Great news! My book has cracked the top 674,000 on Amazon! I actually noticed it go as high as the top 176,000 shortly after I announced the presale, but clearly most of you have been holding out for the official chart twerk, which takes place this Friday, October 4, at 12pm EDT (or as close to that as you can manage to be near a device running Amazon.com). I’m hoping then that I’ll see a much higher ranking, which of course, will give my publisher a big boost of confidence and hopefully convince more booksellers to stock it.
I’ve been so touched by all of you who’ve said you’re going to participate. I’m happy you want to read the book and grateful that you’re willing to help me out with my crazy little plan. (Admittedly, the one thing that’s likely to get a bigger boost than my book’s ranking is my own ego.)
For the rest of you, I’ve realized that maybe you need some more convincing. Maybe just some more information about this book I’m asking you to shell out your preorder money for. So, if you’re curious what’s contained in these 264 pages, here goes:
This memoir began as kind of an expanded version of a Modern Love column I wrote for the New York Times. You can read that original column here. That piece mostly centered on the amazing gift my partner and I received from my sister-in-law Susie, who selflessly donated her eggs to help us have children. The hardest thing about writing that column was fitting the whole thing into such a limited space. There was so much more to our story. So many more amazing people who deserved to be included, so many more unbelievable anecdotes I was dying to share. Writing the short version convinced me that I wanted to write about all of it. For my own sake, for my kids’ sake and, hopefully, for a bunch of people who might be moved by or just get a kick out of our story.
What I didn’t want to write was some deep, ponderous, self-important memoir like so many of the others out there. If you’ve been reading my blog, you’re familiar with my writing voice – snarky, jokey and then, when you least expect, ridiculously sentimental, because that’s just the kind of guy I am. That’s exactly what you’ll get from the book, too.
If I do say so myself, it’s also just a great story. Here’s the synopsis I put together for the publisher, which you can also find on the book’s Amazon page.
As a teenager growing up in the 1980s, all Jerry Mahoney wanted was a nice, normal sham marriage. 2.5 kids and a frustrated, dissatisfied wife living in denial of her husband’s sexuality. Hey, why not? It seemed much more attainable and fulfilling than the alternative—coming out of the closet and making peace with the fact that he’d never have a family at all.
Twenty years later, Jerry is living with his long-term boyfriend, Drew, and they’re ready to take the plunge into parenthood. But how? Adoption? Foster parenting? Kidnapping? What they want most of all is a great story to tell their future kid about where he or she came from.
Their search leads them to gestational surrogacy, a road less traveled where they’ll be borrowing a stranger’s ladyparts for nine months. Thus begins Jerry and Drew’s hilarious and unexpected journey to daddyhood. They meet a surrogate who’s perfect in every way… until she rejects them. They squabble over potential egg donors, discovering that they have very different notions of what makes the ideal woman. Then, Drew’s sister Susie makes a stunning offer that turns their entire journey on its head. If they’re interested, she’ll donate her eggs.
For the first time, Jerry and Drew imagine what it would be like to have a baby who’s a little bit of both of them. From then on, they’re in uncharted waters. They’re forced to face down homophobic baby store clerks, a hospital that doesn’t know what to do with them, even members of their own family who think what they’re doing is a little nutty. Along the way, Susie receives some devastating news that threatens to crush all their dreams of parenthood. One thing’s for sure. If this all works out, they’re going to have an incredible birth story to tell their kid.
With honesty, emotion, and laugh-out-loud humor, Jerry Mahoney ponders what it means to become a Mommy Man . . . and discovers that the answer is as varied and beautiful as the concept of family itself.
If you have any questions, post them here. I’d be happy to answer them. And if you need a reminder to place your order with the rest of us, just let me know and I’ll add you to my email list.
I have no idea how high a ranking this book can get, but I’m dying to find out. Maybe some day you can say you helped me crack the top 8,000!
[Remember: the Amazing Amazon Preorder Sales Twerk is this Friday, October 4, at 12pm EDT. You can place your orders here.]
