Gay Dad Family Stories

This Couple Made an Album of Nursery Rhymes for Children With Gay Dads

Noticing a lack of representation, these popular social media dads made up a bunch of nursery rhymes just for gay families

With over 135,000 Likes on Facebook, and 50,000 followers on Instagram, Bud Lake and Manuel Santos, dads to two children via international surrogacy, have been sharing their lives with the world for the past 4 years. They are strong believers in the importance of visibility, and they use their platform to show the world that love makes a family.


Originally from New Jersey, Bud had been living in Madrid for 8 years when he met Manuel Santos. They were 36 at the time and both knew that they had found someone very special. They fell in love and began to plan their lives together. "We began talking about getting married and having kids pretty much from the day we met," explained Bud.

Manuel lived in Valencia. So after a year of dating, Bud quit his job and moved to Valencia to be with Manuel. Not long after, they began planning to have children. Their friends thought they were crazy to give up their social lives, vacations, romantic dinners, and professional careers so quickly, but they felt it was the right time. They moved again, to the suburbs of Valencia, to a small town of about 6,000 people to be closer to Manuel's family, parks, playgrounds, great public schools, and a great local community. "We both grew up playing in the streets of our neighborhoods without parents worrying about us all the time and getting home in time for dinner," explained Bud. And that's the lifestyle they wanted for their kids.

Bud kisses Manuel's cheek

Bud and Manuel chose surrogacy to grow their family and over 6 years ago, they started their first surrogacy journey in India and had their eldest, Álvaro. A year after he was born, the began their second journey in Thailand and in January 2015, their daughter Carmen was born. (You might remember reading about a gay dad family stuck in Thailand fighting for the right to bring their baby daughter home after a change in Thai law and a surrogate who went back on her contract: that was the Lake Santos family.) "Even though we hit a pretty big snag with our journey having Carmen, we wouldn't change anything about either journey," said Manuel. "We have forgotten about all the problems and have two healthy and happy children and a really beautiful family, and that's what's important." Both Thailand and India will forever hold a special place in Bud and Manuel's heart; both for the wonderful people they met, and the amazingly diverse and international family that they love.

Today, the family of four still live in the suburbs of Valencia and have a social following close to 190k, many of whom started following the family during Carmen's prolonged stay in Thailand. They share charming videos of Álvaro and Carmen talking about their two-dad family, and beautiful photos on their Instagram. They've also designed t-shirts in collaboration with TeeSpring, and they've even created an album of nursery rhymes for gay dad families!

"There really was an absence of nursery rhymes for our type of family," said Manuel, talking about what inspired the project. "It's there for all same-sex families, present and future ... someday someone will say, hey look at this couple that made a Daddy and Papa version of Finger Family ... That's cool!"

Even though they are the only two-dad family in their town, Bud and Manuel don't feel like they've ever been discriminated against which is wonderful to hear. "We aren't sure if we are just really lucky, or if people are just becoming much more accepting," said Bud. "Carmen just started school this year, but this is Álvaro's third year and it has actually been the complete opposite, we have a really great relationship with all the other parents in his class." Both parents believe in the importance of same-sex parents making their families visible to show that they are just another type of family unit.

The dads live this attitude by continuing to share their lives on social media, and the response they receive has been heartwarming. "We love that we get so many warm messages of support, young people that say they see that it CAN be possible for them to be parents in the future," said Manuel. "Just a few years ago we thought it would be impossible to be parents, and many young LGBTQ still believe that because they are gay they can't have a family. But nowadays this is changing thanks to Facebook and Instagram, and young people see all the positive examples out there."

Sure, they've received the odd homophobic remark, but the dads say they block those users and quickly move on.

