouldn’t have found anything useful.

          1. Selena81*

            I have LinkedIn (but my name is very common) and on all other social media I use an alias.
            I don’t think LW searched *super hard*, but the idea that dady didn’t show up on the first page of Google sounds reasonable.

      5. Samwise*

        I know we are supposed to take OPs at their word.

        But I’m finding it truly hard to believe that it was impossible to find Jacob because his mobile and his university email had been deactivated.

        The department probably had a forwarding address. If they couldn’t share it with the OP, they could have forwarded any mail.

        The university alumni association would be another likely source of contact info. Trust me, alumni offices do their very best to get contact info and to contact alums because of fundraising.

        It’s true that many people are hard to find — I’ve been unable to find a some friends from high school from the 1970s. Every so often I turn one up, or I find an obit :(

        I think the OP just needs to be ok with not having tried very hard to find him — that was her decision and I don’t fault her for it.

    2. ThatGirl*

      Some people really are hard to find online. Not everyone has a strong social media presence, and especially if they’re in another country, google tends to default to where you are.

    3. Eldritch Office Worker*

      Let’s take LW at their word. We have no idea how long ago this was, it doesn’t seem like OP did a huge deep dive, and trust me not everyone has the same internet literacy you may have. This doesn’t seem terribly implausible and regardless it’s what OP says happened.

    4. Peanut Hamper*

      I know some people from high school that I have been unable to find on the internet. Some people just aren’t out there. Jacob also went back to his home country.

      So yes, it’s possible that she tried to find him and couldn’t.

      1. I'm just here for the cats!*

        Ditto! I had a old highschool ‘friend’ I was wondering about (when I last saw her she wasn’t in the best relationship.) something came up and I wondered what happened to her. I knew she was still in our hometown. The only thing I could find was a remark in the paper from the school district that she was hired as a special ed bus driver. Nothing else. NO social media at all. Couldn’t even find an address.
        Now could a PI have found the father? Possibly. But it also would mean someone who has access to whatever country he moved to. And that would have been expensive.

      2. Sage*

        Not the same but almost. I have tried in the past to find out where ex-coworkers where employed to make sure I don’t meet them again, but haven’t been able to find anything out.

      3. Helewise*

        Same here. I have some people I’m so curious about, but as far as I can tell they no longer exist (I hope they don’t really not exist anymore!).

    5. Marie*

      You realise that many people choose to not have an online presence, or if they do, choose to go by other names (middle, nicknames etc) or else can have their social media restricted to such an extent that they would not even show up in search histories, right? It is entirely plausible that she could not find him.

    6. The Person from the Resume*

      I am very, very curious about the age of the child.

      Moving to a foreign country (to the LW) makes it much harder, but I’m imagining that the child must be an adult now for the LW to have been unable to locate the father with the way we can use email, the internet, and social media to locate people since the 2000s.

      1. Happy meal with extra happy*

        I’m curious how much experience you have in locating random individuals because even today, it can be impossible to locate people in the same country let alone another country (where there could be language/alphabet barriers to searches PLUS most searches are generally keyed to the country the searcher is in.)

      2. Butterfly Counter*

        It’s still can be pretty hard. I have a hard time finding my best friend from elementary school and I know she still lives in the same town, I know her married name, and her occupation. But online, she’s a ghost.

        And no one ever would be able to find my husband unless they knew his gaming alias and what platform he’s playing on. He HATES social media and he doesn’t work in anything that gets any kind of press.

        Some people can really disappear.

        1. Thatoneoverthere*

          This happened to me too. My childhood BFF moved around 4th or 5th grade. We are almost 40. I wanted to reconnect with her and I could not find her anywhere online. Some people just can’t be found.

          Its also possible this child was conceived in the early 2000s, meaning email was basically the only online means of finding someone. Facebook didn’t become mainstream for a while. For a long time it was for college students only. When you are single mom, with a career life is very busy. I have 3 kids and a husband and I am BUSY. Maybe she didn’t have the time to devote to searching for him.

      3. Firecat*

        Nah. I tried to look up an old friend recently. I knew his parents names, sisters names, his legal name, and where he went to high school but couldn’t find him. There were hundreds of people with the same name and none of the profiles with pictures were him.

    7. Just Me*

      I think that take may be a little ungenerous. Part of my job is tracking down people within a set geographically region and anything less than a unique name can make that very challenging. I don’t doubt that a global search combined with someone that may not have a strong online presence might be hard to find contact information for.

      1. Happy meal with extra happy*

        Yeah, I’ve attempted to locate people in the same state using professional search companies and have had no success. I find it wild people think it’s so easy to do for every single person.

    8. Parakeet*

      I don’t know where the LW lives, but they said Jacob moved back to his home country after grad school. And many, many countries have much stronger data privacy laws than the US.

    9. Engineer*

      Better start believing. I am present in exactly two social media sites – one of them LinkedIn, which I only update once a year, and the other isn’t under my own name.

      It’s actually very easy tl be hard to trace, especially when you factor in different countries.

      1. CowWhisperer*

        I had a friend who was a retired DA. He had no Internet presence under his name or image for safety reasons. He had one image-free highly locked down social media under a non-name.

        Good luck contacting him unless you knew him well.

    10. Honestly, some people’s children!*

      She may not have tried very hard. I will say, though, that I’ve tried finding people and there’s nothing. Or a brief mention that isn’t of any help actually trying to contact them. When I was conducting employee investigations I had a complaint that an employee was sharing sensitive information on someone. There was nothing on that person anywhere for anyone to share and we had access to criminal history and similar reasonably secure databases.

    11. A Poster Has No Name*

      If he’s in a different country, I can totally believe it. Especially if there are language differences.

      The letter also doesn’t say how many years have passed, which might be relevant.

    12. Myrin*

      1. Jacob’s name could indeed be something akin to “John Smith”.
      2. “Being online” could be something that’s much less common in his home country than it is in the US and other western countries.
      3. He could be from a country which doesn’t use the latin alphabet, making searches much harder even in this day and age.
      4. Why on earth would you doubt OP on this?

        1. And thanks for the coffee*

          And it doesn’t matter now. She didn’t make contact and he doesn’t know about his daughter.

      1. elodieunderglass*

        Ha – I definitely sat here before looking at the comments, deciding on my favorite scenario that fits the pattern. I think the most robust one was “Chemists on a non-academic track, one of whom returned from China to work at a commercial lab.” I nodded very decisively at myself for this one.

    13. ??*

      if he is from a non English speaking country, and doesn’t use ‘english’ social media, I could see him being very hard to track down.

    14. Lady_Lessa*

      I know that I have had a hard time, just keeping up with relatives and we are in neighboring states. (We are out of contact, but I periodically check their names + obituary)

      1. Peanut Hamper*

        Oh! I do the obituary thing, too. I thought it was a bit weird (if not somewhat ghoulish), but I’m glad that it’s apparently not.

        Sometimes an obituary is the only thing that is out there.

        1. Happy meal with extra happy*

          Obituaries can also help you locate people based on the relatives listed in them. Often times, you’ll get the spouse’s name as well, and that could lead to a hit. Or, searching a sibling or parent name could lead to an address as they’re a “known associate/relative.”

          It’s really creepy the scope of how much info is available about people, from nothing to EVERYTHING.

          1. WantonSeedStitch*

            Yup, as someone whose job involves finding information about people, it’s amazing how helpful obituaries can be. I might want to know “is John Smith married?” and an obituary for his father Stephen Smith might have the name of a spouse, any kids they have, and the town where they live. And then I can often use an assessor database to find out if they own property in that town and how much they paid for it. Following the trail…

        2. Monday*

          An obituary is how I found out my uncle had passed when I was trying to find contact info for him to let him know my mom had passed. He had no other online presence (in his case, not surprising given his age and personality, but still).

      2. I edit everything*

        I just spent much of my morning searching obituaries to find out who, among recent burials in my cemetery, was a veteran and what branch. The variation is rather amazing. It reminded me of the Billy Joel song: “Only the good die young.”

    15. Jennifer @unchartedworlds*

      Can confirm there are people from years ago whom I’ve looked for online and not been able to find. As cosmicgorilla mentions, I wouldn’t be surprised if a private investigator could eventually track them down. But as an ordinary person using ordinary search tools, it really depends on what they have out there that’s unlocked & under their own name, and how many other people have the same name.

    16. obleighvious*

      I mean, I’m on social media, and I’ve had plenty of people who want to find my sister contact me because she’s just… not. She made a choice years ago to not be on social media, and has stuck to it, so I always ask her if I can pass along her email to interested parties; sometimes she says yes, and sometimes no. Some people are private, and remain that way. Not that weird, really.

      And as a side note, part of my job is essentially trying to disambiguate people (authors) who have the same name from each other. It’s can be really difficult to find information in order to contact people — they may be mentioned online, but those things don’t have their addresses, or contact info! It’s actually fairly hard to track people down, especially if they’re overseas.

    17. Donkey Hotey*

      Au contraire. I had a very good friend in high school in the US who had a very unique name. It’s taken me 35 years to finally find the guy and only because he volunteering at a church.

    18. FLorp*

      Things are just different in countries that are not America. I have a relative from India who did not have a surname until about 25 years ago. Her father, who is a wealthy, successful and educated man by both Indian and American standards, finally got fed up with the difficulty of doing business globally without a last name and just made one up. Marched the whole family down to whatever registrar or court was appropriate and had it added to everyone’s records. Imagine trying to find one person out of a billion when you have a single name to go by!

      He has a PhD and I could find his publications online, but not him personally. He is a big enough fish that I could go to his city and ask people on the street and they could tell me where his business is, but he would never come up on a Google search. He doesn’t have a personal email–he has people who do that for him. His wife doesn’t work and would be impossible to find online. Not everyone is as terminally online as us Americans, and different cultures have different standards of privacy.

    19. Joan Smith*

      Loads of people have really really common names, that’s what makes them common names. Or if someone has the same name as a minor celebrity they can be impossible to find. Some countries have markedly fewer surnames than others, but even in Italy, which is thought to have the most surnames in the world, I can’t track down my former classmate because her surname is Rossi.

      1. Kyrielle*

        I have a very dear friend from college with whom I MUST remain in contact, because if I lose contact I have to hope she reaches back out to me. I will never find her in online searches. We had under 2000 students at that college, and still one of them two years behind her had the same first name, last name, and middle initial. It’s that kind of name….

    20. Major Tom*

      My most beloved ex-boyfriend, who lives in the US as I do and with whom I share an alma mater, is unfindable on the internet. That’s for the best, but – just saying.

    21. SimoneFiles*

      Yeah … this person found out she was pregnant very soon after Jacob moved. They didn’t have mutual acquaintences with his new contact details? His PhD supervisor didn’t have any way to contact him? This wasn’t pre-internet. I appreciate that the situation was probably very overwhelming at the time, but at some point the guy deserved to know that he had a child. OP was just planning on … never telling him?

      1. Hlao-roo*

        From the letter:

        I thought he had a right to know. I googled him a few times over the years but never found him.

        The letter-writer did try a few things beyond the (deactivated) university email and mobile number, so I think it’s unfair to say she was planning on never telling him.

      2. S*

        I’m with you on this. Can I find every person I went to high school with 20+ years ago online? No. Can I get contact with someone I worked, with multiple others, in close proximity with, two months later? That’s not the needle in the haystack people are making it out to be.

    22. Beth*

      All it would take is Jacob 1) not sharing his new email, phone, or address with old acquaintances, and 2) not being very online (or even just not being very online in English–google defaults very strongly to showing you results in the language you’re working in).

      I’m less surprised that OP didn’t find him online and more surprised that she couldn’t find his contact info among their shared acquaintances. It sounds like they were in the same department, if they were sharing an office–and I would be surprised if he didn’t get close enough to a single person in his department, across his entire time in a grad program, to share his contact info with them.

      1. Celeste*

        That’s what I was thinking. His dissertation advisor or some other grad students could maybe have passed on a message to Jacob asking him to contact OP.

        1. Allonge*

          But then OP would have been close to having to disclose why she was looking for Jacob.

          Sure, you can start with ‘I need to’, but not all people take that without a ‘why’. And this is not a story you want attached to you professionally as a young woman.

      2. Frustrated Fundraiser*

        Well, he was sharing an office with OP, for more than one year. They were close enough to hook up, but he didn’t leave contact info with her. Totally plausible he didn’t keep in touch with anyone once he went back to his home country.

    23. Middle Manager No More*

      I’ve done some pretty significant internet sleuthing to try to reconnect with an old coworker who disappeared suddenly and unexpectedly one day. She has been a great reference for me in the past and I was hoping to keep using her. I have no idea what went on in her life, but I can’t find her AT ALL online. It’s totally possible.

    24. SheLooksFamiliar*

      You may find it ‘utterly impossible’ because you’ve never had to look for someone who lives outside your home country. Google is a great resource but can’t possibly index the entire contents of the Internet. Directories, publications, other social media platforms, etc., just aren’t always available. My recruiting team looks for people all over the globe and assures me that some people simply don’t leave footprints.

      If Jacob lives in another country and/or has low to no profile on social media, it’s actually very understandable why the OP couldn’t find him.

      1. WantonSeedStitch*

        Very true. I’m a professional researcher (finding information about people online is what I do every day), and there have been a few folks I’ve just never been able to track down. Even for some folks who I can find SOME information online about them, it doesn’t necessarily give me a way to contact them.

    25. KayDeeAye*

      I’ve looked for an ex off and on for years – just out of curiosity, really – and had no luck. His name isn’t John Smith, but it’s fairly common, and all the people I can find with his name don’t appear to be him. Just recently, my husband asked if I could find some of his old service buddies – again, just curiosity – and again, no luck. Their names aren’t even particularly common, but they appear not to be on social media, so…we’re kind of stymied.

      Not everyone is on social media. That’s a fact. So it’s not always all that easy to find someone, and that’s not even considering the fact that the man the OP looked for lived in a different country.

      1. Myrin*

        Once or twice a year, my mum will look up her first ex-boyfriend – like in your case, simply out of curiosity – and has yet to find any clue about him at all.

        They dated long before the internet was a thing but she swears he was the type to be on all kinds of social media platforms, so this is doubly puzzling for her.

        She thought he might’ve died but a few years ago, she found his much younger brother’s website and he’s talking about his two older brothers, so he was at least alive back then. She also learned about ten years or so after their relationship ended that he had a child with a Kenyan woman so possibly he’s living there somewhere now, or at least used to?

        But yeah, my mum, while not actually being tech-savvy at all, has the strongest google-fu I’ve ever seen in anyone so if he was findable in any way, she would’ve found him. It’s just not possible sometimes.

        1. Happy meal with extra happy*

          My dad would do something similar with his best friend from high school through college, google now and then but nothing ever turned up. A few years ago, he randomly got in touch with a mutual friend, and it turns out the best friend had some very unfortunate medical/personal things occur in his life, and he’s been in an out-of-state group home for the past several decades.

    26. boobah*

      But surely since they were both students at the same university, she could have contacted the university itself and asked for his details? And they would surely have had plenty of other friends who would have been in touch with him? She would have found out she was pregnant within weeks of seeing him so it’s not as if years had passed and everyone would have deleted his details… they liked him enough to have drinks with him, you would think at least one person would be able to get in touch. It does feel a little fake to me.

      1. Justme, The OG*

        FERPA. Also I would be pissed if my university gave out my information to some random person who asked for it.

      2. doreen*

        The best the university might have done was contacted him and given him her contact info. And I suspect most wouldn’t even do that – if they even had his contact info. And they may not have – if I had moved right after finishing my degree, my university would have had no way to contact me. And while everybody might not have deleted his contact info within a few weeks , they may not have had his new contact info to begin with. If someone is a friend/acquaintance of circumstance, they very likely will not exchange new contact info when one leaves. I’ve had plenty of co-workers who moved when they left the job – none of them gave me their new address/phone number because we weren’t that sort of friends.

    27. doreen*

      It doesn’t have to be exactly John Smith – my husband and kids have very common names , so common that I have met someone else with my daughter’s first and last name. ( Let’s say it’s “Jennifer Wong” ) and if I were to search social media for her, there will be loads of results and I wouldn’t be able to tell which one was her if there was no photo and I hadn’t seen her in years – there are at least 5 that live in the same general area , another five or ten that have been associated with her former workplace ( a university) , a few more associated with the university she attended. I’ve been looking for people I lost touch with and if I find two possible email addresses or social media accounts, I’ll probably send a message to each. But if I find 10 or 20 and I can’t narrow it down , I just give up.

    28. Statler von Waldorf*

      During my divorce over a decade ago , I scrubbed myself off the internet. I currently don’t have any social media under my real name, any of the places I do interact with like this website allow me to use a username that’s unconnected to my real name.

      If I hypothetically had a kid out there (as an asexual man, I’m not too worried about it) there would be no way for the mother to find me on the internet. The fact that my last name is fairly unique wouldn’t change that. Hell, a couple of years back when I was dodging creditors and living off the grid it would have been almost impossible for her to find me even if she paid a professional PI to trace me down.

      I know plenty of people like me who deliberately keep a minimal online presence. I don’t find it questionable at all that someone couldn’t be found on the internet, even in this day and age.

      1. Me*

        I agree with that. I think it’s probably both that it wasn’t that straightforward, and also that she didn’t try as hard as she could have. Especially since she should have been starting to try from shortly after he left. At that point, his thesis advisor was still around and undoubtedly had a way of getting in touch with him. And none of their mutual acquaintances had ANY contact information on him? It would have been easier then than trying to do an Internet search many years later.

        I would agree in general, it can be tough. I spent a year in Paris in the 80s, and trying to track down my old classmates has been impossible. They have common-ish names and they could have been living almost anywhere and doing any kind of job by the time the internet would have helped with this kind of search.

    29. Pastor Petty Labelle*

      My now husband looked for me for years. he couldn’t find me. We only found each other because a mutual classmate passed and everyone was posting on facebook about him. I saw now hubby’s name and sent a friend request.

      Stuff happens.

    30. LCH*

      i mean, it is hard to find some people using free resources. i’m a nosy internet searcher of people i used to know (and have a library degree so i’m really good at searching), and still can’t find some people from high school that don’t have super common names.

      there is always the possibility you could do more with some paid services, or a PI, but who knows. it depends on how much money you want to spend and how much you are comfortable spending without results.

    31. CowWhisperer*

      I’m in my early forties and if I didn’t have contact info for someone in my high school or college years there was no easy way to track them down in the same country let alone internationally.

      The LW could be as little as 5 years older than I for this to be completely plausible.

      Bluntly, it was a one-night stand and he was in a different country by the time the LW knew she was pregnant. I don’t blame her for not hunting him down; social media made things easier in the late aughts. Before that … yeah.

    32. Jennifer Strange*

      I research people for a living, including trying to find contact information. It’s a LOT harder than people seem to think, and that’s within my own state. Trying to find someone in another country can add an entire extra layer of difficulty!

    33. Michelle Smith*

      Y’all how is ANY of this extensive discussion questioning the LW remotely productive or helpful to her at this point? I feel like this goes against the spirit, if not also the letter, of several of the commenting rules.

    34. fleapot*

      I try periodically to look up an summer camp friend on FB, with absolutely no luck. Her name: Jennifer MacDonald. I ran into her at a concert a few years ago, so I’m 99% sure that she’s still alive and living within a two-hour drive of me, but–still can’t find her. (Scottish surnames are common in my area.)

      I’d also note that some countries/regions have *far* less variety in surnames than you might think. If Jacob’s first name is relatively common in his home country (or if OP knew him by an anglicized version of his name?), it might legitimately have been impossible to track him down.

      See this article: as of 2010, there were 6.3 million surnames in use in the US, but only 6,000 in use in China. In Vietnam, 50+% of the population has one of four surnames.

    35. Hereforthemoney*

      When I was fifteen, my family hosted an exchange student from Slovakia. At the end of the year, she went home and we lost touch, unfortunately. I have been trying to find her online ever since. She has a somewhat unusual name, and I can find absolutely no trace of her. It’s not as easy as you’d expect to find someone like that.

  5. Glomarization, Esq.*

    The LW should have her lawyer look into what kind of child support the child would be entitled to. The statute of limitations and other rules around child support vary across states, and the LW should not leave money on the table that her child has a right to receive.

          1. Pastor Petty Labelle*

            It goes to the parent but it is the child’s right. A parent cannot waive for their child (in practice is another matter).

          2. gyrfalcon*

            Child support does get paid to the parent, and no accounting is required for how it’s spent, but its *purpose* is to help pay for the child’s expenses.

            Although LW has been paying all expenses so far, receiving child support would give her more resources that would allow her to do more for her daughter. For example, put it in a college fund? Fund a hobby for the daughter that so far has been unaffordable? Etc.

          3. Firecat*

            it goes to the parent to use for the child.

            you know things like food, clothes, housing, electricity, diapers etc.

            kids are very expensive, my child has gone through $78 in diapers, $100 in formula (and they get half their nutrition from breastmilk), and $40 in wipes in just a month.

            and that doesn’t even include the literal thousands in upfront costs for furniture like a bassinet, car seat, changing pad, bath, etc. Toss in maternity care (I just got 1 of 2 hospital bills from my pregnancy and it was $36,725).

            Then you’ve got clothes, bedding, burping clothes, bottles and that stuff adds up quick too. We’ve been really frugal and spent over $1,000 on just things like extra bedding and extra bottles.

            Even if a parent were to take every child support check and go out to eat and a concert with it that still wouldn’t cover even half the cost of a kid these days that the receiving parent has already paid for.

          4. Beth*

            Child support is managed by the parent to cover costs for the child. Kids need a lot of things–a bedroom, food, clothes, daycare or after-school-care fees, school supplies and other educational costs, outings to museums and zoos and things, toys, books–and our legal system thinks it’s fair for both parents to contribute towards that cost.

          5. New Jack Karyn*

            Sure, because we generally don’t drop $800 a month into the bank account of a toddler. It goes to the parent, for the benefit of the child. Now, it sounds like OP didn’t need it–she doesn’t mention struggling financially–but it could have gone into a college fund, or paid for the travel between countries for the girl to see her dad, etc.

      1. Kotow*

        I handle child support issues. The parent receives the child support, but it’s the child’s right to be financially supported by both parents. If the parent stopped having custody or the child was removed and placed into foster care or something like that, the parent would no longer receive support. Every state has different laws but in my state, it’s not taxable income nor is it deductible. It’s to benefit the child. And yes, she should ask about child support because any award may only be retroactive to the day she requests it. If the child has emancipated, she may not be able to file at all.

        1. Glomarization, Esq.*

          You know who else is going to ask about child support? Jacob, as soon as he learns he’s the father of this child.

      2. Database Developer Dude*

        Child support is given to the custodial parent to defray expenses FOR supporting the child.

      1. Fluffy Fish*

        From my long ago experience there’s generally rules about how far back support can go. So in my state (MD) it was only to when I filed – none of the time before that was eligible for support.

    1. JSPA*

      Varies by state, and in some cases requires declaring the father on the birth certificate.

      And whether the father would be able to sue for custody rights (etc) also varies by state (there are “putative father” rules in some states, for example).

    2. Anonymous, Because Wow Do I Disagree*

      There can be very good reasons to leave that money on the table, if you don’t need it.

  6. Peanut Hamper*

    Of course, it’s also possible that Jacob will meet you, remember you, find out you have a kid that is x years old, and start to wonder or maybe even put two and two together on his own.

    You need to tell him ASAP.

    1. Lost in Space2*

      this! I believe your scenario all the more because my ex fiance is Chinese, and literally went back to China where I could.not.track.him.down. I just wanted to send his stuff back to him but in some countries, you just can’t. If I had had a kid (as a white woman) and I ran into him and he saw that my kid was 10 years old and half Chinese, he would have quickly connected the dots too.

      1. New Mom (of 1 2/9)*

        Exactly, I was also thinking that Jacob could be Chinese. Would explain the lack of contact in the other country, and the top 5 last names there constitute hundreds of millions of people, which would make someone harder to find (let alone a different writing system). There are situations where OP’s letter is totally plausible, especially depending on how long it’s been.

        1. Kivutar*

          Exactly! If she knew him under a chosen English name, she might not have even *known* his Chinese personal name, and almost certainly wouldn’t know which characters were used to write it if she did. It’s not at all implausible, not sure why anyone is doubting it.

        2. Nina*

          I once tried to find someone I knew as a kid in Australia, except I’d gone back to England and she’d gone back to Korea with her family.
          Know how many people with the family name Kim there are in Korea? A buttload. And her given name is apparently about as common in Korea as ‘Mary’ is in England.

        3. sparkle emoji*

          I also think the fact that, at least initially when details would have been fresh, the fact OP was both in school and pregnant is relevant. She had a lot of factors making it challenging to suddenly start moonlighting as a PI and the commenters claiming she couldn’t have possibly looked hard seem to be missing that.