Exciting news. My book now has something in common with Tolstoy’s War and Peace, Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury and Snooki’s Confessions of a Guidette. It’s listed on Amazon! You can see the cover, you can read the description, you can even click on a button to pre-order it (hint, hint).
Yes, that’s my cover. I’m very happy to report that my publisher, Taylor Trade, hired the incredible David Heatley, who did my blog banner, to design the cover, and it’s exactly everything I wanted my book cover to be, because David is awesome and brilliant and Taylor Trade is the best.
I warned you this moment was coming. I told you I would start a full-on marketing blitz at some point. So here’s what I’m asking you to do. Ready…?
DON’T ORDER IT!
Well, yes, of course I want you to order it. Just not yet.
As I write this, my book is currently ranked #2,036,591 on Amazon. (Suck it, whoever’s #2,036,592!)
It’s not as bad as it sounds. It just got listed, and it doesn’t come out until May 8, 2014. Hopefully I can crack the top 2 million by then.
Now, here’s my silly strategy for getting my book off to a good start with preorders…
You may know that Amazon updates its sales rankings hourly. That means if you order my book right now, it might go up a few hundred thousand positions, and I would be incredibly grateful. Then, it would slowly sink back down again and in a few days, it might rest back in the high 1-millions/low 2-millions.
But what if, I wondered… what if everyone who’s going to preorder it did so at the same time, like within the same 1-hour period? What if I could get my book to rank, even briefly, within the top 1,000, maybe higher? Best case scenario, it would help my book get noticed. Maybe a few more people would order it. Maybe a few more booksellers would choose to stock it. Worst case scenario, it would make me feel good, and that’s nice, too.
So if you’re on board, join me in — oh, let’s call it my Amazing Amazon Preorder Chart Twerk. (Note: I’m still unclear on what twerking actually is.) We’ll twerk it together on Friday, October 4, as close to 12pm EST as you can do it.
This means you, people who’ve told me you can’t wait to preorder my book. This means you, people who like books that are funny and touching and about me. This means you, Mom! This means all of you!
The best part is this: Amazon has a pre-order price guarantee, so you won’t actually pay what it says right now. You’ll be billed when the book ships, and you’ll pay whatever the lowest price was between now and the day you first get to hold the book in your happy little hands. The current price is 10% off retail, but I’ve seen Amazon list it for as much as 25% off over the last few days. I’ll bet they’ll have that deal again over the next 7 1/2 months. Who knows. It may even go lower. (It’s a little like gambling — how fun!)
Let me repeat: Instead of preordering my book now, mark your calendar for Friday October 4, and do it then. (Don’t worry. If you check here or on my Facebook page, I’ll be reminding you.)
And if you’re worried you’ll forget or you think this is silly or you think, “Hey, cracking the top 2 million is pretty good, Jerry, don’t get greedy,” then feel free to order it right this second. Here. At this link. Go on!
I promise I won’t be mad.
UPDATE: I’ll definitely be posting, Facebooking, tweeting and twerking about this again before the big day, but if you want an email reminder on October 4 at go time, just leave me a comment here stating as such, and I’ll add you to the list. Just make sure you enter your email in the appropriate box when you type your comment, and then I’ll have it.
One of the bigger challenges of being in a two-dad family is finding representations of families like yours in popular culture. When you have no mom in your home, it can sometimes seem like 90% of kids’ books don’t apply to you. (And when you have no dad, you’re just as likely to feel excluded from Disney princess movies, where moms are virtually nonexistent.)
Yesterday, I took my kids to see Despicable Me 2. There’s a subplot in the movie about the main character’s daughters wishing they had a mom. It was perfectly sweet and inoffensive, and I’m sure it’s a subject that really does pop up in a lot of families headed by straight single dads. I don’t mind my kids seeing cartoon children who wish they had a mom, but it’s nice when that can be balanced out by fictional characters who are perfectly happy with the number and gender of parents they already have.
