Lesbian Mother co-parenting with homophobic ex-husband.

Q:

I have a ten-year-old girl and a seven-year-old boy. I am a lesbian mom in a four year relationship with the most wonderful person I have ever met. My little girl is the only child actually clued in and her response was, “Well, is that all?” But she does fear being the only child with a gay parent.

Our main problem is the ex-husband’s homophobic beliefs and the confusion it causes the children. Living in the South makes it VERY difficult for me to gain full custody, so we share joint custody of them. Any advice to help them deal with having two moms and one dad?

A:

Working out healthy co-parenting relationships with a former spouse or partner is always challenging, but when you add a layer of homophobia held by an ex, it becomes all the more difficult.

Regardless of how you feel about your children’s father, they still have a right to a relationship with him. Unless there is abuse or neglect involved, joint custody is ideal. Joint custody does not necessarily mean that the kids should be at both homes for exactly half of the time. It is a custody agreement that gives flexibility and freedom so that children can feel more like part of a family and less like a possession being shuttled between two houses.

You could benefit from a counselor or mediator. If the children’s father is resistant to meeting with a third party, let him know that you want to have a workable co-parent relationship with him not for your benefit, but for your children’s.

Make sure your former husband knows that there is support out there for him should he choose to access it. The Straight Spouse Network helps connect some of the millions of husband and wives who have experienced this life-changing situation. When they feel supported, they are less likely to take their anger out on their gay ex-spouses by feeding their children homophobic rhetoric.

No matter what, don’t talk badly about him in front of the children. What he is doing is wrong, but if you join in his juvenile behavior, it will only make your children feel worse. Honoring your children’s right to have a relationship with their dad — even if he’s being a jerk to you — is an important way to show your kids you love them.

Finally, if your daughter knows you’re lesbian, chances are she has mentioned it to her little brother. (Even if she hasn’t yet, it isn’t fair to expect her to keep a secret from him.) I recommend talking to your son yourself and answering any questions he might have. Make sure he has accurate, matter-of-fact information from you to inoculate him from what his father might be telling him about you.

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