Jamie and his fiancé Tom, together 16 years, are two UK dads who share their lives as adoptive parents openly and frankly on their blog "Daddy and Dad" In 2014, they adopted their two sons, biological siblings Lyall and Richard. Soon after, they realized how little information and support existed for same-sex adoptive parents. Cue their entry into the blogging world! Now they share "the good, the bad and the ugly experiences" with family, friends and loyal readers. In October this year, Jamie and Tom were awarded Blog of the Year at the UK National Adoption Week Awards in London.
We're excited to have Jamie share a couple of guest blog posts for the site in the months ahead, but in the meantime, we took the opportunity to get to know this family a little better.
Tell us why you chose to adopt. We were keen to adopt siblings after spending a lot of time with our little nephews, Samuel and Finley. Their family relocated to Germany in 2012 and we miss them. When they moved away, Tom and I started to discuss planning a family of our own - we had plenty of experience with two boys so when we heard about the growing number of siblings waiting for adoptive parents our decision was made.
Tell us about any obstacles you faced on your path to fatherhood. Our adoption process was long and complex, and subjected to legal issues affecting the status of the children after they were matched with us as suitable parents for them. It was an extremely difficult time for Tom and I.
How has your life changed since you became a father? My life has changed beyond recognition! I used to be a full time digital marketing manager for a big promotional marketing firm, working long hours but equally enjoying a busy nightlife. When the children arrived I took six months off work to concentrate on the children (particularly the little one)'s development and attachment and then returned to work part time, while Tom was promoted to a director position which meant that he became the chief income earner for our family. Eventually I was made redundant and launched my freelance copywriting service which allows me the extra time I need to look after school drop-off and pick-ups and housework. My social life has changed dramatically; instead of a night out we will tend to take the boys with us to a family friendly pub or restaurant with a cab home at about 8pm!
What have you learned from your child since you became a dad? I've learned so much from my children. It's been a steep learning curve as our little one Richard was developmentally delayed and needed in-house speech therapy. They were four and five when they arrived. We've learned that a strict routine at home is crucial to the boys' happiness. We've had to encourage their interests including musical instruments, soccer, drones, painting and everything else in between. We depend on YouTube for hints and tips.
Was there ever a moment that you or Tom experienced any serious doubts about your path to fatherhood or fatherhood itself. There was a dreadful time for Tom and I during the adoption process, after the boys had been matched with us but before they moved in; a stage in the process that ordinarily only takes a few weeks. We had everything ready; places for the boys at the village school and their bedrooms furnished and decorated. But a series of last minute legal issues caused significant delays to the process and we doubted whether or not they would be able to come and live with us at all. The delays lasted several months, during which time our relationship was tested to its limit and we almost completely gave up. Also my job was hanging by a thread as I couldn't give my employer a solid leaving date. We were in a horrible limbo and we were very unhappy. But, we gritted our teeth and persevered. Eventually the British High Court in London became involved and moved everything along.
Is your family treated differently than others on account of your sexual orientation? This isn't something that we've experienced at all. Mothers' day could potentially cause an upset for the boys however their school is very sensitive about families without a mum and the boys make cards and gifts for their grandmas instead. When we're interviewed by media people on occasion their questions can be a little thoughtless and depend on stereotypes ("Who take the female role" kind of things) but we tend to challenge those types of questions rather than fumble together a rubbish answer.
What words of advice do you have for other gay men considering pursuing your same path or parenthood? We would suggest that other gay men get in touch with their local adoption agency to make an inquiry. They can offer plenty of information and put you in touch with other adoptive parents and people at all stages of the adoption process. Also I'd tell them that the process is exactly the same for gay people as it is for straight people and they can expect to be treated with just as much respect and kindness during the process as anybody else.
Where do you see your family 5-10 years in the future? In five years time, the boys will be teenagers and we will hopefully be living in a larger house with more room. We want the boys to go to a good school away from the city. I'm hoping that I can return to working within a team by then as freelance work is equally as isolating as it is flexible for family life. In 10 years, the boys will be 18, it's very difficult to imagine what our family dynamic will be by then. We're very open about their origins and their turbulent start to life, in the hope that they don't feel a desperate need to search for information when they're 18+. We'll just keep on loving them and providing for them in the meantime!
Is there anything else you'd like to share about your experiences creating or raising your family? Blogging and contributing to adoption charities' blogs and the British gay media has provided a fantastic opportunity to share our experiences and to keep family and friends up-to-date. I'm hoping that our online and media presence will eventually become a paid-job for us - Lyall and Richard are budding presenters and actors and have recently started their own YouTube channel. Parenting school age adopted children is very different to parenting children from birth - even adopted children with good mental health have experienced a very traumatic start to life and most (including our boys) will have struggled to attach to adults before their adopted parents came along. We've persevered with our parenting techniques in the face of severe criticism from close family and friends and as a result our boys are very happy and settled, with only a few small issues to contend with.