Expert Advice

5 Keys to Emotional and Sexual Wellness While Raising Kids

How can two men raising small kids keep emotional and sexual wellness at the top of the list?

Recently I've had the marvelous experience of seeing my children attempt to decipher the English language, from sight words to phonics and everything in between. The struggle is real and tangible, but also so worth it to witness the development of their brains in such complex yet systematic and elegant ways. I try to appreciate those moments, because a moment later they do the stupidest shit on the fucking planet—for example, take a Jedi lightsaber, point it up my nose, and, without any reservations, pull the trigger, all the while laughing—and all that appreciation for our maker goes right out the window.


I often ask myself, how can two men raising twin boys continue the romance we had prior to having kids, and still keep sexual relations at the top of the list? Ha. Don't make me laugh. Priorities change. Or maybe you change? Fuck, something changes, I assure you. But my goal has always been to achieve emotional and sexual wellness for myself and my partner, while still keeping our children top priority.

When we talk about wellness, we mean the quality or state of being healthy in body and mind, especially as the result of deliberate effort. If you really focus on that definition, there is one word that stands out amongst all the rest: effort. Maintaining wellness involves effort, and not only yours, but also your partner's and your kids'. Without that combined energy, not only will your family not reach its true potential, but also your own emotional and sexual wellness will suffer. So, what's the key to success, you ask?

Frank Discussions

It is critical to have full-disclosure discussions on what you want out of life, specifically as it pertains to emotional and sexual wellness. Start with personal reflection and then move to discourse with every member of the family. Clearly, the discussion points will differ in conversations that are geared toward your two-year-old versus your partner or others in the household, but it's the simple act of disclosure and positivity that's key. I am not saying that it's always going to go your way or that it's your decision, or else. Life's a give and take, but the truest self-analysis allows you to create an evenly dispersed reality with the goal of fruitful and positive relationships. Remember: without being self-critical and diving deeper into the root of the cause, resolution or improvement will never be reached.

For instance, after five years of rearing our children, I finally decided that it was time to have a heart-to-heart with my partner, Andy. I told him that I needed some "me" time, and that I wanted to expand my practice to LA. This was not only strategic for my brand, Bespoke Surgical, but would also give me time to myself to reflect on what we—Andy and I—were actually creating: our family. Do I love to leave the kids? Hell no. Do I think it's important for my soul to be renewed? Totally. One week a month away allows me the other three weeks of living together to truly be in it one hundred percent. Sometimes in Andy as well, but maybe that's TMI.

Family Time

We are all such busy people, including our children! Raising them in New York can mean that every second of every day is accounted for. Understanding that there are only 24 hours in a day, the key is to carve out some dedicated family time. It's totally not easy and let me tell you, I get pulled in many, many directions all day, specifically when I come home. But we set rules and boundaries to facilitate success. Andy understands my passion for the kids, especially since I am away all day, and provides me with this time. And sometimes, we plan time alone with each child. This has been beyond successful for meeting each of our rambunctious children's differing needs.

Partner Time

Once the kids are tucked into bed, it can be you and your partner's time to catch up on any daily events, but more importantly, really hone in on the emotional side of things—positive and negative. This allows for appropriate decision making with the hopes of improved transformations. Also, this should lead to sexual topics on all things play and exploration. But let's leave the ass play discussion to the bottom. Oh, and one more thing: it's hard work and sometimes you may feel like you are walking a tightrope, but the fact remains—the clients I see that have successful relationships have one thing and one thing only in common: communication.

"Me" Time

I feel as if this is the most important time for emotional wellness and is most often forgotten or ignored. Time to yourself is essential for fostering positive parenting and relationships. Now, you can say that all day at work and during your commute, you are, in essence, "alone," but your mind is preoccupied during those hours and there's no way to truly focus on you as an individual to restore your soul. The work hard/play hard scenario holds so true in delineating the balance and I implore you to carve out some "me" time, engaging in the things that bring or restore pleasure into your life. It will translate to improving your relationships across all disciplines. Some may only need a short time to themselves, while others will need more time to recharge. Am I crazy for needing four days a month away? Actually, don't answer that. At least there's FaceTime!

Sexual Exploration

Lastly, without the above frank discussions, appropriate time management involving family, and partner and "me" time, any intimacy and sexual exploration will result in a limp dick. Now doesn't that suck (and not in a good way)? With all seriousness, intimacy in all forms and all of its complexities is such an important part of relationships and leads to obtaining full and complete emotional success. This clearly translates to improved relationships, let alone the most important one that we have formed: our family.

