Today I end my tenure as a stay-at-home dad. During the past two years, nine months, and 18 days I have done it all. I’ve gained 20 pounds. I’ve changed enough diapers and mixed enough bottles that Olivia Walton and I could share of wink of personal understanding. I’ve cleaned up puke, stepped in puke, and probably have inadvertently eaten some puke. And I’m okay with that. It’s what a parent does. My trials and tribulations are no different than the family next door. (Although, that dad may be watching men’s Olympic diving for a whole other reason.) We are not the exception to “family” because we’re gay dads with two adopted black children. Or are we?
At the beginning of this journey, on November 24, in 2013, I was determined to be “normal.” Sites like these confused me. “I don’t need to identify as a gay dad, but merely as a dad,” I would think. There is no other in fatherhood I believed. But as my tenure ends, I know this isn’t true. As much as I tried to blend in at the library or swimming pool, my cards were plainly laid on the table for all to see.
Comments from strangers and friends alike would constantly remind me that I was a new category of parent. We lost our gay friends; some because they didn’t want to their homes invaded by toddlers; others, perhaps, jealous they were too old to have a family of their own. We gained wonderful new friends, many with children. And while our community has been nothing but welcoming to our family, our family lives on the outside.
I follow social media comments about straight fathers who put on swimsuits backwards. About the maternal guilt some have going to work and leaving their children in the care of another. I know how to put on a little girls bathing suit properly and I don’t think that’s a gay talent, but one rooted in common sense. But the gay maternal guilt may be unique. I didn’t carry this baby around with me for nine months. I certainly didn’t breastfeed either of them. And while I love my two children, I’ll never know the maternal connection. And this might be a good thing (or a bad thing).
In many ways my family followed the typical Donna Reed prototype. I took care of the children in the morning. I cared for them during the day. I bathed them. Fed them. I cooked dinner for the family. It was expected. And when one person brings in the income for a family of four, I can understand the expectation that things get done. Because someone has worked hard that day. But there’s no support group for me. There’s no mommy group for me to join. I’m a daddy. In rural Ohio. And whether subconsciously or on purpose, I’m seen as the dad. Even if my role is the traditional mom.
But I know I need to let my children grow. They need to be around their peers. Selfishly, I’m excited to see my daughter evolve. We haven’t been able to potty-train her, so I’ll happily welcome in the professional help. Someone recently asked if I was heartbroken sending them off. That’s an easy one: no. We live five minutes from their school. And detached from me, at this age, they’ll be identified as toddlers, without MommyDaddy around to reveal another layer of our family onion. But let it be known: Should either of them need me, MommyDaddy will roll in like a drag queen pushing through a bridal shower to collect her dollars!
The drag queen in the photo above is the incomparable and fabulous Dixie Longate, who kindly allowed Gays With Kids to use this photo.