Divas and Dudes

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Categories Family, Relationships

Contrary to popular lesbian stereotypes, the majority of our friends are straight with most of those having kids. We’ve been to exactly one gay bar exactly one time and it was about as both appealing and appalling as any other bar. Neither of us are man-haters. I won’t leave the house without lipstick. We’ve been together nearly nine years, we’ve both been highly involved in our church, and many of our straight friends have been to more Pride Parades than we have, primarily because we’ve been to exactly zero of them. As if that doesn’t raise enough eyebrows, we went about embarking on a journey to get pregnant.

For we same-sexers, getting pregnant is a deliberate, planned, and oftentimes prayed for occurrence. “Oops!” is never a part of our conception story. We correct the doctor’s estimated delivery date because we know Exactly. When. It. Happened. Being a new mom turns your world on its ear. Being a mom of twins presents its own unique challenges. Being a lesbian mom add several layers of trickiness.

One thing I’ve learned as a mom of twins is that we have to anticipate as much as possible, plan as best as we are able, and be prepared for the unexpected. One thing I’ve learned as a lesbian mom is that you pretty much have to do that in almost every area of your life due to the often-experienced discrimination against same-sex couples.

Medical care, for example. None of my straight friends had to first interview their fertility clinic, their OB/GYN, the pediatrician, and the daycare to determine their level of openness and willingness to help me get pregnant, deliver, treat, and care for our children. The conversations often went something like this: “Hi, my name is Rachel and this is my partner, Jennifer. I am pregnant with twins and after they are born, Jennifer will also adopt them. We will both be their moms. If this is an issue for you personally or with the staff in general, please let me know now so that we might find a more open and professional provider. Your clinic/practice/school comes highly recommended but with all the other things that will come at us with twins, we need to know that those we entrust for the care of our children are supportive of our family structure.” I am grateful to say that we chose the best providers and all of them stayed on board. Not so on the spiritual front.

Do you know how hard it is to find a church that is open to and accepting of a two-mom household? Try locating a couple of those in your area that isn’t the “gay” church or some one-off splinter denomination. And once you do, does it have a good children’s program? Does it have a children’s program at all? Does the worship style fit with the ways you feel most connected? Do people avoid shaking your hand during the giving of Peace because a husband isn’t around to make them comfortable? As open as our mainstream Methodist church is in general, there was a small but palpable sense of displeasure that the pastor baptized the children of a same-sex couple in their church.

Godparents & Pastor

Growing up, I was very involved in my youth group and Young Life; I was the President of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. I received my undergraduate degree from a southern Baptist university, where I was also a Young Life leader. So it’s no wonder that I’m surrounded by many people for whom my coming out kind of threw their preconceived notions of what a gay person was like through the cross shredder. I am so blessed that many of those friends have come out in a way themselves: more accepting, more open to others unlike themselves. A handful in my life did not, particularly after I decided to get pregnant.

One of the favorite questions of the disapproving is “who will be the male figure in their lives?” asked with the connotation of “Gotcha, bitch!” and the inflection of shards of glass. Unsurprisingly, my friend whose husband was killed in a tragic car accident when she was five weeks pregnant has never been asked that question. Ever.

Still, it’s a fair question – one that I’ve thought about ever since we decided to get pregnant. More so once I knew that one of the twins was going to be a boy, and particularly since our son is outnumbered 3 to 1. Which means that he is four times more likely (I’m counting the nanny) to see a woman do an activity to model from than he is a man. Take, for example, the benign fact that we often put a bow in our daughter’s hair because (a) they’re super teeny and cute, and (b) she’s got long bangs that need help staying out of her face. About half the time, though, she yanks the bow out of her hair and tosses it to the ground. Last week, I saw my son go pick up the newly discarded bow and put it to his head, holding it there and looking up at me.

I think for most diversity-inclined, open and reconciling folks, his action might be understood as mimicking behavior that he observes, maybe even seen as cute. For the homophobes, it would be precisely the reason that gays shouldn’t have kids because a 12 month old putting a bow to his head wouldn’t have happened if there was a man around and gay people are just breaking down families across the country leading to economic depression, terrorism, and swine flu.