          1. Varthema*

            Yes, thank you, I wanted to add this too. Being pregnant is dizzying enough when it’s planned and you have a partner. I honestly cannot comprehend the mind duckery around getting pregnant from a one-night stand, deciding to keep and raise the child and then, y’know, ACTUALLY DO IT, ALONE. It would have left me with less than zero mental bandwidth to track down the partner, and I’m sure the trail would be fairly cold when you finally do get that bandwidth back (because you do get it back…right?? my eldest is three and no sign of it yet…..)

          2. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

            I got confused for a second there, since my brain interpreted PI as Primary Investigator (the lead researcher in a research group / on a project / on a grant), rather than Private Investigator!

        4. Environmental Compliance*

          Even if the person has some form of identifying details – if they don’t go by their first name, and you only have their chosen (nick)name, it can be hella hard to find them.

          I had a family member recently find out he has a now teenage child he didn’t know about after a single night deployed years and years ago. It was *that hard* to find him because 1) he just doesn’t do social media and 2) only goes by a nickname, not his actual first name – but the nickname is a legit first name. Think “Steven” instead of “Richard”. The other parent had legit tried to find them for years, gave up for a while, and then happenstance’d upon one of his family members on a random Facebook group, and connected the dots.

          All the internet hugs to OP. This is a really tough situation.

    2. Allonge*

      Yes – I totally understand why some are advising to wait until you get to know him a bit more (again) but this is not something that will get better if you keep mum, OP. Talk to a lawyer, therapist – I would say talk to the kid (especially if they are an adult) but that is more of a question – and then tell him.

      This was never going to be an easy conversation, sorry.

      1. Observer*

        I would say talk to the kid (especially if they are an adult) but that is more of a question – and then tell him.

        Actually, talk to a therapist before this, if you can. This is definitely going to be a Big Deal for the kid. Even if she’s an adult.

  7. Hoping for the best*

    We are going to need an update to this please.

    Wishing you the best of all possible outcomes though.

  8. SomeWords*

    Alison’s advice seems spot on.

    Yes, it sounds like it’d be easier to never tell him, but as a father he has legal rights and responsibilities. LW can’t know his reaction (emotionally or materially) until he’s told. Even if everyone agrees to continue with no support the discussion needs to happen.

    Best of luck, LW. This is a sticky wicket.

    1. gyrfalcon*

      And in this day of consumer genetic testing, keeping secrets about parentage/children/relations is a non-starter.

      1. SpaceySteph*

        My mother is adopted and we have a family moratorium on DNA tests. She doesn’t want to find her bio parents, so none of us can enter the database. Maybe after she passes away (hopefully a long time from now), or if she ever decides she wants to she can take the test herself.

        1. Mister_L*

          I don’t think your mother can unilaterally decide that (assuming you are adults).
          Don’t get me wrong, I don’t trust the various DNA-testing companies and will probably stay away from them.
          But if I ever wanted to do such a test I might inform my relatives I’m doing it, not ask for their permission.

          1. Hannah*

            It does depend on your definition of “decide”. You are right that legally she cannot mandate it but she can tell you that it would cause her a lot of pain if you did and let you handle it from there.
            I have an identical twin – my DNA is literally her DNA. We definitely have talked about this and agreed that if we are not both fine with our DNA used for non essential purposes, the other gets a veto. I love her, why wouldn’t I give her that respect?

          2. SpaceySteph*

            Yes, we are adults who have mutually agreed that we won’t do it because doing so has a strong potential to hurt her and expose things about her that she doesn’t want exposed.

            In general I think people should do a little more thinking about the impacts sharing their DNA has on others who share part of their DNA.

    2. duinath*

      has lw told her child yet? is she going to do that before or after telling the father? they both need to know, but who should know first…

      …i have no advice. i have only questions. i hope everything works out as well as it possibly can.

      1. Snakebite*

        To me, this depends a lot on how old the kid is and how fast LW can find a new job. Because the responsibility is most to the child, but if they are actually still young, I would definitely want to wait to tell until I have a clue about how the dad’s reaction will be and factor that in. If they are an adult, I would probably want to wait until I have a different job so that my kid can make the choices they want to about contact without it effecting my employment. (And I still might tell him first and try to factor in his reaction so I can give the heads up.)

        LW, if you read this, good luck navigating everything!

        Lastly, it is ten thousand percent the rom com lover in me, but what a story this could be if they reconnected an actually fell in love. I would definitely pay to watch that movie.

    3. tangerineRose*

      I wonder if it might make sense to:
      1. Don’t tell him yet and keep quiet about the kid for now
      2. Search for another job
      3. After starting to work at the new job, then find a time to tell him privately (without the child around)

  9. Gwen Soul*

    Even if he ends up being practical and easy going there is a good chance he will freak out at first, you have had years to think about this while he is going to find out he has an older kid, and who knows his current family situation. Talking to a professional to get a good script and knowing what to tell your HR so you are protected is always a good idea in really charged situations like this.

    1. ariel*

      Scripts are sooooooooo useful and also helpful in preparing yourself for the wide range of possible reactions.

  10. bunniferous*

    Yes to lawyer consult.

    In your shoes I would wait to tell him about the child until one of you is out of that department.

    But he has a right to know, and your child has a right to know who their father is. Yep, my old boss would call this a CF for sure.

    But ZIP YOUR LIP till you have that lawyer consult.

    1. Sparkles McFadden*

      Maybe even two lawyers. First, one for family law, and maybe another for employment law if things go sideways at work.

  11. A Simple Narwhal*

    I legitimately gasped when I read the title.

    I think the advice to loop some professionals in ahead of time is a smart one because I am at a loss otherwise.

    I’d love an update on this, sending the LW good vibes in a tricky situation.

    1. All Het Up About It*

      I don’t know if my jaw has ever unhinged so hard reading a title before!!! Mind blown.

      Lots of good vibes OP’s way!

      1. allathian*

        Yes, this. Something the truth really is stranger than fiction (no studio would buy this script because it’s so out there).

    2. Quill*

      Yeah, millionthing the advice to obtain lawyers and therapists. Because even in the best case scenario (Jacob is cool and you no longer report to him with a minimum of fuss / financial disruption) this is gonna be a Lot. For OP, for the kid, and for Jacob.

  12. Doc McCracken*

    Allison is absolutely right to make sure you have yourself and your child sured up first. After those things are in place, then it’s off to HR (preferabley with your attorney present!). Your support team can help you decide how and when to tell Jacob about your shared child. Just the history of a relationship is enough for HR to make sure you are not reporting to him as a manager.

    1. Federal Worker Drone*

      This. Talk to HR soonest. WITH your lawyer. This is going to get complicated and has high potential to get ugly.

      Best of luck to you, LW.

  13. Not Tom, Just Petty*

    Just wondered if anyone else read the headline and remembered Alison’s earlier comment today about her pet peeve with ellipses?
    Because I read the first part thinking, “wow, awkward. Oh, haha, Alison doesn’t write the headlines, so she must be rolling her NO WAY!”

    1. ecnaseener*

      Oh I think this was a very appropriate use of an ellipse. The pet peeve is about people using them when there’s no good reason to sound like you’re trailing off. This kind of headline is an EXCELLENT context for trailing off lol!

  14. J.E.*

    Would OP need to disclose to their employer’s HR department? I imagine they would have to if they suddenly state they need to report to someone else. HR would need some info as to why, especially since the manager is new and hasn’t really had a chance to be supervising their employees for very long.

    Also, anyone here who works in HR, how would you handle this situation?

    1. I'm just here for the cats!*

      I’m not in HR but I would assume that she could say that she had a relationship with this person and therefore it would not be ethical to be supervised by him.
      And then she needs to find his personal phone or email and tell him the news. She should NOT tell him at work or through any work channels.

    2. Peanut Hamper*

      LW really shouldn’t be working for Jacob. And yes, HR should definitely get a heads-up.

      It’s not a question of if there will be issues; of course there will be issues. New manager now finds out he has a child, and he may or may not want to be a part of their life. LW now has the difficult choice of telling her child (who apparently has, or probably will be, curious about their parentage) that their new manager is their father. The kid will probably want to meet him.

      Those are all very complicated situations that you normally would not have between a manager and their report. The easiest thing (i.e., which is probably the “least complicated” and not at all easy) would be to move LW to a different manager.

      1. ecnaseener*

        And all that’s assuming this man is as reasonable as LW hopes he will be, and readily believes/accepts that this child is his. LW needs to prepare for the possibility that he’ll deny the whole thing and/or retaliate.

        1. Observer*

          LW needs to prepare for the possibility that he’ll deny the whole thing and/or retaliate.

          Yes, but then HR *still* needs to know.

          The *only* scenario where HR does not need to know is if the LW could walk off this job and get another job *immediately*, as in within the month.

          1. ecnaseener*

            Yes, I was agreeing with peanut hamper that it’s important to talk to HR, because of how bad things could get!

          2. I forgot my user name again*

            Letter writer’s PhD could be very specialized that there may be only a few places in the country that do that kind of work. which may be how Jacob is coming back into her life. getting a new job may not be an easy option

            1. Observer*

              We don’t know either way. And there are a lot of reasons why the OP might not be able to find a job so quickly. So, ultimately, HR is going to have to know.

      2. Irish Teacher.*

        And if the child is a minor or even a college student living at home, then for Jacob, firing the LW could mean his child losing their home or losing health insurance or part of their college fund. The LW getting a promotion could mean benefits for his child.

        Plus if he wants a relationship with his child, then he might be reluctant to do anything that would make him look the “bad guy” in his child’s eyes, which might make him reluctant to say make the LW redundant in a situation where redundancies were necessary.

        1. Doc McCracken*

          For all these reasons and more, this guy cannot be impartial and putting either of them in this situation is wrong wrong wrong!

          1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

            remember the letter from the woman who was maybe related to an exec in the company and he threatened her about taking advantage? I think she ended up having to leave.
            I think there’s a broad spectrum between his absolute loss of all sensibilities and his absolute, “I’ve been dreaming of a child my whole life! Let us coparent in harmony forever.”
            Hopefully, he can take a deep breath and a have a conversation.
            If that conversation includes a request for a DNA test, I hope OP is prepared to hear and accept it.
            And, although I think with them working in the same field, careers clearly overlapping that telling him the truth is easier in the long run, this may not be a simple, “hey, I had your kid. I don’t want anything from you. Just want you to know.” It may involve lawyers and custody agreements. Again, a spectrum of possibilities.
            Hang in there, OP, you know the best thing to do.

            1. Mister_L*

              If you are referring to CE-bro, that letter had an update which was … wild. But I think LW mentioned being male, so we might mean two different letters.

      3. WorkingRachel*

        Seconding “of course there will be issues.” What’s the best case scenario here? That he finds out and is cool with it but doesn’t want to pursue custody? Then what? Is he going to meet his child and become sort of a distant uncle presence in her life? Is he not going to meet her, and they’re just going to get his medical history? (Which OP really should, even if he and she don’t want him to be involved in the kid’s life. All donor agreements these days include medical information, for good reason. And there are also good reasons not to work for someone whose full, intimate medical history you’re privy to.) Are they going to start coparenting to some degree? These might all be good results for the OP and her daughter, but none of these results in a scenario where the OP can still work for him.

        1. Peanut Hamper*

          Yep, exactly. No matter whether this works out in a bad way or in a good way (and considering that LW seems like a really well put together person, I’m thinking the latter), it still complicates things way beyond a normal manager/employer relationship. Nobody is at fault here, but this situation involves a lot of non-work things that should not be part of anybody’s working relationship.

  15. OrdinaryJoe*

    Assuming the child isn’t a young child, I’d also throw asking them for their opinion before talking to Jacob.

    For example, is Jacob the same race? Same religion? Same culture? If not, is the child aware of these differences? The child may not be interested or may not be in a place where such a potentially major upheaval is welcome, safe, or a good thing. This is going to cause a major earthquake.

    The rights of the sperm donor, in my opinion, can’t take precedence over the rights and welfare of the child.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      I disagree. The child can have a say in whether they meet Jacob, or what that looks like going forward, but he has a right to know of their existence.

      Which isn’t even a point worth debating, because OP says they always felt he had a right to know.

      1. Anonymous, Because Wow Do I Disagree*

        I don’t agree that he has a right to know. Just saying, that’s a legit position to take on this matter.

        OP, it is totally okay if you feel differently than I do about this point. It’s your family and you get to decide what’s best.

        But I’m not okay with this pile-on of internet strangers pushing this so hard.

    2. I'm just here for the cats!*

      Thats why the OP needs to get a lawyer. Because this isn’t a sperm donor they had a friendship that led to one night. I wouldn’t even call it a one-night stand because it’s not like he ghosted her. They lost contact in a natural way, he went to his home country.

      What happens if he finds out about the child naturally? He sees a picture or something and he estimates the age and asks? That’s going to cause a lot more of an issue.

      1. Claire*

        Not to get off topic, but a one-night stand just means they slept together once. It doesn’t have to involve ghosting. Sometimes, that’s all both parties want : )

    3. don'tbeadork*

      It’s a bit unfair to label Jacob as a mere “sperm donor” before he’s had a chance to know he’s a father. That’s a dismissive description often used to describe a deadbeat, absent or incapable father. Someone who didn’t know he fathered a child shouldn’t immediately be given a pejorative label.

      1. Cat Tree*

        The term definitely shouldn’t be used for deadbeat dads either, and shouldn’t be pejorative. My child is donor conceived. It was an intentional choice that a man made to donate his sperm, and it’s a wonderful thing that he did because it allowed my child to exist. Lumping men like him in with deadbeat dads is a trend that I hope goes away soon.

        1. OrdinaryJoe*

          That’s a very good point. I was using it simply to denote that this man didn’t ‘father’ the child and instead was simply the sperm producer.

          1. BubbleTea*

            He hasn’t had the chance to parent the child yet, but he might well choose to do so – which a sperm donor never will (my child is also donor-conceived, and I strongly believe that parent is a verb first and a label second).

    4. Kotow*

      This is where she needs to talk to a lawyer. Because in some states, if a parent comes forward even after years of absence and wants some type of custody (due to no fault of his own, he didn’t know about his child), the family court is not going to refuse them unless there’s a very compelling reason. That doesn’t mean he gets shared custody right away, but it does mean he gets to meet his child and his child gets to meet him. This is particularly true when the reason for his absence is because he didn’t know the child existed and the OP wasn’t able to locate him to tell him.

      I do think she will have to disclose. In the age of 23 and Me, there’s just too much of a risk that he will find out through some other means. It’s likely to be messy, but will be far messier if he finds out from someone else.

    5. Observer*

      The rights of the sperm donor, in my opinion, can’t take precedence over the rights and welfare of the child.

      Nope. Others have covered the “rights” portion of this well enough. But I want to strongly second the issue of genetic testing. This kid has asked about her father. What makes you think she’s not going to do a test and start tracking things down? That would REALLY do a number on the kid.

    6. Justme, The OG*

      It’s literally impossible for a child to not be aware of racial differences, mine knew by the time she was 3 that she and I didn’t “match”. But I do agree that she should talk to her kid and the welfare of the kid is most important.

      1. BubbleTea*

        Depends on the ethnicities and the individual’s appearances. My friend is mixed white European and Middle Eastern, and it wasn’t until her 20s that she really recognised that meant she wasn’t white. Her blonde-haired, light skinned children wouldn’t think they were a different ethnicity from their father.

      2. Spero*

        Disagree, it very much depends on the specific situation. My child is completely white passing, her cousin who has the same blood quantum (to use antiquated term but not sure what a better one is) is not white passing at all. Cousin’s father is twice the blood quantum and is more white passing than his child. Child looks like my sister but is clearly mixed and people have suggested it’s her child with a different father because actual father is more white passing than his child.

    7. Ellis Bell*

      Even if for some reason, the child doesn’t want a relationship with the father, that doesn’t really change anything about the working relationship between OP and Jacob. Jacob cannot possibly manage the mother of his child fairly and impartially, so of course Jacob needs to know why he can’t manage OP, regardless of where the kid lands on the issue of getting to know him. It’s also a pretty wild assumption that the child is going to be disparaging of Jacob. Sure, they’re not going to be instantly close, but this was a completely blameless separation. I have no idea what the culture/race objections could possibly be; it’s not like the kid is going to be air dropped into another country and left there to muddle through. They’d probably just start with pizza or something? Since Jacob is working in the OPs country, I’m sure he can handle basic interactions with foreigners.

    8. Just a Teacher*

      I don’t think it is fair to call him a sperm donor when he may have wanted to be an involved father but was never given the chance.

  16. The Person from the Resume*

    There’s no timeline in the letter. I am personally suspecting the child is now a late tean or adult based on LW not being able to contact the father once he moved.

    But, I think he still needs to know ASAP. Withholding the info now that you know how to contact him could make him upset. I can’t really guess how he might react, but I think the LW needs to put it off only as long as possible as she needs to get her ducks (legal, her own emotions, child’s emotions (counselor if she doesn’t have one), job issues) in a row. But quickly. You do not know how Jacob will react, but you should tell him as quickly as possible because it is the right thing to do and for the sake of your daughters relationship with her biological father who does not yet know that he has a child.

    1. t-vex*

      Yes, I’m curious how old the child is – and if they’re old enough to be involved in deciding how to approach the situation.

  17. Carlee*

    There’s always the option of not telling Jacob about the kid, pretending everything is normal and quietly moving on to another job.

    Why open this can of worms?

      1. Filthy Vulgar Mercenary*

        This made me laugh. I can imagine the pretending response …. I bet that would cross my mind too, just, I don’t want to deal with this and I can

        1. Filthy Vulgar Mercenary*

          and I can make it disappear if I pretend it doesn’t exist.

          Except you can’t make it disappear, because it’s still true. And the child has a right to know and so does her dad. Even if that doesn’t matter to you, knowing about any genetic impacts and hereditary disease risks should.

          1. LinuxSystemsGuy*

            Not to mention that kids don’t stay kids. Let’s ignore the moral and ethical obligations to let Jacob and his daughter have this information. There is much higher than zero chance that the daughter as a teenager or young adult will try to find her father. If they find each other without OP and realize that OP has hidden their relationship for years… to say the shit will hit the fan is a massive understatement.

            It will likely be apocalyptic to all the relationships involved.

        2. TootsNYC*

          I think this is what OP did the first time. I don’t think she was all that aggressive about figuring out where he went because she didn’t really want to deal with him in addition to dealing with the pregnancy.

          1. peter b*

            The letter specifically says why she was unable to find him (contact methods disconnected, searching online) so I don’t think you can know this based on the info provided.

            1. Punk*

              She seems to have stayed at the university after he left, and since she kept a visible pregnancy, she would have had grounds to request his contact information from the school or someone in the department, or ask them to reach out on her behalf.

              It sounds like she didn’t want him to know and would still prefer it if he didn’t, but I think it’s fair to point out that she did in fact have ways to find out his information, since part of her speech to him is probably going to be “I couldn’t reach you.” She most likely could have but chose not to, which changes the script, and also adds a coda to the advice of “don’t be dishonest about this part, because he’ll see through it. Perhaps discuss your reasons for hiding this from him instead.”

              1. JB (not in Houston)*

                “she would have had grounds to request his contact information from the school or someone in the department”

                She would have reason to, but her being pregnant doesn’t mean she has a legal right to demand his information from the school.

                1. 2e asteroid*

                  If she’s in the US, I’m pretty sure it would be a FERPA violation for the school/department to give out his contact information without his permission. There *might* be some way to backchannel it like having them contact him and say “you really need to have a conversation with OP” but I wouldn’t count on it?

                2. Punk*

                  A demand and a request are different things. And I truly doubt the university wouldn’t have tried to help her out. And it wouldn’t be a FERPA violation. From the US Dept of Education website:

                  “Schools may disclose, without consent, “directory” information such as a student’s name, address, telephone number, date and place of birth, honors and awards, and dates of attendance.”

                  I know we’re supposed to take the LW at face value, but sometimes the advice ends up being, “you’re not being honest about this part and you need to come clean.”

                3. Pescadero*

                  “Directory” information (name, address, date of birth, and a few other things) are NOT protected by FERPA. They are public information.

                4. Broken Arrow*

                  +1 to Punk and TootsNYC above. I find it impossible to believe that a department has no contact information for one of its recent PhD recipients.

          2. Nina*

            He went to a different country.
            At my university it wasn’t that unusual for people to graduate and then just… be gone. Phone number? No, the office might have their domestic number on file but that’s dead now. Email? No, they used their university email for university stuff, nobody knows their personal email. Address? Sure, it’s ‘care of [Department mailroom]’, and we don’t know their address in their home country. Social media? A lot of people don’t use their real name on socials, and even more people have really, really, really common names. I’m more than prepared to believe LW made reasonable efforts, just not to the point of trying to hire a private investigator in a foreign country (which, also totally reasonable).
            Also, no, LW said she wanted him to know, but it wasn’t urgent because she didn’t need him to contribute anything financially.

      2. Exhausted Electricity*

        especially in this day and age of casual DNA tests. Imagine not telling him, working with him for a few years, and then your kid gets a 23andMe and connects with the Father Boss?

        1. Selena81*

          Even if LW chooses to do a “my child that was born 9 months after we celebrated graduation? Yeah, that’s from my *other* one-night-stand” that kind of secret is a lot harder to keep nowadays.

          And frankly she owes it to both her child and the father to come clean.
          (But she isn’t a bad person if she turned ‘i cannot contact the father’ into ‘that means it is just the 2 of us, and that is even better in some ways’ and is now dissapointed and angry that baby-dady has accidentally come to uproot the life that she build)

          1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

            agree with the second part. She has her life in place, and did very well. But everyone’s life is a careful construct that will be shaken by something they were convinced was a non issue.

          2. Broken Arrow*

            “And frankly she owes it to both her child and the father to come clean.“

            You make it sound (“come clean”) as if she did something wrong. She did not.

      3. Turquoisecow*

        Yeah yeah OP and we have no idea how Jacob is going to react to the kid – maybe he wants nothing to do with her, but it’s also possible he wants a relationship with his daughter, and she has a right to want to at least know her dad. No one can just brush this aside and go on with their lives – there’s an actual child involved.

        1. I'm just here for the cats!*

          yes, I have a friend who never knew her bio dad. When her mom married she was adopted by the man she called dad. But she was 6 so she knew he was not her bio dad.

          All she knew as his name. Her mom never even let her see a picture of her bio dad. She was always a little resentful of both her parents for not allowing any information (She wasn’t even allowed to really talk about him or ask questions).

          It wasn’t until recently she was able to find him and start a relationship.

          The child has a right to know who their father is and the father has a right to know he has a child

      4. I'm just here for the cats!*

        What happens when the child does ancestry DNA and finds her father and BOOM he’s your mom’s boss!

        THATS WHY!

        1. Beany*

          Yup. This fuse could be lighted from either end, assuming the child is old enough to take such a test themselves.

          1. Observer*

            This fuse could be lighted from either end, assuming the child is old enough to take such a test themselves.

            Well, even if she’s not old enough to take the test YET, she’ll get there one day!

          2. bunniferous*

            As someone who found out this kind of information from a DNA test, boy howdy does that rock your world.

            She needs to get all her protective ducks in a row then tell him.

        2. Alexander Graham Yell*

          I mean, not every country allows for those tests – I couldn’t get one even if I wanted to.

          I do support telling him, and LW will know better about the countries involved and how high a risk this is, but given that we’re dealing with at least one non-US country and likely two (it sounds like Australia and China?) that’s not necessarily as urgent a factor.

          1. JB (not in Houston)*

            Yeah, the comments are getting ugly. She didn’t write in to Alison so that the commenters could unhelpfully tell her “did you *really* try? Because we think you’re lying about that.” Guessing about whether she tried or how hard she tried does NOTHING to help OP

        1. Myrin*

          And I wonder why that’s even such a prominent point in the comments here – OP didn’t find him, period. She can’t go back in time and change that. So why exactly is it relevant now?
          I feel like some commenters just want berate the OP and feel all righteous about a situation they aren’t in.

          1. A Poster Has No Name*

            Agreed. I think it’s plausible she couldn’t find him, but even if she didn’t try very hard, I can’t say I blame her. Trying to manage co-parenting across country lines has got be pretty darn hard, even if both parents are reasonable people who have the best interests of the child at heart.

            1. MigraineMonth*

              I hadn’t thought about how difficult that could be. Co-parenting across state lines is tricky enough, and that doesn’t encompass the issues of immigration, countries with different interpretations of parental rights, dual citizenship…

              What a clusterfudge indeed. OP, find a lawyer with experience!

            2. Observer*

              but even if she didn’t try very hard, I can’t say I blame her. Trying to manage co-parenting across country lines has got be pretty darn hard, even if both parents are reasonable people who have the best interests of the child at heart.

              I think this is true. I really don’t understand all of the people making a big deal of it.

