How should two dads celebrate Mother’s Day?


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.

12 thoughts on “How should two dads celebrate Mother’s Day?”

  1. This is not just a gender-specific problem. I was raised by my birth Mom and her female partner and consider them my parents. However, Anna never felt comfortable being called Mom or Dad. Even today as an adult I struggle about which day to celebrate her as a parent in my life. I usually go with the “like a Mom” cards or just make my own! Someone needs to design a line of cards for these situations that would be available in more than just the specialty shops.

  2. As Mother’s day approached, I did not even think about talking to my son’s teachers. On the Friday before Mother’s Day, my son came running out with two cards and two gifts. He told me that they were to be mailed to his grandmothers. I thought this was great way to handle the situation.

  3. My partner, Lisa, and I have two kids, ages 23 and 16. I am their biological mother.

    In our family, “Lisa Day” is an annual holiday dreamt up by our kids. It falls on a Sunday, directly between Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, and follows a similar tradition of honoring parents as those days.

    Here’s what Lisa writes about “Lisa Day,”

    “When you’re looking for a really good solution to a situation, ask a child — sometimes they will come up with solutions when you didn’t even realize you needed one. They reason better than we grown people do, it’s much more uncluttered. As lesbian parents you have to make some decisions early on (Hopefully, in time this will not be as much of an issue as it was near 20 years ago when we started on this adventure.). Some couples come up with alternate titles for the second parent, but I didn’t want to make something up. I never wanted a “mom” title. I am not the mother of our children. To the kids I have always been Lisa. So after a few Mother’s and Father’s Day celebrations passed they realized there was no day for me, this seemed to make no sense to them so they simply made one. And so every year since then there is a day just for me.”


  4. Personally I believe this isn’t such a huge issue.

    There are many single parents out there and have been for many moons. One, you could just go forward and not feel slighted. If there were no Father’s Day, then maybe I could say one of you isn’t being recognized but the fact is there is a Father’s Day and so why not just wait until that day and have your child celebrate that day.

    To do other wsie, having one of you get a mother’s day card and the other the father’s day card only furthers the stupid stereo types that have been on going for far too long. Why would you want to further it?

    As a single mom, I don’t get anything on Father’s Day, nor do many of the single of married lesbian moms I know.

    Now one could suggest that since I am also a transexual woman I could then have a celebration on both days but why would I?

    Mother’s Day for moms and female figures in the child’s life, Father’s Day for dads and the male figures in the child’s life.


  5. My partner and I have two sons, a three-month-old and one who is 5 and in his second year of pre-school. We believe that it is not only a good idea, but necessary for his teachers to know who his parents are. How else can children feel that their families are being validated if they are not discussed? With Mother’s Day approaching, I am sure that our son’s teachers will again help him make cards and gifts for both of us, as we are both his mothers.

    On Father’s Day, he makes gifts and cards for the special men in his life, his two Papas (his grandfathers, who are our fathers). I suggest that your kids’ teachers help them make gifts for a special female in their lives – whoever that might be. Who says you have to be a mom to be celebrated on Mother’s Day?

  6. I am a classroom teacher. I have had several students from same-sex families in the past. When gender specific holidays approach I have handled it two different ways. I let the children with two mom’s make two gifts and two cards on Mother’s day and the same for two father homes on Father’s day. Then on the opposing holiday, I let them make the gift for a grandparent or for an aunt or uncle. Parents have always voiced their appreciation for this practice.

  7. Regarding the topic above “Mothers Day” in a gay/two father household. I do not agree that one father should be celebrated on Mother’s Day and the other on Father’s Day. I believe that your answer to the question is further promoting gender stereotypes not doing away with them. You are suggesting that they celebrate one father on Mother’s Day and explain that it is because he is the father that acts like the mother. This does not do away with the stereotype at all!

    My partner and I have an adopted daughter and will always teach her to honor her mother. These children do have a mother regardless of whether or not she is a part of their lives. She gave birth to them. She brought them into this world. She holds a special place and always will and this should be celebrated and honored by the family the entire lives of the children. They would not have their current family without her as she played a major part in giving it to them.