When it comes to clothing and appearance, yeah, I’m a little sensitive to gender stereotypes. As a lesbian mom, I think twice about putting Mateo in his pink Ralph Lauren boys polo shirt that is friggin adorable because omg how would that LOOK? So when he wears it, I’m sure to pair it with rugged blue or otherwise clearly boy shorts or pants, all the while telling myself how absurd the logic is.

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I am also a very practical person, however. We (very gratefully) receive lots of hand-me-over’s from friends and from Jennifer’s clients, so there’s lots of clearly boy and clearly girl clothing in the closets and drawers. If I’m doing the shopping, more often than not, I economize on the bottoms by buying boy clothes (like sweatpants and cotton shorts) that our daughter can wear as our son grows out of them. I mean seriously, it’s gray sweatpants! Does she really need pink ones or gray ones with a pink flower to let the world know they’re for girls? My checking account says no. I’ll differentiate with the tops, thanks. Plus, have you seen how short the summer shorts are for little girls? For crying out loud.

Diva

Harper is more cold-natured and will still sleep in poly/fleece footed pajamas. The pajamas that were given to her brother. The same ones that have footballs all over them. Just two days ago I was going to return some pajamas that I had purchased for Harper because I had looked in their closet and found that she still had all of Mateo’s 18 month pajamas she can still fit into for a while(on average, there’s a two inch and two pound difference between the two). But then I thought “you know what? She doesn’t have any of her OWN pajamas and I am going to keep this cute lady bug ruffled sleeve pajama set for her after all.” So in my practicality, I still aim for fairness. Right now, we generally have a no-dress rule in the house. Not because we don’t want to put Harper in the girl box, but because quite frankly, I think it’s just cruel to put a little girl crawler in a dress which invariable gets caught under the knees.

I was once asked by a co-worker “which one of you follows the man’s role in the house?” I am not even kidding. He was referring to household chores such as mowing the lawn and changing air filters and taking out the trash, but still. If I were step back and watch us in motion, it would look a bit of a dance: Each of us alternative which baby we bathe each night, putting the kids down together, then one of us cleans up the bath area which the other gets dinner started while the former cleans up the kids’ dinner area, then eating dinner together, then one of us tidying up the play room while the other cleans up the kitchen. On a Sunday evening, one of us restocks diaper stations while the other takes out the trash. I’m better at the bills. She’s better able to accommodate the lawn during the day due to her flexible work schedule. Because we both share in all the responsibilities of our household and child-rearing, our children will witness a sense of balance because of it.

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For us, navigating the waters of gender norms with boy/girl twins reaches far past clothing selection and chores and their play. The key will be to grow two children that are independent, confident, and respectful of themselves and others. And I think most parents would agree with those goals, regardless of what their gender profile is.

I’m not minimizing the role of a man in the everyday life of a child. And for us, both our children will be afforded generous time with their grandpas and uncles and our male friends. Our situation isn’t perfect. But neither is anyone else’s.

Being same-sex parents certainly accentuates our concerns for fairness and equality for our children, both in terms of teaching them how to respect those around them and in terms of our hopes for environments that will be supportive of their family. We are fortunate to be surrounded by people in our lives who have been forging well worn paths of fairness and equality long before we came out and long before we decided to have kids. And those folks are straight! In addition, we don’t have to look much further than some of the contributing writers here on HDYDI to gain perspective on the fact that a little boy trying on something of his sister’s doesn’t necessarily have to be a big fucking deal.

So how do we go about handling the gender norm stereotypes? It’s day to day. I’ll keep letting you know how its going. For now, I’m off to finalize the order for two dolls I’m purchasing, one each for Mateo and Harper. None of the dolls’ clothing will be dresses. And none of it will be pink or blue.

Mother's Day Lunch

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27 thoughts on “Divas and Dudes”

  1. Awesome post! Truly, we all seem to face similar challenges in parenting and in life, but sometimes from very different angles.