              1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

                Exactly. I do not understand what their point is. OK so OP failed to find the man she only knew the (very common in his country) last name for, in the country with the literal biggest population on Earth, while suddenly finding herself a single mom in the middle of working on her PhD… and? What exactly does that prove? FTR there are people with far less common names, living in the US, that I met before social media and before everyone owning a cell phone, and have been trying to find on and off for years and… nothing. Why are several of the commenters making LW’s failure to find him out to be a big deal, is that a men’s rights thing or? I am honestly baffled.

          2. L'étrangère*

            Yeah, so much commenting has devolved into a supposed Right to Know. But there’s no such thing. Baby daddy hasn’t seen fit to stay in touch either, so he bears at least some of the responsibility for this situation. And the OP must have been quite busy enough working to support herself and the child without chasing after revelations which may very well have not been as welcome as y’all fantasize. Paternal responsibility is far from a universal trait, and Jacob may have been so hard to find precisely because he heard about the pregnancy from a 3rd party. That said OP, do take that advice about the lawyer at least as seriously as the one about the therapist, and also watch out for potentially interfering grandparents. Depending on your daughter’s age, you might want to wait till you have a better idea of what the reactions are going to be before even broaching the topic of biodaddy’s reappearance with her. My sister and I would agree that 10-11 is about the age where full transparency becomes more important than peace. Good luck through all this

            1. metadata minion*

              “Baby daddy hasn’t seen fit to stay in touch either, so he bears at least some of the responsibility for this situation.”

              He had no reason to know there was a child involved. I don’t see how he has any particular obligation to stay in touch with a friend and one-night-stand-partner in another country if he doesn’t want to.

            2. Polly Hedron*

              Jacob may have been so hard to find precisely because he heard about the pregnancy from a 3rd party.

              No, because in that case Jacob would not have come back to the same department.

            3. Mr. Shark*

              Baby daddy hasn’t seen fit to stay in touch either, so he bears at least some of the responsibility for this situation.

              Wait, what? That’s jumping to a lot of conclusions that don’t fit with what we know. Why are you blaming Jacob when he didn’t know about it?
              and Jacob may have been so hard to find precisely because he heard about the pregnancy from a 3rd party.
              Again, this is coming from nowhere and not at all fair to the guy who didn’t even know he was the father to a child. You think he automatically knew he got her pregnant and that’s why he didn’t leave any contact information?? That’s more than a little ridiculous.
              Regardless, the LW should indeed talk to her child and let her know that her father exists and she knows where he is, and then tell Jacob. It should be up to the child as to whether she wants contact with Jacob.

          3. Pescadero*

            ” So why exactly is it relevant now?”

            A couple reasons:

            1) He’s IS going to ask about it.
            2) If this is still a child, and custody/visitation is in question – this could play a factor in the court’s decision making.
            3) If he was on the hook for child support, her failure to search diligently may make that moot.

            1. JB (not in Houston)*

              It’s not relevant to us commenters, though, because people in these comments speculating that she didn’t actually try to find him isn’t going to help her deal with her situation. She can explain what she did to find him if he asks, but she shouldn’t have to tell US, and the people here aren’t saying “he might ask this, so be prepared to tell him.” They’re just picking at the OP. Alison has asked us NOT to do that.

            2. Beth*

              But in all of those cases, “I had no functioning contact info, I searched periodically but never found him” is a perfectly legit answer. There’s no reason to call her past choices into doubt here–the question is about what she’ll do now that they’ve run into each other again.

          4. Heiress of Whitestar*

            Very much agree. I think it’s bizarre that although two people conceived a child the onus is entirely on one to keep the other informed. If OP had an abortion or adoption would she still be expected to track down her one night stand in another country to FYI him? Presumably Jacob has a working internet and ability to count. Are we sure he never googled OP and had a suspicion but let sleeping dogs lie? We can’t know he didn’t. Just like we can’t know if OP exhausted all avenues. And neither is relevant or any of our business.

            1. Mr. Shark*

              The onus is on him for what? He had no idea that they conceived a child, so why would the onus be on him for anything? To keep track of a one-night stand after leaving the country? For what purpose?
              So he had a working internet and ability to count–why would he be looking the LW up? He had no reason to, and thinking he might’ve had a suspicion is just creating a storyline out of thin air, since it has nothing to do with the LW or what the LW is asking about.

              1. Boof*

                Idk maybe there’s something i’m missing but i hope grad students even a decade or so ago days understood that sex where sperm might contact a vagina has a nonzero chance of resulting in a baby; even male grad students taking precautions I would hope have some idea about this and maybe leave some contact info for their recent partners? Or consider some kind of check in a few months later?

                1. Joron Twiner*

                  Very bizarre to expect everyone to stay in touch with every hookup you ever have… that’s just not how life and humans work… Why would you check in on a hookup a few months later to confirm the condom worked…

                2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

                  He thought she was on BC? She *was* on BC, but it failed? Not that she owes us an explanation.

                  If any of my past hookups suddenly found me on social media and contacted me wanting to make absolutely sure I have not, by now, given birth to his child, I’d be extremely confused.

                3. LW*

                  Okay, I don’t think this is anyone’s business but my own but there are two important facts I learned from this situation that may benefit others to know too. The first is that some women metabolise the contraceptive pill faster than every 24 hours, so they can take it exactly as they are supposed to and think they’re protected, even if they’re not. The second is that condoms can degrade at high temperatures (also very cold temperatures), so if you live in a country like Australia, storing them in an upstairs bathroom or bedroom that gets to 40 degrees (104F) can cause them to fail.

                4. Boof*

                  Joron Twiner* well first of all I am about as far from hookup culture as possible – but I’m just saying if the one with male gametes disappears after a hookup with no easy way of contact it’s not really their partners fault that they can’t inform them of possible consequences – and I would think it’s actually a little gross to NOT leave sexual partners some kind of contact info – but IDK consenting adults can do whatever I guess

            2. You gotta be kitten me*

              “I think it’s bizarre that although two people conceived a child the onus is entirely on one to keep the other informed”

              You’re talking about a literal human that’s been created. It’s not a cat they’ve just picked up somewhere. There’s lots of important things including medical history, the sense of identity, or even just a plain “heads up” to avoid them accidentally marrying a direct relative.

              If she’d lost a priceless piece of jewelry at his place, the onus would be on him to try to return it to her, at the very least out of being a decent human being. I think this is kind of a bigger thing.

        2. Observer*

          I wonder how hard she tried.

          What difference does it make. Even if she didn’t try “hard enough” (not a given, by any means!), she still did not try to hide it. And it’s pretty clear that if she’s bumped in to him under other circumstances, she would have told him.

          The only reason it’s a question now is because of the way they are back in contact.

        3. BubbleTea*

          You keep saying this. I have a childhood friend I’ve been trying to locate for years and have had absolutely no luck. You only have to go back 15 years and social media is almost non-existant. Someone from another country might have been using an anglicised nickname and reverted to their actual name when leaving the country. People don’t always know last names of their university friends.

          Anyway, the fact you’ve repeatedly expressed this doubt is unnecessary. The speculation isn’t actionable for LW.

        4. Ellis Bell*

          I think that’s incredibly unfair and wildly speculative. There’s no way anyone from university could contact me without me giving my details to them personally; not everyone laughs in the face of privacy.

    1. Soontoberetired*

      i would assume the letter writer’s co workers know about the child and in totally innocent conversation it will come up.

      1. Eldritch Office Worker*


        Jacob: Oh you have a kid that’s great, how old?

        *starts counting on fingers*

    2. Smithy*

      I think this heavily depends on what job the OP does.

      If the OP has a job like being a school teacher, and Jacob is the new principal – then pretending to the end of the school year and switching to a new school would seem doable. But if the OP does something like work at a zoo, where there may not be lots of or any similar jobs in their field in their geographic area….then being prepared for more protection makes a lot of sense.

      1. Taketombo*

        I have a public service job with a pension. If I walk way from this job before meeting the number of years in service and retirement age I get next-to-nothing instead of 70% of my salary.

        I had a single mom in my engineering classes at a top-10 school, and she immediately went into public service at the DOT because it offered steady hours, priority placement at on-site daycare, etc. etc.

        I know that pensions are not common in the US anymore, but walking away from one can be a huge hit to being able to retire. If OP is in public service (government lab, Dept of X, even some state universities) there’s a real chance that leaving the job is just not financially possible.

        Also OP didn’t say anything about “how do I leave” so I’m going to assume that she wants to stay working where she’s working and needs to figure out the best way to do so.

    3. Fluffy Fish*

      Because both the father and the child deserve to know?

      The fact that you are reducing to peoples actual lives to a “can of worms” is terrible.

    4. Richard Hershberger*

      Even aside for moral or ethical issues, imagine this were happening in a sitcom. Think of all the various ways the writers could take this scenario and make it even more wacky.

      1. MigraineMonth*

        I’ve never tried using sitcoms or soap operas as a model of how not to live my life, but it makes some sense to always go with the low-drama option.

        This isn’t a secret that should be kept, and being honest now is the lowest-drama option. Good luck, OP, for you and your kiddo.

    5. Beth*

      This was my first thought too. But my second thought was that that’s unfair to Jacob and the kid. Kid may want to know their dad someday! Jacob may want to know he has a kid! Not reaching out when you have no way to connect is one thing; actively choosing to deny both of them that opportunity is another, and could cause a lot of resentment and hurt in the future.

      And my third thought was that this is likely to come out eventually, and OP hiding it now going to be really complicated if it does. OP’s daughter already asks questions about her dad. In her shoes, I’d want to find out what I could about him–both for sentimental reasons, and for very practical reasons like wanting that half of my medical history. All it would take to ‘open this can of worms’ is her doing an 23andme-style DNA test. In OP’s shoes, I’d rather come clean now than have it come to light without me and have to explain why I never mentioned such a big thing.

      1. The Original K.*

        Yeah, if I were the kid in this situation and found out later that Mom had denied me the opportunity to know my dad (assuming that Dad was not a physical threat to us), I would feel enormously betrayed.

        1. Quite anon*

          Depending on the child’s age, explaining to the child that she’s found her father and will be making arrangements to introduce them as soon as practical might work? I’m fairly certain the fact that this situation has the potential to turn into a huge mess would be obvious to even somewhat young children, because “dad is mom’s/child’s boss and things went badly” is becoming a literary trope. That would head the child off from any potential DNA testing to seek out family, and allow time for the OP to get her ducks in a row. Because this has the potential to really wreck OP’s career if she reveals what happened without another job lined up and her employer decides to go with the more senior empliyee and not the employee who’s been with them longest.

          1. Too Many Tabs Open*

            If I were in that position and the kid was still a minor, I’d wait to tell the kid until after I’d told Jacob and he’d had a few weeks for it to sink in. I wouldn’t want to tell my kid “I found your father!” and then have to come back later with “but he wants nothing to do with you”.

        2. Batty Winged Bat*

          Can confirm. My mom completely refused me access to my father (for no reason other than she was bitter). Never forgave her and nothing will make that okay.

          And, just to be clear, I’m certainly not saying OP is like that — obviously this is a very different situation. Just that this is the kind of thing where people deserve to know the whole truth.

          1. Selena81*

            my situation is a bit different, but I can confirm from my own experience that being curious about your dad is not just a phase that children grow out of

        3. MK*

          I think this is the issue. People are questioning whether OP really tried to contact Jacob when she first found out about the pregnancy, but personally, I wouldn’t blame my mother, who found herself unexpectedly pregnant by an aquaintance that left immediately afterwards for another country, for not launching an exhaustive search for my biological father. But if I found out she later had easy access to the guy and still didn’t say anything because she didn’t want to deal with the drama, that would be hard to forgive.

          1. Mr. Shark*

            Right. I think the first situation you have to trust the LW, but even if you don’t, if the LW wanted to raise the child herself, that’s understandable, and not wanting to deal with someone who lives out of the country is also understandable.
            But in this situation, I think both father and daughter deserve to know the truth, especially the daughter, since the father is now known and available.

      2. Pastor Petty Labelle*

        as you said, the kid has a right to know and has even been asking questions about dad. So let’s pretend dad isn’t right here is not a good strategy.

        But also as you note, its going to come out. If OP quietly does nothing, she will still be managed by someone with who she shares a child. If layoffs come will OP then decide to not keep quiet to keep her job? Will she be able to work objectively under him if he has to give her unpleasant feedback? What happens if the company finds out that she didn’t tell them? Sure it would be unfair if she lost her job over it — but she wouldn’t be losing it over being the one with the kid, she would be losing it for not disclosing a relationship that could affect work.

        This is a mess. Alison’s advice is the best because this needs careful navigation that internet commenters can’t really provide.

    6. Carcarjabar*

      Because there’s no way to keep this a secret forever. Pretending the situation doesn’t exist will only make it much, much worse down the line.

    7. Uh Non*

      I’m a single parent of a teenagers whose father has not been in contact with her or us at all, ever. I agree that she should just not mention it. But she should also see a lawyer (just in case) and a therapist as Alison suggested.

      1. Pastor Petty Labelle*

        But this dad isn’t not in touch by choice. he never knew. He has a right to know so he can make the decision himself. Not have someone else make it for him.

      2. Selena81*

        When I was a teenager my mom loved to tell people that I didn’t care about lacking a father.
        And I didn’t want to constantly fight her so I mostly kept quiet.

        (even if you think your children are being honest with you: they might not be honest about everything, they might be trying to spare your feeling, or they might be waiting their time)

        1. Batty Winged Bat*

          Boy do I feel this.

          Mom used to say that it never bothered me that my dad wasn’t around because I had her. Uh, yeah, it bothered me, but she refused to hear that.

          1. Theon, Theon, it rhymes with neon*


            I was in the opposite situation: my mother kept trying to get me and my biological father to have a relationship, and we were both like, “…But why?” He had no interest in being a father, and I had no interest in getting to know a complete stranger. All that I needed was family medical history, and my mother had already passed that information on to me, so…the fact that I’m carrying half his genes doesn’t affect me in any other way, shape, or form that I can see. It’s his personality I have to interact with. If my mother had hypothetically slept with two men that year that I had never met (she didn’t), and one of them turned out to share genetic material with me and the other didn’t, why would that one immediately have a more interesting and appealing sounding personality than the other one? It always felt like *she* thought we were both interesting people and *she* had relationships with both of us, so she couldn’t grasp that we related to each other differently than she did.

            When I was in my 20s, she mentioned that we could travel to the city where he lived and have lunch with him, and I said, “Or we could have lunch with his next door neighbor, who is also a complete stranger to me, and that would feel equally random.”

            Maybe it’s because she gave me enough information about his personality that I could tell up front that we had nothing in common, and I’m neurodivergent and already have to spend too much of my time being polite in conversations I find boring (life’s too short, ugh), but I could never see how interacting with him would improve my life.

            Funnily enough, my mother also has a story much more like the LW’s: two years after I was born, she had moved on and was having an affair with a different man. Sometime after she got pregnant but before she discovered she was pregnant, he was in an accident, broke his back, was emergency airlifted to his home state, and disappeared off the map with no way for her to contact him. I think she even hired a detective at one point after she discovered she was pregnant.

            That was in the 1980s, and it was only around 2005 that the internet took off to the point where she was able to track him down, and then she put my sister in touch with him. Fortunately, he was not her boss!

            At any rate, I do agree with the commenters that if you have the ability to get family medical history for your child, you should; it can make a difference to the child getting certain diseases caught early, deciding whether to have kids at all, not inbreeding with their half-siblings, etc. (My first cousins don’t know I exist, because my aunts don’t know I exist, but my mother made sure I always knew what their last names were and where they lived, so I could ask the right questions if I met one of them and started thinking about having children together.)

            1. Firefighter (Metaphorical)*

              (This is a fascinating story, thank you! I found out about two previously unsuspected half-siblings (with different mothers) after my dad died, and I have fiercely claimed one as a brother while the other one I am totally meh about, for a layered set of reasons. My whole-brother is of your opinion, though (like “why are you talking as if this is relevant to me in some way?” when I am like “We have a half-brother! He looks like you and lives in the same city as you and plays bass guitar in a band like you!”)

      3. Fluffy Fish*

        Bad take. And I too was a single mother of a non-involved father.

        He deserves an opportunity to be involved and the child deserves an opportunity to know who their father is if nothing else.

        Keeping secrets like this is the kind of thing that makes children resent their parent. It’s about the child – not how easy it is for the custodial parent.

      4. New Jack Karyn*

        That’s not gonna work. It was one thing when OP could say, “He moved far away, before I even knew I was pregnant–I looked several times over the years but could never fund him.”

        Now that he’s her manager, this won’t fly. He could easily do the math, and if the daughter resembles him, that’s another clue. If either he or the daughter do a DNA test, the game’s up. And now they’re both legitimately angry with OP about hiding it.

        Aside from the ethical issues with that level of deception, it just won’t work.

    8. Kai*

      I’m of this thinking as well.
      Don’t tell him.

      LW has absolutely no idea who this man is. No idea what he’s been like over the years, how he treats people, what his ideals are.
      To even imagine sharing your child with a perfect stranger just because of what amounts to a sperm donation years ago? No way.

      She needs much more information before telling him anything.

      God forbid he demands joint custody & wants to bring the child back to his home country. What then?
      A legal battle for the ages.

      1. Database Developer Dude*

        This is an incredibly misandrist take on things. This wasn’t simply a sperm donation…they hooked up and birth control failed. I know if I’d fathered a child and the woman chose not to tell me, I’d feel betrayed myself, and be seeking legal advice in a heartbeat.

      2. Drag0nfly*

        She knew enough about him to get pregnant with his kid. He has a right to know, and so does the child. There is no apology she can make to the child that would “make it okay” for her to deny her child the right to know the child’s own father. This is similar to adoption, where a refusal to tell the truth early results in feelings of massive betrayal later. Lying by omission / commission is only going to damage her relationship with her child. And we live in the 21st century, where DNA kits are commonplace, so the idea that she can conceal this lie is delusional.

        I side with the kid. I grew up with kids whose mothers thought like you, and they were not at all happy about it. They suffer consequences that reverberate into adulthood. OP should talk to a therapist to figure out the best way to facilitate a relationship with the father, and I agree that a lawyer is a good idea; here, too.

        Oh — and it’s not a sperm donation. Sperm donors are fully aware they’re donating sperm. They’re signing up for certain conditions, namely, the condition of not raising a child or paying child support. That’s also a pejorative term for deadbeats who refuse to do either. There’s no reason to cast aspersions on Jacob, who is completely in the dark about his own fatherhood.

      3. Pastor Petty Labelle*

        yes he could ask for custody. but a judge will hear it and consider the best interest of the child. As a family law attorney, I can tell you a judge is not going to send the kid off with someone who is essentially a stranger. If Dad wants custody there will be a gradual period of getting to know one another. All designed to make sure the kid is safe and comfortable. he’s not going to be getting every other weekend and weeknight dinner right off the bat where he can then disappear with the kid.

        And on the other hand, he may be a great person who would be a fantastic parent if given the chance.

      4. Celeste*

        But he’s not a stranger at all – she was in close contact with him for years:
        “shared an office with a few other students for many years.”

        1. Clisby*

          He’s a stranger to the child. And depending on how many years have passed, he might essentially be a stranger to the LW.

      5. Punk*

        He’s entitled to partial custody if he wants it. Are we really suggesting that LW interfere with a hypothetical custody arrangement?

          1. Pastor Petty Labelle*

            Not true. If he is the dad, he has rights. In some states you have to establish parentage first, but the lack of a piece of paper does not take away rights.

          2. Pescadero*

            False in my state.

            If a father can show he is the father through a paternity test, or the mother and father both sign a “Acknowledgement of Parentage” form – then he is legally entitled to custody/visitation.

            “You must legally confirm your paternity as the child’s biological father to establish legal custody rights. You can then obtain court-ordered custody and parenting time rights when you do.”

            “Additionally, when you establish your paternity, you, as the father, may then take steps to assume custody. As your child’s proven biological father, you can petition the court for both legal and physical custody rights.”

        1. CEMgr*

          Paternity law is amazingly non-intuitive, complex, and variable among the 50 US states. Other non-US jurisdictions all have their own approach. The only way the OP can know at all what rights the bio father may or may not have is to put all the facts in front of a family law practitioner in her own jurisdiction.

      6. Selena81*

        The letter mentions they worked together for years??

        Even if he was a random one-night-stand it would be a crappy move to not tell him right away (or at least after getting legal counsel).
        But she presumably knows some background about this guy, and that would make it even shittier to go for a misandrist ‘all guys are abusers’ take.

      7. MK*

        Sorry to break it to you, but those films and books where that happens are either complete fiction or they leave out the other side of the story. No judge is going to give a father who just met the child joint custody (I doubt he would get anything other than gradual visitation) or allow them to take them to his home country. Even assuming the child is still a minor, which they might not be.

      8. Ellis Bell*

        I don’t think that’s the law anywhere actually. OP needs to speak to a lawyer about the jurisdictions involved precisely because of these kinds of wild fears which will be easily laid plain with proper advice.

    9. Momma Bear*

      Why hide the kid? I think notifying him is the right thing to do and they can all move forward from there. Both he and the child deserve to have a relationship if one can be forged.

      1. Quite anon*

        A lot of places have nepotism policies in place, and mother of child reporting to father of child is definitely close enough to run afoul of said policies. This means one of them is likely to lose their job if they can’t be transferred to another team so that she isn’t reporting to him anymore. I don’t think she should stay quiet forever… but there’s definitely room for saying nothing while job hunting, and telling him about the daughter after she’s no longer working for him.

        1. Allonge*

          Well-designed nepotism policies usually would already apply in a case like this – obviously Jacob cannot be expected to act on information he does not yet have, but OP is obliged to report a conflict basically immediately.

          Lawyer consultation is likely ok (for one, to make sure that what I am writing above applies like that) but there may not be a lot of space after that.

        2. Aggretsuko*

          I’d lean towards this, but again, Jacob hearing from a coworker that she has a kid of the right age is fairly likely to happen before she can find another job.

    10. Michelle Smith*

      I’m sorry, what??

      Okay maybe you think the father doesn’t want to know, for whatever reason. Okay, I’m not a man so I’ll just move on from that. But I know what it’s like to want to know a family member and no one will give you any information about who they are and whether they want to meet me. I can very easily tell you how absolutely apoplectic I would be, forever, with my mother if I was in OP’s kid’s shoes. Particularly since kid has asked about their father and clearly wants that knowledge, if not an active relationship. If that kid EVER finds out she had DIRECT CONTACT with the father and actively chose not not to tell him about kid’s existence when she had the opportunity?? And actively went out of her way to sever the contact by quietly leaving without at a BARE MINIMUM subsequently reaching out to let him know??

      I would never, ever speak to my mother again if she did that to me. E. V. E. R.

      1. Michelle Smith*

        Yes, I’m aware I’m using double question marks which is a bit funny given this morning’s discussion on them. I’m absolutely using them in the emphatic, somewhat aggressive way you’re thinking.

    11. Office Lobster DJ*

      As others have said, Jacob and the child deserve to know. However, I think there’s a strong argument for LW to have her ducks in a row before disclosing, especially in regards to mitigating any risk to the child (e.g. planning for income disruption if she has to leave her job, getting ahead of legal pitfalls, consulting with a therapist for support as well as guidance on how to talk to her child).

      I believe she should talk to Jacob sooner rather than later, but if not telling him on day 1 allows her to make the best plan possible for her and her child, I think that’s understandable.

      1. TootsNYC*

        >> mitigating any risk to the child
        Including sussing out what kind of a person this guy has “grown up” to be before disclosing.

        1. Allonge*

          This sounds good in theory, but how exactly do you test your new boss’s deeper human qualities? How long would you need to work with someone who you have not met in years and years before you are ok with them sharing your child?

          No, unfortunately OP does not get to do this to any satisfactory degree. Talk to lawyer(s) for sure, therapist, pull Team OP together, talk to kid. This is a matter of weeks. OP and Jacob would have the chance to talk, what, 2-3 times one on one, at best?

    12. Lilo*

      I’d definitely make sure you understood the legal inclinations first because you’ll end up with a legal encumbrance and restrictions on what you can do with your own kid. It really depends on the age of the kid, but if you’ve been existing one way for years, having to change it would be difficult.

    13. Name*

      What happens if he remembers that night too. And then finds out she has a kid. A kid born roughly 9 months after that night. Wouldn’t take long for him to wonder if he’s the dad.

      1. The Person from the Resume*

        Given that conception occured on his date of departure from the US/PhD completion (time frame of a week or two), it’s probably a date he remembers and it’s also likely he remembers that he and the LW had sex (even if he’s had no reason to think of it again). I’m going to assume if the LW mentions child’s exact age, he might put 2 + 2 together.

        Again I’m picturing an older child so “she’s a college student” or “early 20s” is nicely vague.

        There’s potential for him to find out so the LW should get ahead of that.