Some straight-forward questioning: are you getting what you sexually desire? Is your partner? Can you or your partner provide what is desired and, if not, who will and what are the rules of engagement (together, group play, or open the world)? Or do you, like me, want to just shut the fuck up and watch TV on the couch? That response is totally acceptable as long as everyone is in full agreement. The balance may never be truly 50/50, but just like the give and take with all other family rearing, this needs to be approached in a similar fashion. The exploration needs to be consensual, even if it's not your partner who is beside (or on top or beneath) you. And constant psychosocial and medical risk assessment is imperative to making sure everyone plays by the rules and the rules are deemed safe.

I know we covered lots of topics on the emotional and sexual identity as it pertains to you, your partner or partners, and the entire family. And I hope that you are not fleeing to Canada, like Julianne Moore in The Hours. But the reality is that the effort mentioned and the time commitment for both emotional connectivity and intimacy, when it comes to one's identity, is sometimes dismissed and ignored. Yet it is crucial to not only the success of your adult relationship, but also critical to the foundation of amazing parenting. And we as gay parents have given tremendous thought and/or financial resources in order to be afforded this luxury of having children—and we owe this retrospection to the integrity of its success. Go forth and be critical—most importantly of yourself.

Show Comments ()
Expert Advice

Your Surrogacy Questions —Answered by a Dad Via Surrogacy

We asked our Instagram community to send us their questions about becoming a dad through surrogacy

Dad Tyler Fontes (read his story here) recently shared his experience as a dad through surrogacy with our Instagram community via a question and answer session.

Read Joseph's responses below.

Keep reading... Show less
Expert Advice

Your Foster Questions Answered by a Foster Expert and Foster-Adopt Dad

We asked our Instagram community to send us their questions about becoming a foster dad — and Amara's Foster Care Services Supervisor Trey Rabun responded.

Dad Trey Rabun (read his story here) recently shared his experience as a foster Expert and a foster dad with our Instagram community via a question and answer session.

Read Trey's responses below.

Keep reading... Show less
Surrogacy for Gay Men

'Men Having Babies' to Make Case for New York Surrogacy Reform

Come this Friday to hear how Men Having Babies and other advocates plan to pass surrogacy reform in NY

Three MHB members lobbying in Albany, with Senator Brad Hoylman, who led the passage of the Senate version of the bill

Since it's very first meeting in the form of a 2005 support group for biological gay dads and dads-to-be, Men Having Babies (MHB) has been advocating and educating folks on surrogacy. This has taken place in the form of many elements including conferences for those considering surrogacy, their Gay Parenting Assistance Program which helps fund many gay men undertaking the expensive surrogacy journey to fatherhood, and their extensive directory and review system on surrogacy agencies and clinics.

MHB has recently moved further to make their conferences a meeting place for committed surrogacy and gay parenting supporters, including parents, surrogates, researchers, professionals, and policymakers by creating the Advocacy and Research Forum for Surrogacy and LGBT Parenting (ARF). The program provides opportunities for formal and facilitated discussions about topics and developments relevant to parenting through surrogacy and / or by LGBT parents.

Now, in the aftermath of the stalled Child Parent Security Act (the CPSA bill), which was set to reverse the ban on compensated surrogacy in the state of New York, Men Having Babies have gone a step further. As part of the ARF initiative, this Friday November 8 in New York City, Men Having Babies welcomes folks to join them at an open to the public event: The Case for NY Surrogacy Reform.

Keep reading... Show less
News

World's First Sperm Bank Opens for HIV Positive Donors

Sperm Positive, started by three non-profits in New Zealand, hopes to end stigma surrounding HIV and parenthood

"Our donors have so much to give," say the promotional materials of a new sperm bank. "But they can't give you HIV."

The new sperm bank, Sperm Positive, launched on World Aids Day this year by three non-profits as a way to fight stigma surrounding HIV and parenthood. For years, scientists have known that those living with an undetectable level of HIV in their blood thanks to antiretroviral treatments can't transmit the virus through sex or childbirth. Yet discrimination and stigma persists.

The sperm bank exists online only, but will connect donors and those seeking donations with fertility banks once a connection is made on their site. Sperm Positive was started by three New Zealand non-profits — Body Positive, the New Zealand Aids Foundation and Positive Women Inc. — who hope the project will help disseminate science-backed education and information about HIV and parenthood.