Fatherhood continues to amaze Bud and Manuel, both with its challenges and rewards. "It's such a weird feeling, like nothing about fatherhood is surprising, and everything is surprising all at the same time," said Bud. "Parenthood is the most common thing on the Earth, something that the whole world has in common. No matter what language you speak, what country you are from, if you are rich or if you are poor, from a more conservative or liberal society, there are parents everywhere. Being a parent on the surface is easy, as long as you just roll with the punches, take one day at a time, and just to do the best you can (what we all do). BUT on the other hand it can be so hard and so challenging. Those beautiful little persons push you to your limits and past on a daily basis. The psychology of dealing with a child is extraordinary, the patience that is required is in most cases something superhuman. And all things considered, we are so lucky to have two wonderful children that are super sweet, well mannered, and well behaved."

Twogaypapas on Instagram: “El otro día en una de las fotos que posteamos se veía uno de los tatuajes que llevo en las muñecas y alguien preguntó que qué significaba.…”

Although nothing is for certain, and the family love their hometown in Spain, it has been Manuel's dream for sometime to move to Florida where Bud's parents live and open a paella restaurant - Valencia is where the paella originated - but that probably won't happen till the kids are older. For now, they'll continue to enjoy the suburban lifestyle in Spain, being a block from the beach and a short bike ride to the mountains.

When asked about each of their fatherhood journeys, Bud and Manuel said they were both "unique, special and challenged us as a couple," but they agreed they wouldn't have it any other way. "One thing is for sure, the love we have for those two little beings is out of this world and we would never change a thing about them about our road to fatherhood, or about fatherhood itself."

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Editor's Note: Below is an essay by Jay Bostick who eloquently lays out many of the reasons why he and many other readers were upset by a post we ran yesterday by Kevin Saunders titled, "Why This Adopted Gay Man Will Never Have Children." This post clearly touched a nerve! (Check out the ongoing discussion on our Facebook page.) While some of our readers appreciated Saunders' viewpoint, many others felt slighted by his reasoning for not having children, calling him everything from "self-involved," "selfish," and an "insufferable narcissist." Many other readers rightly questioned why Gays With Kids would even run an essay from a man who does not want children on (of all place) a parenting website.

The former point is a matter of opinion, but I'll offer some clarification on the latter. We agreed to run this post for two reasons. First, Saunders' perspective is unique among many adopted gay men. We have run countless essays on this site featuring adopted gay men who, inspired by their own upbringing, decided to give back by opening up their homes to children who need them. Saunders' experience, however, led him to conscience decision not to have children, a perspective worthy of discussion particularly by anyone who has been touched by adoption in some way. Secondly, as a 52-year-old gay man, Saunders is starting to find himself alienated from many in his LGBTQ peer group for his decision not to have kids. Again, we are so much more familiar with the opposite perspective on our page: when they become parents, many gay men find themselves ostracized from the broader, childless LGBTQ community. That the inverse is also starting to become true is a testament to the increase in LGBTQ parents in the United States, and an interesting dichotomy we believed warranted further exploration.

All that said, Saunders' essay is a matter of opinion, and one our readers (nor we) certainly don't have to agree with. This is why we were thrilled to receive this "counterpoint" to Saunders's essay from Bostick. We, at least, are enjoying the respectful exchange of ideas, and hope you are as well. Give Bostick's essay a read, as well as the original, and then let us know what you think in the comments or at dads@gayswithkids.com.

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I'm not a monster. Yes, I saw the wagons carrying lovely toddler children waiving their flags and eating their graham crackers. The children were plentiful wearing their Pride family shirts, bejeweled in rainbow. The weather was perfect and the crowds were as prideful as ever. But my husband and I had a day where we didn't have to worry about someone else, not on the constant lookout for the next available bathroom or calming emotions because we could buy one unicorn costume and not every unicorn costume. We had a day without kids.

Yes, Pride has become commercialized. Some companies want my gay money, but others march and have a presence because one gay voice spoke up and asked why the company hasn't marched. I marched in the parade with my employer – who marched for the first time this year – because I started the conversation about why we hadn't marched before. My husband and I were present. We honored Stonewall. And praised Nina West. And we did it without carrying a bag with extra panties and a couple sippy cups.

