How Single Dad Diego Fought For Parental Leave

Diego Valdez, a single father of two, always knew he wanted to be a dad. “It was my dream since I was a kid,” he said.

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But due to a lack of information from a young age, Diego, like many people, thought for a long time that it wasn't possible for gay men to have kids and create a family.

“A few years ago, I was doing some random research on the internet, and I found the Gays With Kids website,” Diego said. “That's when I realized there were options for me, and I kept researching more about surrogacy.”

From the moment he started researching family options, it took Diego three months to sign a contract with a surrogacy agency and officially begin his first journey to parenthood.

Excited to start a new chapter in his life as a single gay man, Diego initially shared the news with his close friends and family in Panama.

“They were all very supportive,” he said. “But I think they didn't believe I was being so serious about it. Also, they were very curious about the process, because they never knew someone doing it. It was nice having the opportunity to teach all of my close family and friends about the process.”

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Although Diego had also considered adoption, he said while doing some research he realized adoption would be a very complicated process for him as a Mexican citizen living abroad in Panama. “Surrogacy felt like the right way to go to create my family,” he said.

For his first journey, Diego decided to go through a surrogacy agency. He was originally told it could be six months before he would be presented with the first surrogate's profile. So, he decided to take on all the other steps involved that seemed more relaxed, like finding an egg donor and a clinic.

In the end, it only took only three months for the surrogacy agency to send Diego an email with a potential surrogate profile. 

Since the moment he met her, he knew it was the right fit.“And I wasn't wrong with my instinct,” Diego said. “We are extremely close now. We don't see each other as friends but as extended family. We've even had family trips together!”

Diego’s first son, Xavier, was born January 2017.

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When it came to his second journey, Diego knew he wanted another child, but he wasn't sure when to start the process. It wasn’t until two years later that he decided to go for it, because little Xavier asked Diego about having a brother or sister.

For the second addition to their family, Diego decided to go the independent route, and baby Lily was born August 2020.

“This journey was very different because of COVID circumstances,” he said. “There was the stress of not knowing if I would be able to travel, since Panama borders were completely closed, and not knowing how or when I would be back home, since passport offices were closed in the USA. Fortunately everything worked out perfectly!”

Diego said being a single gay parent of two kids has definitely been made more difficult by living in a foreign country.

“I had to ensure I had the right support system through my friends, and work to be able to make it work for us,” Diego said. “Luckily I've had a lot of support from all of them to ensure I get the right balance and enjoy my family.”

With Xavier, Diego said he got the same amount of parental leave as any other family at his company would: three days. His realization that parents got such a short amount of time with their newborn prompted Diego to make a bold move and push for company-level changes when Lily came along.

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“I had to go back to work when my baby was one week old,” he said. “For my second journey I decided to fight that, and my company was very supportive. After showing them policies of my same company in other parts of the world, they agreed to give me two months of paternity leave. This meant a change in paternity leave policy that will apply for future parents. It was amazing to get this not just for me, but for future fathers as well.”

As someone who said he takes “personal responsibility” for educating other people about different types of families, Diego said he often takes the opportunity to engage in conversation with curious people who want to learn more about him and his kids.

“I believe since I am single, they don't identify me immediately as gay. Because of this, I get a lot of questions about my wife, to which I just give the automatic answer of me being a single gay man,” Diego said. “I haven't received any bad reactions to it but the opposite, everybody is curious and wants to learn more about my case. It's really funny how people are not used to seeing a gay man with his biological kids.”

When it comes to words of advice for other single men considering becoming a dad, Diego said the idea of starting a family doesn’t have to make dating harder too.

“Go for it! It will be the most rewarding experience in your life,” he said. “Personally I always knew I wanted to be a dad. I knew that it would complicate meeting guys, and possibly having a partner, but I was okay with that. If someone has the same objectives as I do, he won't be scared of me having two kids… It's in our hands to give visibility of our families, so others are not scared of making parenting decisions because of possible discrimination.”

Are you single and interested in becoming a dad? Join us on March 24th for our Becoming a Dad as a Single Queer Man Webinar.

Posted by Brit Smith

Brit Smith is a Staff Writer & Associate Editor at GWK. A native of London, England, she started her American adventure nannying and waiting tables in Texas in 2006, and eventually graduated magna cum laude from the University of California, Berkeley in 2017. She now lives in Massachusetts with her husband and their two dogs Cosmo and Juno. Brit has previously written and created podcasts for WBZ NewsRadio, iHeart Media, and Different Leaf.



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