Gay Dad Life

Mother's Day Can Require Some Creative Approaches for Two-Dad Families

"Where's the Mommy?" is not a question reserved for gay dads just on Mother's Day

The x-ray machine conveyor belt ground to a halt as the security guards shouted at each other in Hindi. It took me a second to realize that I, my husband and my 2-weeks-old daughters were the reason.


“Baby not go through," said one guard, gesturing at the soft carry-cot in my hands where one of the girls slept unaware. I started to laugh, but his expression told me he was dead serious.

We had already successfully navigated the other treacherous spots both at the airport and through the bureaucratic process of getting our surrogacy-born twins out of India; from their Delhi birth certificates that, rather than one of us, listed “surrogate" on the line reading “mother," to getting their passports from the U.S. Embassy, to – most harrowing of all – getting their exit visas, which required spending three hours in a single linoleum-floored, fluorescent-lit office where we were sent from one to another to another of the manila-folder-covered desks lining the walls. Finally came passport control at Indira Gandhi International Airport, where I tripped on the agent's first question: “Purpose of your visit to India?"

“Uh… um… surrogacy," I blurted. If looks were an elbow in the ribs, the look my husband shot me would have left serious bruises.

Fortunately, the man was perplexed. “Huh?" he responded.

“Visiting friends," I said quickly.

“Oh," he responded, followed by a few more questions and a request to see the girls. And then it came: “Where's the mommy?"

At the security line, 30 paces past passport control, the shouting continued. “You know, they do come out of the carriers," I said.

“Where is the mommy?" asked one of the guards. “We try to find you woman guard to hold baby."

“The mommy's not here," I answered, annoyed, giving the response other parents who had gone before had coached me to give, “and I can hold her myself."

The shouting stopped.

It dawned on me that none of them was about to ask a father to hold his own baby; that was a mommy's job. I lifted Olivia out of the carry-cot; the empty cot I placed on the conveyor belt. She woke and began to fuss as I submitted to a scan with a metal detector. By the time I reached the end of the security gantlet and put her back into the warm, cushioned carrier, she was howling, and a female security guard was staring at me, bemused.

“Where is the mommy?" she asked, as I gritted my teeth.

* * *

One day a year doesn't just beg the “where's the mommy" question; it screams it. Mother's Day began chastely in 1908, but by the 1920s, it had morphed into the champagne-brunch-and-rose-bouquet fed bacchanal we know today and even its own creator began lobbying for the beast to be put to death.

It didn't work. Last year, Americans spent some $20 million on gifts for Mom, and while that pales in comparison to the more than $700 million spent over the winter holidays, it still ranks third on the calendar for consumer spending.

All that can leave kids from a two-dad family feeling a bit left out, one reason research psychologist Dr. Peggy Drexler recommends not waiting for the first Sunday in May to have a vital conversation with your child. “This is a simple, but important, conversation that should take place when it feels right to a parent, and not because of a Hallmark holiday," said Drexler, who writes extensively about gender and parenting. “That said, if Mother's Day is what causes a father to have a conversation about a child's family structure, the best approach is a direct and honest one that lets a child know that his family is one where two dads or two moms have chosen to love each other and want to raise children together. This is a matter of fact statement and no justification is necessary."

Most gay men have had plenty of time to think through various challenges they and their children will face by the time they finally become fathers, not the least of which is how outsiders view the lack of a female parent.

Chuck and Matt Casey with their daughter Addison

Matt and Chuck Casey, both 40, adopted their daughter Addison when she was 4 days old and weighed 5 pounds. “We had to think about how to navigate others' ideals and expectations, and our responses," said Matt. “We are very matter of fact, and stick with facts that Addison has two dads. No Mom. Thankfully this hasn't really been an issue for us but we think it hasn't been because of our approach and not making it a big deal."

He admits that the questions and awkward pauses were more common before the family moved to L.A.'s San Fernando Valley. “We lived in the Midwest when first adopting our daughter, and so eight years ago our family was much more an anomaly," said Casey. “We got a range of responses to our reply of 'Addison has no mom'. Mostly, the response was 'Oh...' and then they would think about how to respond next. I think society's views have evolved for mostly the better on this topic. The title of mother or father is earned; it has nothing to do with biology. Once we can all start thinking that way, this question becomes, in my opinion, much less relevant and important."

Bill Orlando-Reno, 39, and his husband Brian, 33, recently fled Rhode Island winters for Punta Gorda, Florida with sons Christian, 8, Dominic, 7, and Noah, 6, all biological siblings adopted through the foster system. They've faced questions in both locations. “We're just very bold and honest, and say there is no mommy, they have two daddies. The boys are very comfortable saying the same thing. We've always felt that dancing around the question or making awkward excuses just adds to the mystery of it all. It's best to just be honest. We want to make sure that whoever asked us where the mommy is, knows that they DO know a two dad-family, and they saw them at Target today!"

But while answers to the day-to-day questions may come easily, Mother's Day, with activities at school that have the potential to leave children from two-dad families feeling left out, often requires creativity and a proactive approach.

