In case you didn’t notice, gay dads have a lot on their shoulders; aside from all the accolades that come with being gay in this world, they also have kids to raise! And then there's the unspoken yet ever-present anxiety that our families are constantly being watched by the rest of society.
Gay dads often form their families via foster care and adoption, where kids may have also gone through trauma in their own lives.
So how can gay dads prioritize self-care and focus on healing their own trauma, while also being the best parents they can be?
According to certified trauma counselor and gay dad Cory George, by nature parents are people who care for others, especially those who seek out parenthood, like gay dads. So it’s common for queer parents to forget to check in with themselves.
“[Gay dads] are probably the most intentional parents in the world,” Cory said on GWK the Podcast. “But I’ve learned there was burnout, because I felt like someone was always watching… It may be important to examine your own trauma, so you can become the best parent possible.”
On this week’s episode of GWK the Podcast, Cory says many gay dads like him have been through traumatic events in their lives, which can seep into their parenting styles and self-care routines.
Cory is a survivor of childhood sexual abuse. When he first adopted his two children, he said he tried to be the parent he needed for himself. That meant placing strict boundaries on who could be around his kids.
“I was restricting my children from having a social life, because I don’t trust anyone with my kids, because no one took care of me,” he said. “So what I teach in my practice is; check your ills at the door before you try to help someone else. Because those ills are going to become integrated into your parenting.”
If you’re not yet a parent but you’re considering becoming one, Cory says it’s a good idea to start asking some bold questions about yourself, like; “What kind of parent do you want to be specifically?” and “What kind of things do you want to teach your child?”
Any child has the potential to endure trauma, at any age. In Cory’s family, his oldest child is trans, and his youngest has Autism Spectrum Disorder. For both of his kids, Cory said he wanted to be the kind of dad who is open minded and accepting, so he learned to ask about their experiences and needs.
With kids who have gone through the foster care system, Cory said gay dads should “expect to make time to be present.” That may include looking out for behavioral signs of trauma in the child, like hoarding food. But vitally, “making time to be present” should also include checking in on your own emotions and needs every day.
“Prioritize yourself, show them what a healthy adult can be; go for a morning run, go back to school, have your own hobbies,” Cory said. “It teaches the child how to define self-care, love, and boundaries. Be honest, saying you’re feeling tired. It helps you, and it helps model for them how to give to themselves first. It’s about understanding what your needs are, do you need a walk, do you need to sit still, do you need to run a hot back? When you communicate that, the child doesn’t take it personally, or think that they’re the burden.”
Listen to the full episode of GWK the Podcast with Cory George; S2E6; Self Care for Gay Dads with Cory George below, on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you get podcasts.