For many gay men, a "gay lifestyle" equates to spending hours at the gym, bar-hopping with friends, weekend getaways, ascending the ladder in one's career, maintaining an immaculate home, and listening to "pride" anthem music. As a result, there are those who feel that gay life and raising kids go together like oil and water. Despite these implicit differences, it turns out a growing number of gay men are choosing to enter into parenthood by merging multiple identities.
Gay parenting is becoming more common, and it's changing parenting forever. The dynamic of juggling being parents and allowing ourselves to be ourselves—gay men—is an important part of every gay parent's journey. A lot of gay fathers are breaking their silence and beginning to speak openly and plainly about the challenges of being a same-sex couple raising children. I recently appeared as a guest speaker on daddysqr.com, a podcast for and about gay dads. In particular, we talked about specific issues that may arise for gay couples having children and about what can happen when a gay couple brings kids into the picture.
Many gay dads describe going through a difficult transition period after becoming parents due to the many necessary sacrifices (e.g., unpaid leave from work, time off from the gym, lack of sleep, less nights out with friends, and financial sacrifices). While living the illustrious life may not be as easy with children, there are certainly ways of maintaining some semblance of normalcy without sacrificing your identity. Gay dad, author, and creator of the podcast daddysqr.com, Yanir Dekel has written a column for the Huffington Post offering practical advice for first-time parents on how to navigate some of the unexpected difficulties of parenthood. Yanir told the Huffington Post "My husband and I met, got married, and then had children…But that's pretty much where we wanted 'Ozzie and Harriet' to stop and 'Ru Paul's Drag Race' to kick in."
Yanir said that clear communication and consistency around scheduling helped him and his husband better manage the demands of parenting so that they could both keep their jobs, their health and their self-esteem. "As part of our schedule, my husband and I decided to give each other an 'afternoon off' every week." While his husband took care of the babies, Yanir would meet up with friends, go to coffee shops, or workout. For him, this time away was invaluable and inevitably helped him keep some semblance of sanity.
Some of you may be asking yourselves is it worth the sacrifice to become a gay dad? Of course it is. There are few things in life you can invest in that will have as much of a profound return-on-investment as raising a family of your own. Seeing your child smile at you and giggle, knowing your child is happy to have you in their life is one of the rare joys life can afford. "For me, I found that seeing other people throwing love at my kids, talking to me about what it's like being a gay dad, and even just smiling at me when they see me walking around with the stroller, strengthened me in a weird kind of way…" Yanir affirmed. Additionally, some say that becoming a parent changes your perspective of what is really important in life. Yanir wrote, "It's true, [parenthood] changed us…made us men who could start to find our way with these new people."
Gay parenting is a kind of a brave new world. There's an opportunity here to make gay dads raising children a meaningful and valid thing in its own right. Research has shown over and over that children raised by same-sex parents show no difference in overall well-being as compared to other families. Research also shows that because gay men experience stigma and exclusion by the dominant culture, they have to overcome numerous adversities, which inevitably shapes who they become as parents. This can end up being a real strength that they show their children how to overcome adversity just by them being themselves. They demonstrate how to create and construct a positive identity out of oppression. And also it is common for gay fathers to spend more time playing with their children than do heterosexual fathers. They also tend to engage in non-binary gendered play, for example, collecting baseball cards and racing hot wheels but also playing dolls and dress-up.
Becoming a gay parent is like discovering the amazing pot of gold waiting for you at the end of the rainbow. Being gay parents means we have the opportunity to raise our children to be more compassionate and accepting of diversity and self-exploration. The time is now for gay fathers. Let's show the world what awesome parents we can be!