    14. Address it now*

      That can will get opened at some point, by the child that wants to know their ancestors or if the child needs dna info for medical treatment or when Jacob/his relatives do any of those dna tests. There is so many scenarios where keeping this a secret will only make the explosion of the can worst. Better to address is head on now while at least a bit prepared.

    15. Observer*

      There’s always the option of not telling Jacob about the kid, pretending everything is normal and quietly moving on to another job.

      Why open this can of worms?

      Because it’s his child, and as the LW notes, he has a right to know.

      Because it’s his child and the child wants to know about her father.

      Because the possibility of either of them finding out is far higher than it was even 10 years ago. The can of worms that could get opened by *that* scenario is far, far worse than any scenario that could come up if the OP discloses.

    16. Peggy*

      Ok Don Draper.

      There are many reasons to tell him, all of which have been outlined by other commenters.

    17. Ellis Bell*

      Because there’s a zillion really predictable ways that this will blow up at the worst possible moment unless OP goes for the controlled demolition.

    18. Oreo lover*

      Yeah, I wonder if the thing to do is not say anything for a while, quietly look for a new job, and disappear, preferably out of state. Let the sleeping dog lie. Jacob could think OP left because of the one-night stand and will probably be relieved she has left particularly if he is married. I’m just afraid OP is going to get victimised in this, and lose her job regardless. By being quiet, she can buy herself a little time and take a new position somewhere else and have it more under her control. Then when she’s safely in her new job she can decide what to do in the way she wants to do it.

    19. Anonymous, Because Wow Do I Disagree*

      I agree with Carlee (“There’s always the option of not telling Jacob about the kid”)

      I feel like the commenters are spinning drama scenarios, and it really doesn’t have to be like that. When your kid doesn’t know their bio-dad, there’s an ongoing series of conversations at age-appropriate levels as they grow up.

      At some point the appropriate level of information might become, “Your donor was someone I knew in grad school.” And later still, “I don’t think you tracking him down is a good idea, because I work in a small field and I still know him.”

      The point is, you keep lines of communication open with your kid. Kids can handle that life is complicated. It doesn’t have to get all Jerry Springer.

  18. Llama*

    Or you could not say anything! Seriously, think long and hard about your goals here. You can blow up your entire life/career and your child’s life and for what? What if he thinks you are a loon and convinces the rest of your colleagues of that and you end up unemployed and unemployable? Hallmark happy endings aren’t always real life.

    1. don'tbeadork*

      Father and child have the right to know each other, too. It’s fine to be cautious, but I wouldn’t jump to worst case scenario as my go-to response. What if she doesn’t say anything and it all comes out anyway? What then?

    2. Firecat*

      Hence the lawyer regarding her career.

      I can also say as a new parent that having Dad in my child’s life is a huge bonus. The nurturing, learning, love, and fun our kid gets from Dad is different then from me and it would be a major loss not to have that in any child’s life.

      1. Mathilde*

        Jacob hasn’t been in this particular child’s life at all. He might be wonderful. He might be a monster. He’s probably, like everyone, between both of those options.
        Let’s not push the OP to blow up her life on the promise of a perfect family. There is not a lot of chance that Jacob would become an involved Dad.

        1. Michelle Smith*

          She does not have the right to unilaterally decide that for him and she DEFINITELY doesn’t have the right to do that for her child, who has asked about him and wants information but wasn’t able to get it before.

          Guess what happens if the kid finds out Mom was hiding this from them? Life gets blown up in a whole different way.

          1. Mathilde*

            Actually, I think what the child needs is more important that what Jacob deserves, and the OP absolutely CAN keep Jacob is the dark without being an awful human being.
            I don’t think his right to know (which is not absolute, by the way) is more important that the balance in the child’s life or their relationship with their mother.

            Does it suck that men can have children lost in nature like that ? Yes, probably, but nature doesn’t treat people fairly, and I don’t think it’s fair to push OP to risk her employment on the idea than this man she hardly knows will become the perfect father.

            I think the most important person here is the child, then OP, then Jacob.

            1. Broken Arrow*

              “ I don’t think his right to know (which is not absolute, by the way) is more important that the balance in the child’s life or their relationship with their mother.”

              I agree with this. Where is this notion that Jacob has an absolute “right to know” coming from?

              1. Courageous cat*

                It seems weird we expect men to be equal parents in every way but then say stuff like this, treating them like inequal parents.

            2. New Jack Karyn*

              “OP absolutely CAN keep Jacob is the dark”

              “Oh, you have a daughter now? How nice, how old is she?” and now we’re off to the races.

            3. Joron Twiner*

              You know what could upset the balance in the child’s life and harm the relationship with their mother? Knowing that their mother had the opportunity to involve their father, whom the child has asked about, but chose not to.

              OP’s employment is at risk even if she chooses not to disclose!

    3. kiki*

      I think not saying anything would work for the present, but is likely to blow up in a much larger way down the road. Nowadays there is such a huge likeliness folks are doing 23 and Me or some similar DNA test.

      If LW decides that they need some time to find a new job before saying anything to Jacob, I think that’s understandable and pragmatic. But I think planning on staying at the job, reporting to Jacob, and keeping mum about the paternity of your child indefinitely is just a recipe for disaster.

      1. Aggretsuko*

        Jacob can probably do math the second one of OP’s coworkers mentions her child. I don’t think she can hide this one.

    4. Observer*

      You can blow up your entire life/career and your child’s life and for what?

      And not telling has the exact same risk – only the blow up could be even worse.

      What if he thinks you are a loon and convinces the rest of your colleagues of that and you end up unemployed and unemployable?

      That’s an outcome that’s even less likely that a “hallmark happy ending”.

    5. Ellis Bell*

      “what if he thinks you are a loon?” What evidence exactly is this piece of speculation based on, exactly?

    6. Jedi Sentinel Bird*

      I think LW should do what would be best for her child. Only LW knows this situation the best. It does say something in which the guy never reached back out to her afterwards.

      If this guy never got the job at her company or she never saw him again in the area, would she have continued the search to find him?

      Is LW going to expect child support from him?
      This is a delicate situation as LW doesn’t know what this guy’s character is or he who would try to get custody or simply say no.

      I had a friend who had a child with a guy. She didn’t want him to have anything to do with the child and didn’t pursue for child support. that guy has a family and wife now with 2 other children. years later, My friend passed away and the guy wants nothing to do with this child. It’s sad.

    7. Oreo lover*

      That’s what I’m afraid of, that OP will get victimised. She should get a new job and then decide what to do.

  19. Festively Dressed Earl*

    I’m sorry that a serendipitous night has turned into a quandry, OP. The only thing I’d add to everyone else’s advice is that once you’re prepared, talk to Jacob on a Friday. Even if everything works out perfectly, it’d be beyond awkward to have to go to work together the next day while you’re both still processing the situation. At worst, he could react like the CEO-Bro boss and put you in a bad position.

    1. Mrs. Hawiggins*

      That letter immediately came to my mind too. The day the internet broke.

      I hope for the best for OP. I had a friend who didn’t meet his son until the son was 17, he had heard his former partner had had a child and for years felt like it could be his but he could never confirm it with her until she agreed, and one day my friend stood there looking at a 17 year old version of himself. Save for the fact that the court wanted a DNA test anyway, from looks alone they would not have needed it. And that kid is loved by all. You never get a holiday card without a picture of him in it too. Very lucky and happy ending which I very much hope for for the OP as well. If this isn’t a story of the world getting smaller every day, then… (permission for use of ellipse here).

  20. The Other Evil HR Lady*

    I may be the only one thinking it, because I can be quite cynical, but if Jacob is from a country where the father pretty much has ALL the rights, and he gets a bee in his bonnet that he wants his child and takes her to that country, OP will have mountains to climb to recover her kid.

    I hope that’s not the case! After all, OP didn’t say where Jacob hails from, or where she hails from, for that matter.

    All I’m saying is that Alison’s advice to secure a lawyer is spot on.

    1. FashionablyEvil*

      This is why both parents have to be present or present a notarized affidavit to get a minor child a passport. Also, all the more reason for the LW to consult a lawyer ASAP.

    2. Beth*

      He’s not taking her to another country without OP’s cooperation. As her sole custodial parent, OP has all her documents–passport, birth certificate, social security card, whatever documents exist to prove her identity. No court in the US is going to force OP to give him permission to take her overseas. This kind of sensational ending isn’t going to happen just because OP tells Jacob that their daughter exists.

      1. B*

        A lot of responses are assuming OP is in the U.S., but that is not stated. The phrase “went back to university” is fairly non-standard for U.S. English and I wonder if the OP may be from a Commonwealth country.

    3. Observer*

      and he gets a bee in his bonnet that he wants his child and takes her to that country, OP will have mountains to climb to recover her kid.

      Yeah, but if the kid is a minor, the odds of his being *able* to take her to another country is going to be limited.

      I still agree that the OP should talk to a lawyer, but this is not the scenario that should be worrying her the most.

  21. anony*

    Oh, wow.

    Wishing you the best, OP, in navigating this.

    Lawyer, therapist, then figure out how/what to tell your kid. They *will* know that something’s going on, and you want to a) support them and b) make sure they don’t do something (like snoop into your emails and contact Jacob on their own) that will make the clusterfudge worse.

  22. An American(ish) Werewolf in London(ish)*

    First of all, OP, I really hope this works out for the best. It would be rotten if it were you who ended up having to move roles/jobs because of this; so often, though, it is the woman who does (which rankles me something awful, but there we go). I hope as well this doesn’t cause a sh*tstorm of upheaval for you and your kid. Thinking of you!

    For all those folks who are arguing that ‘she must not have spent much time or energy looking for Jacob,’ I’d point out that for one, we’re meant to (for good reason) take the LW at her word. She says she looked, so she did, end of story. And two, I can absolutely believe she looked and failed to find. I go by a completely different name from what I used in high school and college – I significantly changed the shortening of my (somewhat unusual in English) full name and got married and changed my last name when I too changed countries. I don’t use my full name for anything other than official documents and many (if not most) of my friends and acquaintances don’t know what my full first name is. I just did a quick Google search on my (fairly common) old names – I did not find me AT ALL (and nor did I expect to – I’m in my 50s and was not online back in my teens and 20s). So I find it entirely plausible that she looked and failed to find. I don’t think she’s at fault here from what she shared with us one little bit.

    1. Beany*

      I think that Jacob could be found by the authorities, if they had a good enough reason to do so. I lost my university e-mail etc when I finished grad school, but they definitely kept track of my address to send me begging letters over the years.

      That said, LW isn’t working for the university, and likely wouldn’t be able to justify seeking their help unless she was pursuing legal action (like establishing child support), which she clearly didn’t want to do.

      1. Devo Forevo*

        Fundraiser here. To be clear, your address info is confidential, even if we keep track of it, which is a passive process (if you update your address for USPS forwarding, it goes in a national database, we update from that). I’m not giving someone’s home address out to anyone if I don’t want to be fired. So that’s a dead end for this speculation (which is unnecessary anyway).

      2. Roland*

        Who is “the authorities”? She wasn’t looking for someone in her state. She wasn’t even looking for someone in her country.

      3. Ellis Bell*

        I find it wild that people really think foreign students: 1) Made sure to give their colleges their overseas address just so as to get alumni junkmail 2) that they didn’t move from any previous address shortly after arriving home and 3) that colleges are more than happy to hand out sensitive and private information like addresses to people’s one night stands!

        1. Beany*

          To be clear, I definitely would *not* expect a university to give out such information casually to a third party. I mentioned pursuing legal action as a way in which a court order *might* change their attitude on a case-by-case basis. And IANAL, so perhaps I’m being naive about what it would take.

          My bigger point was that records don’t necessarily disappear when students leave that institution, even if the e-mail address stops working. But I accept your point about the foreign students not taking pains to keep that info current. Depending on the trajectory their career takes afterwards, they may/may not care about such things.

        2. sparkle emoji*

          You would also have to know to ask and I can’t say I’m sure I would have realized that option existed in OP’s shoes.

    2. sparkle emoji*

      I agree that it seems reasonable that OP wouldn’t have been able to find Jacob. Even with people within the same country, it’s not always easy to find people online if you don’t know exactly what to look for. Throw in OP’s circumstances and the stress that likely caused and I can absolutely see OP trying and failing to find contact info for Jacob.

  23. don'tbeadork*

    Wishing the best for everyone involved in this really awkward situation. I hope everything works out for the best and no one is unnecessarily harmed, but this is really, really tough.

    Depending on your child’s age, OP, you might want to consider a bit of therapy for them as well once the news breaks.

  24. Lilo*

    I admit to being skeptical. I worked in a pretty international lab in college and I could easily get in touch with everyone. That includes people who moved back to Bangladesh, France, and Jordan. I did also know exactly where they were all going to do post docs or teach.

    1. JenoftheJungle*

      That’s why I think the child isn’t a child anymore. If she was born before social media, this story is plausible.

    2. LTR FTW*

      We don’t know how long ago the one night stand took place. When I was in my 20s there was no social media, and I’ve lost track of a lot of my colleagues from that era. I think it’s also possible that OP wasn’t particularly interested in following up on the one night stand, which is her prerogative.

      1. Loredena*

        This. I quickly lost touch with many of my college friends and couldn’t find them to reconnect later, especially my British roommate, because I predate ubiquitous email and social media. Usenet didn’t work for that! My name is unique enough I could be found but the reverse isn’t true for many of my friends. Add name changes and international moves, well…

      2. MK*

        “Following up on the one night stand” is an incredibly reductive and dismissive way to refer to the situation. I don’t blame the OP for not exhausting any and all ways to contact the biological father of her child, because she was dealing with a difficult situation herself, not because it was her “prerogative”.

    3. 1-800-BrownCow*

      Yes, but OP has not indicated how long ago this happened. They could be late 40s/early 50’s and this all took place 20ish years ago. The “child” could be an adult now. They didn’t indicate any concerns with shared custody and all that which made me wonder if the daughter is past that stage. OP did mention both university email and mobile number, which indicates likely this took place post-2000. But until Facebook and LinkedIn, I did not easily find some of my college classmates from the late 90s/early 2000s that I lost contact with. And I know a few people of my generation who still do not use either. Although, I personally do not have any reason to necessarily track down anyone from my college years, so I don’t know how difficult it would be to find outside of social media. But there’s definitely a few people from my past I’ve tried looking up and not had any success.

      1. daffodil*

        This must be the case, I can’t imagine liking someone well enough to spend the night together but not be connected on social media, but graduate students especially weren’t always on facebook etc until, like, 2008 or so. She doesn’t say what country Jacob is from, but there are also cultures where the common name combinations are VERY common and he would be basically un-googleable.

      2. Storm in a teacup*

        I was in university in the mid-90s and had a university email. Got a mobile in my final year (albeit too big to carry anywhere with ease) and didn’t get a personal email until 2 years later when Hotmail came out.
        I can easily imagine not being able to find someone online in this situation, especially if they don’t use social media.

        1. gyratory_circus*

          I graduated from college in the mid-90s and didn’t even have a university email because it wasn’t required for any of the classes I took, and I didn’t own a computer (just a secondhand word processor that was basically a glorified typewriter). I didn’t get a personal email address until I got my first job and had reliable internet access ( a yahoo account, which I still use for junk).

    4. MK*

      That’s assuming an academic career, though. If Jacob went back to his home country and got a non-academic job, it wouldn’t be as simple; many companies don’t list their employees in their webpage, any people don’t have social media or much of a digital footprint, maybe Jacob had a very common name and you would need to reach page 10,000 in a google search to find him, maybe his native language doesn’t use the latin alphabet, which would make the search harder, etc. On top of that, we don’t know how long ago that was; even 15 years ago, it would be much harder to find someone online. E.g. I was an Erasmus student in the UK in 2000; the only people who were able to contact me after I left were those I had given my parents’ physical address to.

    5. Justme, The OG*

      OMG TAKE THE LETTER WRITER AT HER WORD. This is absolutely ridiculous that people keep questioning this.

  25. Hiring Mgr*

    I think one of you has to leave the company, or at the very least switch departments if that’s a possibility. Especially if you intend to rekindle the relationship

    Absolutely agree to talk to a lawyer though – that should probably be step 1

    1. jane's nemesis*

      where in the world did you get anything from this letter about “rekindling the relationship”?

      1. Hiring Mgr*

        I meant just in case that happened, it’s yet another reason Jacob shouldn’t be managing the LW.

    2. WorkingRachel*

      Hopefully by “rekindle the relationship,” you just mean that she tells him and he has some contact with the kid. There’s no basis to think she wants to become romantically involved with him again!

  26. SparklingBlue*

    This sounds like a plot right out of a movie or a TV show–but fingers crossed everything works out well for everyone.

    Another vote for an update!

  27. doreen*

    It doesn’t have to be exactly John Smith – my husband and kids have very common names , so common that I have met someone else with my daughter’s first and last name. ( Let’s say it’s “Jennifer Wong” ) and if I were to search social media for her, there will be loads of results and I wouldn’t be able to tell which one was her if there was no photo and I hadn’t seen her in years – there are at least 5 that live in the same general area , another five or ten that have been associated with her former workplace ( a university) , a few more associated with the university she attended. I’ve been looking for people I lost touch with and if I find two possible email addresses or social media accounts, I’ll probably send a message to each. But if I find 10 or 20 and I can’t narrow it down , I just give up.

  28. Mathilde*

    You are in no way obligated to tell Jacob anything. There is a lot of “moral obligations” and “ethical duty” thrown in the comments, but it’s really easy to be definitive when you are a stranger behind a screen.

    In my opinion :
    – You have more obligations towards your child than towards Jacob, and depending on their age, maturity level and personality, you will probably have to tell them something at some point. What something and some point means… is really up to you, but your choices will have consequences for your relationship with your kid.
    – It is important to protect yourself, your employment and your rights as a parent and your child’s rights at this point. Get advice, get help.
    – Should you tell Jacob ? It is really up to you. People say that he has a right to know, but the truth is that a lot of men wouldn’t want to know. I don’t think you have a moral duty towards him. He’s not a father. Sperm does not a father make. If you decide not to tell him, you won’t have done anything wrong. If you decide to tell him, you are a brave person.
    – Even if you decide you want to tell Jacob, you are under no obligation to tell him now. Depending on your professional options, you could take some time to job search, move one, and then contact him again.

    Good luck !

    1. Beany*

      The most obvious (to me) reason for telling Jacob is because he’s responsible for 50% of the child’s DNA, and thus the definitive source of information about 50% of the child’s likely genetic health profile. Knowing about elevated risks for heart disease, certain types of cancer, autoimmune diseases, etc. can only be helpful for the child and their physicians.

      1. Mathilde*

        Yeah, I’m not convinced about that argument. If the child hasn’t had any medical issue (which I assume is the case or the OP would have told), there is zero urgency or even need to try and get a complete medical history from Jacob. For most people, it’s not like it’s really a frequent question.

        I know both my parents and I have no idea about their predispositions or genetic profile.

        1. Michelle Smith*

          I know both of mine and their medical histories have been critical to me getting the appropriate screenings and accurate treatment for multiple chronic conditions. There are plenty of diseases that onset later in life and knowing that one side of the family has an extensive history of cancer, autoimmune disorders, genetic conditions for which she could be a carrier and that could be passed on to children, etc. could be the difference between life and death. Let’s not minimize that based on one anecdotal experience.

        2. AngryOctopus*

          But you presumably do know their health history, and your doctor will make decisions about screenings for you based on that. If your mother had breast cancer, you’ll be advised about screening and told to get mammograms sooner than standard. If your father or his parents had colon cancer, you’ll be advised to get colonoscopies starting younger than 50. If your family has a history of heart issues, you’ll be heavily screened for any signs. All this is stuff that OPs daughter deserves to know. And yeah maybe there won’t be anything that would affect her as a child. But you don’t know that yet, and knowing your medical history is an important part of determining your future medical care.

      2. Justme, The OG*

        My dad was married to my mom for 24 years of my life, died when I was almost 40, and I still have no idea about his medical history. That’s a slim argument for a relationship.

        1. Kara*

          That might be an argument for trying to find out a little about your dad’s medical history, though. Depending on how old he was when he had you, ~60ish is not particularly old. Did he pass from anything that might affect you?

    2. connie*

      It’s curious that you talk about morality and ethics but not legality. The man has a legal right to know about his child. Also, you framing of him as a sperm donor is gross. He wasn’t donating sperm. He had a one-night stand that led to a child. You simply have no way to know what he would or wouldn’t have done then.

      Another reason I think this perspective is malarkey having been a single mom and having a kid who is a single mom: Those of us who raise our kids by ourselves can give up a lot to make that work. Not just when the kids are young, but also possibly over the course of our entire earning lives because of options that would only have been possible had we had another adult partner or village in ways that a lot of people don’t have. Now that the father is in the picture, LW needs to protect herself and her daughter. She needs to get her legal ducks in a row. As time goes on, it may be possible that his involvement will actually allow LW to do some things for herself and her career because daughter has additional financial support that will benefit them all over their lifetimes.

      I just find this perspective to be highly unfortunate and one that will lead to poorer outcomes for LW. The time when the kid’s parentage could remain unknown is over and it’s time to deal with reality.

      1. Justme, The OG*

        But does he have a legal right? I’m assuming that the mom is the only one listed on the birth certificate and has likely set up guardianship if something happens to her before the kid is an adult. There is no legal anything at play here.

      2. Mathilde*

        I don’t talk about legality because I am not a lawyer. I find your claim that Jacob has a legal right to know about his progeny entirely doubtful. In any case, I absolutely think the OP should consult a family lawyer before deciding anything.

        I talk about morality specifically to say that there is no clear and cut moral solution here, and the people in the comments being up on their high horse saying to the OP that obviously she has a moral duty won’t have to deal with the consequences. She will. I think it’s important that she get all the perspective and help she can before make any kind of decision.

      3. Some Dude*

        Agreed, especially on the sperm donor comment. That’s used as an argument against deadbeat or absent fathers when they try to weasel their way into someone’s life/life choices after purposefully avoiding responsibility.

        Saying that in reference to someone who is completely unaware they have a child is just plain gross.

    3. Critical Rolls*

      I heartily disagree that OP has no moral duty toward Jacob. Your assertion that “a lot of men wouldn’t want to know” is speculation at best, misandrist at worst. I simply cannot imagine denying this knowledge to a human being who has a child. It makes me think of the homes for unwed mothers where they’d tell the girls their babies died and basically sell the kids into “better lives.” Lawyers first, yes, absolutely. But Jacob is a person, and denying him the chance to ever know his child — for no reason beyond, what, speculation about his reaction? Avoiding unpleasantness/complications? — strikes me as cruel.

      1. Mathilde*

        It is not misandrist to say that statistically, a lot of men aren’t really involved in their own known children’s lives… let alone children they haven’t known for most of their lives.
        It is sad, it is mostly due to the way we raise boys and men, and it is changing, but it is still a fact.

        1. Beany*

          Whether statistically true or not, I don’t think it’s helpful to use a statistical argument to deny this particular man the opportunity to become involved in this child’s life. You don’t know how he’ll react, so why assume the worst and then punish him for it?

        2. Joron Twiner*

          How dare you compare men who know about their children and choose not to be involved to this man who does not KNOW he has a child! You have determined he will be a poor parent based on his gender and therefore it is acceptable to withhold important information from him. Are you sure that’s the stance you want to take?

          1. Mathilde*

            I am not saying anything of the sort (nor have I used the expression “sperm donor”, I have merely said “Sperm does not a father make”… because Jacob is not a father to this particular child. He is not a bad or a deadbeat father, he is just not a father.).

            I am saying that in this thread, there is a lot of very righteous comments defending Jabob’s rights to know and seemingly promising the OP some kind of fantasy where Jacob will absolutely be involved, and she will get child support and her child will meet her dad and everything will be right in the world.

            What I am saying is that at the moment, she doesn’t know anything about Jacob, his life, his aspirations or his character and that she should prioritise her child before anything else, then her employment and balance in life, and then she can maybe think about what she owes to Jacob, without expecting some kind of fairy tale.

    4. bunniferous*

      With the ubiquity of DNA testing these days she has to tell. Because once her child does that test-she WILL find out at some point.

      Ask me how I know. Personally.

  29. Florp*

    Definitely professional advice from all the lawyers and counselors. Everything you do should be in your daughter’s best interest. If that means delaying telling him about his daughter until you get your ducks in a row, that’s OK. If he (or HR, or anyone) asks why you delayed, the answer is “I was caught off guard and my first priority was making sure I was acting in my daughter’s best interests.” Maybe talk to a family counselor about how to introduce your daughter to him. (And, seriously, vet him first. make sure he’s still the level-headed guy you knew, and someone you would want your daughter to be around).

    Any normal human would freak out at first, so I would give him some grace for that. But do talk to a family lawyer and get your options clear so you are ready to deal with his reaction. Maybe he wants shared custody, maybe he wants nothing to do with any of it. You can prevent panic by being ready with a plan for each scenario.

    And yeah, employment lawyer so you know what to say to HR and what not to say.