The amazing thing was, they actually got that. Not from the movie, but from one of the trailers that came before it. I’d never heard of The Boxtrolls before, but I let out a little squeal of joy when, out of nowhere, I heard them acknowledge the existence of families like mine. “That’s like us!” I cheered to my kids.
You can watch the trailer here:
I’m sure the filmmakers will get some flack over what will seem to many people like a totally unnecessary nod to LGBT parents — and maybe publicity was part of their motivation. The trailer comes right on the heels of the Supreme Court DOMA/Prop 8 decisions, yet the movie doesn’t come out until September 2014. (Hey, Focus Features, just how long do you think my kids’ memory is? They didn’t remember the movie about the racing snail and we only saw that trailer a week ago.)
Still, it’s my opinion that it’s never too early to talk to your kids about homosexuality — in fact, the sooner, the better. So I’m grateful this trailer will help nudge the conversation forward. More importantly, though, I’m happy for all the kids like mine who are going to see it.
You may not see families like mine every day — or single-parent families, adoptive families or families that cross any number of racial lines — but it’s very nice for us when we get a chance to see ourselves… so to the filmmakers, I want to say thanks.
I also want to let them know that my son was kind of freaked out by the Boxtrolls themselves and has sworn he’ll never see the movie. Good thing he has plenty of time to change his mind before it’s actually released.
There was nothing I wanted to inherit from my father more than the name “Dad.” I loved my dad, and in my mind, he was indelibly tied to that particular sobriquet. “Dad” was a term of love and respect for me, a part of all my memories of childhood and a crucial element of how I defined my family. The problem, when I actually became a dad, was that my partner Drew wanted to be called “Dad,” too — or, in the early years, “Daddy.”
“You can’t both be Dad,” a million people warned us. “That’ll be so confusing for your kids.”
They suggested we go by “Daddy” and “Papa,” which seem to be the go-to designations for gay dads these days. No matter how much we considered it, though, “Papa” felt like the consolation prize, and neither of us would agree to settle for it. We both grew up with dads whom we loved very much, so that’s what we wanted to be. Finally, we found someone who gave us the answer we were looking for.
“We’ve never had a problem,” a business associate of Drew’s told us one day. He and his partner had an eight-year-old son who called them both “Dad.”
“Is it ever confusing?”
He shrugged. “When it is, he finds ways to differentiate.”
So we went for it. Before they could even understand speech, our twins heard the word “Daddy” thousands of times. To them, “Daddy” came to mean two different men and one common function. They called for Daddy to kiss their boo-boos and to break up their disputes, not knowing for sure whether the tall guy or the short guy would walk through the door. When they didn’t get the Daddy they were hoping for, they made their displeasure known.
My kids will turn 4 this summer, and already, they’re pros at differentiating between their two dads. Their favorite way is to use modifiers like “Silly Daddy” or “Funny Daddy”, and in those cases, we all know instantly who they mean — not me. When they take the extra effort to throw in a compliment like that, they’re always talking about Drew. I’m just plain old “Daddy.” Some days, Papa doesn’t sound so bad to me anymore.
I want to plead my case: “Remember when I sang Katy Perry’s ‘Firework’, but I changed every word to ‘poop’? Didn’t we have a lot of laughs then?” But I don’t want to end up as “Desperate Daddy,” so I keep my hurt feelings to myself.
I’m the stay-home parent, so while the kids and I do have fun together, I’m also the guy who enforces naptime and who makes them take off their dress-up clothes while they eat their healthy dinners. At night, when Silly Daddy is at his most uproarious, I’m groaning and trying to rush them to bed, because I’m exhausted from all the unfunny things I do all day.
… which brings me to the one distinction that hurts more than Silly Daddy vs. Just Daddy. At some point, my kids started calling my partner “The Daddy Who Goes To Work” and I became “The Daddy Who Stays Home”. Was that how they saw things? Drew was defined by his job, but I was defined by my location, by the fact that you could usually find me within 20 feet of the bed where I slept last night?
