Gay Dad Life

Saved By a Gay Angel: The Story of the Gay Uncle Who Rescued His Sister’s Neglected Kids

Five years ago, when Robert Shutts (see photo above, top right) arrived at the Ohio home where his sister and her kids were staying, he entered the room to find chaos. His sister was intoxicated and incoherent, her three toddlers unattended.


“It was a horrible sight to see," he recalls. “My sister was just laying on the bed, puking her guts out. Two of the kids had no pants on, no diapers. It was filthy."

He'd received the call because her temporary hosts planned to notify Child Protective Services of the situation but thought to call him first.

It was a familiar story to Robert: he and his sister had been removed from their home as children and later adopted by family members. Perhaps for that reason, he'd been in denial about the severity of his sister's problem.

Robert was studying to become a medical assistant and his sister lived near his school. He often stopped by to see her and his nieces and nephews after class. He would notice the needle marks on her arms, but she would persuade him that she was done and seeking help.

Now, it was clear she was not fit to care for her children.

Robert felt obligated to help despite his heavy load at school. What's more, he was eager for more connection with family, having lost contact with the remainder of his family after coming out in his teens.

“These kids are actually all that I have left. My family doesn't care about me," he says. “When I came out to them and told them I was gay, they didn't want anything to do with me."

Fearful of someone contacting authorities, Robert's sister agreed to let Robert care for her children. “She knew she was on the edge of losing everything," he says.

Suddenly, the 25-year-old student was dad to three boys, Preston, Aiden and Isaac. He became their foster parent to pave the way for adoption. With three kids under five years old, Robert graduated with honors.

In 2012, two years after discovering his sister and her children in squalor, Robert received a phone call from her out of the blue.

“My sister got a hold of me to inform me that she was in rehab and she was doing a really good job and she wanted to see her kids," he says. Though he'd had every intention of adopting the kids, Robert made the heart-wrenching decision to give her a second chance at parenting as soon as she was ready.

She wasn't. “She relapsed the minute she got out of rehab," he says.

Soon, though, she contacted him again — this time, pregnant and serious about getting clean. She moved into the home where he lived with the children. “She was going through withdrawals," he says. “I had to take her to a special clinic to get methadone to wean her off heroin."

She finally achieved sobriety and Robert followed through on his resolution to return the kids to her care. Still, he provided for them as much as possible, renting and furnishing a home for them.

Suddenly childless, Robert felt lost. “I was starting to have a crisis myself — I didn't know what I was doing with myself," he recalls. So he moved to Texas.

He was making plans to move to Hawaii with a friend just six months later when he took a quick trip back to Ohio to meet his newborn niece, Payton, his sister's fourth child.

“I drove all the way up to Ohio in April of 2013 to knock on the door, and discovered that my sister was really still on drugs."

This time Child Protective Services was already involved. Robert was faced with a decision: reclaim custody of his sister's kids or see them enter the foster care system. Relinquishing dreams of living his remaining twenties in Hawaii, Robert once again became a dad — this time to four kids instead of three.

Tight on money, he and the children entered a homeless shelter until he could find work — his externship after school offered him a position — and find a new home for himself and the kids.

“Finally I got me a nice place and met me a nice gentleman," he jokes, but his relief after such tumultuous years is palpable. “I'm amazed, to be honest. When I met him, I didn't think he was going to be so interested in being a family man."

Robert and his gentleman Matthew recently bought a house together and co-parent their four kids, now aged 3, 6, 7 and 10.

“I have people telling me I've been really busy and they have no clue," he laughs. “They think I've been really busy in the bedroom department."

Robert Shutts (l) and his partner Matthew with their four children

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Gay Dad Life

The Suburban Gay Dad

Are you intimidated by the suburbs? This gay dad was — but then he moved there.

In a recent article for Yahoo! Lifestyle, Steve Jacobs says the thought of living in the suburbs as a gay dad "intimidated" him. But when he started fantasizing about garages, he began to question that notion. Any apprehension he had soon evaporated, he said, one winter morning while trying to navigate the snowy streets of New York City with a stroller.

While "pushing the stroller through snow banks and pools of slush with snowflakes stinging our faces," he wrote, "a vision came to me: I pictured us walking into a garage, hopping into a car, and arriving at a diner with 10 times less drama. This image planted the seed of moving to the 'burbs that I couldn't shake."

Soon, the family of four found a house in a town a half hour outside the city. "It had grass and a beautiful yard for our spirited kiddos. The schools were good. There were even good restaurants. The only red flag: Census data estimated only 0.1 percent of the population was gay male."

There were some "growing pains" while trying to make friends in this environment. "When we attended our first dinner party, within minutes the hostess went to the kitchen and the other wives followed her, while the husbands settled into the living room. Ira and I froze, looking at each other. In the city, our straight friends hadn't separated out like this for the evening. Should we stay with the dudes, exert our masculinity, and blow off the mom we liked? Or does one of us go with the wives and accept the personal branding that comes with that? We did a quick rock paper scissors in the foyer. Ira went with the wives."

But ultimately, "being a parent defined me more than I ever imagined it would," he wrote, and he settled in nicely to his new suburban life.

Have you had a similar adjustment, from city life to the suburbs? Tell us about it at dads@gayswithkids.com for an upcoming piece!

Gay Dad Life

"Fridays with Fitz": A New Kid's Book Based Upon the Son of These Two Dads

Tracey Wimperly, author of the new children's book, said she hopes to give a more honest portrayal of the role grandparents play in the lives of children.