    I think that your idea about how the school handles the explanation is the right answer with exception. I think the children should be allowed to make a mothers day card just like all of the others and celebrate their mothers. They all have mothers and should always be taught to honor them. The children referred to here could save the cards in their life book and maybe plan to give them to their mother if they ever meet them. If they don’t ever meet them I still think this is a mentally healthier way to handle the issue.

    I say let’s leave Mother’s Day and Father’s Day alone and as they were meant to be. To honor mothers and fathers. The children have more than enough love in their hearts to be able to celebrate both of their father’s on the same day. As a matter of fact I think they would rather enjoy the fact that they get to celebrate two father’s on fathers day and not all children do. I don’t think they would have a problem making more than one card! The holidays do not promote the stereotypes people do and if we try to put one of the fathers in the children’s mother role for Mother’s Day we are promoting them to.

    thanks for listening,

  8. I am a divorced gay father that experienced something similar. In my last relationship, my partner was very involved in co-parenting my 6 year old. Although we celebrated Mother’s Day to honour his biological mother (my ex-wife), I always felt that he was left out in an honourary day, as I was then the focus on Father’s Day.

    As I’m now involved in a new relationship, I’d love to be more prepared in how to recognize my partner’s role.

  9. I am a Kindergarten teacher, and have this issue come up nearly every year. After doing research and discovering the true origin of Mother’s Day (a feminist activist call for peace) and seeing the way my kids with two dads stress in the class during this time, and the way my kids with two moms have to work so much harder to make double gifts – I have axed the holiday altogether! Father’s Da is in June and school is not in session for us, so dads get totally slighted.

    We celebrate Family Day in my classroom. We make cards and gifts, be we spend time learning about families in all of their wonderful structures. We focus on Todd Parr’s book: THE FAMILY BOOK, and write our own class book describing our families and drawing pictures of what they look like.

    It has brought such a sense of relief to my students who are already so aware of how different their families are – this is a time when ALL students in my class do the same activity regardless of how their family is structured… Some of my older colleagues have expressed some concern over this practice, mostly I think because they don’t want to do anything new if it’s too much work. I take great satisfaction knowing this over-commercialized Hallmark holiday has a few less people blindly following their lead.

  10. Why does it exactly have to be ‘Mother’s Day.’ I have a younger brother with two years difference, growing up we were raised by our beloved single Mother. On Father’s Day, we had changed it to “Brother’s Day” We celebrated eachother. Poke around with the children, you will be suprised what they can come up with. Just ask them instead of “Mother’s Day” Maybe we could have another special day, that only we do. It might mean more to them. My brother and I had created our special day. I am 19 and he is 17. Yet we still celebrate this!

  11. this is the first year that my daughter has been in preschool and this issue is looming for me. mother’s day just passed and that was easy – the teacher had her make presents for each of us (her 2 moms). but father’s day is coming and i don’t want her to feel left out. i suppose she could make something for her grandfather, but that almost feels silly. maybe she could make something for her moms again? i really don’t know! unlike the kids with 2 dads where there is a definite “mom” out there somewhere that gave birth, our daughter has no “dad”, just an anonymous donor that will never be referred to as a father in any shape or form. love hearing the different approaches here. would love to hear feedback to my question. hope nobody minds me hijacking to the 2 moms side of the question!

  12. This really is difficult. My partner and I are looking to adopt and are looking at forums such as this one in order to prepare. I myself am a high school science teacher in a very “conservative” part of the country. I am not openly gay to my co-workers because many are outwardly bigoted. It makes for an alienating work experience but I do help in some small way in protecting my GLBT students from harassment. I have a hate free classroom and find many students to be more receptive to learning when all harassment is discouraged. I know some of my co-workers and students out and out lie to co-workers or teachers when asked about holidays like mother’s day or father’s day. I lie when pressured to respond to questions concerning marriage, babies, etc, for job security.

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