These kids didn’t know me before I was Daddy. I used to have a career, too, one that I enjoyed, and that allowed me to live a lot more comfortably than I do now. I took vacations. I saved for my retirement. I saw movies in the theater.
I thought I was trading that in for something better, a more interesting and adventurous life path. I was going to be a dad — a professional dad — and a gay dad at that. Take that, status quo!
Instead, I’ve ended up like most stay-home parents, the clichéd unappreciated house-spouse. I’ll find myself cracking privately to friends, “You know what they should be calling me? The Daddy Who Gave Up His Life for Us!”
It turns out that deciding who I would be to my kids wasn’t as simple as choosing what they would call me. I still love being referred to as “Daddy,” but I’ve come to accept that that term doesn’t mean the same to them as it did to me when I was growing up. For my kids, “Daddy” is an ever-evolving designation, one that requires adjustment at times, complete overhaul at others.
Recently, they decided that “The Daddy Who Stays Home” wasn’t quite working for them anymore. Without notice, they gave it a subtle twist, one that probably seemed minor to them but which brought me instantly out of my funk. It materialized as my daughter drew pictures of two men’s faces, which looked very similar except that one had spiky purple hair and one had a red crew cut. “This is the Daddy Who Goes to Work,” she said, pointing to the first one.
“And this,” she said, holding up the other picture proudly, “is the Daddy Who Takes Care of Us.”
OK, you saw the asterisks. You know what that means. This is the part of the post where I shamelessly ask you to share this post (or my blog in general) on your social networks. Facebook me, tweet me, surprise me. If you like something I wrote here, help me out by spreading the word. If you hate it, then you can still share it, because hey, traffic is traffic, and your friends might have better taste than you. Also, follow me on Facebook, Twitter and wherever else you can find me. I’m not the type of guy who plays hard to find.
Yes, that’s a question mark at the end of that post title. Anyone have any ideas?
When news broke that the Supreme Court struck down DOMA and Prop 8, I’m sure a lot of straight parents were stumped about how to discuss the subject with their kids. In the past, I’ve had a lot of sympathy for straight parents who wanted to explain gay parents like me and my partner to their kids. Well, this is one instance in which I say to straight parents, you’ve got it easy. For you, it’s as simple as, “They decided everyone should be treated equally. Hooray!”
As a gay dad, though, I need to have the exact opposite conversation. Before I can tell my kids how great it is that we’re now considered equal, I first have to explain why we weren’t equal to begin with. Our kids have always known that couples come in all varieties of gender combinations — woman/woman, man/man, man/woman, lady/tramp. What they don’t know — and gratefully, are still too young to understand — is that not all of those groups feel comfortable sharing plates of spaghetti in public.
I wrote in a Lifetime Moms post how I don’t want to tell my daughter she can do anything boys can do, because, y’know, duh. Since I wrote that post, there have been a couple of times she’s heard from other people that girls can’t do something, and I’ve had to let her know that those people are horribly wrong, and also just plain horrible. As a result, my extremely girly little girl swears she’s going to be a construction worker when she grows up. Success.
I’ve always felt pretty much the same way about homophobia that I did about sexism: I’ll wait for the kids to encounter it, and then it’ll seem as bizarre and unfounded to them as it should.
Luckily, that plan has served me well so far, because my kids have yet to experience any direct homophobia. All of my fears about parents refusing to set up playdates with us, schools turning us away or landlords refusing to rent to us have been, so far, unfounded. There are the occasional moments we get some extra attention because we have two dads in our family, so my kids briefly get to feel like celebrities. But no one’s thrown any rocks through our windows or given us any negative attention. For the most part, we get treated exactly the way I want to be treated.
It’s not that I don’t want my kids to know about homophobia. It’s just that I’m not sure they’d believe me.
That may be the best part about being a gay parent, that my kids are the only people I’ve ever known who I didn’t have to come out to, who didn’t know about or assume the shame and fear I grew up with. To them, I’m just “Dad”, and the fact that I love “Other Dad” isn’t just natural and wonderful, it’s a fundamental part of their world view.
