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7 Things I Learned About Parenting While in Europe

Having married a beautiful man from Spain (Mallorca, to be exact), I knew that I was signing up for many unforgettable trans-Atlantic adventures. From 2013-2018, these trips were full of late nights out with friends, backyard BBQs, discovering new beaches, and lots and lots of alcohol.

And then, on February 7, 2019, Baby Jasper bounced into our lives. As we packed for our first trip to Spain as a family of three, I knew this trip would be different. I committed to doing everything possible to mentally prepare myself for this new experience. But then I remembered I had a newborn at home and did absolutely nothing.


Taking a three-month-old to Europe is not for the faint-of-heart. A quick summary of our outbound journey:

  • 21 hours total travel time
  • 2 flights
  • 3-hour layover
  • 7 pieces of luggage
  • 1 cranky baby

The journey could be considered a success (unless you're referring to the German luggage handler who had to hold my baby while I figured out how to collapse our stroller on the tarmac at Munich International Airport). When we arrived in Mallorca, I was (very) dazed and (very) confused after being awake for the preceding 27 hours.

After such a harrowing voyage, we were lucky to be surrounded by family and friends almost immediately. Our apartment is located in the same building as Miguel's mom and sister so our support system was always just a stone's throw away. We rarely walked ten steps through town before being stopped by someone wanting to get a look at our beautiful newborn baby. It was incredible. It was exhausting. It was overwhelming. And, after a few weeks, I decided to (finally) mentally prepare myself for the trip.

I decided to let almost everything go from our first three months of parenthood in Canada. I wanted to learn what raising a baby was like it Mallorca. And, let me tell you, I learned a lot.

Life does not have to revolve around your baby all of the time

North American parenting is often dictated by the schedule of the children. If parents want to go out for dinner, you better believe that it has to work with The Schedule. Oftentimes, new parents are house-bound for most evenings due to Baby's strict bedtime routine.

In Mallorca, things were more flexible. If Dad planned on meeting friends for dinner, Baby will often come with. That's not to say that children aren't a priority; they are. But it always felt like they weren't the only priority. Parents would schedule their weekly plans and their children would simply come along.

Upon getting settled in Mallorca, one of the first things I noticed was how children were welcome everywhere. I remember being out at a bar at 10:30pm and spotting at least a handful of other families with children in tow (and sometimes their dog, too!). In Mallorca, public spaces are open to everyone.

You don't need to read 35 parenting books in order to be a good parent

During our first few months of parenthood, we were inundated with parenting advice and "recommended reading." I felt like I couldn't keep up. Not only that, but many of the books and articles would offer conflicting advice. There was always a new parenting trend that I'd never heard about. It was exhausting and disheartening. I can feel inferior without reading a single book!

Fast-forward to life in Mallorca and everything just seemed more simple. There was never any need to over-complicate things. In our three months there, I don't think I saw one parenting book. That's not to say we didn't receive advice; we did. But the advice never felt overwhelming. It was to-the-point, easy-to-understand tips and wisdom. The advice sounded more like wisdom that had been passed down from generation-to-generation. It was refreshing, manageable, and helpful.

Listen to, and observe, your baby

Listening to, and observing, your baby certainly aren't uniquely Mallorcan parenting techniques, but things felt less rigid on the island. Baby is hungry? Feed him. Baby has been napping for over two hours? Let him nap. Baby wants to drive the car? Okay, not yet.

Parenting felt very in-the-moment and designed to meet the unique needs of the baby. There never appeared to be a strong philosophical underlay to the ways in which parenting was practised. We took cues from our child to help point us in the right direction.

Babies can adapt to anything

In a period of three weeks, Jasper slept in 4 different beds/bassinets/cribs across two continents. With the exception of the sound machine, there was little consistency in his nighttime routine. And, you know what? We adapted every single time. Sometimes it took a couple of days, but he would inevitably settle into his new environment. His adaptability was a surprise, especially after repeatedly reading that babies needed consistency in order to thrive.

In Mallorca, it's not uncommon for children (including babies) to stay out well past 11pm in the summer months. We would walk around the village on any given night and see countless strollers. Peek your head inside and you will likely see a sleeping baby. And, if your baby happens to start crying uncontrollably? You just head home a little earlier than usual (like 11:30pm).

Babies have an infinite number of "aunts" and "uncles"

One of the most beautiful experiences of the past six months has been watching our child bond with both of our families. The best part being that this child was being showered with love and affection in three different languages.