    Good luck, and I hope you have the access to support and care you’re going to need. Just summon as much dignity and grace as you can and put one foot in front of the other.

  30. Sage*

    If you decide to tell Jacob, please talk with a therapist how best to introduce your daughter to his bio-father. I’m not sure what could go wrong after him having been not present for so many years (hopefully nothing).

    Good luck, OP.

    1. New Jack Karyn*

      Even if nothing goes *wrong* per se, there’s still an awful lot of emotions to process! Getting a therapist on board is a good idea.

  31. Andy*

    List of things to do in this order:
    hyperventilate (5 mins), get a lawyer, get a new job, tell kid, tell Jacob.
    You can do this, the list is just 5 things.
    Picture yourself at the end of the list, relieved that it’s over.
    I am so sorry, this sounds so hard and maybe scary. I see ppl upthread saying things about custody and I know that’s a level 11 outcome and not probable necessarily but my heart jumped in my throat to even consider.

    1. Champagne Cocktail*

      I think this is the best advice in the comments. Practical, self-protective, and I like the idea of telling the child before Jacob.

      and +1 to this being hard and scary. Best wishes, LW. Please update us if you can.

    2. Peanut Hamper*

      A new job? I don’t think so. A different position in the same company would be fine. LW just can’t be managed by Jacob.

          1. Justme, The OG*

            New position only if it’s the same job title. But you’re splitting hairs here when they don’t need to be.

        1. Be Gneiss*

          Also depending on the company, it’s not always as simple as “just move her to a new supervisor.”

      1. Graceful Violet*

        Assuming her company/department is large enough that she can stay in her role but have a different supervisor. She might be one teapot painter out of 3 under Jacob with no parallel team to move to.

      2. aebhel*

        Yeah, whether or not LW needs to get a new job is really dependent on the managerial structure of her workplace and whatever nepotism policies they have in place. The easiest thing would be to have her report to someone other than Jacob and keep her current job, but without knowing the specifics of her situation, it’s hard to say how feasible that is.

        Regardless, she’s got to tell him. It doesn’t sound like she has any concerns about him being an unsafe person to have in her child’s life (on the contrary, actually), and she would have told him at the time if she’d been able to get in touch with him.

    3. PotsPansTeapots*

      Yep. Your life is going to be really crazy for a few months, OP, but you can get through it, especially if you have a therapist and a lawyer in your corner.

      You’ve already been through a lot of tough situations as a single mom. Maybe even some where you couldn’t imagine seeing the other side of it. This is just another one of those.

    4. Office Lobster DJ*

      The only tweak I’d make to the list is if the child happens to be young. If so, don’t tell the child anything until you and Jacob are sure of how you are going to proceed. It’s hard enough to explain that their father is now around without having to go back and explain that, actually, it turns out he doesn’t want to meet them.

  32. lost academic*

    Wow – and my own life can be written up as a psychology dissertation/Lifetime movie.


    You need TWO lawyers here because you need specialists. You need a family lawyer for the custody issue. You need an employment lawyer for the work side. You need both of them before you do anything else, and that includes talking to ANYONE else because you need to know what you should and shouldn’t say to whom and when. Information has a way of getting around fast especially when it’s juicy.

    There’s going to be a lot of advice about what you should and shouldn’t do, morally, ethically, legally, but you need to get that advice from these attorneys before anything else. You can’t undo or unsay anything and you need all of the information available.

    1. Just Here for the Llama Grooming*

      +1000 to this. I would add: and get a good therapist, stat. You’re gonna need her. You, and Jacob, and your kiddo, can be the best adjusted people on Planet Earth, but this is life-changing for all.

  33. GA/TN Prof*

    Whoever said just ignore it – I think that’s a very bad idea professionally, all other considerations aside. There is absolutely no way big parts of the truth (followed quickly by the _whole_ truth) aren’t going to come out at work.

    1. Peanut Hamper*

      Thank you. Unfortunately, a lot of comments here seem to be either

      1) Just tell a lie. That will make everything better.

      2) Just ignore it. That will make everything better.

      Neither of those opinions is valid. The truth is, in general, preferable to a lie, and the truth is often preferable, though not always, to ignorance.

    2. Anonymous, Because Wow Do I Disagree*

      People keep saying that, but based on what? She doesn’t have to tell him her kid’s birth date. She doesn’t have to take her kid to company events. She doesn’t have to mix these streams at all.

  34. She of Many Hats*

    This is definitely a situation to take to HR immediately and request his personal contact info to make the call ASAP because
    1) past relationships/current relationships between management levels need to be known to avoid liability and unnecessary drama
    2) dad deserves to know!
    3) dad needs to be able to make informed decisions about his job, immigration, life, etc and this is a life-changing data point.
    4) Mom needs to know her options w/in the company if the company decides to move forward with this hire.

    And finally, the child deserves to have the opportunity to know more about their father and both of them deserve the opportunity to build a relationship if desired and possible. While this is now possible whether or not either parent remains with the current employer, removing any other drama from their introductions to each other is the better option over all.

    1. K.A.*

      I disagree. I think LW should not act hastily. Everything here deserves careful consideration, or there may be huge regrets later.

    2. Never Knew I Was a Dancer*

      Hard disagree on going to HR right away. Unless the LW is independently wealthy, first thing is going to be talking to an employment lawyer. HR is there to protect the *company*, not the employees, and the last thing the LW needs is for HR to treat *her* as the problem and decide to demote her, move her somewhere with fewer opportunities, or decide that it would be better to lay her off.

      Dad will eventually need to know, but priority #1 is ensuring she is able to keep her job (and therefore be able to keep providing for her kid), doing whatever she can to shield herself from possible repercussions.

    3. Anonosaurus*

      Don’t do any of this without legal advice. I don’t think coming at this from the perspective of what Jacob “deserves’ to know is the right angle. it’s what the*child* deserves that comes first. OP has to know the legal implications, if any, of disclosure before taking any step that would reveal this information to Jacob or anyone else.

      source: family law attorney and the offspring of a similar situation. If my mom had suddenly brought bio dad into my life without discussion or consideration of how it would affect me, we’d have an even more difficult relationship. whatever OP does here needs to be fully informed and child focused.

  35. CommanderBanana*

    I….wow, ok. I don’t even know how one would untangle this particular knot. It’s odd that this letter doesn’t say how old the daughter is now, but depending on how old she is (as in, 15 versus 5?) I think you need to tell her and tell her what you plan on doing.

    I’d try to prioritize not blowing up my relationship with my child over anything else.

  36. I should really pick a name*

    How would one go about rolling this out to management?

    No matter what, it feels like you need to give more information than is appropriate for the workplace.

    “I can’t report to Jacob because we have a child”
    “This didn’t come up before because he didn’t know until I told him a few days ago”

    I suppose the LW could tell Jacob, and try to transfer to a different department or one of the two of them could decide to leave the company with no explanation.

    1. I'm just here for the cats!*

      I don’t think the OP needs to tell HR they have a child. Just that they had a relationship in the past and it is unethical/ she cannot be fairly managed by him because of that relationship.

    2. Ellis Bell*

      They should begin with saying they had a prior relationship that was intimate, not go straight to revealing their child until they have more advice.

    1. Beth*

      Lots of people get PhDs and don’t continue in their field. (Lots of fields don’t have enough professor or researcher job openings to support all the people graduating with PhDs–this is the most notorious risk of pursuing a PhD!) Some people follow a traditional path towards professorship or an industry researcher position; some do a few years in something related (a researcher position, a postdoc, adjunct teaching, whatever) and then switch fields; I know a few who are finishing the degree out of spite/sunk cost analysis and are already planning to run far away from their field once they graduate. You seem to be assuming that a PhD gets you a lot more prestige and recognition than is actually the norm.

      It’s also entirely possible for someone to not be easily searchable online. If Jacob got a full professorship in an English-speaking country, it would be hard to believe that OP couldn’t find his email online. But that’s a really uncommon path. If he was an adjunct? A postdoc? An entry-level researcher in a large corporation? In a country that uses a non-English language (or especially a non-English alphabet)? In an entirely different field where he’s just a regular office worker who happens to have an unusual educational background? All more likely than a new PhD getting a full professorship, and all very likely to not post his email in really obvious places online.

      As for OP–we don’t know how she handled it, but there are lots of ways that a person in that position could be ‘fine’. Maybe she has family support. Maybe she entered her grad program with significant savings from a past job. Maybe she didn’t finish the PhD–maybe surprise parenthood triggered her to leave school and return to the workforce, and she considers that a fine outcome. Maybe her institution had daycare and maternity leave benefits for grad students that allowed her to complete her program (this is something grad student unions often champion for, at institutions where they exist). Maybe she was pretty close to graduating and was able to wrap up while pregnant.

      1. Lady_Lessa*

        GRIN, because I know that this thread might be removed. (I had answered similarly to another turtlefrog comment). They are certainly persistent.

    1. Michelle Smith*

      Probably a better chance of getting an update if people stop judging the fact that she wasn’t able to find him sooner. I’m disheartened by some of these threads.

      1. Beth*

        Yeah, I’m surprised how many people are judging OP for being like “We weren’t that close, I have no contact info, I’m not finding him online, he’s out of the country so legal questions like child support and custody are a non-factor…I’ll keep an eye out and do a search every so often, but I’ve done what I can for now.” That was a pretty reasonable stance until he popped up again.

        1. Grace*

          As someone who had a number of flings with foreign boys pre-internet, yeah, there but for the grace of god go I.

        2. Saberise*

          As someone that works with international employees I could easily see this happening. I’ve at times tried to find someone that has returned home by googling them. Endless number of people that have their name. And if you don’t know the region it’s literally impossible. And really it’s kind of besides the point. This isn’t reddit where someone is asking AITA for not telling him. It’s how to handle this at work. Hell my daughter’s father fled the state when she was 2 weeks old and to this day his internet footprint is hard to find. Very common name and he’s never had a job since he lives off his wife’s money.

          1. 1-800-BrownCow*

            Exactly this! I’ve been wondering if this all took place in the early/mid-2000s. My HS friend’s (ex)husband left her and their daughter back in the mid-2000s. Called her up when she was home visiting her parents with their daughter and told her to not bother coming home as he’d moved out of their apartment. She spent several years trying to track him down and get child support. There was a warrant out for his arrest as well and he was not found. When he left her, he was working a job that he got paid under the table, so there was no trace of him through tax records. She gave police all the info she knew about where he worked and all that, but nothing. He finally showed up at her job about 10 years later, claiming he wanted a relationship with their daughter, and then disappeared again 6 months later. Her daughter is now 23 and hasn’t seen nor heard from her dad in 10+ years. My friend stopped trying to find him after he disappeared the 6 months later as she didn’t want her daughter to go through all that again. But she searched hard for the 10 years prior.

        3. Jiminy Cricket*

          IKR? That train of thought seems so normal to me. And it definitely would have felt very normal to 90s-surprise-single-mother me (had I been one).

      2. Ellis Bell*

        People are treating it like entertainment and pretending OP is in the stocks. This is a genuinely blameless but tough gig and there’s no time for people’s lifetime entertainment nonsense. How on earth is this meant to hearten OP up to reveal the truth in a hard situation when everyone is saying it’s going to look obvious she’s a liar? At least Jacob will be more informed about his availability than the majority of people here, who have clearly never had to look for someone further than their own network/Facebook.

        1. aebhel*

          Yeah, this is a situation that is incredibly messy but doesn’t seem to be anyone’s actual fault. There’s no villain here; it’s just awkward and poses some professional hurdles for both of them.

    2. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

      The person who changes job should be Jacob, who is just starting this new job, not the OP who sounds like she has been settled in her job and home for some time.
      So, the OP should stay put and let HR move him elsewhere within the organisation, or let him find another job elsewhere.

      Of course consult with a lawyer first, but then tell your child before telling Jacob and consult with her when and how to tell him. She is the most important person here; her interests come before yours & his.
      And if she is a minor, securely lock up her passport, birth certificate etc just in case.

      1. Broken Arrow*

        The organization is not going to see it this way if Jacob is a senior hire, particularly if it went through a long search process, and workers in OP’s position are more of a commodity.

        And Jacob knows nothing of this backstory. Why should he have to change a job that he’s been hired for?

  37. Anon for this*

    For what it’s worth, I know someone who was the dad in a somewhat similar situation, and by the time he was telling me the story, he was spending time with his surprise child, and happy to be building a relationship with them. Child was maybe 10 or 11 when he found out.

    Of course it could go a lot of different ways for different people and I wouldn’t count on that outcome. Just thought the LW might like to hear one reconnection story where it did have a happy ending.

    1. Katara's side braids*

      Wish AAM had likes/upvotes so I could boost this. Hope LW sees it and doesn’t take too many of the unnecessarily skeptical comments to heart.

    2. Jiminy Cricket*

      I know a surprise grandpa who was absolutely thrilled to find out, very late in life, that a college fling had had a daughter who now has kids. He has thrown himself into new grandpa-dom. I know it’s not always sunshine and rainbows, but for him it has been a lovely new stage in life.

    3. Ellis Bell*

      After reading “what if he thinks you are a loon” upthread, this is a deeply appreciated flavor of non panic.

    4. 40ish*

      Yes, this could have a good outcome. OP wanted to find the father, now she has. And it will be positive for her child to know of her father, whether a close relationship develops or not. That is way more important than any job.

      1. Thunder Kitten*

        um. food, clothing, shelter, healthcare all these require not just any job, but a sufficiently well paying one.

    5. WestsideStory*

      It is the stuff of literally dozens of Silhouette romance novels. One hopes for happy endings in real life; fingers crossed for OP that life imitates art in a good way.

  38. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

    Yeah you can’t have him as your manager. I recommend definitely the lawyer consultation before saying anything to him but you cannot work for this guy with this kind of history.

    And on another note: the people saying OP didn’t do enough to tack him down or didn’t care or is making it up – consider that there is likely a person in very real distress writing this and subjective moralistic declarations or outright laughter being hurled back are not going to make letter writers come back.

    1. AngryOctopus*

      Also consider that if the child is a little older, the internet even 10 years ago was very different from now. And Jacob may have chosen to not be very online. And OP could have done all SHE knew how to do to try to find him, but didn’t get results. None of these are outrageous outcomes. It’s now an unfortunate situation, but none of it is anybody’s fault. People made decisions that worked for them, and pretty much nobody would foresee this happening. The only solid advice is for lawyers to help you navigate the fallout, because as Keymaster said, you cannot work for this guy. Even if no child was involved, your history would dictate that it’s inadvisable to be his direct report.

      1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

        Agreed. There’s no fault here, it’s just an exceptionally messy situation and while I do not have kids I do have experience with situations that even commentators here have accused me of lying about – and it’s not nice.

        Life is messy, the improbable becomes your actual history and sometimes it can lead to situations where you cannot cope without expert advice. And even with that expert advice it can still be painful and messy and lead you to having to walk away from somewhere you wanted to be.

        All my hopes for you OP.

          1. linger*

            Trivia: “Once in a Lifetime” is partly based on a dream recounted in Philip K. Dick’s “VALIS”, a book that is weird even by the standards of its author, essentially an autobiography told by competing narrators and with sudden intrusions of fiction. (The relevant passage includes the whole “You may find yourself in a beautiful house / with a beautiful wife [who you don’t recognise] / behind the wheel of a large automobile” of the verses, but not the chorus.)
            As it happened the book was eventually published shortly after the release of the song, but it had been written much earlier: PKD presumably met the song’s producer and cowriter Brian Eno in the mid-70s (the autobiographical facts of the plot are from 1972-75, and Eno turns up towards the end in the guise of the character “Brent Mini”).

            1. Firefighter (Metaphorical)*

              I have absolutely no idea why I didn’t know this given that Once In A Lifetime is my favourite song and I have literally published on VALIS. Thank you for giving me chills!

      2. Observer*

        None of these are outrageous outcomes. It’s now an unfortunate situation, but none of it is anybody’s fault.

        Very much this.

        The only solid advice is for lawyers to help you navigate the fallout, because as Keymaster said, you cannot work for this guy.


      3. sparkle emoji*

        Yes, especially on your point about OP doing all SHE could to find him with the tools she had. Finding people with limited information online is a skill. There are a number of complicating factors here, like the fact that Jacob moved to a different country. Plus OP was in school and pregnant, which is challenging enough without trying to hunt someone down. Maybe someone who knew all the tools to use and who did this as their job could have found him, but OP couldn’t and that’s okay. The commenters who seem determined to view this (understandable) failure uncharitably are frustrating.

    2. L.H. Puttgrass*

      And on another note: the people saying OP didn’t do enough to tack him down or didn’t care or is making it up – consider that there is likely a person in very real distress writing this and subjective moralistic declarations or outright laughter being hurled back are not going to make letter writers come back.

      This needs to be posted at the top of the comments in big bold letters.

    3. Graceful Violet*

      I think whether she actually tried to find him or not us going to significantly affect her approach in talking to him now and some of the legal outcomes. If she tried and couldn’t like she says, great. If she didn’t really try, then we don’t need to discuss it here, but her lawyer will need to know.

  39. Lost in Space2*

    Those of y’all telling OP not to say anything really don’t know modern kids. Kids these days have all the science and tools they need to find their bio parents. unless OP wants a ruptured relationship with their child, it’s best to rip the band-aid now because that kid will find their father, whether or not OP ever could.

  40. Ms. Murchison*

    All the posters saying they don’t believe that she couldn’t find him in this day and age remind me of app designers who build software that only works with strong Internet connection and breaks in real-world conditions. The world of human experience is wider than they realize.

    1. Peanut Hamper*

      Plus, LW had a baby/toddler/small child to take care of. That really doesn’t leave a lot of time and energy to go all Nancy Drew on the internet.

      1. Allonge*

        Not to mention, I expect a bunch of people would get awfully judgmental towards a single mother trying to find her child’s father. There is a limit to how much humiliation OP needed to expose herself to to find the one hypothetical person who had a current email address available.

    2. anon24*

      I think people are so used to everyone posting all the details of their life everywhere that they can’t imagine anyone not and so the LW has to be lying.
      I’ve had 3 names in my life, my birth name, married name, and a complete legal change. 2 phone numbers. A few email addresses. Moved several times. No social media. My parents, who are still in my hometown, do not acknowledge my current name because they do not approve of the fact that I legally changed it. If you were someone who knew me as a teenager or young adult and didn’t keep in touch with me after I got married (which, only 2 or 3 people bothered), you are not finding me now. No one has my number, no one has my email, and if you think to talk to my parents they aren’t even giving you my real name. Could a PI find me? Sure, there’s a paper trail. But a stressed out pregnant lady? Nope. It’s plausible not to be able to find someone.

  41. on the couch, with the cat*

    So, I am actually a parent to a child conceived by sperm donation, and I am wildly curious about what LW has told her child over the years about her father and how the child was conceived.

    My child’s sperm donor was anonymous, but even so, I had at least some information about him and his family, including some health information, what deceased relatives had died from, how many siblings he had, where the family had come from before moving to the US. I knew a little bit about his education and intended profession (intended because he was in school at the time he donated), about his hobbies and interests.

    Nowhere near as much as many of today’s gamete recipients know, because this was almost 30 years ago, but enough that I could fill in some blanks and answer some of my daughter’s questions about that “side” of her family. My daughter has known since her earliest memories that she was conceived via a sperm donor, and I told her more details about him as she grew up and asked questions. She has had a copy of his donation paperwork since her late teens.

    I hope that LW has told her child what she could about the child’s father and explained how the child came to be. It’s natural to have some curiosity and LW knew quite a bit about Jacob, it seems, so I hope she has given her child a sense of the man.

    As for DNA testing, it’s important to know that fewer than 25% of all Americans have done DNA testing and even fewer people outside the US have done it. Doing 23AndMe or Ancestry is no guarantee that you’ll find bio-relatives, though obviously it does happen. My daughter did the testing a few years ago and discovered some half-siblings, all donor-conceived…but no other relatives on the donor’s side. Not the donor, not the donor’s siblings or parents or cousins.

    There have been a number of sometimes sensationalist news stories about sperm donors who have lots of children who are going about trying to meet them all and be part of their lives, who want to be “dad.” I suspect those stories are the exception rather than the rule. Finding your donor is, I feel, just as potentially fraught as finding your bio-parent(s) if you were adopted, and donors are likely to have a range of responses, just like people who placed their children for adoption (or those who didn’t know they had a child who had been placed for adoption). People who were conceived with ID-release donors are now reaching adulthood and gaining access to contact information for their bio-dads. Most of the time, there’s no news coverage of this, because these are people just trying to live their lives, just trying to figure things out. Some donors never disclosed to their families that they donated, which adds another complication to making contact.

    I do think LW’s child has the right to know that her father can now be contacted. It would be good to get updated health information at the very least–I wish I could provide that to my daughter.

    But, depending on the age of LW’s child, whatever relationship develops between donor and child will, and should be, up to them.

    1. on the couch, with the cat*

      Oh, I should probably make it clear that I am a single parent and always have been, like LW.

    2. Observer*

      As for DNA testing, it’s important to know that fewer than 25% of all Americans have done DNA testing and even fewer people outside the US have done it. Doing 23AndMe or Ancestry is no guarantee that you’ll find bio-relatives, though obviously it does happen

      This is true, but not relevant. Because it is common enough that it’s not a far fetched idea. And people can be linked, even if they are not the one who did a test.

      What’s more, this stuff is becoming much more common, so it’s hard to know what will show up in a few years.

      Which is all to say that while there is no guarantee that someone will figure this out through DNA testing, the possibility is real and not at all far fetched.

      But, depending on the age of LW’s child, whatever relationship develops between donor and child will, and should be, up to them.

      That’s true. But that requires disclosure.

      1. on the couch, with the cat*

        I am definitely on the side of disclosure, but the majority of people here are talking about disclosure to the father only, and disclosure to the _child_ is largely being ignored.

        As for DNA testing, the pace of that has slowed dramatically in the last few years, according to a number of articles I’ve read about the industry. A lot of people have become aware of the potential downsides, it seems. DNA testing companies have been talking about having difficulty growing their user base. And things like the recent hacking of 23AndMe and the theft of thousands of people’s data isn’t helping.

        1. Observer*

          As for DNA testing, the pace of that has slowed dramatically in the last few years,

          True. But it hasn’t stopped, and it’s not likely to. And each test is additive. And someone like the LW’s child is more likely than most to do testing like this because she knows that there is information she doesn’t have, and apparently wants.

          So, it is a slam dunk that she or dad will do it and they find each other? No. Is it possible? Most definitely, and it’s not a truly far fetched idea.

      2. Lilo*

        My MIL just found her bio siblings on 23andMe (she was adopted, her birth parents have passed away).

  42. skunklet*

    Adoptee here. Your obligation is to both, child and him, but the child part is multi faceted. You have to keep working to keep a roof over your child’s head, so my ideal scenario:

    You quickly get a new job. After day 1 at new job, you contact Jacob to meet and you inform him of the child. DNA tests ensues, etc. I also echo contacting a lawyer.

    Because you want him in your child’s life (your life is irrelevant with this relationship, really). You don’t want 5, 10, 20 yrs to pass until your child finds their father. “it’s only DNA” doesn’t cut it for me, DNA does mean something.

    I know my scenario isn’t probably going to happen but good luck regardless!

    Good luck!

    1. Caz*

      When you’re skimming the headline and then suddenly Holy double-take, Batman!

      Congratulations on your child.
      Legal advice is an excellent call.
      I can’t imagine how difficult a situation this is to be in. Very best of luck.

    2. Peanut Hamper*

      LW does NOT need a new job. They need to inform HR so that HR can arrange things so that LW is not working under Jacob.

      Let’s not over-react.

      1. time_ebbs*

        This is especially true, as flagged by another commenter above, if they work in public/government service (need to hit X amount of years for retirement benefits, etc) or other fields where it would be hard to get a new job. For example, if they have an academic position at a university, their options for a new job might require relocating or giving up a tenure track position.

        If it is financially feasible and the job market for their industry is good, it might make sense to get a new job. But it’s going to end up being super dependent on the OP’s exact situation.

    3. JSPA*

      And if Jacob ends up not joining the team after all, or leaving after a month… then what?

      Agreed that he cannot manage her long-term, but “panic, run now” seems hugely overdone.

      Especially given the much larger number of one-night hookups in today’s app culture, which means it will not, at some point, be abnormal to be in a chain of command with someone you once hooked up with. (If gay men can handle such situations with discretion and aplomb and lack of favoritism, maybe everyone else also can, once we decide it’s a thing that normal people can do?)

      1. skunklet*

        except, his job is quite probably tied to his visa.

        if he leaves this job, there’s zero guarantees he can easily find one and remain in the US (since I’m presuming OP is in the US); and while that may be great for OP, it won’t necessarily be for the kid… and i’m not just thinking of today, i’m looking 10, 20 yrs down the road.

