Family Spotlight: Victor & Chris
Victor Fraley Self (V) is a fitness instructor and trainer, Chris Fraley Self (C) is the founder of Evolve, a real estate investment and management company; he also serves as Secretary on the Board of Directors of GLAAD, the GLBT media advocacy organization. They live in Los Angeles with their two daughters Coco and Kiki.
Victor and Chris and their daughters were featured in an episode of the Bravo reality series Pregnant in Heels entitled "Welcome to Hollywood". It earned a GLAAD Media Awards nomination for Outstanding Reality Program.
Answers have been condensed and edited.
Q: Can you tell us what your family looks like?
V. Well, there's me, Daddy, and Chris, who's Papa. Coco is four, and Kiki is almost two.
Q: How long have you guys been together?
V. Ten and a half years.
Q: Are you married?
V: Yes. We've gotten married three different times. First we had a commitment ceremony on St. Bart's in 2008. We got legally married in South Africa, where we had our honeymoon. And finally, when marriage equality passed in New York [in 2011], we got legally married in New York also.
Q: What was your life like before you had children?
V: Well, we were both very busy with our careers, before we had kids. I was working in fitness at the corporate level. I was traveling a lot, because I was director of operations for David Barton Gym. I oversaw the health clubs in New York, Miami and Chicago, and the expansion into Seattle. Chris was partner at Rockwood Capital, dealing with mergers and acquisitions, so he was traveling a lot. We had a house in Florida, so we were doing a lot of back and forth between New York and Florida.
Since we've had kids, I stopped working full time to stay home with the kids while Chris continues to work in real estate finance.
Q: How did you guys decide you wanted kids?
V: When Chris and I started dating, I was at an age and stage in my life where I wanted to settle down. I knew I wanted to have kids. A month into our dating I asked if he had an interest in having kids and he was like, "Yeah, I want to have kids." I guess he bought into the theory of having kids and I sort of bookmarked it for later use.
C: Yes, Victor was definitely the driving force. If he hadn't been so proactive it probably would have taken quite a bit longer to bring our dream to life. He was the initiator, the project manager. He made it happen.
Q: How did your family come to be?
V: We had both of our kids through surrogacy. We had the same surrogate for both of our kids. We maintain a great friendship with our surrogate, her kids and her husband. We considered all options, but decided to go with surrogacy. We thought it was going to be the most direct route to having a kid. Naively we overlooked some of the challenges that same sex and heterosexual couples face trying to get pregnant. Our first surrogacy was very challenging but in the end, Coco was born and that's the most important lesson from the (long) journey.
C: It took over two years.
V: As you can see, Chris is white, I'm black, and we wanted our kids to be biracial. We used the same surrogate but with Chris's sperm we used a black egg donor, and with my sperm a white egg donor. For us, we wanted both of our kids to identify with us ethnically.
Q: Any advice for others?
V: There can be a lot of setbacks, but you just have to hold on. You have to remember what the goal is. Having kids isn't easy. It doesn't always just happen. Be strong. Stay the course. Support each other. When we were trying to have Coco, we had a miscarriage. Chris and I processed it very differently, but we were able to support each other. The process of having a kid prepares you for parenthood: really challenging but exciting.
Q: Are your families supportive and involved?
V: Oh yeah. They're supportive, they're really involved. Our families live on the East Coast. My mother lives in Virginia; Chris's mother lives in Provincetown. (She happens to be a lesbian.) His father and his stepmother live in Connecticut. They're always here. They love the kids. They're always on Facebook. They're always calling them to talk with them on the phone. My mother calls Chris; his mother calls me.
C: We're very close to our families. They have always been very involved in our lives.
Q: Describe your life with children. Is it different from what you expected?
C: There are no vacation days. It's every minute of every day. I never internalized, before we had kids, how consuming it is. They need to be attended to 24 hours a day, seven days a week. There's no way around that.
V: We're very lucky. We have a nanny. But when we're in the house, as much as they love their nanny, the kids want to be with us. A couple of times Chris and I have gone out of town together for the night, or to New York for a couple of days; even then, the responsibility of parenthood never leaves you. You know that before you have kids, but what that entails on a minute-by-minute basis is really intense.
C: Just last week, Kiki ate too fast and started choking. Thank goodness we were there, but it made me start to think, what if we weren't there? I've just become more paranoid. It's just so hard for me to relax on the beach. Yesterday there was a little tiny earthquake about a mile from where we were sitting on the beach, and I was thinking, That's a sign of a bigger one coming. We're right by the water and there's going to be a huge tsunami. Half the time I was sitting on the beach I was plotting out our escape route, keeping an eye on the horizon, looking for that huge wave. I never thought about that sort of thing before I was a parent.
Q: What have been the best or proudest moments with your kids?
V: They are really like best friends. When I pick up Coco from school, she wants to know if Kiki is up from her nap. When they get out of the bath, they want to wear the same PJs. They really love each other, that's what I'm really proud of.
V: When Kiki wakes up in the morning, she asks, "Where is Coco?" When Coco wakes up, she's like "Is Kiki awake yet?" I'm really happy that they're developing a bond as sisters for the rest of their lives. I know that if something happens to us, they'll have each other.
C: Kiki will just come out and say I love you. I absolutely melt.
Q: How do you foster that love?
C: Parents can really help direct that. We tell each of them all the time, "You're so lucky to have a sister."
V: We encourage them to give each other a hug before they go to bed. Say good morning to one another. They may seem like really little things, but those are the things that create a relationship.
C: We have girls, so we are becoming girl experts. They can become really competitive with each other or they create a situation where they help each other, and that's what we're encouraging.
Q: Are you planning any more children?
V: If the opportunity presented itself, we might.
C: We're getting a little old, and probably, if it doesn't happen in the next few years... Our situation is just so perfect right now. The girls are really good sleepers...
V: And we're getting out of the diaper phase!