In Mallorca, everyone in the community plays an important part in a child's life. Our close friends were considered Jasper's aunts and uncles. In many parts of Europe, grandparents often play an integral role in helping raise their grandchildren. Families in Mallorca tend to live close in proximity, so it was common for us to have a meal (or two!) with Jasper's extended family on any given day. In reality, grandparents aren't just family, but secondary caregivers. I was nervous about the lack of privacy this would result in, but I loved it. There was always an eager set of arms that would care for our child when we needed a break.

Babies wear cologne

Including Jasper. Not every day, but often enough that I will always remember the scent.

Babies love paella

Okay, this one's just a joke. He hasn't tried paella… yet.

***

I can't predict the long-term impact on my parenting as we settle back into life in Canada. But, after a month back on North American soil, these lessons are still influencing many of our day-to-day routines.

The biggest lesson to come from our first family trip abroad has been this: let it go. The reality of travel is that things are different. Embrace that. Let go of the comforts of home and welcome something new. I think you'll be pleasantly surprised.



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Diary of a Newly Out Gay Dad

A Gay Chiropractor Explains Why He Came Out to His Patients

After Cameron Call, a chiropractor, came out to his family this past year, he knew he had one more step to take — he had to come out to his patients

Fear is an interesting thing. It motivates when it shouldn't, shows at inconvenient times, and is the author of stories that do nothing but hold us back. I would argue though, too, that fear has some good qualities. I believe it helps us to feel. And I think it can be a great teacher as we learn to recognize and face it.

For years fear prevented me from embracing my truth and accepting a large part of who I am. I know I am not alone in that regard. But for so long my fear convinced me that I was. Fear is what kept me from ever telling my parents or anyone growing up that I am gay. Fear mingled with strong religious teachings, embraced at a young age, which led me to believe that I could cure myself of my attractions to the same gender. And fear is a part of what kept me in my marriage to a woman for over ten years.

Only so much growth and learning can occur when we limit ourselves to our fears. If people never did anything they were afraid to do, life would be incredibly boring and far too predictable. At some point we must face the things we fear and just go for it not knowing what will happen next.

After finally coming out to my ex-wife after ten years of marriage (see previous articles for that story), and eventually telling my family I knew there was one more step I needed to make.

I am a business owner. I am a structural chiropractor and am highly specialized in my field. Nearly four years ago I opened my own clinic, Horizon Chiropractic Center, in Phoenix, Arizona. I poured my whole heart, body, and soul into the creation of my practice and its growth. Opening a business fresh out of school is no simple task and I worked hard to build my practice with close relationships and word of mouth referrals. I established myself as an expert and built a strong reputation as a family man, and my ex-wife and kids were the face of my practice.

I loved and do love every person who has ever come into my office and treat them like family. We laugh together during visits, celebrate wins, cry together, often hug, and cheer each other on regarding various things in our life. That's also a large part of who I am: a people person. I enjoy spending quality time with those I am privileged to help. No one comes in my office and only sees me for 2-5 minutes.

Even though there was so much good that I had built into my brand and reputation fear eventually found its way into my business too. I was afraid of what would happen if people found out the truth. Would they be okay with having a gay chiropractor? Would they still trust me to be able to help them? Of course, the story in my head I was telling myself was much bigger and badder than it needed to be.

When we decided to get a divorce, I felt strongly that I needed to face these fears and begin telling a number of patients the truth of what was happening in my life. I know in reality it is no one's business but my own. However, I felt like I needed to let my patients who had become like family to me truly see me for who I am, and who I always was. And so slowly, case by case, I began to tell a select number of people.

I'll never forget the first patient I told. She had been coming in for years and was bringing her son in to see me who is on the autism spectrum. It was the day after my ex-wife and I decided to get a divorce and she could tell something heavy was on my mind. I eventually came out to her. The first words out of her mouth were "I am so proud of you!" We cried and hugged and it was the complete opposite of what I ever expected. And it was perfect. I felt loved. I felt accepted. I felt seen.

As time went on it got easier. And overall the responses were all completely positive and supportive. Out of all the patients I told and those who found out from other circles, only three stopped coming in to see me. Since coming out, my office has grown tremendously. My reputation hasn't changed. If anything, it's solidified. I can't help but think that part of that is due to finally embracing all of me and allowing others the same opportunity.

I read somewhere once that you never really stop coming out of the closet. And I've noticed that too. Sure, not everyone needs to know; it isn't everyone's business. And I hope that one day we live in a time period where fear doesn't prevent anyone from being seen. I want to contribute to the upward trajectory I think our society is headed of understanding, acceptance, support, and equality.

I would love to be able to say that after coming out publicly I no longer feel fear; but I do. And I think in some ways I always will no matter what. But that's part of life, right? Recognizing fear when we have it but then choosing to move forward out of love – love for others, but maybe more importantly love for ourselves.