        1. Retired But Still Herding Cats*

          OP’s wording (“to university”) in her original letter sounded more UK or AU than US to me.

          If that’s the case, they might be from two different Commonwealth countries, and he wouldn’t have the same visa complications he’d have in the US. (Though of course he might have other ones, especially if we’re talking England since Brexit.)

  43. Clearlier*

    This is a very unusual situation because of the juxtaposition of the sudden reappearance of the father and for that father becoming the OP’s manager. Break it down though and you have the slightly more common (albeit not that common) situation of a Father who is unaware that he is a Father and is now going to be told that he is a Father along with a situation where someone with a close personal connection is being put in position to manage them. The kicker is that this cannot really be delayed as it likely leaves the OP vulnerable if she just says nothing.

    The second piece while potentially tricky is likely going to be straightforward in comparison to the first. OP’s company will probably have policies in place around managing people who have personal connections and if they haven’t this will be a good opportunity to develop some.

    All of Alison’s advice about speaking to a therapist and a lawyer is on the money but I would also urge the OP to consider very carefully how they break the news to the Father. I have a very good friend who found out about the existence of his child when the child was 4 years old (Mother moved overseas straight after conception). He didn’t know how to respond and he nearly took his own life. For sure there are men who will take it in their stride but it’ll blow up the lives of many men, shattering their beliefs and cause them to question themselves and their existence. They’ll need people to talk to and if this guy is coming from abroad he may not have any kind of a support network to lean on.

    He needs to be told but he needs to be told compassionately and provided with access to resources to help him through news that will very possibly be earth-shattering for him.

    1. Clearlier*

      To add that this turned out well for my friend. 15 years on and he is involved in his son’s life, paid for him to go to school, talks to him regularly, they’ve gone on holiday together and see each other as often as possible

      1. Anonyme*

        While I can see how that situation would be distressing since you care about your friend, it’s not fair or reasonable to make the LW responsible for this guy’s mental health. We have no indication that she’s planning a dramatic/ traumatic reveal (just the opposite), and if he has pre-existing mental health issues that would be exacerbated by the news regardless of delivery she’s not really in a position to set him up with a support network (!) after being out of touch for years/ decades. Her responsibility is simply not to be cruel, and since she sounds levelheaded and is actively looking for the best way to navigate this there’s no reason to think she’ll be cruel or even thoughtless.

        Making women responsible for men’s mental health is a way too common form of misogyny and suicide threats are a pretty common control tactic. I’m sure you were just thinking of your friend, but it’s not really applicable here and does veer into “women must manage men’s emotions” territory.

  44. just a word of caution*

    I def recommend speaking with an attorney for the reasons Allison mentioned. I also recommend it bc if the child is a minor, you may want to make sure everything is fair custody wise if it comes to that.

    I am only mentioning this bc it happened to someone close to me. But please be aware of international parental kidnapping. A friend’s niece was brought on a trip to see her relatives in another country by her other parent (who was a citizen of that country) and never returned. It could my friend’s sister $1000’s in lawyer fees and it was several years before she saw her again. I am not saying Jacob would do this but it may be worth researching the laws in his home country and talking to a lawyer about what to do, if it happens.

    1. CommanderBanana*

      ^^ this. There is a reason the State Department has a whole office dedicated to parental kidnapping when children are taken to other countries. It can be incredibly difficult to get children back once they are taken to another country by a parent.

    2. Rachel*

      Let’s take this down a notch.

      Jacob cannot get a passport for the LW’s child on his own. If the LW already got a passport for their child, put it in a safe with a lock.

      The risk of this happening in this particular situation is low because Jacob is not legally the father at this time, international travel is very different right off the bat

    3. connie*

      That presumes that LW has gotten the child a passport on her own and that she would allow the father to travel with the child internationally. If the dad is in the child’s life and the child doesn’t have a current passport, the parents have to apply for the passport together.

    4. New Jack Karyn*

      This is very simple. Do not give the daughter’s passport to Jacob, and do not sign a letter allowing her to be taken abroad. This assumes the daughter is still a minor.

  45. idwtpaun*

    OP – best of luck to you and I hope everything works ultimately for the best for everyone involved.

    I’m disturbed by the amount of comments dismissively referring to Jacob as a “sperm donor.” And I wonder how many of the same commenters support paternal leave and a cultural shift that sees fathers be more involved in child-rearing.

    I’m a cis woman who has no maternal instincts or desires, married to a cis man who would’ve wanted children were he married to someone else. The breathtaking sexism of the attitudes I see here disgust me.

    1. CommanderBanana*

      I agree that it’s unkind and inaccurate to refer to him this way. He doesn’t even know he has a child. And I think it’s weird to use that term dismissively anyway.

      1. on the couch, with the cat*

        As someone who used an actual sperm donor, I hate that people use that term to refer to deadbeat fathers. Yes, sperm donors are paid for their donations, but they are, generally, very mindful of the fact that they are helping create new people and new or expanded families. You can see this in their profiles and questionnaires. They are not callously walking away from their children.

        It’s particularly awful when people who were donor-conceived hear others ragging on deadbeats as sperm donors. We raise our children to be aware of their origins and understanding of the many reasons why someone might choose to donate sperm. People calling deadbeats “sperm donors” are insulting half of my child’s parentage.

        1. Drag0nfly*

          Your take makes sense. Calling “Jacob” a sperm donor is deceitful, because he wasn’t aware he was conceiving a child. And slanderous, because the only other way that term is used is as an insult for deadbeat fathers. Usually said by their [justifiably] bitter children.

          He is not a sperm donor in any sense that the term is used.

          Cut it out, everyone.

    2. PotsPansTeapots*

      Yes, this is verging on shaming a man for having casual sex as a young adult. Let they who haven’t had a fling they didn’t see a second time cast the first stone.

      The LW was friendly with him and seems to have a good job now. Does that mean he’s necessarily a good person? No, but I think it’s more than enough to not think the worst of him.

      We’ll never know what kind of dad Jacob would have been if he had known right away. But that doesn’t mean parent and child don’t have a right to know about each other.

      (Sidenote: My dad and I have a shared medical condition. My doctor used information about what meds my dad responded to to treat me and likely saved my life in the process. I’m getting salty seeing these comments that the child knowing their genetic health info doesn’t matter.)

          1. Nebula*

            This comment didn’t show up for me before I posted mine – just to say LW good luck with everything, and I’m sorry people are being so judgemental in these comments. You are trying to do right by everyone in a difficult and unexpected situation, and that is very admirable.

        1. Nebula*

          OK, and how is it helpful now to shame the LW for possibly having unprotected sex years ago? I’m sure she is more than aware of people’s attitudes towards her having got pregnant from a one-night stand.

        2. Observer*

          but the LW doesn’t mention that their protection method(s) failed, so I’m assuming

          You know what they say about what “assume” does.

          The OP left out a LOT of detail – and with good reason! On the one hand, it’s obvious that *someone* was going to nitpick the OP and declare that *of COURSE* she’s a terrible, horrible, stupid and / or irresponsible person. On the other, while some of the details might make for salacious reading, they don’t change anything about the OP should do. Why *would* she provide those details.

          I was lucky enough to have access to the morning after pill and to free STD testing at the student healthcare center on my university campus

          Got it. So being lucky is really the issue here- not being lucky and not necessarily having access to certain types of care means that someone is inherently inherently “completely irresponsible”.

  46. Capt. Liam Shaw*

    Going to disagree with the many on this. Don’t disclose at work or to him, unless you want child support. You have been fine without him all this time. Act like you don’t know him other then went to school together.

    It might be worth talking to a lawyer just to see if your country (this seems like outside of the USA) has anything you need to be aware of.

    If you are in the USA, the state can get involved if you are not careful (had this happen to a friend). Again check with a lawyer.

    1. Peanut Hamper*


      Just nope, nope, nope.

      A man has a right to know he has a child.

      And the child has been asking questions about their father. They have a right to know as well, and to meet him, if they want.

      Lying, even by omission, is usually never the best choice. The truth will always come out in the end.

      1. Capt. Liam Shaw*


        My advice is for the LW writing in not Jacob or the child. LW’s life could get way more complicated (including losing the child) if she tells Jacob. She could lose her job too. She needs to think about herself and her situation.

        1. Peanut Hamper*

          And if Jacob finds out, he could still get custody. And LW could still come out worse, job-wise.

          Life is generally less difficult if you assume good intentions from others.

          And yes, this happened to a friend of yours, but that means n=1, nothing more. That was a completely different case.

          1. Capt. Liam Shaw*

            Jacob will have a harder time finding out if she doesn’t tell him.

            You are more the welcome to dismiss my example with N=1. I would suggest you read up on what states to do to insure a father is found (so child support is established saving the state money)..Furthermore not all women want contact with the father or want to be co-parents.

            You come off to me as young and male. Don’t get any one pregnant unless you mean to. You might be in for a rude awaking.

            I am done responding to you.

            1. Drag0nfly*

              Young and male is not a character flaw.

              Nothin in Peanut Hamper’s reply indicates he or she is young OR male.

              Nothing about Peanut Hamper’s statement would be wrong if Peanut Hamper was young or male, or young and male.

              On the other hand, plenty of people on here who are women and/or have a conscience and a moral compass, have said similar things that Peanut Hamper has said.

              If you can’t make your point without insulting people, you may want to reconsider the validity of said point.

              Oh, another thing. The feelings and wants of the mother don’t override her obligation to her child. When you have a child, what you sign up for is the sacrifice of your feelings and desires to the well-being of said child. Don’t like, don’t conceive a child. You may be in for a rude awakening.

        2. Observer*

          My advice is for the LW writing in not Jacob or the child.

          In other words, your advice is to simply ignore any and all obligations the LW has, even to her own child?

          LW’s life could get way more complicated (including losing the child) if she tells Jacob. She could lose her job too. She needs to think about herself and her situation.

          She’s not going to lose the child by disclosing. No court in the US is going to take the child away from Mom (assuming that the child is still a minor) in this situations. And the Father couldn’t take the kid out of the country without the Mom’s permission if the child is still a minor.

          As for the rest, the OP is taking a risk either way, because the Father could figure this out or something like DNA testing could result in the information coming out. In which case the OP has all the downside PLUS the issues that come with the deception – including a really high probability of a serious break in her relationship with her child.

          1. Capt. Liam Shaw*

            Yes my comment is addressed to the LW, because that is who is writing in. Right now the LW has complete control of the situation. Once she tells Jacob, that goes out the window and she needs to feel comfortable with that. It doesn’t seem she is ready for that considering her letter.

            You’re assuming the LW is from the USA.

            1. Observer*

              Yes my comment is addressed to the LW, because that is who is writing in.

              OK, so you are confirming that your advice to the OP is to ignore any and all obligations she has, not just to the father but to her child. Got it.

              Right now the LW has complete control of the situation.

              No she doesn’t. As has been pointed out multiple times, the information could come out very easily in a number of ways, in which case the OP would not only lose control of the situation but also be in an extremely bad position.

              1. Jellyfish Catcher*

                The child can send in her genetic information when she is 18.
                She will discover not only her father, but the GIANT LIE that her mom told her, keeping her from knowing her own father.
                Even if he is turns out to be a total jerk, she is entitled to know him.

                God only knows (and probably not even her) how anyone, daughter, father, mom’s company will react, when the lie comes out.
                Everyone has to face this, hopefully with decency, honesty, and compassion.

        3. Firefighter (Metaphorical)*

          LW’s life HAS GOTTEN way more complicated with the reappearance of Jacob. She can’t de-complicate her life by pretending. (Trust me I have tried this extensively.)

    2. Rachel*

      The LW cannot have a functioning work relationship with the father of her child.

      This is true all the time, but especially with a power differential.

      I am not wading into the ethics of paternity, I am going to speak only from a workplace perspective; this isn’t fair to anybody.

    3. Critical Rolls*

      All of the negative outcomes could easily still come to pass if OP starts working with Jacob, he meets the kid at a holiday party or something, recognizes the time frame or she has his eyes, etc. But then it will all come crashing down outside of OP’s control.

      Also Jacob is a person with a child, not an NPC obstacle to OP living her life. And OP’s daughter wants to know about her father, which matters to OP, as it should.

    4. New Jack Karyn*

      The cat’s gonna come out of the bag. All it takes is a couple of casual, catching-up questions, and he could figure it out very quickly. Now, on top of all the things to think about, they all have deception on top of it.

      1. Zweisatz*

        Yeah. LW: “I have to duck out early to get daughter from school.”

        Her MANAGER: “Oh nice, you have a daughter. What age is she?”

        Then if he ever sees a picture of her and adds 2 and 2 together stuff will get really difficult.

        Is there a 100 % probability of this outcome? No. Would I want the stress of constantly lying about this to my boss? Absolutely not.

        (Which is not addressed to LW as she is looking for a solution, but this specific comment thread.)

  47. most likely not asking the right question*

    I am going to ask a really dumb question, and not a take I saw at all, but:

    If it is so important to not have intimate relationships with people who supervise you and this is a situation where it is totally more than that, why don’t hiring committees ask people at the current job if they had a past relationship with the new manager? Or ask people they are hiring if they know any of the people they would be supervising?

    This just seems so complex, and even if you take the child out of it, I would hate to have to leave a job because without anything on my end a former partner, distant family member or someone I knew got a job supervising me. Delete if not on track, but that’s what I can’t get over.

    1. Rachel*

      It’s the same reason medical professionals can’t treat family members.

      It is very, very hard to be objective about people in your inner circle.

    2. Hlao-roo*

      This is an interesting question. I don’t know the answer, but my thoughts are:

      1) A lot of companies promote people to management from within. If the candidate for a supervisor/management position is internal, then they (the candidate) know the people they will be supervising and can/should opt out if they have or had a relationship with any of the employees.

      2) The situation of “this new manager we hired is an ex-partner of one of the employees they are now managing” doesn’t arise often enough for most companies to have any sort of policy for checking if anyone on the team has previously dated the candidates for management positions.

    3. Ann*

      The people who will be managed by the new hire typically have no input into hiring, and don’t learn about the new manager until the manager has accepted an offer and is being introduced to the team. It’s also not typical to give a potential new hire the list of everyone they might manage, especially before they have actually been hired. I guess most companies just assume that these situations are very rare, and if they do happen, can be addressed by reassigning someone.

    4. metadata minion*

      It’s fairly rare for someone to have a close relationship with someone and yet not know where they work, so in most cases the obligation is going to be on the candidate to disclose that their mother/friend/husband/etc. works in the department. There are plenty of exceptions, but unless you’re in a situation where you have to hire a *lot* of people, it will probably never come up.

    5. jtr*

      I agree! I’m kind of shocked that he got this far as a manager candidate without the team having been introduced to him (ideally, they would get to meet, even in a large meeting situation, with the top X candidates, and be able to provide feedback to the hiring committee).

      That just seems like…not great hiring or management practices.

      1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

        I don’t think it is that unusual for a manager not to meet the team beforehand. I’ve had this happen with 3 managers brought in above me, across 2 different companies, and no one else seemed to think it was strange either. At my current company new managers generally don’t meet the team ahead of time either. I’m not sure what is to be gained by it — do the team members have veto power? If not, what’s the point?

        1. Caramel & Cheddar*

          Yeah, not once in my career have I been introduced to a new hire (manager or not) before their first day unless I was on the hiring committee. I’m not saying there isn’t value in meeting the team during the interviews, but it is definitely super common not to.

      2. New Jack Karyn*

        If he was hired from overseas, there might not have been any opportunity for him to meet the team.

    6. kiki*

      I think it’s not a commonly-asked question because it’s generally pretty rare for it to come up as an issue.

    7. Observer*

      why don’t hiring committees ask people at the current job if they had a past relationship with the new manager? Or ask people they are hiring if they know any of the people they would be supervising?

      The normal expectation is that people disclose known relationships. And most people, including management, don’t really expect these kinds of situations. After it’s not all that crazy to assume that a guy who is from a different country and has apparently lived and worked in that country for some years doesn’t have a significant relationship *that they do not know about* with someone who is already working there.

    8. I should really pick a name*

      My first thought is that it would be a privacy issue to provide a candidate with a list of people they would be supervising before they’ve actually accepted the position.

      Though I feel like the other way around isn’t that bad: passing the name of the candidate on to the team (with the candidate’s consent)

      That being said, “distant family member” isn’t really a concern. It’s close relationships. For example, my company defines relatives as children to grandparents, and first cousins.
      If you take the child out of it, the LW’s situation isn’t a big deal. Someone you slept with once years ago isn’t much of a conflict of interest.

    9. JM in LA*

      This is the question I want to ask. I feel like some of the responses about rarity *were* true, BUT the bugaboo of online dating is that more people are meeting people outside of their circle who can appear and disappear like that. And without mutual acquaintances, are kind of like ghosts in the night. I think this could become increasingly common as an externality of online dating.

    10. E M*

      In my experience, companies usually make it the responsibly of the new hire to declare any relationships/potential conflicts of interest with current staff during the application process. And, usually the new hires do know that “the mother of my child is an employee working in X department.” This is just a very rare case of Jacob not having had any of that information before getting the job.

  48. Precious Wentletrap*

    Casually mention it in the reply-all. “Oh, Jacob! Worked with him about ten years back, great guy, funny story–this one time at the office party things got so wild that, well, long story short he’s my kid’s father, so anyway, looking forward to getting reacquainted!”

    1. Cee S*

      Even if no child or sleeping together was involved, I wonder why OP didn’t find out that Jacob was one of the candidates for the job ahead of the time. The department may be large and not everyone is in the hiring committee. The fact that OP and Jacob went to the same school may prompt some casual question like “Oh you went to Chocolate Teapot University! Do you know so and so”. There may be matter of confidentially involved, well…

      One of my past manager realized that I and one of the job candidates went to the same school around the same time. He stopped by my desk one day and asked if I recall a certain name. I immediately remember that that’s the person in my class. My boss thanked for my time and said he just wanted to verify if the candidate went to the program.

    1. HonorBox*

      But LW’s livelihood is a primary concern. Which is why she needs to speak to a lawyer before anything else. While Jacob deserves to know, it is paramount that the LW protect herself and her child. A company may push one of them out if they find that someone is supervising an employee with whom they have a child. Jacob may be well meaning and kind, but he could also react very poorly, which puts LW in a terribly precarious position. In order to ensure that she and her child are in good position, Jacob needs to know AFTER having legal and probably HR conversations.

  49. Rachel*

    My advice is to phrase all of this as a product of choices you made, not a situation that happened to you.

    Regardless of how sticky or complicated something is, if people sense that you are aware of that fact and are owning it appropriately, they will work with you.

    1. Don't Send Your Kids to Hudson University*

      I get this impulse, but the LW did not do anything wrong here and suggesting that she frame it that way is not going to be productive. The LW can be matter-of-fact (like she was in her letter) but does not need to bear a scarlet letter when asking for the resolution of a completely untenable work situation created by her employer.

      There are any number of ways an employer can hire a supervisor to manage a team without being able to anticipate a conflict emerging.

      The employer could have hired an employee’s neighbor who has sued them over a property dispute. I think we could all agree that an employee should raise that this personal situation has created a conflict in the supervisory relationship.

      The employer could have hired the employee’s estranged parent as a manager without realizing it. I think we could all agree that an employee should raise that this personal situation has created a conflict in the supervisory relationship.

      The employer could have hired the employee’s former roommate with whom she had a lot of conflict. I think we could all agree that an employee should raise that this personal situation has created a conflict in the supervisory relationship.

      The employer could have hired someone the employee had a brief sexual relationship with that did not result in the birth of a child. I think we could all agree that an employee should raise that this personal situation has created a conflict in the supervisory relationship.

      Not all of those situations would necessarily be resolved in the same way, but I would urge you to reconsider the LW did something to create this mess. It sounds like she made reasonable efforts to contact Jacob when she learned of the pregnancy and was unsuccessful, so she moved on with her life and did the best with the hand she was dealt. She did nothing malicious and could not control many of the variables that got her here.

      1. Rachel*

        I would urge you to re-read my comment, where I said nothing about scarlet A’s or anything else in this reply

        1. Don't Send Your Kids to Hudson University*

          You’re right you didn’t and I’m sorry if I read too much into your comment. In general, I was reacting to the notion that employee needs to frame this issue as the result of her choices, I think that’s misguided thinking and pretty insulting to the letter writer, as if she has ended up in this situation due to a lack of personal responsibility. There’s no evidence of that in the letter and is the sort of thinking that quickly spirals to a pretty insulting place. You sound like empathy is really your strong suit though, so feel free to disregard my comment, it was for people interesting in interrogating their own assumptions.

    2. aebhel*

      This seems unnecessarily accusatory. LW made the choice to have a one night stand with someone she had no plans of seeing again, which is also a choice that Jacob made. She made the choice to try to find him when she found out she was pregnant, and when she couldn’t, she also made the choice to not dedicate a huge amount of time and effort to tracking him down. I’m not sure exactly what you think she needs to be owning up to appropriately. It’s a messy situation, but it’s not actually LW’s fault any more than it is Jacob’s.

      1. Don't Send Your Kids to Hudson University*

        You said this more directly than I did and without the snark. I would remove or modify my second reply if I had that ability — it was snarkier than it needed to be. But I’m with you, what choices does the LW need to take responsibility for? Is she supposed to feel shame about this situation she could not have planned for or prevented in any meaningful way?

        1. Ellie*

          Yep, that’s the chance you take when you sleep with someone you have no intention of ever seeing again. She paid her price, and he paid his. Frankly, if she’d made no effort to find him at all, I wouldn’t blame her. She likely had more important things to worry about right then.

  50. K.A.*

    If the child is still a juvenile, consider waiting until you see what kind of person Jacob is at work.

    Revealing yourself now could lead to several negative outcomes:

    — You leave your job and the job security you have for another job environment that may end up being awful.
    — Leave your job for another and your medical insurance changes but may take 30 to 90 days to allow you to enroll. In the meantime, you or your daughter get sick or in an accident.
    — Jacob has to change jobs just after getting this one and becomes angry at you for it. Co-parenting with someone who’s angry at you is a Hell you never want to know. The angry parent tends to try to sabotage the other parent left and right, even if the outcome hurts the child.
    — Jacob may leave the country (especially if he is told he cannot keep his position) and takes your daughter with him. His family may even encourage this whether or not he wants to.
    — Jacob may have been nice to fellow students, especially an attractive woman, but he could be a totally different person as a supervisor. I’ve experienced this several times where someone, who was a great colleague, gets a little power and becomes the reason the rest of us are stressed all the time and hating the jobs we used to love. It will tell you so much about whether or not you want that person in your life at all.

    You have a chance to raise your daughter in peace and love. That is much more important than someone’s right to know. I say this as someone whose work environment was a courthouse. The utter Hell that one parent will put the other through over and over for years is SO COMMON.

      1. K.A.*

        The LW can tell the child when she’s an adult mature enough to not chase fantasies and emotionally secure enough to walk away if her father ends up being toxic or manipulative.

        1. Jackalope*

          Look at all of the comments above from people whose mothers withheld information from them about their biological fathers, and how painful it was for them. Not to mention the fact that it wreaked havoc on their relationships with the mother who lied to them (or at least withheld the truth). The LW’s child is already asking about their father; how angry will they be if they reach adulthood wanting to have someone to fill the hole that they’ve already indicated that they feel, only to find out that their mother didn’t let them know that their father was available during part of their childhood because he *might* possibly have made bad choices.

        2. Michelle*

          Keeping info that’s vital to a child’s sense of identity and belonging from them does not protect them. It hurts them. Kids have rights, even if you worry what they’ll do with those rights.

    1. Rachel*

      I think the LW would be well served to discuss this with an attorney in her state and county, not follow this kind of comment.

    2. M2*

      Jacob has a right to know he has a child and the child has a right to know who the dad is. Period.

      Also when the child gets older and this eventually comes out (DNA tests) the child might be upset about having their father so close and never knowing.

      Also go to therapy and have the child go to therapy.

      Talk to a lawyer OP right now.

      1. K.A.*

        You don’t know what kind of a father Jacob would be. The children of toxic parents need a lot of therapy. In contrast, the percentage of people needing therapy who grew up not knowing one parent but who had a good primary parent, is tiny. The last time I was at the courthouse when this data was presented, I believe it was 2% for children who lived with a good, nurturing parent and had no contact with the other parent. It should be noted that some or all of that 2% may have been recommended by the client’s attorney as a legal maneuver, not because it was needed.

        (Not all therapists are good, but all of them do have biases and preconceived notions about situations they haven’t experienced.)

        1. Michelle*

          I would consider it pretty toxic if my mother kept the identity of my father a secret from me, and my entire existence a secret from him. That’s extremely controlling behavior. I would have a hard time forgiving her for lying to me my entire childhood about something as crucial to my sense of self as the fact that my father is around and she’s keeping us from each other.

    3. Bubble*

      You’re assuming this man is some horrible person that the child needs protection from. We have zero evidence of this. He is likely a perfectly normal human who would love his child. And he deserves to know!