Dr. Drexler recommends contacting your child's school ahead of time. “It might be helpful to contact the teacher and educate her about your family," she said. “Emphasize the importance to [the teacher] that all families are not the same and the school has to be aware and accommodate all children that they are educating."

“We were a bit overprotective with her at school, and in all programs for that matter," said Casey. "Not just on Mother's Day, but when interviewing prospective schools, programs and teachers. We made sure to do our due diligence that out daughter would be in a loving, supportive environment that supported all types of families."

Bill and Brian Orlando-Reno say they have yet to encounter a problem. “Most teachers we've worked with so far are very forward-thinking and love what good care we take of these boys," said Brian. “They can tell by how they behave in their classroom, and how loving they speak of their daddies, that they are taken care of and loved as much as any birth mother could love them. We've had great experiences so far."

Bill and Brian Orlando-Reno with their sons Noah, Dominic and Christian

Dr. Drexler says using the traditional holiday to celebrate the child's nontraditional family at home also helps. “If, say, a child's school has the kids making cards for moms in anticipation of Mother's Day, suggest to your son that he make a card for a special female in his life — maybe an aunt or grandmother or friend of the family," she said. “Or he can make a mother's day card for his father. His family is nontraditional, and so can be his celebration of the holiday."

For the Orlando-Renos, it's a day to honor the boys' birth mother, who died several months after Noah's adoption, along with the other women in their lives – and their dad's birthday. “Bill was born on Mother's Day, so we always celebrate his birthday in lieu of a Mother's Day. But also these boys have so many supportive and wonderful mothers in their lives, grandmothers, great grandmothers and aunties, so we always make sure they say happy Mother's Day to the wonderful and supportive women in their lives."

Casey takes a similar approach. “We simply encouraged our daughter to make something for one of her favorite moms," he said. “Most years she would make things for our mothers. One year she made something for her godmother. We minimized the no-mom issue and again emphasized with her the types of different families and she has responded well to this."

This will be the first Mother's Day Robbie Cronrod and Allen Artcliff spend with son Dylan, born via surrogacy nine months ago. For them, Mother's Day will be an occasion to remember both their surrogate, Andrea, and egg donor Maya.

“While he's still too young to understand we're hoping it will make it easier for all of us," said Cronrod. “Maya sees Dylan on a regular basis and now has a daughter of her own who is two months younger than Dylan. The goal is for the kids to grow up knowing each other and that they are half siblings. She'll always be Dylan's bio-mom."

Perhaps not surprisingly, the thornier questions surrounding being a nontraditional family seem to concern parents more than children.

“Each child is different, but it's quite amazing how kids don't care or know about what is 'normal' like adults do," said Casey. “I don't recall a specific time when this question came up because we didn't make it a big deal that our family was different. We have always been very matter of fact about our daughter's family with her and with others. Our response has always been, you have two dads in your family ... All families are different: Some have two mommies, some have one daddy, some have one mommy, and some have grandparents."

As proof he cites an exchange he heard between Addison and another girl at a recent party. “It went something like this: New girl: 'Where's your mom?' Addison: 'I don't have a mom, I have two dads.' New girl: 'Oh, ok. I love my dad; that must be fun to have two.' Another example of kids not getting caught up in normalcy and awkwardness."

The same approach worked for Bill and Brian Orlando-Reno. “It's second nature to them, when they hear someone talk about Mother's Day, to have a very simple and matter of fact response. 'We have two dads instead.' 'Nuff said. They don't feel like they're missing out on anything. In fact, they've always thought they were lucky to have two daddies instead of one, and we're so lucky to have them!"

Allen Artcliff and Robbie Cronrod with their son Dylan

Dr. Drexler says it comes down to one word. “There is no greater truth to say to parents in nontraditional families than 'Relax!'" said Drexler. “If you love your child, support them, listen to them, your child will turn out fine despite the challenges they may face at school. Very good things come from outside the bounds of our worn-out assumptions. I would say this to all of those who believe they can attach limits to the idea of family: family is far less about composition than it is about the power of its love."

* * *

The Lufthansa flight crews treated us like rock stars on our way back to Los Angeles. Any German reserve was left in a heap on the tarmac as they gushed over our girls.

“The Indian babies are here!" cheered the gate agent as we caught our connection in Munich. “That's the tiniest baby I've ever seen!" exclaimed another flight attendant about Clara as we sat on the tarmac. “She's adorable!" The first class purser, blonde, female, six feet tall, came back to our seats with plush toys for each of them. “I wish you a life full of joy and happiness," she said in a deep, Marlene Dietrich-accented voice.

Then, again, from another flight attendant, the question: “And where is the beautiful mommy?" she asked sweetly.

By now, my patience was shot but my reflexes were honed.

“She's right there," I said, indicating my handsome husband, sitting across the aisle giving Olivia her first of many in-flight bottles.

"Oh…oh, my god, I'm so sorry!" she sputtered as she turned red.

At least she knew to apologize. Feeling proud of myself for my quick retort, I laughed and told her not to worry.

I was getting used to this.

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...
News

What's it Like to Be a Child of the 'Gayby Boom'?

