Gay Dad Life

Mother's Day the Gay Dad Way

While Mother's Day may be a holiday made up by the greeting card industry, it's here, it's not particularly queer, and everyone is certainly used to it. Each year moms across the country are celebrated with flowers and gifts. Children are encouraged to write letters at school celebrating women who raised them, and mothers who parent children are afforded their due respect.

However, not all children have mothers in their lives. So we set out to talk to gay dads to see how they would be recognizing the holiday. It turns out that as the modern definition of family morphs, so do traditions associated with honoring it.

In San Diego, partners Bryan Heers and Liberty Bock-Heers who are raising three adopted sons were initially nervous about Mother's Day. “It hadn't been that long since they saw their mom in prison," Heers said, recalling the first Mother's Day his sons spent with their family.

“We had my mother come and stay for Mother's Day so they could celebrate with her and have that. In school they honestly dedicate like a week to building cute little things for mom and grandma or whoever and we wanted to make sure they had an outlet to give all those cute little projects to," Heers said, explaining that his mother loves getting gifts from Marcus, 5, Oscar, 11, and Gonzalo, who is 14.The children currently have no contact with their birth mother. Heers and Bock-Heers have determined it's not a good idea for a variety of reasons. “Before we adopted the boys, we said we would be open to contact, but once we dived into it more…it was pretty clear it was an unhealthy relationship for them and it wasn't that hard of a decision on our end," Heers said.

The boys underwent counseling to help understand why they were never going to live with their mom again and to help acclimate them to their new home. Heers and Bock-Heers took attachment-parenting classes and stuck to the rules religiously.

Bock-Heers Family

Initially, there was a lot of testing, Heers said, explaining that middle son, Oscar, who is the most sentimental of the three, had a difficult time and often threw tantrums “saying the most horrible things he could think of." Heers and Bock-Heers, who have been together for eight years stayed strong: “Immediately we were telling them this is your forever home we are your parents for the rest of your life. You don't have to worry about ever where you're going from now on."

While the boys, who were adopted at ages 9, 7 and 5, took time adjusting to their new family, Heers said many of the challenges he and Bock-Heers now face as parents are very basic: whether the children are doing their homework or spending too much time online.

Bock-Heers Family

As for Mother's Day, “I would say we were more worried about it than we needed to be," Heers said. “Our youngest mentioned to us Mothers Day is coming up in two weeks and asked 'is grandma coming to stay?' Even though it's not celebrating their birth mom, it's still definitely an important holiday for them."

In Seattle, Rich Kocher and Brian Roth who adopted 2-year-old Emerson at birth through Open Adoption & Family Services, will be spending the holiday with Emerson's birth mother. She selected Kocher and Roth to parent her child and today they are all very close. “We also see her mother and father and her siblings. It almost feels like they adopted us into their family," Kocher said.

Roth and Kocher have always celebrated Mother's Day with Emerson and her birth mother, whom Emerson calls “Mommy."

“We sort of do a very traditional celebration—or as you can get in this arrangement," Kocher said. Initially, Kocher and Roth didn't know what type of relationship they would have with Emerson's birth mother, but everyone got along really well and they now spend significant time together. “Neither of us promised to see each other, but it just organically turned into this relationship," Kocher said, explaining that Emerson now has an extra set of grandparents. “They are great loving people," he said.

Kocher-Roth Family

As for the birth mother, Kocher said she's a college student and not Emerson's parent in a traditional sense, “but I hope she thinks that this is her day as well. This is a way that we can appreciate her selfless act in letting us raise her daughter."

Kocher said he hopes Emerson develops a bond with her mother that takes whatever shape the two of them decide upon. “It would be great if it could sort of be a Gilmore Girls situation," he said, laughing.

Kocher acknowledged that his family's situation was hardly typical. As a result, it's often challenging to find the perfect card to give Emerson's birth mother each year. “The card might say 'every day you support me' and that's a nice thing to say, but that's not really applicable," Kocher said, “Out of all the cards in CVS, there's not really a card that applies to our situation, so this year we are going to make our own card even though I am not super crafty. There's definitely a market out there if anyone's interested."Another way to turn Mother's Day into a positive experience for all parties is to do away with it all together. In one New Jersey school, the children will be celebrating Parents Day on May 25, a date between Mother's Day and Father's Day.

Kocher-Roth Family

Sean Gilligan and Joseph Adelantar are raising two-year-old Katherine in South Orange, New Jersey, and were surprised when a parent in their daughter's class suggested creating the new holiday to honor all families. “I didn't really expect the class to modify their Mother's Day plans and I wasn't really going to make an issue of it for anyone involved," said Gilligan, who is Katherine's primary caregiver.

