I am a 27-year-old feminine lesbian. I have recently become serious about starting a meaningful relationship with a woman who is just as feminine as I am. We’ve known each other for a few years, and have recently been idealizing about having children — after we are married, of course.
Here’s the issue/question: My partner seems to be uncertain about how our child(ren) should address us. She’s questioning whether they should refer to us both as mommy or not. We’ll both assume equal parental roles/responsibilities, but she’s concerned about the children becoming “confused” by the concept of having two mommies. Do you have any suggestions?
— Stumped in Maryland
There are many issues going on in this question, but I’m going to focus on two of them. First, the logistics of kinship terms for two mothers, and second, the possibility that your partner has greater hesitations that go beyond what name the children will call her.
Questions about what children will call their parents of the same gender are common for prospective parents — regardless of how “feminine” or “masculine” either person identifies. Seasoned parents will tell you that one day you will long for the days when this was your biggest worry.
If it is about the actual kinship terms, the reality is that the children are the ones who ultimately decide what they are going to call their parents. No matter how thoughtfully you make this decision in the pre-children phase, you can’t stop your children from naming you in whatever way works best for them. Plan on staying flexible, and try not to be disappointed if the sweet name you want them to call you won’t stick. It doesn’t matter what name your children spontaneously yell out in the middle of the night — regardless of the words they use when they need you, it will melt your heart.
On to the bigger issue: I wonder if your partner’s concern about the kids being “confused” about kinship terms is a smoke screen to avoid talking about other concerns she might have about becoming parents. It wouldn’t hurt to see a couples therapist to help you communicate with each other about your dreams and fears about being parents. Another option for exploring parenthood are prospective parent workshops for lesbian/bi/queer women, often called “Maybe Baby.” Contact your nearest community center, women’s resource center or feminist bookstore to find out if such workshops are offered where you live. The soul-searching therapy and workshops allow couples to thoroughly explore the option of parenthood while keeping all the logistics in perspective. Some couples even change their mind about having kids altogether. “Idealizing about having children” with the woman you love is one thing. Actually having them — and raising them — is quite another.