    And I’m with you on no dresses for crawlers, it’s just cruel! They work a lot better when they’re full-time walkers. :-)

    Thanks so much for sharing your story!

  2. What a wonderful post. You have a beautiful family.

    I wish people were open minded, but look forward to a time when this is a non-issue. I know it’s coming.

  3. I absolutely LOVE this post. You have a most beautiful family, and Harper and Mateo are so fortunate to have you and Jennifer as their parents. Would that all children had such a loving couple as their model for committed relationships.

    Would you consider submitting this entry to a mainstream publication such as Newsweek? It seems that there may be interest by these sorts of publications, especially now with the recent decisions in favor of gay marriage in states across the country. This post needs a larger audience than a relatively small group of moms of multiples!

  4. I ditto what Michelle said! This would be an awesome article for the general public to read. Some people (some, not all) are ignorant just because they haven’t been exposed to diversity in their life.

    And I agree with you and most the other moms on here – my boys can wear whatever color I want (or they want once they’re old enough to dress themselves)!

    Oh and BEAUTIFUL baptism pic!

  5. I have to say, this is one of my all-time favorite posts ever! I love the honesty, love the strength, love the love. Your children are so very fortunate to have two amazing parents, no matter the gender (or race or class or what-have-you). Your children will learn so much from a balanced relationship where both partners play equal roles in their care. At least, that is what I hope Jon and I are teaching our boys… that both parents have a responsibility in childcare, home care, auto care, etc.

    Thank you for contributing this to HDYDI, the blogosphere, the world!

  6. Great, thoughtful post. We have friends who are a lesbian couple with a new baby, and I often think about how much more difficult that experience must be.

    I’m going to put in a plug for the Unitarian church. Very welcoming with great kids’ programs—and if you find a more Christian one, it’s more traditional than some of the more liberal (not sure if that’s the right word) ones.

  7. This post ROCKED! I am a women’s studies major and try SO hard to throw out all the gender stereotypes. We have a green and yellow nursery, our playroom is primary colors, our dolls don’t wear clothes, etc. Funny about the bow- our daughter has long hair and in order to get her to wear a headband we let (more like encouraged) our son to wear it for a few days. After she saw him in it she was all in! Before that, no way. He still sometimes will ask to put one on. I always let him. Who cares?! I love this post and I love your family!

  8. What a beautiful family! Thanks for sharing your perspective. To me it sounds like your children get exactly what they need – love. And they seem to have a good perspective on the teamwork needed to run a household and care for a family. That’s more than many families can say.

    I have b/g twins that are 4 and a half now. I will confess that my son wore little bows in his hair and got his nails polished (still does on occasion). He’s surrounded by girls – his twin, his younger sister and me – most of the time, so it didn’t feel right to exclude him when he just wanted to take part in what everyone else was doing. As he started preschool, he has picked up on the fact that boys don’t (usually) wear bows, and he has lost interest. I can only recall one time when my husband really had a problem with it, and he came around when he saw how sad my son felt by being excluded. I didn’t do dresses very often for my daughter until she was older for practical reasons. Now she and her sister can scarcely bare to go a day without one. I’m not a “dress person,” but my girls LOVE them. Go figure! However, they certainly have interest in stereotypically “boy” toys – e.g. cars and trains. In fact, my younger daughter was obsessed with “Cars.” She wanted a Lightning McQueen birthday cake and potty-trained in boys’ Lightning McQueen underwear – which totally motivated her and she trained SO easily!

    Every family does things differently, and as long as the kids are happy, healthy and well-adjusted, it’s no one else’s business!

  9. Thanks so much for sharing your perspective and experiences (and really cute photos)! Funny, my daugher is right now sleeping in her brothers outgrown PJs, cars and all, same rationale.

  10. You have a beautiful family.

    Bless you, I hadn’t even thought about how obnoxious it must be to worry about stuff like the pink shirt on a boy, which no one would think twice about if he didn’t have two moms. Ugh.