Believe me, I get sharing the day with your children. With your family. But in my house, we live Pride every day. Two white dads caring for two black kids makes us walking billboards for equality, love, and acceptance. I don't need a day to celebrate my family with my children. We do it in the grocery store. We do it at preschool. We recognize our uniqueness and celebrate it. My children don't need a meltdown and a long walk to tell them about their history and their fathers' connection to the past.

Instead of worrying about where we would find lunch and, again, where the closest bathroom was, I saw beauty that took me by surprise – and I was able to be in the moment with it. Trans men waking boldly and bravely around only wearing only their bindings. Watching high school kids sitting in the grass, wearing crop tops and eating french fries, literally carefree looking up at the clouds. We experienced a community that was free and uninhibited, if just for one afternoon, where who you are isn't odd or something to be hidden. But rather something that is a definition of you and should be your reality 365 days a year.

I know that being gay and having kids can be overwhelming at times. We ask ourselves if we're representing our community adequately (or have we become too heteronormative?). If we have children of a different race, are we giving them the experiences they need to know who they are, as well as navigate that world with gay parents? Are we so embraced at school functions because of our contributions to community or are we a token family? And yes, I'll ask it, are we good enough for acceptance by all gay families, who as if we're single again, judge each other on wealth, looks, and status? No family is better than any other, and gay parents certainly have opportunities to be better towards one another.

Our Pride ended in a small fight while walking to the car, like all good Pride's should. But it wasn't about kids bickering, or kids getting upset they didn't get the right treat. It was about us centering ourselves in a community that isn't exactly welcoming in certain spaces to gay families other times of the year. It was about us catching up with our past while also seeing our collective future.

And the kids didn't seem to mind. They had fun with a babysitter and lived their Pride out loud when they shopped for daddy and papa gifts for Father's Day. That's our Pride. Maybe when the kids are older, and really get the meaning of Pride, we'll start marching together in solidarity. But for right now, daddies needed a little time alone to reconnect with their LGBT family. And while there may be too many beer ads and not enough voter registration tables, we celebrate visibility and love. And my husband and I had time together, reminding us of who we are, who our original family was, and how we will connect who we are now, and our children, with that family as it grows.

At the end of the day, we're all in it together. And my children will be enriched by the experience. Just not this year. This year, we fertilized our roots so that our branches can grow.

Antwon and Nate became dads through the foster care system. Nine months after becoming licensed, they received a call on a Tuesday, and two days later, their daughter moved in. "It was very quick," said Nate. "Honestly, it was more just shock and nervousness for me."

As new parents, Nate took unpaid leave for two weeks, before going back to work part-time. Antwon didn't receive any leave.

"It's definitely important to have time off to bond, but it's also important to be financially stable when you do it," said Antwon. "I don't think you should have to choose between staying financially afloat or showing your kid love... and I don't think anyone should have to make that choice."

Only 15% of dads in the U.S. have access to paid paternity leave. We want to change this.

Watch Nate and Antwon's video to find out how:

Sign the pledge: www.dovemencare.com/pledge

Like Antwon and Nate, we're helping Dove Men+Care advocate for paid paternity leave for *ALL* dads! Over the next three months, we will be sharing stories of gay dad families and their paternity leave experience. Our goal is to get 100,000 folks to sign the Paternity Leave Pledge.

Dove Men+Care has collected over 30,000 signatures on the Pledge for Paternity Leave in three short months, in a mission to champion and support new legislation for federally mandated paid leave laws in the U.S. With the conversation growing on Capitol Hill, Dove Men+Care will target key legislators to drive urgency behind paid paternity leave policy and provide a social proof in the form of real dad testimonials, expert research and signature support from families across the country.

Our goal is to help Dove Men+Care bring 100,000 signatures to key policymakers in Washington, D.C. for their Day of Action on the Hill, and drive urgency behind this issue.

If you believe *ALL* dads should receive paid paternity leave, sign the Paternity Leave Pledge.

Fatherhood, the gay way

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