We are gay fathers of twins through surrogacy. Our son and daughter are now three and a half years old. We have almost no contact with the surrogate — something we established by mutual choice before the pregnancy.
With Mother’s Day approaching, we are wondering how to prepare their nursery school teachers to deal with the situation. The kids are old enough to feel excluded if we do not take precautions. In fact, while we think they fully understand the concept of gender and family roles, and know that they have two dads, they often refer to me (the stay-home parent) as “Mommy”. This only started a few months ago, and we are certain they picked it up at nursery school.
My gut feeling is to let them make a Mother’s Day card for me (their primary care giver), and then make a Father’s day card to my partner next month. The school is open to any suggestion at this point, and may accompany this with the proper explanation, like “some kids have one of their dads take care of them like a mother.”
They have no special female figure to which it would make sense to make a card, and besides we will feel “cheated” if someone else is elevated to this culturally cherished role. How should we deal with Mother’s day in a family that contains no mother?
This is a vivid example of how kids in LGBT families become aware of being different much earlier than their parents anticipate. Most important to remember: These children are not even four years old. What matters to them and why is very different from what matters to you. This is the beginning of many challenges along your parenting path where your children’s needs will not match with your personal vision of how your family would be.
Your kids are quickly learning from traditional culture that mothers are celebrated and that mothers are the people who love children and take care of them. When they call you “mommy” it is not a commentary on gender identity politics. They are trying to validate their family within the rigid cultural expectations that they are already aware of.
I support your idea to honor one dad on Father’s Day and one dad on Mother’s Day. Your proposed explanation, however, raises some concern. You need not explain that you will be the celebrated parent on Mother’s Day because you are the Dad who is “like a mother.” The opportunity here is to do away with gender stereotypes, not reinforce them.
For kids in nursery school, the teachers’ explanation to the class should be as casual and as simple as this: “Some kids have a mom and a dad, but there are all kinds of families. Since [the two children] have two dads, they make Mother’s Day a special day for one of their dads. That way both dads don’t have to share Father’s Day!”
Lastly, you said that if your children had women in their lives who they could honor as mother-figures that you would feel “cheated.” I encourage you to seriously look at what you mean by that. Regardless of your feelings about women in the children’s lives, they could very well want or need strong connections to women at any or all developmental stages. As a supportive parent, it’s your job to see that this need — a need you cannot directly meet — is met in another way. Don’t let yourself feel so threatened by the thought of your children having positive female role models that you forgo securing them at the expense of your children’s needs.