Guest post Tracey Wimperly

I've recently written a children's picture book (aimed at 2-4 year olds) called "Fridays with Fitz: Fitz Goes to the Pool." Every Friday - when his two dads go to work - Fitz and his grandparents (my husband, Steve and I) head off on an adventure. Through the eyes of a curious and energetic 3 year old, even ordinary adventures, like riding the bus or foraging for fungus in the forest can be fun and magical.

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Gay Dad Life

8 Ways for Dads to Find Work/Life Balance

Finding work/life balance is hard enough... but can be even harder for gay dads.

Having kids is an amazing part of life, and it should be fun. Life does tend to get in the way sometimes, and one huge aspect of that is work. Striking that balance between work and home life is tough. If you both work it's even harder.

And if you're a gay couple, it can have it's own set of problems above and beyond the standard work-life issues that people face. Recently, the Harvard Business Review conducted a study that focused specifically on the experiences of same-sex couples who wanted to make moves towards a work/life balance.

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Gay Dad Family Stories

David and Ben Met on the Dance Floor — and Are Now Grooving Their Way Through Fatherhood

David and Ben, who became fathers with the help of Northwest Surrogacy Center, live in Melbourne with their daughter, Maia.

In 2003, while both studying at Reading University in the UK, Ben Suter and David Cocks met after locking eyes on the dance floor and then being introduced by a mutual friend. Ben, a meteorologist and Operations Manager, and David, an Assistant Principal, have been together ever since. They moved to Australia together in 2010, seeking a different life, and an overall better work-life balance. The chose Cairns in Queensland as their new home, between the Great Barrier Reef and the tropical rainforest, "taking life a bit easier," said David. The couple were also married in June 2016, back home in England.

While David always wanted kids, Ben took a little convincing. So they started their parenting journey with a dog, Titan, who quickly became like their first born. From there, Ben came around rather quickly.

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Personal Essays by Gay Dads

Single Gay Dad and the City

When Kyle decided to take his four kids, ages 6-11, to New York City on vacation, his friends thought he was crazy.

"You're crazy, Kyle."

"You can't be serious? A single dad taking four kids to the Big Apple? Think again."

"That's bold. There's no way I'd do that."

Those were a few of the responses I heard from my friends as I told them I was thinking of booking a trip to New York City with four kids, ages 11-6. My children's fall vacation from school was approaching and I wanted to get out of the house and explore. Was the Big Apple too much of an adventure?

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News

National's Pitcher Cites Wife's Two Moms as Reason for Declining White House Invite

"I think that's an important part of allyship," Doolittle said of his wife's two moms.

Sean Doolittle, pitcher for the Washington Nationals, declined an invitation to the White House after his team won the World Series this year. In an interview with the Washington Post, he listed his numerous reasons for staying home — and a main consideration, he revealed, was his wife's two moms.

"I want to show support for them. I think that's an important part of allyship, and I don't want to turn my back on them," Doolittle said during the interview.

Trump's treatment of a minority groups, generally, factored into his decision as well. "I have a brother-in-law who has autism, and [Trump] is a guy that mocked a disabled reporter. How would I explain that to him that I hung out with somebody who mocked the way that he talked or the way that he moves his hands? I can't get past that stuff."

Doolitttle clarified that his decision had little to do with policy disagreements with the White House. "There's a lot of things, policies that I disagree with, but at the end of the day, it has more to do with the divisive rhetoric and the enabling of conspiracy theories and widening the divide in this country. My wife and I stand for inclusion and acceptance, and we've done work with refugees, people that come from, you know, the 'shithole countries.'"

He concluded by saying he respected his teammates decision to attend the White house ceremony. "I want people to know that I put thought into this, and at the end of the day, I just can't go."

Read more of the Washington Post interview here.

News

New York Will Fight 'Repugnant' Trump Rule on Adoption, Says Cuomo

Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York promises legal action of the Trump administration moves ahead with plans to allow discrimination against LGBTQ adoptive and foster parents

Last week, the Trump administration announced plans to allow adoption and foster care agencies to discriminate against prospective LGBTQ parents — but he may face a legal fight from (former) hometown. In a tweet, Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York said the proposed move "isn't just discriminatory and repugnant to our values,— it's also heartless and dumb as it would deny countless children a loving family and a safe place to call home." If the proposal moves forward, he continued. "we'll take legal action to stop it.

Governor Cuomo's office followed up the tweet with a lengthier statement posted to their website:

Once again the Trump administration is attacking the hard-earned rights and protections of the LGBTQ community, this time proposing a new measure that would give foster care and adoption agencies license to discriminate based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

Trump's proposal isn't just discriminatory and repugnant to our values — it's also heartless and dumb as it would deny countless children a loving family and a safe place to call home. If he moves forward with this rule, we'll take legal action to stop it.

No matter what happens in Washington, New York State is and will continue to be a beacon of equality in this country. Our Human Rights Law and adoption regulations expressly prohibit discrimination against the LGBTQ community, including when it comes to adoption. I encourage any LGBTQ New Yorker who feels they are a victim of this discrimination to contact the State Division of Human Rights for assistance.

Our message to the Trump administration is simple: there is no place for hate in New York or in our nation, and we will not allow this noxious proposal to stop LGBTQ New Yorkers from becoming parents or providing care to children in need.

Fatherhood, the gay way

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