    My husband and I have two boys and two girls. Our girls (especially the surprise one that came after the boy twins) have worn tons of “boy” clothes and will continue to do so until they refuse. My sons have worn make-up and princess dresses many, many times.

    I really related to your post regarding church selection. I grew up in a Southern Baptist church, and I can’t raise my children in the same sort of church. Not that mine was awful, but I don’t believe that way. A church’s stance on same-sex marriage has come to be my litmus test for whether I could go there… but none of the more liberal churches around here have much of a children’s program. I’ve thought about sending my kids to Awanas on Wednesday nights at a Baptist church, and then going to a United Church of Christ on Sundays.

    Anyway, thanks for your well written article.

  11. Thanks for a wonderful post. We all hope for our children to grow up in an open-minded world. Thanks for contributing to such a world.

  12. Wish you guys were in my community…You sound like the right role models to me!

    I have b/g twins who are 4 now. My son – who is ALL boy, such a bruiser! – frequently requests to wear bows in his hair like his sister. And his favorite color is pink. He likes the pink pull-ups at night MUCH better than the blue ones. And chose a pink potty at the store. :)

    My point is – pink and other “girly” colors are much more flashy than the typical “boy” colors … and boys are going to like them no matter if they’re raised by same-sex couples or not.

  13. What a beautiful, honest, loving post. (Of course, pictures of your family never hurt either!)

    Our sons wear bows in their hair as well. And barrettes. And headbands. And tiaras. And they both rock high-heels better than I do. And their FATHER is the one who is the predominant care-giver M-F (which we get funny looks for all the time, BTW). So, yeah, boys will do what they do. And it sucks that society would ever force you to think twice about how you may be perceived for something as trivial as what your children are wearing (or playing with).

    I think you two are amazing Mommies and Harper and Mateo are lucky to have you. With all these women around him, Mateo will probably be the most respectful young man in his school!

  14. Umm…as a mom of twin boys I think I can safely assure you that Mateo has the “boy” thing under control…pink polo or not :)
    He absolutely cracks me up! I love your blog..BTW!

  15. I am a parent of a mom and dad household and our boy twin tries to put bows in his hair, wears his sister’s princess shoes and loves on the baby doll like no one else. I just laugh and say who freakin cares.
    I loved your post and think that you are doing a wonderful job. Shame on any church for judging you. Any one should be embraced to serve the god they choose.

  16. Thank you for being so open and honest with us. Your story had me laughing at some points and furious at others (a church that won’t accept you simply for who you love? bogus). As far as gender-stereotypes go, with four girls people often presume my husband must be sad not to have a boy in the mix. His response is usually “why? They can still work on the car with me and get dirty. They’re girls, not porcelain dolls.”

  17. What a beautifully written entry. I have been surprised that we haven’t been asked much about male role models for our triplets, especially since only one is a boy. When I’m out with them alone, I do get “only one boy, wow, he is in for it!” (what does that even mean?) and I just think “If only you knew he has two moms, also!”

  18. Great post. I second the idea of publishing this or a revised (expanded?) version on more mainstream media. It could help so much against prejudices.

  19. I admire you very conscious parenting and your honesty about the struggles you face as a same-sex parenting household.

    Having grown up in a community where gay/lesbian families were not uncommon (Capitol Hill, Seattle! WOOT!) I grew up with kids who had two mommies and, as adults, they are easily the most fair-minded, un-gender-biased, and self-aware people I know.

    I would consider that evidence that the very issues that you struggle with are the issues that will lead your children to be exactly the sort of people that you can be most proud of raising.

    I hope that I can impart the same level of thoughtfulness to my own boys. Despite my husbands involvement. ;-P

  20. What a wonderful, articulate post! I think you encapsulate a lot of concerns I have about gender stereotypes as I start to raise my little girl.

  21. Love your post! My partner and I have 10 month old twins, Hannah and Jacob. We live in Seattle, which is pretty queer family friendly, thankfully. You brought up some great points in your post.

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