"I couldn't get him out of my head," said Drew about the first time he saw his now-partner Joe. The two met 3 years ago at a gym in Toronto, Canada, but Drew remembers it as if it were yesterday. "It really was love at first sight."
The attraction might have been immediate, but their path towards partnership was a bit more complicated. Both men had recently ended long-term relationships: Joe with his wife of 18 years, and Drew with his partner of 26 years. Joe also has three kids with his ex-wife, and called Sydney, Australia, home. However, Drew and Joe knew that this was love, and they chose to make it work. With that, Drew left Canada to the other-side of the world, became "RooDaa" to Joe's three kids, and they're now a two-dad family.
We heard from Drew to find out how life's going "down under," his strengths and weaknesses as a new dad, and if his family feels accepted by a country who are about to vote on their rights to marry.
Joe (left) and Drew
How has your life changed since you became a father? Everything changed! Uprooting myself from Canada after living there for 30 years, along with two boxers who had to go into quarantine for 6+ months before being granted access to Australia; quitting a job I loved and starting over again; moving to a country where I didn't know anyone other than my partner and his family. Then becoming an instant dad to three children. It was a daunting experience, but one I would never change for anything.
What have you learned from the children since you became a dad? We've learned incredible amounts of humility, loss of ego and privacy. Three children will tell the world everything and anything! They have no filters and it usually leads to some of the funniest moments we've ever experienced. I've seen them at their best and their worst, as they've witnessed of Joe and I. Having kids has expanded our minds, our hearts and our lives in ways we have never imagined. We couldn't imagine our lives without these amazing people we see growing before our eyes.
Was there ever a moment when being a father has challenged you? Kids try your patience and push all your buttons, whenever possible. They know that I'm the softie, so they try to use me as their backdoor to get what they want. They've seen a marked decrease in their opportunities to try and work that angle as of late, as my partner and I talk daily about what the kids needs are, compared to their wants. We hope that by making them responsible for their wants, they'll become more well rounded individuals than spoiled grown ups who felt that everything is owed to them. That was a doubt I had. I didn't know if I'd be strong enough at first to stay true to our word, but we have worked together as a team at instilling good habits, politeness, acceptance, tolerance and responsibility in each of our kids.
Drew with Nayla, 8, Jacob, 6, and holding Sophie who is almost 4
Is your family treated differently than others on account of your sexual orientation or gender identity? We've been fortunate that we have been accepted for the most part. We have had a few instances with some family members and acquaintances that have disputed our right to marry, that has upset the children. We have explained to our kids that families come in all different variations, and they are smart enough to see that love is love. They asked us when was it that everyone voted on straight marriages? For the most part we get treated very well, the kids school has been very accepting and open, although we do get a few stares there, but that is to be expected. You really can't please all of the people all of the time.
What words of advice do you have for other gay men considering pursuing your same path or parenthood? The path we chose wasn't exactly smooth sailing. We each have ex-spouses that we had and have to consider in all of our dealings. It was a long road to travel, but we are happy with our choices. We would suggest that if you are planning on having children, think it through with your partner, as it's a huge undertaking. We have several friends that are in same sex marriages in Canada, that have since divorced over their differences in raising children or wanting children. Both partners have to be 100% on board. I stepped into a ready-made family, and despite the bumps along the way, I wouldn't change a thing. It's made us closer and stronger as a family and the kids see that.
In terms of the future, Drew says it's hard to imagine 5 or 10 years ahead as he's loving every minute being dad to his amazing kids, but he guesses that their relationship will only strengthen more with time. One thing for sure, Drew hopes that some time, in the not too distant future, the family will be planning his and Joe's wedding when Australia finally does what's right and recognizes that love is love and legalizes same-sex marriage.
We hear you, Joe! #LoveWillWin.