    4. You have to be better than this*

      This is terrible advice from someone who doesn’t have a clue how this stuff works and has an axe to grind. Please be smarter than this, OP. PLEASE! For your child’s sake, if nothing else.

    5. New Jack Karyn*

      If OP doesn’t give him her daughter’s passport, or sign a letter allowing it, then he’s not leaving the country with the kid. Let’s not catastrophize an already fraught situation.

  51. M2*

    Just in future if this happens again you can contact your university and alumni relations and usually get at least an email for someone who attended the university, sometimes a # and or address. So just if this happens to anyone else… try that!

    1. jane's nemesis*

      Universities are not going to disclose their alumni’s personal contact info to just any random person who wants it. There are, like, laws about that and stuff.

      1. Ticotac*

        And also, if you think that my old university has my updated personal contact info you are dreaming

        1. jellied brains*

          I had a horrible time at college. When I left, I never looked back. I certainly didn’t keep my contact info up to date.

          1. Quill*

            I swear that I’m still on the alumni money-begging list only because I graduated after it became more hassle to change your phone number when switching providers than to keep it. Other than that, my college knows… possibly as much about me as I put on linked in five or six years back, which was very little.

        2. Princess Sparklepony*

          Lucky you, they keep finding me. And I’m not going to give them any money, so the jokes on them.

      2. Aggretsuko*

        Yeah, I don’t think we’d be permitted to disclose that information. Literally we can’t even disclose someone’s address to the person who’s asking what address they have in the computer already. This is for the entire system I work in, not even just my organization.

    2. Cordelia*

      Good heavens – have you actually tried this and it’s worked? Or are you just guessing? I very much hope my old universities aren’t giving my address to random people who contact them!

      1. Aggretsuko*

        Nope, there are rules against that. “Demonstrated educational interest” is the usual rule if there isn’t a blanket “do not disclose whatsoever” rule (which we have).

    3. aebhel*

      I didn’t update my contact info when I left college, and I live about ten miles away from where I went to school. Loads of people don’t, even when they’re not leaving the country.

    4. Katydid*

      It’s been a very long time since I did this, but when one of my old college friends (with whom I’d been corresponding for years) moved without giving me their new address, I contacted our alumni relations office to find out if they would forward a letter to my friend for me. They would, I did*, and we resumed our correspondence. It is worth noting that ours was a small college; I do not know if a large university would do this—I rather doubt it.

      *I enclosed the stamped, sealed letter to my friend inside a letter to the person in the alumni office who was helping me; that person added the address to the enclosed letter and mailed it off.

    5. JSL*

      I work in an alumni office! Best practice is generally to email the alum, letting them know one of their classmates/friends/whoever is trying to get hold of them, and then include the classmate’s email address and phone number so they can reach out directly.

      Technically you can give our contact information, but it’s a bit of a minefield, so I try not to. HOWEVER people often don’t update their contact info, we “lose” alumni all the time.

    6. Felicia Fancybottom*

      And a lot of people don’t leave this information at a school they just attended for grad school. I sure didn’t. I went there to get a degree with a certain professor, the school didn’t really matter than much.

  52. Forrest Rhodes*

    Strong agreement with commenters suggesting that LW’s first conversations be with a therapist and a lawyer. Nothing against HR, and I know HR folk are supposed to keep things confidential, but that definitely doesn’t seem like the best place to start.

    I’m also thinking of the explosive effect this is likely to have on Jacob and his life, which may include a spouse and/or children.

    I appreciate the spot you’re in, LW, and admire the calm and thoughtful tone expressed in your letter. Wishing you the best, and I have the strong feeling that all this will work out better than you may fear at this point.

    1. Anon this time*

      FINALLY someone’s thought to consider the effect on Jacob and his life, including a possible spouse and children! LW definitely needs a lawyer, but there’s a great deal to be said for waiting to see what Jacob is like, pondering the ramifications of having him in your lives, and deeply considering whether he’s actually a person you’d want there at all, especially if she’s an older child or even an adult. I myself am not sure that it’s a moral imperative that the two must be told of the relationship; I’d be very concerned about the size and nature of the worms opening this can would dump into your laps.

  53. Hiring Mgr*

    On a practical note, if you work in office and have photos of your child at your desk, you may want to take them down. (“OP did you see that email with the photo of new boss? He looks just like Timmy!”)

  54. AngelicGamer*

    Yeah… you need to lawyer first, him second, and your child third. I would not reply to that email as I don’t think you can without talking to your lawyer and then HR. Also, if you can remember how you tried to find him, write it all down and, if you still have documentation – receipts from a background search or whatever – compile it for the lawyer. TBH, you might also need it for HR.

    Now, for why I added your child third – you need his reaction before you even touch the subject with your daughter. He might not want anything to do with her, which is heartbreaking, but is within his right to do. He might ask for a paternity test. But you need that information so you can best tell your child and possibly also start looking into therapy for her. No matter what happens, even if this is a happy ending of wanting to be 100% involved and co-parenting for the best of your daughter, she’s going to need it to help navigate all of this.

    1. fhqwhgads*

      Given there are likely to be at least one if not two lawyers involved, and it may take a while to be sorted, don’t expect an update soon.

  55. HonorBox*

    Lawyer first. Maybe lawyers, as you probably need to speak to one who is a family lawyer and one who specifies in employment law. Then HR. You cannot report to Jacob, and they’re going to need to know that you had a previous relationship (even though it was brief) with someone who is now going to be your supervisor. You didn’t know and he likely didn’t know that these paths would cross again in this situation. You needn’t tell them about your child being Jacob’s. Only that you had a relationship. But your lawyer(s) can guide you through what to say and how to protect yourself.

    1. Don't Send Your Kids to Hudson University*

      I think this is probably a really useful suggestion to explore with a lawyer. On of the primary questions a lawyer can help with is, “how much should I tell my employer about the situation?”

      I would venture to guess that a limited disclosure is what’s needed here: “We had a brief but intimate relationship years ago as graduate students, and I would be uncomfortable being managed by this person — what are the options?” Not knowing the LW’s and Jacob’s roles, this could be as simple as moving to another reporting line in an equivalent role or as complex as requiring a shuffling of roles that might not make business sense. There may also be a way to signal to HR that you are seeking for them to be discrete about this request/inquiry when speaking to Jacob without LW having to share that she plans to inform of the child that resulted from their prior relationship. I suspect that if there is not a simple path to address the reporting relationship, then LW may need to provide more detail to her employer, but a lawyer should be able to help in identifying what details are helpful and which may tend to serve as a distraction or to further complicate things.

      LW, this sounds like a really difficult position to have found yourself in, but you didn’t do anything to create it and I hope that you are able to find a way toward something more tenable in the workplace!

    2. Abogado Avocado.*

      People here are overly focused on the lawyer for protecting the OP against Jacob. But there’s another reason a lawyer is needed: if OP received public benefits (such as AFDC) at any time to support herself and her child, she probably have signed paperwork stating that if she became aware of the putative father’s identity and whereabouts, she would contact authorities so that they could arrange for DNA testing and, upon confirmation of paternity, sue him for the benefits the government provided her and her child. Failure to abide by such agreements opens the mother to being sued for re-payment of the benefit. She’s at greater risk of that if she identified Jacob on the birth certificate as the father.

      So, among the many reasons OP wants to proceed methodically and consult a lawyer first, this may be one of them.

  56. Lyda Rose*

    As an adopted child, I really think the writer’s child has a right to know his origin. At the very least, the child deserves a very detailed family medical history; it can become crucial with no warning whatsoever. This transcends any work issues, because some respect and discipline can resolve those issues.

    1. PotsPansTeapots*

      Seconded. I mentioned in another reply that information about my dad’s treatment for a shared medical condition helped my doctor treat me. It very well may have saved my life. The kid deserves to know, period.

  57. TG*

    Wow this letter is a shocker…I’d definitely talk to a therapist and a lawyer. I’d ask the lawyer what to do before anything else.

    I also thought about not doing or saying anything and maybe just getting a new job but if you want him to know your daughter and vice versa than I think you can’t do this. The therapist and lawyer should be able to help you through this process.

    I’m hoping for your daughters sake that he is a kind man and wants to have a relationship with her and help support her once he knows about her.

    Please update us!

  58. Rebekah*

    For those wondering why it would be so hard to track someone down, my husband went to grad school in a very small program that included a lot of foreign students, and many used an “English” name exclusively. Including a surprising number of students from countries whose languages use the Latin alphabet, but whose names were “unusual” or difficult to pronounce in English. It was quite a revelation looking at the graduation list (which used everyone’s legal name) and having to deduce from last names that “Theophilus” was “Richard”. If they immediately went back to their home country I can see them dropping the “English” name, and if OP never knew their real name, or couldn’t read it anyway in his language, I can see it happening.

    1. Violet Rose*

      Oh, I didn’t even consider that aspect, but you’re right. Off the top of my head, my Chinese teacher was known to some of her students by her entirely Chinese birth name, and to other students as Western First Name + Married Surname (also Chinese). The two names weren’t even CLOSE to each other, so if you didn’t know that she went by both, you’d never know both names referred to the same person.

  59. Because Higher Ed*

    Actually, something that just occurred to me is that because Jacob was an international student at your university, there is a good chance that his ability to continue working for your current employer is tied to his immigration status (and he may not just be able to get another job and remain in your country). I think HR might need to be involved in this because there could be visa/immigration factors that play into how this is handled going forward.

  60. Kira*

    I’m sorry I don’t have any practical advice but I would advise you to remember this: your child will now get to know their father! That’s an amazing thing! This will likely be messy and difficult but it is wonderful that your child will (hopefully) have their father in their life.

    1. PotsPansTeapots*

      Yes. Prepare for what could go wrong, OP, but know that some things might change for the better.

  61. JSPA*

    OP, others may differ, but I think it’s reasonable to disclose “we knew each other at university” and leave it at that for a month or so.

    Nobody can prove you remember that evening clearly enough to know what happened.
    Nobody can prove you know for sure he’s the only person who could be the father.

    If he seems extremely reasonable after a couple of weeks, it’s time to broach the topic, and both of you can take it to HR. If he’s no longer the decent human being he was back then, look into a new job (as you would if any manager were problematic) and use the intervening time to decide how little you plan to remember, as far as telling him is concerned.

  62. Betty (the other betty)*

    This far exceeds workplace advice.

    To answer your question? No, don’t remind him and reveal to everyone that you knew each other back in the day. You have a lot of work to do before any one knows about that. Just ignore the welcome email.

    LW, you found your child’s father. The one you tried to find when you found out that there would be a child, right? That’s a good thing.

    Ethically, I think that your child and their father should know about each other. However, that knowledge needs to come about very carefully. Find a lawyer and a family therapist who can help you navigate this.

    For work, it is best to plan to move on to a different company. Yes, that’s hard. Yes, it is probably the right thing to do (although your lawyer and therapist can help you decide). Weirdest scenario, you don’t tell him (and worry every day about him finding out). Best case scenario, you tell Jacob and he’s happy and your child is happy and you all live happily ever after. Worst case scenario, you tell him and this becomes a difficult legal battle. No matter what, you can’t report to Jacob in the workplace. It’s just too messy.

    1. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

      “it is best to plan to move on to a different company”
      Nope, best for Jacob to move; the OP should not volunteer to give up a good job and maybe have to move house. Wait and see what her lawyer advises, then let the lawyer discuss with HR what should be done.

    2. Despachito*

      “worry every day about him finding out”

      I think there is a very slim chance of that. Jacob can have no idea whether she dated someone by the time of their one-night stand. He will not investigate how old her kid is.

      From his point of view OP will just be a person with whom he had a fling years ago.

      1. New Jack Karyn*

        I think ages of kids is a common conversational topic, especially when two people who shared an office reconnect and catch up. If the daughter resembles Jacob at all, that’s another hint.

        If he or a relative have done 23 and me, and the daughter chooses to, the game’s up.

        1. Quill*

          There’s also the very real possibility that trouble will start for OP and Jacob earlier, when he meets and potentially recognizes her, because Jacob could very easily have written in with “Just found out one of my new reports is someone I had a fling with in grad school, what do I do?”

          At that point adding in “by the way, we have a child” is not going to make the situation less complex.

  63. Ticotac*

    When I was studying for my PhD, a friend of mine (also a PhD student) went back to their home country for the summer. After a week, they went silent.

    The friend group brainstormed ways to find out whether they were okay. Texts? They weren’t going through. Is that because something bad happened, or is it an accident? Perhaps they just went back to the sim card they use in their home country and couldn’t get our numbers? Some countries have weird laws about sim cards, is it one of those cases? Don’t know. Impossible to make sure.

    They’re not on any social media site. Impossible to google them (their name uses a different alphabet, and it’s not common but it’s not uncommon either). We don’t know the name of any of their relatives- which is useless anyway, because none of them are on any social media either. Could we contact the government for a wellfare check? Maybe, but only if we have enough info, which we don’t.

    Should we get the university involved? Yeah, they said they can’t do anything and have no information either. Cool.

    In my case, the friend came back once summer ended. Turns out they had been imprisoned the moment they set foot in the country. But believe me, prison isn’t the only reason why it may be hard to find people.

    1. WS*

      +1, a similar thing happened to a person in my international student group (and we were especially worried because he wanted to be a journalist under a regime hostile to journalists). He eventually got in touch with the group when he was getting married, and I’m glad he did, because a year after that he was murdered by his government and we could all contribute to helping his wife and young child.

  64. Wowzers*

    I would not tell HR until you have your own legal plan. If that takes some time you’ll be asked by HR why you didn’t tell them sooner, but you aren’t obligated to rush to tell him before you have your own wellbeing squared away, and you aren’t required to explain that really. I would assume no office would want you to be reporting to him, but there are plenty of dysfunctional workplaces, and so you should potentially prepare for still reporting to him even after you tell. I would just welcome him as per your usual team norms, but not bring up anything about a shared past until you talk to a family lawyer. If he brings it up, you don’t have to urgently ask him to meet to tell him he has a daughter. Your company hired him, he’ll be there awhile – and though it might feel like you are lying to HR and lying to him, being honest without preparation could cost you a lot.

    1. Kevin Sours*

      This is very much a consult with attorneys and do what they tell you situation. And the #1 thing a lawyer will tell you about a legal situation is “shut the f*** up!”.

    1. Ticotac*

      Not all of us PhD grads have stayed in academia, and not all of those who did have any internet presence outside of Google Scholar

    2. Observer*

      It’s absolutely impossible that a grad student/PhD student with an international career would have no Internet presence at all, for decades. That’s not how academics are.

      He got a PhD does not mean that he’s someone with an “international career” in academia.

      1. Natebrarian*

        HAHAHAHA tell that to our deans who are trying to follow up on grad students who were part of training grants. Sometimes they graduate and move on and disappear. We can’t even find them when there’s literal federal funding at stake.

        Also, as others have said: common names are *common.* Allow me to tell you about the department that had two faculty with the same name—who both researched the same niche area of pathology. It happens.

        1. Bruce*

          I have 2 coworkers with identical names, luckily in our big company I only interact with one of them so if I’m careful I can avoid sending email to the wrong one most of the time. They have been good humored the two times I did get it wrong :-) Aside from these 2 there are other examples of repeated names. At a former employer we had a large contingent from one particular nationality and we had an intercom, I would sometimes hear “#1 call the front desk”, ” #3 you have a delivery to sign for”… and so on up to #4 or #5…

          1. Bruce*

            At that same former company we had 5 men named Bruce, 3 of us in the same field and 2 in other engineering jobs… not with duplicate last names, of course! The Monty Python fans among us joked about being able to start a Dept of Literature for an Australian university :-)

          2. AnonEmu*

            Yeah one of my coworkers has the same name as one of my cousins. And I have a relatively common first name (think something as common as Stephen), and so when I moved to a new job location, there was already a Stephen on the floor (different last name) so I got asked if I minded going by Steve for work purposes (which I was fine with). But otherwise it would have just been Stephen R and Stephen C or something like that.

            Meanwhile my brother-in-law was named after a famous actor, same middle name even, so Google searches turn up lots about the actor, but nothing re the dude with the same name who works in IT.

  65. Going Anon For This*

    I have two children born out of wedlock. #1’s father is involved…ish…in their life (he likes the child much better as an adult he can relate to than he did as a child who required care and attention; we never had official shared custody, and he always just visited for a few hours at a time). #2’s father met them twice, both in infancy. I keep just close enough tabs on him to find him if child #2 ever wants to meet him, but child #2 adamantly Does Not (and is now an adult who can make that decision for themselves, so I’ve gotten lax). There were some concerns about child #2’s parent showing up at some point and just deciding to take them, but that’s very situational and based on his personality and issues.

    I did not disclose pregnancy to #2’s dad until after they were born. I waffled for a long time. I tried, a time or two, but didn’t put a lot of effort into reaching out because let’s be honest, that is a huge can of worms to open with someone you’re no longer involved with. Ultimately, “He has the right to know about his child” won out, and I did get in touch and notify him, but I can understand all the reasons why you might not go “all out” in notifying a partner about a pregnancy.

    I agree with all the advice to get a lawyer. Ask about possible paternal rights. A lot will depend on the age of a child: with a young child, if dad is interested in custody, you may work through visitation toward shared custody; with an older child, honestly, the courts are going to let the kid’s desires play into a lot of it, and you’re probably never going to have to deal with full-on shared custody.

    Go in with an idea of what you want. Think about both best and worst-case scenarios, from your point of view. As someone who raised kids with a semi-absent dad and a fully absent dad, honestly, fully absent worked out better than semi-absent. Semi-absent meant a lot of questions and a lot of sad. Fully absent, I used the “He just wasn’t ready to be a Daddy, so he let [my husband] be your daddy instead” line, and it worked pretty darn well until they were old enough to have deeper questions, which I answered. That is still the better-adjusted kid with fewer Daddy issues, because they didn’t have to deal with someone being very inconsistent in their lives, and they understood that it wasn’t about them.

    So before you have a conversation with Jacob consider:
    -Do you want child support? (If you adamantly don’t, you may be able to avoid going through the court for a lot of things, if you can reach an agreement together.)
    -Do you want him to be involved? How much? This may vary a great deal depending on the age of the child, and you may have to be flexible about it. I know I was always very relieved that I had full custody of my kids and didn’t have to share them with their dads every other weekend or whatever. But think it through. In your ideal world, would it look like eventual shared custody? Visitation a couple of times a month with dad? Or dad coming in for visits, but you keep full custody? It won’t necessarily work out the way you want. It could get messy. But when you have a picture in your head, you can work toward a goal. When you don’t have a picture, it’s easier to get swept up in something that doesn’t work for you or your child.
    -Would you be interested in your child meeting their extended family? What does that look like, in your mind? (Lack of passport does mean that a child cannot easily be taken out of the country without you, if that’s a worry that you have. I’m paranoid; my kid didn’t get theirs until they were old enough to express their displeasure about potential kidnapping scenarios. I had bad taste in men when I was younger.)
    -What kind of relationship do you see with this man long-term? When you have that worked out in your head ahead of time, you can better aim that direction. If you want a solid co-parenting relationship, a friendly relationship, etc, you can go into it more easily when you’ve actually thought about it.
    -What are your employment-related goals? Think through what this complication will look like for your company and how it could impact your job as well as your current plans for the future.
    -Where are your boundaries? I set a hard boundary with #1’s dad that he could be involved or he could not be involved, but in and out was not acceptable. Be their dad, or don’t be their dad, but don’t disappoint the child. He and I worked out an agreement where he was really more like an “uncle” or a family friend than “Dad.” It worked for us, and was better overall for the child than insisting that he fit into a mold that didn’t work for him. I also set a boundary that if I was going to be the full custodial parent, I made the decisions. Dad #1 didn’t agree with some of those decisions. He really didn’t like the school I chose, for example; but also, he didn’t get a vote, because he wasn’t arranging the day-to-day of our lives or paying for it. He got to have opinions, but I got to make the final call. Your boundaries may depend on the ultimate level of involvement you want Jacob to have.

    Think about the big picture, not the small one. Immediately, it’s going to be awkward and messy. He’s going to have an emotional reaction. You may need to change jobs, or at least transfer managers. Things are going to change. It’s hard to go from solo parenting to needing to share. But by thinking through it ahead of time (and talking to a lawyer about how to protect yourself), you can create a path toward the outcome you want.

    In my head, I think I would start with two potential scenarios and the range between them. 1: he wants to know nothing about his kid, doesn’t want to meet them, wants to pretend it all goes away. 2: He wants to be super involved and become a full “parent.” There is a lot of in-between in there. Prepare for the mid-scenarios (He wants to meet them, but not necessarily get involved) as well as the outliers, because in a lot of ways, “mids” are harder on your child than extremes.

    Good luck.

    1. Test*

      This is probably one of the best answers in this thread, nuanced, coming from a real person who knows what they are talking about.

    2. Pineapple Salad*

      Excellent answer, thank you for taking the time to write such a thoughtful, and helpful, comment.

      1. TruetalesfromHR*

        I have a half sibling whose parent that we do not share is fully absent. It made our family being a whole unit easier, but did not do less damage emotionally to my sibling than if they person had been involved.

        Maybe it was the way it was handled by my parents, maybe it is the way it would be no matter the level of involvement. But just know that their is no one-size-fits-all answer.

        And I say all of this as an adult pushing middle age, not as someone still emerging from the angsty teen years.

  66. ??*

    I think the best way to tell him would be through email so he has a chance to process the information in private. let him know as you are leaving work on a Friday that you sent him an email about a complicated situation you want him to think about over the weekend. give him basic information about the child. tell him you’ll have a vial of your child’s DNA for him on Monday, so he can do a DNA test, so he knows for himself. tell him you’ll wait until the results come back before you notify the company you work for.

      1. Antilles*

        Also, absolutely do not pre-emptively offer a vial of your child’s DNA via email.

        I get the thought is “so you know it’s your kid”, but seriously, just stop, re-read that previous sentence, and try to say with a straight face that doesn’t sound absolutely bonkers.

    1. The Person from the Resume*

      Combining ?? and Fluffy Fish’s comments. I think it is a great idea to deliver a written letter. Get your thoughts and story in order. Allow him processing time. Hand it to him at the start of a weekend. Tell him to open it once he is home.

      Maybe even offer to meet Sunday afternoon if he has questions so the next meeting is not at work where he want more answers and details.

      Try to keep it as out of the office as possible.

    2. HonorBox*

      I think that’s a recipe for disaster. While he needs to know, the LW needs to know that she’s protected well in advance of laying something like this in his lap. The fact that they had a relationship (even a short one) makes the work relationship something work would want and need to know about. Better to discuss the legal protections for child and work before sharing this with him.

    3. Peanut Hamper*

      You do realize that there is no such thing as “a vial of DNA” right?

      DNA testing typically involves either saliva (because mucosal cells from the inside of the mouth) or blood. How would you react if someone left a vial of blood or spit on your desk and said “oh yeah, this is your kid; feel free to test it if you don’t believe me”?

      Real life is not all those cop/detective shows you see on television. This is not how this works. This is not how any of this works.

      As PEMDAS said earlier: lawyer > HR > Jacob > child.

  67. Bitsy*

    I used to really enjoy and appreciate the comments threads on Ask a Manager. But these days they seem too often to be full of repetitious suspicion and accusation. What do the folks who doubt the OP think they’re adding to the conversation by making the same criticisms of the OP over and over again? What’s the point?

    1. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

      Yes, these frequent pile-ons accusing the OP of dishonesty must put off many potential OPs from seeking advice here.

    2. Ticotac*

      I think it’s people coming from Reddit. I assume that mostly because that’s were I saw most people needlessly nitpicking posts, most often while gravitating towards the most uncharitable assumptions. Bonus point for somehow managing to misread the post through all that nitpicking.

      It reminds me of a letter some months ago from someone who got in trouble at work because they had pepper spray on their keyring. They explained it was for “stray dogs and wolves” and some commenters just kept going on and on and on and on about how pepper spray is illegal in Canada (it is, however bear and dog mace is legal), and why would the letter writer have mace against wolves? Why would there be such dangerous wildlife in a city? Clearly LW was lying. The idea that the LW said that it’s for stray dogs and wolves because that’s what the spray says, not because the LW was actually expecting to meet wolves on their way to work, never occurred to them. Dog and coyote sprays only work against dogs AND coyotes together.

    3. Carrie*

      hard agree, especially considering the sheer number of reasons that might explain why she couldn’t find him (strict privacy laws in other jurisdictions, lack of social media presence/public profile, a job that requires security clearance, common/foreign names… the list goes on), and it’s so weird that so many people react with “that can’t be true!”

      1. Peanut Hamper*

        There are a lot of people on the internet who assume that because they can’t imagine a thing happening to them that it can’t happen to anybody else.