So, sure, I want to tell my kids about the Supreme Court’s ruling. I want them to see all the people celebrating and all the couples like their dads who are now getting married. There’s just no way they’d appreciate what a big deal it is and no way to do it without exposing them, just a tiny bit, to exactly the thing I’ve been trying to protect them from. I don’t want my kids to feel like victims, and I don’t want them to think they have to be fighters, either. I just want them to be themselves, and so far, they’re doing an awesome job of that.
This is undoubtedly an historical moment, but I’ve decided this is one bit of history they can wait to learn about until their high school history class, because the world the Supreme Court just brought us one step closer to, is one my kids already live in.
If you made it this far, why not go further… like by leaving me a comment? Or maybe sharing this post on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Reddit, Digg or Glakk (c’mon, you know there’s gotta be a Glakk). And you can make me even happier by subscribing to the blog in the box on the upper-right hand corner of the page, liking me on Facebook and/or following me on Twitter. [End of shameless self-promotion. Now seriously, how do I invest in Glakk?]
So you’re going to be a gay parent? Congratulations! No doubt you’ve been through a lot to get to this point, whether you’ve traveled the path of adoption, IVF, artificial insemination, surrogacy, fostering or whatever. Now, you have a lot to do to get ready.
Don’t worry. This isn’t going to be one of those typical posts that tells you to stock up on diapers and learn CPR. Most gay parents are overachievers on that front, I’d guess, since we’ve been planning our families for so long. I know I couldn’t wait to sign up for baby classes.
I wanted to write this post specifically for you, though, the expectant gay parent, because there’s a whole lot of important parenting stuff they’re not going to cover in those baby classes that applies directly to you. There are some special things you’re going to experience because you have a non-traditional family, and I’ve encountered them, so I wanted to give you my tips on how to deal with them.
1. Your kids will need perspective.
No matter where you live, it’s very likely that your kids will grow up feeling at least slightly out of the mainstream. They’ll see that most families have a mom and dad, and that their family is different.
In my opinion, the best way to handle this is to embrace it. Celebrate who you are from day one. Always talk about what makes your family special, and make sure you do it in positive terms. There are some great kids’ books about LGBT-parented families. (I call the books about gay dads “Papa-ganda”.) We love to read “The Family Book” by Todd Parr, and when we get to the page that says “Some families have two moms or two dads,” I ask the kids. “Who has two dads?”, and they cheer, “Me!!!”
When they meet other kids, they probably feel that their friends are the ones who are missing out on something special by not having a family like ours. Yes, my kids are still young (3 1/2 as of right now), so they haven’t asked a ton of uncomfortable questions, and the Mommy issue hasn’t come up too much. But when that time comes (and I know it will), I’ll be able to talk about our family structure as something wonderful that makes us who we are, because that’s what I’ve been saying all along.
Moms are great, too, but if we had one of those, we wouldn’t have two dads, and we wouldn’t be us.
2. You’ll constantly be outing yourself.
Unless you’re always walking around in your rainbow-striped Pride t-shirt (and good for you if you are), you’re probably passing for straight most of the time, whether you mean to or not. As a childless person, this is not a big deal. You’re going to the supermarket to pick up a loaf of bread, not to discuss your private life with strangers, right?
Well, once you have kids, people will be even more likely to assume you’re straight. A baby practically announces to the world, “I had intercourse with someone of the opposite sex!”
I can’t tell you how many times a stranger (usually a woman, presumably a mom herself) has seen me pushing my kids in the double stroller through the aisles of Target or changing a diaper in a family restroom and exclaimed, “Your wife sure is lucky!” (Side note: many straight women apparently have terrible husbands.)
Even when my whole family is out together — me, the kids and my very obviously male partner — people find ways to force us into their preconceived notions of family structure. Then, the typical comment we get is, “I guess it’s Mom’s day off!” The assumption here is that my boyfriend and I are platonic buddies whose wives are off on a spa date or something. Hey, I take the spa dates in my family, thank you very much.