Tosca Langbert, who grew up with two dads, writes a piece for the Harvard Business Review about what it's like being among the first children of the "Gayby Boom" to come of age.

We've previously written about the pressure on LGBTQ parents to appear perfect, given that so many in the United States still feel out families shouldn't exist in the first place. And we know this pressure trickles down to our kids. But In an article for the Harvard Business Review titled 'The Gayby Boom Is Here to Stay," author Tosca Langbert eloquently writes, from her perspective, about the experience of beingone of the first children to come of age during an era when LGBTQ parenthood is far more commonplace. She and her two siblings, she notes, "were raised in a family that was an impossibility only decades ago."

In the article, Langbert said she knew from a young age that her family was different from those of most of her peers, who had one a father and a mother. But otherwise, she writes, she didn't feel like her family differed much. "Like any other parents, Dad sat in the carpool lane after school and taught us how to ride our bikes," she writes, "while Papa took us to the movies on the weekends and separated the whites from the colors."

Despite this mundanity, her family remained something to marvel at for much of her youth. When the family moved into a new neighborhood in 2006, it made the local newspaper, with a headline titled, "Gay Father Tests Tolerance in the Park Cities."

She and her siblings have spent much of their lives, she explained further, having to respond to the question: what's it like having two gay dads? For Langbert, there is only one correct response, which is: Amazing! "Any other response, even if simply accounting for a family's nuanced experience, might as well be an outright admission of failure on behalf of the entire LGBTQ community," she wrote.

Children of the 'Gayby Generation,' are also put in the position of having to come out on behalf of their parents, and "often with mixed results," she wrote. She gave the following anecdote as an example:

"My father was asked to step down from his leadership position in my brother's Boy Scout troop on account of his sexuality. Even though my siblings and I were only fourth graders at the time, we understood that our family was under strict scrutiny, and that even the slightest misstep could beget severe consequences for how competent our fathers were perceived as being. In the face of this pressure, the first generation of 'gaybies' recognized the importance of presenting their families as perfect; doing otherwise would only present ammunition to those already dubious about the rights of LGBTQ parents to raise children."

The entire article, which includes the perspectives of multiple now-grown kids that are part of the "Gayby generation," is well worth a read, which you can access here.


Politics

Utah Bill Would Allow Gay Men to Enter Surrogacy Contracts

Rep. Patrice Arent of Utah is sponsoring a bill that will remove a provision that currently prohibits gay men from entering into commercial surrogacy contracts in the state.

Though Utah is not one of the three states that currently prohibit commercial surrogacy contracts, the state's current policy does specifically exclude gay men from doing so. That may soon changed, however, thanks to a bill in the state's legislature that was unanimously voted out of a House Committee that would remove that restriction.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Patrice Arent, D-Millcreek, a Democrat, was created in response to a ruling by the Utah Supreme Court this past August that found the ban on gay men unconstitutional.

Gay men have been excluded from legally entering surrogacy contracts due to a provision in the current law that requires medical evidence "that the intended mother is unable to bear a child or is unable to do so without unreasonable risk to her physical or mental health or to the unborn child," Rep. Arent told the Salt Lake Tribune — a requirement that clearly excludes gay male couples.

The state's original surrogacy law dates back to 2005, before same-sex marriage was legalized in the state, which accounts for the gendered language. Though the state's Supreme Court already ruled the provision unconstitutional, Rep Arent further told the Tribute that, "People do not look to Supreme Court opinions to figure out the law, they look to the code and the code should be constitutional."

Politics

Colorado Republicans Try and Fail to Outlaw LGBTQ Marriage and Adoption Rights

A bill introduced by four Republican state legislators in Colorado that would outlaw same-sex marriage and adoption rights was voted down.

The "Colorado Natural Marriage and Adoption Act," which would have outlawed gay marriage and adoption in the state of Colorado, was voted down in the state legislature this week. The bill was sponsored by Republican Rep. Stephen Humphrey and three of his conservative colleagues: Dave Williams, Shane Sandridge and Mark Baisley.

If enacted, the bill would have enforced "state law that marriage is between one man and one woman" and restrict "adoption of children by spouses in a marriage ... that consist of one man and one woman."

The bill, which had little chance of success, particularly in Colorado which has trended more progressive over the past several election cycles, was mostly symbolic, according to Sanridrge. "We all know this bill isn't gonna pass in this current left-wing environment," he told Colorado Public Radio. "It's to remind everyone, this is the ultimate way to conceive a child."

In a sign of how far we've come on the issue of LGBTQ marriage and parenting rights, most Republican legislators in the state did not endorse the bill.

Though the bill had little chance of passage, LGBTQ advocacy groups in the state are taking the threats seriously nonetheless. Daniel Ramos, director of the LGBTQ group One Colorado, told LGBTQ Nation that the bills were an attempt to return Colorado to its "hate status" of the 1990s, adding the aggressiveness of the measures were "a bit surprising."

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!

Image: NWSC Clients

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...

Fatherhood, the gay way

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

Follow Gays With Kids

Powered by RebelMouse