Already, three HIV positive men have signed up to serve as donors, including Damien Rule-Neal who spoke to the NZ Herald about his reasons for getting involved in the project. "I want people to know life doesn't stop after being diagnosed with HIV and that it is safe to have children if you're on treatment," he told the Herald. "I've experienced a lot of stigma living with HIV, both at work and in my personal life that has come from people being misinformed about the virus."

We applaud the effort all around! To read more about our own efforts to end the stigma surround HIV and parenthood, check out our recent round-up of family profiles, resources, and expert advice that celebrate the experience of gay dads living with HIV here.

Gay Dad Life

Top 10 Reasons You Should Date a Gay Dad

Jay Turner lays out the top 10 reasons you should consider dating a single gay dad

We're gay dads. Many of us were married to women, and for various reasons we eventually found ourselves single and looking for companionship from another man. Life is a little more complicated for us because we have kids. But that shouldn't deter you from seeking a relationship with a gay dad. In fact, there are many reasons why we make better partners than men without children. We are generally more mature, responsible, and emotionally available. We are also better communicators.

Here are the top ten reasons why you should date a gay dad:

Keep reading... Show less
Change the World

'Homosexuality is Wrong' Utah Teacher Tells Boy Who Gave Thanks for His Two Adoptive Dads

The substitute teacher went on to say two men living together is "sinful." She was fired shortly after.

To anyone with a heart, the moment should have done nothing more than bring a tear to the eye. Last week, just before the Thanksgiving break, a substitute teacher in a fifth grade class in Cedar Hills, Utah — just south of Salt Lake City — asked her students to name something they were thankful for this holiday season.

"I'm thankful for finally being adopted by my two dads," said Daniel, one of the boys, when it was his turn.

Rather than grab a tissue to dab her eyes, or ask the classroom to join her in a hearty round of applause to celebrate Daniel finding his forever family, the teacher took it upon herself to impart her personal religious beliefs onto the young boy. "Homosexuality is wrong," the teacher said in front of the class, adding that it was "sinful" for two men to live together.

The teacher, fortunately, was fired from Kelly Services, the substitute staffing company that employed her, quickly after the incident, but the moment is nonetheless receiving widespread attention in the press — no doubt in part because one of the boy's dads, Louis van Amstel of "Dancing With the Stars," posted a video clip to his 76,000 Twitter followers with the title: "Our child was bullied."

"It shouldn't matter if you're gay, straight, bisexual, black and white," he said to the New York Times in a follow up interview. "If you're adopting a child and if that child goes to a public school, that teacher should not share her opinion about what she thinks we do in our private life."

Louis also revealed that the moment may not have come to light were it not for three of his son's classmates, who told the principal about the teacher's bigoted comments. His son, Daniel, didn't want to report the incident for fear of getting the teacher into trouble.

Louis expressed thanks that the staffing company responded as quickly as it did following the incident — and also stressed that his neighbors and community have rallied behind he and his family in the days afterward, offering support. He wanted to dispel stereotypes that Utah, because of its social conservatism and religiosity, was somehow inherently prejudiced.

"It doesn't mean that all of Utah is now bad," he told the Times. "This is one person."

It's also true that this type of prejudice is in no way limited to so-called red states, and incidents like these happen daily. LGBTQ parents and our children are subjected to homophobic and transphobic comments in schools, hospitals, stores, airlines and elsewhere as we simply go about living our lives. These moments so often fly under the radar — many classmates don't have the courage, as they fortunately did in this case, to report wrongdoing. Some administrators are far less responsive than they were here — and most of us don't have 76,000 Twitter followers to help make these moments of homophobia a national story.

All that aside, let's also get back to what should have been nothing more than a heartwarming moment — Daniel, a fifth grade boy, giving thanks to finally being legally adopted into a loving family.

Change the World

9 Stories That Celebrate the Experience of Gay Fathers Living with HIV

This World AIDS Day, we dug into our archives to find 9 stories that bring awareness to and celebrate the experience of gay dads living with HIV

December 1st is World AIDS Day — a day to unite in our collective fight to end the epidemic, remember those we've lost, and bring much needed attention and money to support those who continue to live with HIV and AIDS. For us at Gays With Kids, it's also a time to lift up and celebrate the experiences of fathers, so many of who never thought they'd see the day where they would be able to start families.

Towards that end, we've rounded up nine stories, family features and articles from our archives that celebrate the experience of gay fathers living with HIV — the struggles, triumphs and everything in between.

Keep reading... Show less

Fatherhood, the gay way

Get the latest from Gays With Kids delivered to your inbox!

Follow Gays With Kids

Powered by RebelMouse