Your natural inclination in these situations might be to play along, not out of any kind of self-loathing but just for social expediency. From most people, these comments are the equivalent of, “Hey, nice weather we’re having!” All they’re looking for is for me to respond, “Yup!” Or “Hey, it’s only fair. Mom works hard, right?”
But whenever I’m tempted to do that, I’ll remember two very good reasons I can’t… my kids. They love their dads very much, and I’ve been telling them constantly what an amazing and incredibly special family we have. What message would I be sending to them if I suddenly pretended our family was just like everyone else’s? That we need to lie about who we are? That they should lie? That I’m ashamed of being gay? That the opinion of some stranger in a supermarket is more important than the respect of my own children?
So I say it. Regardless of what the situation seems to call for, I out us. “There is no mom. There are two dads in our family.” Or “I don’t have a wife. I have a partner. A man.”
Then I brace myself, because my real fear is that this person will turn out to be a member of the Westboro Baptist Church or the Boy Scouts senior leadership, and they’ll go all psycho fire and brimstone on me in front of the kids. Thankfully, that hasn’t happened yet. Sure, some people are taken aback, because like I said, all they wanted was polite chit-chat and now they feel forced to say… well, something. Usually, what they say is “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have assumed,” because they’re embarrassed. In that case, I just smile, because that person is probably very nice and will never make that mistake again.
Remember, your kids come before strangers. Don’t worry about what some lady at the supermarket thinks. And if you’re in a hurry to get someone to the potty or to pick Other Daddy up at the train station, just correct the lady at the Stop-n-Shop and keep on moving. She’ll figure it out eventually.
Oh, and be prepared to do this with little kids, too. We sometimes get the question, “Where’s their Mommy?” and have to reply, “They don’t have one. They have two dads.” It usually ends there… for us, at least. If the questions get any trickier, we can always fall back on, “Go ask your parents.” Not my kids, not my problem.
3. You will now be an activist for non-traditional families.
As a childless LGBT person, it’s entirely possible to live your life in a supportive bubble. Move to San Francisco or LA. Work for GLAAD. Join a gay softball league. Surround yourself with people who know you and accept you. I’d guess many of us spent the years after coming out doing just that. Well, if you’re going to have kids, you’re going to have to venture outside your gay-friendly bubble. Constantly.
Your kids will be going to school and playing Little League primarily with kids from mom-and-dad-headed families, and you’ll be interacting with people who won’t always be 100% on board with the whole gay thing. Even going to IHOP on Family Night can feel like you’re Making a Statement, because some people will figure out immediately exactly what your family is all about.
Hi, welcome to the cause. What’s that? You’re not a political person? Well, good, because this isn’t about politics. It’s about your family, and being a good parent means doing what’s best for your kids. You want them to grow up in a better world than you did? Great, then get ready to fight for them.
The good news is that most of the time, you can do this by pushing back gently. When I filled out my kids’ preschool applications last year, the forms had spaces for “Mother’s Name” and “Father’s Name”. I could’ve just written our names in those spaces. I guess I also could’ve called up and complained or raised a stink. Instead, I simply crossed out “Mother” and wrote “Father #2″, then submitted the forms as normal. Why assume that the school was homophobic? It was far more likely that they just hadn’t had any gay parents there before (or any who cared about the forms), so the forms had never been an issue.
You know what? When I filled out their applications the next year, the forms had been updated. There were now two lines labeled “Parent Name”. A subtle change other parents are unlikely to notice, but that meant a lot to me. Best of all, I didn’t have to be someone’s pain in the neck to accomplish it.
But you can’t be silent. You don’t want your kids to get to school and have the teacher asking them about their “Mommy” or “Daddy” (or whichever parent your family doesn’t include). You never know when a clueless teacher might insist, “Oh no, you have to have a Mommy. Everyone does!” So don’t make your kids do the hard work.
To be honest, though, once you get past your initial anxiety, being an activist is kind of fun. It can be very empowering to apply for a family membership at the children’s museum, to hand a tourist my iPhone and say, “Excuse me, can you take a picture of my family?” or to call in an order to the pharmacist and then add, “But I’m going to have her other dad pick it up.”