“It was really touching," Adelantar said.

Many kids are raised by grandparents, single parents, two moms or two dads and may feel left out during either holiday so Parents Day affords a perfect solution. Katherine was conceived through compassionate surrogacy and while the surrogate remains a good family friend, she is not a parental figure in any traditional way, the couple explained.

Adelantar and Gilligan said Katherine is still too young to really understand what it means to have two dads, but when she started to go to school she began noticing that the other kids had mommies. “She would just sort of say 'oh so and so has a mommy and a daddy. Katherine has two daddies," Gilligan said.

They didn't want her to feel any different than other kids so Gilligan was going to come in to class had the school decided to do a traditional Mother's Day celebration, but thankfully Parents Day was created with them in mind. To mark Mother's Day they will give Katherine's surrogate Miki a card, and host a brunch at their house celebrating Katherine's grandmother, whose birthday falls around the holiday.

Adelantar-Gilligan Family

Gilligan, who is a psychotherapist, said he and Adelantar's families are conservative and were worried about how everything was going to work out before Katherine was born. “There was so much negative feedback," he said, “but once Katherine was a person, now both of our families could care less."

Initially the families worried about what Katherine would call their surrogate, Miki, whom they befriended while working at the Gap 19 years ago. “I was like 'let's wait to see what happens. And about a year ago, Katherine started calling her 'Mimi' and Katherine knows that her name is Miki and she can say that, but she calls her 'Mimi' anyway and Miki is happy with that," Gilligan said.

“We do still want to recognize moms, but you have to do what's right for you and what's comfortable for you and your family," Gilligan advised. “It should be about what makes you happy as a family so that's what we're doing."

Adelantar-Gilligan Family

Featured illustration by Simone Noronha.


Read More:

A Gameshow Winner on his Biggest Jackpot Yet: A Son

After a Harrowing Delivery, Barry's Bootcamp CEO Welcomes Home a Baby Boy

My Gay Dad Helped Me Come Out Too, Says Charlie Carver

Show Comments ()
Gay Dad Photo Essays

How Single Dads Are Celebrating Valentine's Day This Year

Valentine's Day is not just for lovers! We caught up with 8 single gay dads to see how they plan to celebrate Valentine's Day with this year.

Valentine's Day is not just for lovers; it's also a day to celebrate our loved ones. And that's exactly what these single dads are doing.

Within our community, GWK has a large group of admirable, active, and awesome (!) single dads and we want to honor them! On Valentine's Day, they and their kids celebrate their family unit in the sweetest possible ways. We asked the dads to share these moments with us, and, where possible, one of the most heartwarming things they've experienced with their kids on Valentine's Day to date.

Hear their stories below.

Keep reading...
Gay Dad Photo Essays

11 Gay Couples Share Secrets to Their Long-Term Relationships This Valentine's Day

This Valentine's Day, we spoke with 11 gay dad couples who've been together for almost a decade or longer to learn what's made their relationships last

You're the peanut butter to my jelly, the gin to my tonic, the strawberries to my cream, the Mr. to my Mr.!

Happy Valentine's Day folks! We're excited to celebrate this day of lurrrrvvve by featuring a few dads in our community who've been together for almost a decade or more! And they're ready to share their secrets to a successful relationship and parenting partnership.

Keep reading...
Gay Dad Life

"Worth Every Blood, Sweat, and Tear": Congrats to Gay Dads on Recent Births and Adoptions!

Wishing all of these gay dads whose families expanded a lifetime of happiness! Congrats to everyone in our community on their recent births and adoptions!

Gay men go through a lot of ups and downs on the path to parenthood. It can be one of the most emotionally draining times in our lives. But as each of these families who are celebrating births and adoptions this month agree: it's worth every hardship.

Congrats to the dads whose families grew this month!

Keep reading...
Surrogacy for Gay Men

Dads Talk About Surrogacy Process in New Video for Northwest Surrogacy Center

The Northwest Surrogacy Center interviewed some of their gay dad clients for a video to celebrate their 25th anniversary of creating families through surrogacy!

Last year, Northwest Surrogacy Center celebrated 25 years of helping parents realize their dreams. And they celebrated in style by inviting the families they've worked with over the past two and a half decades to join them!

At the party, they took the opportunity to film queer dads and dads-to-be, asking them a couple of questions: how did it feel holding your baby for the first time, and tell us about your relationship with your surrogate.

Watch the video below and get ready for the water works!