        It’s largely a part of “bro” culture that assumes that their truth is the only truth. (I suspect many of them are also in possession of a penis and inhabit their parents’ basement. Some people just need to grow the hell up and realize that the way they experience life is not how everybody else has experienced life. Life’s grand tapestry is large, but they only see a little tiny corner of it, alas.)

        1. Joron Twiner*

          Don’t worry, there are plenty of female-centric, or nerd, or other pedantic subcultures that are this nitpicky too.

        2. Coyote River*

          “It’s largely a part of “bro” culture that assumes that their truth is the only truth”

          Clearly you’ve never met my ex-wife

        3. Scan*

          My family jokes about the “one data point” arguments from my 91 year old mother in law used to solidify her claims to being right. “This happened once (back in the 50s) so now it must be truth for all in all times in all situations.” Sadly, myopic views/beliefs cross all ages, genders, cultures.

  68. Cyrus*

    Like many others, I’m very curious about the age of the child. Not for the plausibility of the story – I’m taking the OP at their word – but because it changes a lot about the practical facts.

    For example, if the kid is 5 years old, it’s a very different situation than if they’re 15 or 25. In each case, Jacob should be able to find out that the kid exists. If the kid is 25, the major expense of raising them is over. Whereas if the kid is 5, the OP should probably reconsider pursuing child support. Even though she’s doing well as a single parent now, she may feel otherwise when dealing with college. (I know I don’t need to tell a former grad student that college is expensive, but… let’s just say it seems like the kind of thing that would be prudent to have as many resources as possible for?) And so on for many, many things that change as kids grow.

    1. Tammy 2*

      I think there’s an age at which the child needs to be brought into the decision about what to do, but I don’t know what age that would be. Certainly if they are over 18.

      1. kalli*

        Depending on the jurisdiction it can be anywhere from 5 to 14 – in some cases the kid’s POV will be heard and taken under advisement, and in some cases the kid’s wishes will be honoured unless there’s a persuasive reason not to, and in some jurisdictions which one it is depends on the age, while in others they may not be heard at all until they’re above the prescribed age in that area (which may or may not be linked to the age at which people are deemed to be able to have limited criminal responsibility).

  69. HonorBox*

    I think that’s a recipe for disaster. While he needs to know, the LW needs to know that she’s protected well in advance of laying something like this in his lap. The fact that they had a relationship (even a short one) makes the work relationship something work would want and need to know about. Better to discuss the legal protections for child and work before sharing this with him.

  70. Maleficent2026*

    OP, I’m so sorry you have to go through this! But like Alison and others have said, your first priority is to protect yourself and your child.
    Is Jacob listed on the birth certificate? Depending on the country you live in, or state if it’s in the US, he may not have any rights unless a paternity test is done.
    Definitely consult with a lawyer. You need to understand both maternal and paternal rights of both your country and Jacob’s country. Would your child be eligible for dual citizenship in Jacob’s country? That’s something to consider as well.
    And third, depending on your child’s age and maturity level, find out what they want. Do they want to get to know their father? Or is it just enough to know that he’s finally been located? Would they want to get to know any relatives from Jacob’s family? If the child is old enough to make that kind of decision, I’d let it be their call on how much information to tell Jacob. But I think you might want to consider looking for a new job, this is only going to get more awkward.

    1. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

      Let Jacob look for a new job; why should the OP give up a good job and uproot herself

      1. Maleficent2026*

        Because this has a high potential to damage her professional reputation. If Jacob denies knowing her or denies sleeping with her, it becomes a “he said she said” situation. If he denies it really hard and becomes hostile to OP over it, the gossip over it is going to stick around a lot longer than if she got a new job and then told Jacob. This situation has a high probability of creating a LOT of drama and personally, I’d want to insulate my professional life as much as possible before setting off that bomb in my personal life.

  71. Nomic*

    I’m curious, why are people assuming that LW would have to leave rather than the father? Granted, there is probably a lot of capital tied into him: probably a Visa sponsorship of some kind, perhaps moving expenses from another country.

    As Allison said, it’s a mess.

    All that said, the father deserves to know, and to meet his child if they both wish it. Children aren’t possessions, and she has shown interest in meeting her parent.

    1. Aggretsuko*

      I presume because a manager is more valuable than just an employee, plus woman/discrimination, means her job is much more likely to be at risk compared to The New Guy. I’m worried about that for OP already.

    2. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

      I hope the OP gets advice from her lawyer about any right she may have to keep her job, since she is the established employee. Depends on the type of workplace, USA/Europe/unionised/govt etc.
      I’d try to hang on to a good job and not voluntarily quit in advance as some have suggested to avoid an awkward situation. See what her lawyer and HR can agree.

      Maybe an employee with proven skills would be considered more valuable than a completely new manager, especially if she would be entitled to a substantial severance payment for being let go when not at fault.

      Or maybe either the OP or Jacob could be moved to another position within the org so that he is not managing her.

  72. HalfTimeMom*

    Depending on the age of the child, she may not want to tell him immediately and she should focus first on this aspect first with the lawyer. It’s incredibly hard to suddenly add a parent to the equation and in many states he could in less than a year get 50/50 custody almost automatically after a DNA test and explanation he just found out and so it wasn’t abandonment. You can always get another job, you can’t get your kid back once full time that bottle is uncorked.

    1. Ex-prof*

      Yeah, in LW’s shoes I’d be thinking long and hard about when –and whether– to tell.

      Jason’s right to know doesn’t outweigh LW’s need to keep the job on which she’s supporting an entire child.

      And Jason could have found out at any time in the past, by asking.

      1. Maleficent2026*

        You’re assuming he had any reason to think she might have gotten pregnant, especially if multiple forms of birth control were used. I don’t think it’s reasonable to expect men to follow up with every past sexual partner to see if she got pregnant. Or for a woman to follow up with a man to tell him she’s not pregnant.

  73. Pennyworth*

    In a hypothetical situation where Jacob was aware of the child but the parents were not in a relationship, would there still be a problem with him being her manager?

      1. New Jack Karyn*

        I agree. Anything to do with custody, visitation, child support–there’s too many ways that conflicts in one arena can carry over into the other.

    1. Peanut Hamper*

      The fact that you have a child together automatically means you have a relationship.

      I mean, a lot of men would like to think otherwise, but yeah, that’s not at all how it works.

    2. Maleficent2026*

      You’re parenting a child together, OF COURSE you’re in a relationship. Doesn’t mean it’s a romantic one, but a coparent relationship is still one that should probably be disclosed to your employer. ESPECIALLY when one parent is managing the other parent. That makes me cringe just typing it out.

  74. Kevin Sours*

    My only quibble with the advice is the use of the singular when referencing legal consultation. OP probably needs to talk to both an employment attorney and a family law practitioner. Definitely a Charlie Foxtrot situation.

  75. Reality.Bites*

    I lost track of a co-worker/friend after his partner started an affair with my boss at the company holiday party and they broke up. (Not directly relevant, but how could I leave that out?)

    he has an uncommon first name *and* surname. I have no reason to think he may have left the country. And in 23 years since, I’ve never got a hit when googling him.

  76. Escapee*

    I think Alison’s advice is best. I’m just wondering the timeframe here. Usually, if a new manager is announced, their start date is imminent. If LW follows Alison’s advice, will she have enough time to consult with a lawyer and a therapist to decide how to handle this situation before the manager starts?!

  77. LW*

    Thanks for your comment at the top, Alison. The extent to which I tried to find Jacob wasn’t relevant to my question so I didn’t include the efforts I went to. For the commenters who are curious (understandably), I really did try when I first found out I was pregnant. I asked the other people we shared an office with, but no one had any information. We were students who shared an office and sometimes went to the uni bar together, we never spent any time together outside of uni. I asked Jacob’s thesis supervisor, but it was Christmas/Australian summer here so he was on leave for two months. When he got back, he gave me the address on Jacob’s file, which was of course the Australian address he didn’t live at anymore. The uni had a “next of kin” Australian contact number on file for his aunt, but no one ever answered it when I rang. Jacob is Chinese with a very common surname, and “Jacob” is just the name he used in my country, I don’t know his actual given name. So attempts to find the correct “Mr Wong”, in a country where they don’t use Google or Facebook, went nowhere. I searched for recent publications about Jacob’s thesis topic and found a paper with “Jacob Wong” as one of the authors. I contacted the “corresponding author” and asked for Jacob’s email but they never responded. By this point, I had to give up because I was so sick with hyperemesis gravidarum and needed to focus on my baby’s health.

    1. Peanut Hamper*

      Thank you for this, LW. You really didn’t need to provide all these details because people were just being ridiculous. You are absolutely right that the effort you made then is not at all relevant to the situation you are in now.

      I do hope this works out for you and your child (and Jacob, as well). You have all the Jedi hugs I can send you.

    2. Boof*

      Oof. I wish the commenters who asked could picture themselves as a grad student, going through pregnancy (which left me exhausted much of the time, sounds like you had it worse!!), trying to find someone’s contact info from the people who have a lot of power over your life (your lab, your school, your colleagues). How much would they want to tell everyone “i’m pregnant by my labmate and I don’t know his contact info; can you help me find him?” My guess is you wanted to tell him and not exactly all professional contacts the situation of course it was nigh impossible!!

    3. Aggretsuko*

      This all makes sense to me as to why you couldn’t find him, especially the Chinese name thing (it’s a huge problem in my job). No judgment from me on how hard you tried to find him!

      I hope you figure out how to handle the situation and it works out best for everyone. Fingers crossed for you and everyone else.

    4. Doc McCracken*

      The people racking you over the coals here are twits. In the meantime, resource yourself legally and support wise. Prepare for the Worst, but hope for the best. Best case scenario your legal counsel and HR can figure out a way to navigate the work side of this AND the guy you hooked up with back then is a decent guy who turns out to be a positive in your daughter’s life. Sending you so many prayers and good vibes from the US.

    5. Firefighter (Metaphorical)*

      Hello from Australia! Good luck – this is a big thing. I hope you have good supports to draw on.

    6. Kk*

      I cannot imagine what this feels like, and I cannot imagine going through a HG pregnancy “alone” – I don’t know what your village looked like, but I commend you. Best of luck with all the facets of the situation, your daughter, work, Jacob, legal, hr.

    7. kalli*

      LW – since you’re Australian, the best bet is actually for you to get in touch with your union, if you’re a member. They’ll be able to back you up at work, in relation to sorting out your reporting structure and ensuring you don’t lose out on any benefits or protections if you’re reassigned; you can have someone from the union come with you to any meetings about your role and they can help you in the moment with what to say and advise you on your rights. Because it’s Australia, you can’t be fired without cause without triggering dismissal protections of some form – but there are specific protections against being demoted/fired/harmed in your employment on the grounds of your family responsibilities (i.e. having a kid) that a union rep will be well aware of. Look up “fair work ombudsman” “adverse action” “discrimination” “family responsibilities” – you’re protected against losing pay, losing hours, being targeted for more of the crappy duties than anyone else, not just your role itself.

      The other benefit of talking to your union is that most of them have deals with law firms for low-cost or capped-cost legal services, and not just for employment law. You may additionally be entitled to a free initial consultation, where a referral through the state law association is generally flat-fee or very short, so the union route gets you a bit more than if you just rang up or walked in off the street, and may also get you a better lawyer or a faster appointment. They’ll also be able to work with your union if needed (and with your permission). If you just want to talk to a lawyer and not let your union in on the situation yet, that is also fine – you can just contact the state office or your rep and ask for the referral.

    8. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

      Most unfair and also unhelpful of so many twits doubting your honesty. Not everyone is findable on social media even nowadays. Personally, I’m unfindable via Google and my past universities do not have my contact details. I value my privacy.

      Also unhelpful to tell you to leave your job. Thank goodness you are in OZ not US, as your employer cannot just sack you because of this situation, as so many assumed.
      You have strong rights, so immediately union / lawyer to use them. Your rep should notify your employer in an orderly manner before Jacob starts actually managing you. In the meantime, just in case of an early walkaround, take down any family photos you have at work.

    9. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

      oh and best not to notify Jacob until you have taken legal advice, so you know your and his rights wrt the child. Always best to have all the info before shocking someone like this, so you can better answer questions.

    10. Observer*

      The extent to which I tried to find Jacob wasn’t relevant to my question

      I agree that it’s not relevant, and I’m sorry so many people were making a big issue of it.

      That said, it sounds like you took reasonable measures. Hopefully that will useful to you if he (or others who might be involved) try to make an issue of this.

      This is a tricky situation and I hope that everyone deals with it reasonably and that it all works out well for you and your child.

      1. Anonyme*

        Like many other commenters I was happy to take you at your word, sorry about all the piling on! I hope there’s some useful advice buried in the comments (hopefully the location specific advice at least is useful). All the best to you and your kid in sorting this out, I hope he responds well and you and your kid have exactly the relationship with him that you want (whatever that looks like).

    11. Burbonk*

      I literally used to find people for a living. I can find people who do not want to be found. Your situation would have honestly stumped me. The common name alone is going to stop most people.

    12. Rainy*

      Oh LW, I wish you and your daughter all the best in navigating this really unusual and potentially difficult situation. I’m sorry people in the comments were being jerks; I read some of the comments and thankfully they were already closed because I felt very tart about some of them and might not have been able to control myself!

      I went to grad school in another country, and high school in my home country, and have heard after many years that people who knew me from both of those times have tried and failed to find me until they found someone I’m still in contact with. And I don’t even try that hard to be invisible! ;)

      I hope that everything works out in the best way possible for you. Jedi hugs.

    1. Kicking-k*

      Actually… I could think of wilder. The two were students in the same research department; if it’s a smallish subject area, there might not be too many workplaces in a country where they would naturally gravitate to, and Jacob was presumably already open to living in Aus since he chose to come there for years as a grad student. Australia has less than half the population of the UK and I promise you we have weird coincidences here all the time (my husband and I grew up 300 miles apart, yet his ex studied in the same university department as my sister at the same time. This is not how we met, or even close.)

  78. Escapee*

    I think Alison’s advice is best. I’m just wondering about the timeframe involved. Usually when a new manager is announced, the start date is imminent. Will the LW have enough time to find a lawyer and therapist to work out how to handle the situation before the new manager starts?! Good luck!

  79. Katie K.*

    I haven’t read through every comment so I’m not sure if language has been provided yet as far as what LW can say in an email to Jacob directly, so here is my attempt:
    I’m not sure if you remember, but we studied together at X. Once you’ve settled in I would appreciate it if we could meet outside of work to discuss a situation from that time period that [might/will] be relevant to our current working relationship. Would you be open to meeting [for coffee/at Y location/on a Z day] at a time that is convenient for you?

    I’m sure someone more eloquent than I am could do better. Also, as others have said, definitely consult the lawyer/therapist/any other relevant professional first!

  80. LacieB*

    The one thing I don’t see discussed, how old is the child?! I think this is a VERY different situation if the kid is say 3 or even 8. But if the kid is a teen, well the parenting phase is almost over and of course it was harder to find someone only 10-15 years ago than now. I think a lot of people are viewing the kid as currently a toddler and that may not be true at all.

    That said, yes please consult a lawyer but also email the dad asap to schedule a call. I bet him remembers you, even if not the night in question.

  81. PEMDAS*

    This is more an issue of the order of operation than it is what to do. LW needs to tell the child and the father, but that should happen after getting her work situation secure. Talk to a lawyer, talk to HR, THEN talk to new dad once she’s secured employment that does not report to this company. It’s unfortunate but not anyone’s fault.

    1. Peanut Hamper*

      I like how you phrased this. It really is a “let’s get things in the right order” kind of situation, because of course the father has to be made aware. If he isn’t made aware now, he will eventually figure it out.

      1. Mad Harry Crewe*

        Not if she just leaves and never says anything, but it doesn’t sound like she wants to do that. He has no idea, he wouldn’t even know to go looking and I’m assuming the kid’s birth certificate doesn’t have anything to connect to him – since LW had that much trouble finding him, we know his name isn’t unique enough to stand out.

  82. Anon for this one*

    LW, I am sorry you are experiencing this. It just be really stressful.

    I would definitely follow Alison’s advice about seeing a lawyer (and make sure they are a skilled employment law specialist) and a therapist. If your child is under the age of 18, I would also advise speaking to a lawyer who is a family law specialist.

    What this is, at its core, as a classic conflict of interest scenario. All your employer really needs to know is that there is a conflict of interest that prevents you and Jacob from being in each other’s management line. You should not have to leave your job or company because of this. If anyone should be moved, it’s Jacob.

    I work with a very large multinational company and, in my home country’s offices, I’m usually the person to deal with interesting or unusual situations, such as this one. While I’ve never seen this exact situation, I’ve seen ones akin to this featuring estranged family members and an estranged couple, and we just ensured they were not in each other’s management line. That’s it.

  83. SB*

    Parenting is HARD. Single parenting is HARD. This situation is…wow…I have nothing useful to add but am sending some good wishes to you. I hope this all turns out as well as it possibly can for your child & you.

  84. Kathleen Graas*

    What is not mentioned here is the fact that a child should have the RIGHT to know who their father is. It is heartbreaking for the ones who only find out after their father is deceased. And I believe this man should be told that he has a child; what he does with that information is up to him. Finally, YES, this woman should be looking for a new job immediately, and should definitely contact an attorney before revealing the fact. I’m not so sure she needs therapy any more than any other woman, as she has had years to deal with the emotional impact of the situation…and appears to have done so very well. But her child would probably benefit from it, especially after the father is advised.

    1. Peanut Hamper*

      Agreed on the first point, but why on earth should LW have to get a new job? She was here first, is presumably doing well, and it is not her fault that her father’s child (who was last known to be–literally–on the other side of the planet) is now her manager. This is just ridiculous.

      1. Boof*

        It’s not really anyone’s “fault”, but depending on the situation involved, the one who is easiest for the company to replace will probably be the one moved of the reporting chain – much hope it’s in a way that works out well for all

      2. SpaceySteph*

        She *shouldn’t* have to get a new job, but until she knows for sure how it will be handled, it would be prudent to be looking for a job. And if she gets another offer, she would be negotiating from a position of strength, if it comes to that. Nothing is lost by sprucing up her resume and sending it out a few places while waiting for this to be resolved.

    2. Quill*

      Sometimes a therapist is for strategy, advising how to address a tricky situation with the child, practicing and developing scripts, having an adult to talk to about the situation that is not involved with it (family and friends outside of work may have some opinions regarding Jacob, based solely on the fact that he hasn’t been around – which isn’t anyone’s fault actually, but is traditionally not a good look after it’s been passed down the family gossip chain.)

  85. Retired But Still Herding Cats*

    Most commenters seem to assume LW has sole control of the disclosure decision and timeline.

    She almost certainly has control of when/whether to disclose Jacob’s relationship to their daughter.

    However, as soon as Jacob sees her name (if it’s unchanged and not terribly common) or meets her, HE may head straight to HR to disclose the conflict (just on basis of the one-night stand) and seek resolution.

    I’d certainly suggest that OP seek legal advice *urgently,* because she could be caught on the back foot if he recognizes her and discloses immediately to HR to avoid jeopardizing his standing with his new employer.

  86. WorkingClassLady13*

    Wow. I can’t imagine how hard this must be for LW (and possibly for Jacob, too, to receive such life-changing information in an unexpected way).
    I agree with most people’s advice to first consult with both an employment AND family lawyer to help her navigate this. And it’s imperative that she get her order of operations right to protect herself, her child, and their income.

    I also think it’s important to note that when she does disclose the situation to Jacob, that doesn’t necessarily mean *every employee at the entire company* needs to know about it. Depending, it could be just a private conversation between her and the father, or them and HR.
    No one is really at fault here and from the info we have, neither deserve to have their professional reputation damaged.

  87. Jasmine Tea*

    “Unless Jacob’s real name is John Smith I find it utterly impossible to believe in this day and age that OP has been unable to trace him ‘over the years’ to tell him that he has a child.”

    Well, what if his name is 陳亞哥? What is she only knew him by his English name which is not anything like his legal name?

    1. Ace in the Hole*

      Heck, I’ve had roommates I lived with for the better part of a year and only knew by a first name or nickname. Good luck tracking down “Bubba” months after he’s left the country.

    2. Random European*

      Or his name might just be, well, Jacob. If he’s Scandinavian, that is a pretty common name. Add a -sen/son last name and good luck finding the specific one if you don’t have anything more specific to help you along. I mean, Denmark’s got almost a thousand “Jacob Nielsen”s, if we try our most common surname. Good luck scrolling through Facebook or Linkedin.

  88. Elizabeth T*

    1. call lawyer **before anything else**, a family law specialist. What are your obligations to him & your rights? What are his to you? Can he demand joint custody, visitation? What are your *child’s* rights?
    In the US, fathers’ rights vary greatly from state to state. Take NO advice from anyone not a lawyer in your state.
    Being a foreign national will add more complexity.
    best wishes

  89. Yellow cake*

    That is definitely a tricky situation. Please do speak with Jacob before you speak with anyone at the company. He deserves to hear about his child from you directly – not from his employer choosing to get it in front of a difficult situation. I hope your employer is sufficiently large that an alternative reporting line is easy without either of you losing your jobs.

    Please also be understanding if Jacobs’s reaction isn’t ideal. As much as this has thrown you it’ll be far far more disruptive for him. He may be angry, hurt, humiliated. He may feel cheated. He may be scared. He might have a family that will be completely thrown by all of this as well! However he reacts, keep it to yourself (and therapist) so it doesn’t risk causing bad feelings between him and his daughter. An unplanned pregnancy from a one night stand would be unsettling enough – but at least with a pregnancy you’ve time to get your head around it.

    Definitely look at counseling for you, and also your daughter. This will be very disruptive for her as well.

    And take things slowly. Yes you need to sort the work situation out, but you don’t have to sort everything quickly.

  90. Updates please*

    Ignore all the negative nancies. I’m shipping you and Jacob so hard, if not in love, at least as wonderful, close coparents.

  91. Garlic Microwaver*

    Where did the OP comment with more information? The jump link A provided in her note up top only leads to more commentary from others.

  92. Hybrid Employee (Part Human, Part Wolf)*

    This feels like a wonderful, inverse companion piece to the guy who ghosted his cohabitating girlfriend who then became his boss years later. It’s what the kids call “equal and opposite energy.”

  93. Fishwife*

    Gosh, I wish you luck with this. I agree with contacting the lawyer and the therapist as soon as possible. Also, remove all family photos from your office, computer, and the company servers until you decide your path. After that I don’t know if I would be in a hurry to say anything until you see how he manages and the quality of person he is today. As many others said, this is all about protecting your child.

    My heart goes out to you and your child.

  94. Anonymous, Because Wow Do I Disagree*

    I’m late, and I’m maybe going to make myself unpopular, but I think AAM really whiffed this one.

    She does NOT need to tell Jacob. He accidentally passed along some of his genetic material years ago. He is not the kid’s “father” in any meaningful sense. It does not have to affect their work relationship in any way. She may look at him a little funny for the first few weeks, but then it will be a non-issue. (They’ll be looking at each other funny anyway because of the one-night stand, but trust me, they’ll get over it.)

    And—please don’t mind me as I stand on the table and shout this—it doesn’t need to be a drama for the kid unless the adults around her lose their shit and make it one.

    I know because I’m a single mom. (By choice, anonymous donor.) I dealt with the issue by saying “No, we don’t have a dad in our family. We also don’t have a brother. Or a dog. All families are different.” Mostly it was her preschool friends who asked, and I made it seem normal and boring, and I made it a fact about our family and not a fact about her.

    People do lots of emotional projecting all over single-parent families. They’re imagining if their own dad or partner were suddenly ripped away from them. It’s not like that at all. Just let the kid continue with her perfectly fine, *intact* family the way she’s always done.

    OP, if you’re still reading, and if you feel at all like I do about this, I’ve got your back.

    (I suppose some might be thinking that this is about the bio-dad, that he has a RIGHT to know that he’s a FATHER. I just don’t have a lot of patience for that argument. If there was no relationship between the two adults, no intention to create a child, no contact since the deed happened, then it’s just really none of this guy’s business.)

  95. Trek*

    Hey OP
    If you are Australian and not Asian you probably want to remove any pictures of your daughter from your office until you know what you want to do. Jacob may realize he has a daughter based on photo and her age. Maybe not but I would by myself some time. I would recommend this to anyone especially if the child favors their father.
    if you decide not to tell Jacob I would find out everything you can so that if one day you want to tell your daughter who he is she’ll know how to find him.

  96. Lieutenant Dan!*

    For anyone doubting whether LW tried hard enough to track down her childs father ~
    Around 2018 my parents travelled to China for a holiday.
    I (based in Melbourne, Australia) was not able to communicate with either of them for weeks because China shut down social media sites like Facebook, FBook messenger, and Google/Gmail.
    My parents had a great time, and are now back in Melbourne safe and sound.
    But I don’t doubt for a second how hard it was for LW to find ‘Jacob’.
    I have nothing but compassion for LW and her child.

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