4. People will generally be very nice to you (at least to your face, and that’s all that matters).
Before I had kids, I assumed I’d meet a lot of resistance from the anti-gay crowd as a dad. I worried that preschools might turn us away, that other parents would refuse to set up playdates with my kids, that we’d get sneered at or harangued in public. What can I say? I was stung pretty hard when Prop 8 passed, and I took it very personally. I may even have had a tiny bit of a chip on my shoulder.
But here’s the good news. While I’m sure some of that ugly homophobia is out there, I have yet to face it head-on. I wrote a piece for this blog a while back called “The 5 People You Meet as a Gay Dad“, wherein I discussed the reactions I’ve received from people who’ve met my family. And I admitted at the end that the worst thing I’ve dealt with is polite discomfort. That piece generated a ton of comments, and almost all the other LGBT parents who wrote in had similar experiences. Even those who lived in much more conservative areas had been pleasantly surprised at the support they’d received.
So you can feel good about your decision to have a family in this world at this time. I’m constantly touched and encouraged by how accepting and friendly most people are towards us. They want to learn our story, or to tell me about other gay parents they know. I constantly hear things like, “My sister and her wife are trying to have a baby. I’m so excited for them!” Sometimes they treat us like celebrities, like the nurse when my son was in the hospital. She told us she’d always wanted to meet gay dads, and she jogged around the kid’s hospital bed to give us hugs.
So my ultimate advice is the same thing you probably figured out when you first started coming out: be yourself and be proud. Assume the best of people, and very often, that’s what you’ll get.
Now go read those other parenting books and learn about feeding, diapering, swaddling, bathing and all that. Being a parent, gay or straight, is the most amazing, rewarding and totally freaking difficult thing you’ll ever do.
You’ve got a lot to learn.
I wrote this post in honor of Blogging for LGBT Families Day over at Mombian. If you’re looking for other blogs for LGBT parents, that’s a great place to check. And if this post helped you out, entertained you or you know some prospective gay parents who might enjoy it, please consider sharing it using the buttons below. If you’re new here, welcome, and I hope you’ll consider subscribing by entering your email at the upper right of this page (no spam, just an email whenever I update), and/or following me on Twitter, liking me on Facebook or just leaving a comment below. Thanks!
“Daddy, when I’m an adult, I’m going to grow a baby in my belly.”
“That’s great, Honey, and if that’s what you decide, then yes, you can.”
“How does it get in there?”
“How does what get in there?”
“The baby… how does it get in my belly?”
“How does it get in there, Daddy?”
“Well… um… actually, for Daddy and me… we had a doctor put you in.”
Giant sigh of relief.
There’s a dirty word among gay dads. The M-word. I’ve written about it before, and I’ve done everything I can to avoid saying it around my kids. Back when Drew and I first decided to pursue surrogacy, the head of the surrogacy agency himself told us to write it out of our vocabularies. An egg donor is an egg donor, not a “biological mom.” And a surrogate is just a surrogate, not a surrogate m-word.
It makes sense, in a way. If we’re going to have a non-traditional family, we should embrace who we are, both with our kids and with the world. Nope, no Mommy here. Try the next family. It might be hard on our kids at times, but it’s better for them to appreciate what’s different about our family than try to force ourselves into some rigid ideal of what families are supposed to be, which will never really fit us.
So we’ve been very clear. We have two dads and two kids, and that’s our family. We also have two very special aunts, our surrogate and our egg donor. (Sure, we’ve broadened the definition of the term “aunt” so it doesn’t just mean daddy’s sister, but let’s not be nitpicky.)
It’s been very easy to explain to the kids, because, of course, they’ve had no idea what the hell we’re talking about. Sure, they picked up pretty quickly on the fact that most families have a mommy and we don’t. But “surrogate” and “egg donor” have always been pretty empty terms to them, since they’re way too young to understand what those things mean.