Keep reading...
Surrogacy for Gay Men

Campaign to Legalize Surrogacy in New York Heats Up with Competing Bills

Two competing bills — one backed by Governor Andrew Cuomo and another by Senator Liz Krueger with stricter provisions — are aiming to legalize surrogacy in New York.

Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York is once again attempting to legalize commercial surrogacy in the state, which is still just one of three states in the country to forbid the practice.

"This antiquated law is repugnant to our values and we must repeal it once and for all and enact the nation's strongest protections for surrogates and parents choosing to take part in the surrogacy process," Governor Cuomo said in a statement in announcing a broader effort called Love Makes a Family. "This year we must pass gestational surrogacy and expedite the second parent adoption process to complete marriage and family equality."

Keep reading...
Change the World

Your Marriage Should Be Gayer, Says the New York Times

In an op-ed for the New York Times, Stephanie Coontz, author of "Marriage: a History," lists the many insights LGBTQ marriages can offer straight ones.

According to a fascinating op-ed in the New York Times this week by Stephanie Coontz, author of "Marriage: a History," turns out the people convinced marriage equality — legal across the United States for five years now — would usher in the complete breakdown of civil society should be more worried about the health of their own marriages.

In the article, Coontz details the results of research that followed 756 "midlife" straight marriages, and 378 gay marriages, and found same-sex couples reporting the lowest levels of physiological distress — with male gay couples reporting the lowest. The reason for this, the author said, is pretty simple — misogyny. The idea that men and women should strive for parity in a relationship is still a fairly new idea, Coontz said, and traditional gender roles are still pervasive. Gay couples, meanwhile, are free from such presumptions, which often results in happier, healthier relationships.

The most interesting findings in the research relate to parenting. While gender norms tend to be even more emphasized among straight people once they have children, with the bulk of the childrearing falling to mothers, same-sex couples — once again freed from the stereotypes of the male/female divide — parent more equitably. As the author notes, "A 2015 survey found that almost half of dual-earner, same-sex couples shared laundry duties, compared with just under a third of different-sex couples. And a whopping 74 percent of same-sex couples shared routine child care, compared with only 38 percent of straight couples."

When it comes to time spent with children, men in straight marriages spent the least amount of time and the lowest proportion of "nonwork" time, with their children — while men in same-sex marriages spent just as much time with their children as women in a straight relationship. "The result?" Coontz writes, "Children living with same-sex parents experienced, on average, three and a half hours of parenting time per day, compared with two and a half for children living with a heterosexual couple."

Straight fathers devote the least amount of time — about 55 minutes a day — on their children, which includes things like physical needs, reading, playing, and homework. Gay mothers spent an additional 18 minutes each and straight mothers an additional 23 minutes. Gay fathers spent the most time with their children, the study found, an average of an additional 28 minutes a day.

Taken together, straight couples spend an average of 2 hours and 14 minutes on their children. Lesbian moms spend an additional 13 minutes, while gay men spend 33 more minutes than straight couples.

One factor, the author notes, that can help explain this difference is this: gay parents rarely end up with an unintended or unwanted child, whereas a full 45% percent of pregnancies in straight relationships in 2011 (the last year data is available) were unintended, and 18% were unwanted.

But right. Gay people shouldn't be parents.

Single Parenting

The 'Strange Dichotomy' of Dating as a Single Gay Dad

A single gay dad describes the balancing act involved with dating after having come out later in life.

It was a Friday morning as I walked towards the twins' bedroom door, and I caught the dreaded whiff. The unmistakable smell of fecal funk. My heart sank — I knew exactly what awaited me on the other side. As I cracked the door open, my assumptions were immediately confirmed. Our resident two-year-old "scat princess", a.k.a. Maren, had pried off her poopy diaper and painted her bedroom walls and doors in her own excrement for the third time in as many weeks. I couldn't decide if I wanted to scream or cry. Fortunately my dad superpowers immediately took over and I did neither. I simply gritted my teeth, smiled, threw open the door and uttered "good morning, girls!" I spent the next hour giving the toddlers, the walls and the doors a Silkwood scrub-down. Again.

Fast-forward twelve hours later. The kids were safely with their mom for the weekend, and I was out on a date with a handsome guy I met on Tinder. The trauma from earlier in the day a mere, faint memory. This was the strange dichotomy of my life as a single gay dad. Balancing dating in the midst of coming out later in life, never mind the whole parenting thing, is a struggle. And, one that nobody really talks about.

Keep reading...

Fatherhood, the gay way

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

Follow Gays With Kids

Powered by RebelMouse