Gay Dad Family Stories

This European Couple Became Dads Through a U.K.-Based Surrogacy Program

Janno, from Estonia, and Matthias, from Belgium, were accepted into the "Childlessness Overcome Through Surrogacy" Program.

Janno Talu, an accountant, and Matthias Nijs, an art gallery director, were born in different parts of Europe. Janno, 39, is from Estonia, and Matthias, 28, is from Belgium. Their paths crossed when the two moved to London, each from their different corners of the European Union.

Janno relocated to London earlier than Matthias, when he was 24, and his main reason for the move was his sexuality. "Although Estonia is considered one of the more progressive countries in Eastern Europe, when it comes to gay rights, it is still decades behind Western society in terms of tolerance," said Janno. "And things are not moving in the right direction." In 2016, same-sex civil union became legal, but the junior party in the current coalition government is seeking to repeal the same-sex partnership bill. "In addition," Janno continued, "they wish to include the definition of marriage as a union between a man and a woman in the country's constitution. Even today, there are people in Estonia who liken homosexuality to pedophilia, which is why I decided to start a new life in the UK, where I could finally be myself."

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A Gay Dad Asks: Is Destroying an Embryo Similar to Abortion?

It's a question many LGBTQ parents using advanced fertility treatments will need to face — what to do with "left over" embryos.

Let me start off by saying that I have always been pro choice and support all laws that allow people to have full reproductive rights including safe and legal abortions. This is a complicated subject and not one that I ever thought I would really have to deal with on a personal level, especially being a gay man.

I remember a very heated discussion on abortion in my biology class back in university. I was young, idealistic and had very strong convictions about abortion. I was debating with a female classmate who was pro life. She felt there was no reason for an abortion ever, not even if raped by your own parent or sibling. I could not really understand her position, then or now. Don't get me wrong, I still don't agree with her, but now that I'm older and wiser, and also a parent, I have come to respect and accept opinions other than mine.

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A Gay Dad Gains Clarity After a Health Scare

A recent health scare helped give Erik Alexander clarity.

Sometimes fear can cripple the mind and hinder ones judgement. Having children of my own, I have come to grips with accepting the things I cannot change and learned to take action when there is no other choice. When it comes to my own personal health, the future and well being of my family gives me all the clarity I need to make the right decision about any kind of health scare.

This episode is dedicated to all the parents out there that are going through or have gone through similar situations.

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Surrogacy for Gay Men

Interested in Surrogacy? Check Out These Bay Area Events This Weekend

If you're in the Bay Area this weekend, two major events are happening that will be of interest for dads-to-be and surrogacy advocates: the Men Having Babies San Francisco Conference, and the SF Advocacy and Research Forum for Surrogacy and LGBT Parenting (ARF)

If you're in San Francisco or the surrounding area, clear your calendar this weekend. Two events are happening simultaneously that are significant for dads-to-be AND surrogacy advocates: the Men Having Babies San Francisco Conference, and the SF Advocacy and Research Forum for Surrogacy and LGBT Parenting (ARF). For an outlines of both events, check out below.

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Gay Dads Show Up at Boston Event to Drown Out Anti-Trans Protesters

When Trystan Reese found out protesters were planning to show up to an event in Boston he was presenting at, he put out a call to his community for help — and gay dads showed up.

A couple months ago, Trystan Reese, a gay, trans dad based in Portland, Oregon, took to Instagram to share a moving, if incredibly concerning, experience. Reese, who works with Family Equality Council, was speaking at an event in Boston, and learned before his appearance that a group of protesters were planning to attend.

"As a trans person, I was terrified to be targeted by anti-LGBTQ people and experienced genuine fear for my own safety," Trystan wrote. In response, he did what many LGBTQ people would do in a similar situation — reach out to his community in Boston, and ask for their support. "And they came," he wrote. But it wasn't just anyone within the LGBTQ community that came to his defense, he emphasized — "you know who came? Gay men. Gay dads, to be exact. They came, ready to block people from coming in, ready to call building security, ready to protect me so I could lead my event. They did it without question and without reward. They did it because it was the right thing to do."

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Gay Dads Use 'TikTok' To Fight for Acceptance

Kevin and Ivo are fighting to normalize LGBTQ parents through TikTok, a growing social media platform

"Are we fearful we're going to turn our son gay?" Kevin DiPalma, a red-bearded man, asks the camera.

"No!" says Kevin's son, Nasim, says

"Are we worried about bullies when he gets to school?" Kevin asks next.

"Yes!" Nasim said.

Thus is the nature of the videos Kevin and his husband Ivo upload to their TikTok account, a widely popular and rapidly growing social media platform among young people.

Within 6 months, the family had 200,000 followers across their social media.

See a complication of some of their videos below!


Fatherhood, the gay way

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