They’re starting to, though.
We’ve made a point of celebrating Special Aunts Day (a/k/a Surrogate and Egg Donor Day, or Other’s Day) the day before Mother’s Day. It’s a way to remind the kids of where they came from, to show them how proud we are of our family and to honor two incredible women whom we love dearly. Plus, this way, the kids don’t feel as left out when all the other kids at school are making Mother’s Day crafts.
We’d lost touch with our surrogate a bit since we moved away from California. Drew and I still felt incredibly close to her, but our 3 1/2 year olds hadn’t seen her for nearly half their lives. We don’t want them to forget her, so we decided to fly her and her son out this year to spend Special Aunts Day with us and the kids.
(Selfishly, I’ll admit I had an ulterior motive, which was to have her take publicity photos for my upcoming book — coming Spring 2014! It just so happens Aunt Tiffany is an amazing professional photographer.)
We also invited Aunt Susie and her daughter to make our Surrogate and Egg Donor Day complete. We decided to make a long weekend of it. It would be great to spend the extra time with them, but that left a troubling prospect looming over our heads.
Our surrogate and egg donor, who are arguably m-word adjacent, wouldn’t just be spending Surrogate and Egg Donor Day with us. They’d be here for Mother’s Day as well.
We started prepping the kids for the upcoming visitors months ago. “You know two daddies alone can’t make a baby, right?” we’d say. “So Aunt Susie donated her eggs and Aunt Tiffany carried you in her belly, and they helped us make you.”
It had been almost three years since we were all together, but there’s only one way to describe how it felt to have them with us again. It felt like family.
The kids are currently at that awkward age, roughly between 2 and 27, when they get shy around people they don’t know very well. We feared that might happen with Aunt Tiffany, who has yet to figure out how to use Skype. Apparently, though, all the preparation made a big difference. Despite the fact that they hadn’t seen her in years, the kids welcomed her instantly with big hugs.
Still, I was afraid of how the next day would go. We couldn’t ignore it. Aunt Susie and Aunt Tiffany were both moms themselves, and they’d brought their kids with them. They deserved to be honored for their role in their own families.
So we did it all over again. We spent Sunday in Times Square, where we rode the Toys R Us ferris wheel and I got testy with some of the costumed creeps, (“Hey, Spiderman, go away! You’re scaring my kids.”). We didn’t shy away from the M-word, because that’s what the day was all about. In fact, I’m not sure I’ve ever said the M-word more in one day.
“Isn’t Aunt Tiffany a great mommy to Gavin?” we’d say. “Isn’t Grace lucky to have her mommy?” “Let’s give a toast to two great mommies!”
Just that quickly, the M-word was back. It’s a beautiful word, and my kids deserve to hear it, see it and respect it. Despite what I always feared, I think it will only make them appreciate our family more.
But for now, this year, things were just perfect. Sure, it helped that the weekend was a non-stop funfest. It’s hard for a three-year-old to be sad about anything when he or she is meeting Elmo live, in the fur.
But if I had any doubt about how my kids felt toward their special aunts, it was erased every time I saw Sutton hug one of them. She wrapped her arms around them, smiled a smile that was somehow twice as wide as her face and squealed a very special message just for them.
“Thank you for making us!” she said.
I had a great chat with my kids’ teacher yesterday about how to handle Mother’s Day. (She actually raised the topic with me, so she gets an A+ in my book.) I told her in our family, we celebrate Special Aunts Day, so she’ll be directing our kids’ craft projects toward their surrogate and egg donor and letting the other kids know that there are many different types of families. Have I mentioned how much I love my kids’ school?
Like I said, though, there are many different types of families, so what we’ve chosen to do isn’t going to work for everyone. Therefore, I wrote a new Lifetime Moms post with a few different suggestions for people whose family may not fit the Mother’s Day (or Father’s Day) mold but who want some ideas for how they can join in the celebration. I hope it’s helpful.
You can check out the Lifetime Moms post here, and if you have any suggestions of your own, please leave a comment.