The Real Modern Family of Tennessee

Until 2018, Cameron Williams was living the single life, working as an actor in Los Angeles, California. Having children was not even on his radar.

“As a single man I always said ‘I don’t think kids are for me,’” Cameron smiled. “Then I met his kids. And I said, okay, I kinda like these guys.”

“Kinda?!” husband Michael Robison laughed, “He’s obsessed! And he’s the best dad on the planet,” he beamed.

Michael, a tech entrepreneur from Tennessee and father of seven, met Cameron on a dating app while he was in L.A. speaking at an entrepreneurs event in 2018.

“We knew within probably 24 hours that it was the right thing.” Michael said.

Their instincts were on point; the couple were married the following year. But since Michael lived in Nashville when they first met, they had a long-distance relationship for the first few months. 

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When Cameron eventually moved to Tennessee in mid-2019, he not only began a life with his husband-to-be. He also became a co-parent to Michael’s crew of kids.

In 2002, Michael legally adopted a young teenage girl from his church community whose mother had suddenly passed away.

“Most people do not take in teenagers,” he said, “and they end up in group homes until they age out. Jessica was a handful. She got pregnant her senior year. So technically, I became a grandfather right before my wife at the time was expecting our first biological son.”

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After Michael’s first son Evan was born in 2005, he and then-wife Allison had another boy, Noah, in 2007.

With Jessica starting her own family, and two young boys at home, the couple went on to adopt three more kids; baby Kaia from Ethiopia in 2010, teenager Shay in 2011, and Karis from Haiti in 2014.

Karis’ adoption was one Michael called “rife with corruption.”

“What should’ve taken about one year took almost four,” he said. “We went through a number of cycles of paying people, and the money just being taken, and nothing happening.”

During one incident, Michael was even jailed overnight in Haiti for refusing to pay a bribe. As she grew up, Karis started asking why she couldn’t live with Michael permanently. And back in the U.S., their daughter Kaia began asking why no one else in the family looked like her. 

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Michael said it became more and more difficult to visit Haiti and leave without Karis every time, and he knew he had to get her home.

“I’ve been actively working in Haiti for 20 years, so I’m a bit different from your typical parent,” he said. “But in 2014, I just packed my bags and went to Haiti to stay, and said I’m going to manage this process myself.”

After handling all the paperwork, meetings, and adoption issues completely on his own, Michael was able to return to Tennessee with Karis in 2014, the same year the couple’s third biological son Judah was born, rounding out their brood of seven kids.

“I knew my entire life that I wanted to be a dad,” Michael said. “And, I knew I wanted a big family. Adoption and foster care were always in the plans. I wanted to provide a home for as many kids as I was able to.”

When Michael came out to his wife in 2016, they decided to co-exist together for a few years. They took their time to work through the divorce with their children, before Michael began his coming out process. He said their decision to go slowly meant they could avoid any of the kids’ worlds being turned upside down.

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“There wasn’t some jolt, or crazy moment, and I think being patient in that process made all the difference,” he said. “And the kids haven’t missed a beat.”

Now, Michael, Cameron and Allison co-parent their five youngest children, aged 7-15, together as a team, and they keep a close relationship with the oldest two, aged 16 and 30.

“We split custody of the kids 50-50,” Michael said. “We have a great flow co-parenting. If we have parenting things, it’s a 3-way phone call together with me, Allison and Cameron. We're all in it together.”

Michael said the entire blended family has become very close since Cameron joined. “We don't do separate holidays at mom's house, and then dad's house,” he said. In fact, Michael said Allison and her boyfriend are considered as much a part of his parent’s family as are his children, grandchildren, and new husband.

“One of the biggest things that made it great for the kids is my ex has a lot of respect, and treats Cameron with a lot of honor,” Michael said. “She even brings her boyfriend to our house. It’s weird to a lot of people, but for us it just works.”

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Cameron said he is enjoying his new role as a father, and he loves being around all the kids. 

Although he said there were initially some bumps in the road when he first started dating Michael, Cameron’s family has also become very supportive of their relationship. However, they have faced difficulty as an interracial family in the south.

“We have faced lots of adversity along the way — ur kids have been threatened. During the latest surge of BLM we had an individual drive past our home, take pictures of the kids in the yard, and tell us to watch for the safety of our "n*gger" kids,” Cameron said, using the acronym for the “Black Lives Matter” movement. “We have been uninvited to many events for being gay... Being in a southern, traditional setting can be very hard at times.”

To other men who are considering starting a relationship with a man who has kids, Cameron said it’s always best to listen to your heart. “That’s what I did, and it got me somewhere pretty great,” he smiled.

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For fathers who are navigating the concept of coming out of the closet, Michael said it’s important to not rush the process.

“Pursue what is in your heart,” he said. “It really took us about six years to get to where we are today. And now, life is good. I never imagined how good life can be. And I had a good life, always. But on this side, I have a full life. And it’s fantastic.”

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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