By Henry Amador-Batten
Mother’s Day is here again and in thousands and thousands of gay dad households around the country you will find families navigating the idea of “what does this day mean” in their own unique and special ways.
In a 2015 cnsnews.com article by David Crary, he quotes Gary Gates, an expert on gay and lesbian demography with the UCLA School of Law’s Williams Institute, as estimating that there were about 40,000 gay male couples in the U.S. who were raising children.
With recent changes in laws regarding marriage equality, same sex adoption, second parent adoptions and surrogacy, one can only imagine what those numbers are now.
As a gay dad myself I can attest to the fact that our stories are all so different, so layered.
My husband and I adopted our first child at birth via a private adoption. Although that adoption was closed, we maintain a relationship with his birth mother. Thus far it consists of a yearly exchange of photos and information. We have only casually mentioned our son’s birth mother to him. He only just heard her name for the first time and is only beginning to want to discuss the idea of a tummy mommy and adoption. He is just four and a half. We have plenty of time to find his way to celebrate his birth mother when the time is right. For now he is happy celebrating his mimi and that’s fine with us.
Our second son is still in the process of being adopted. He is six years old and a new member of our family. He still has memories of his mother and grandmother, although it has been nearly three years since he has seen them. His story is different, more painful. His wounds are still healing and we will need more time with him to see where and how we will eventually give her thanks. We will have to see what his heart tells him and follow that lead but for now he is also happy celebrating his new mimi, and that too is fine with us.
Our first son also has a sister that was given up at birth four years before he was born. We have thankfully been able to connect with her adoptive family. Her adoptive mother is quite a remarkable woman and so we will also be celebrating her in the years to come.
See what I mean by Layers? Three separate mothers and an amazing mimi to honor in our one family alone.
I reached out to a few gay dad friends of ours to find out what Mother’s Day means to them, to their children and to their families. Here are some of their stories.
Mark Deans and Todd Felumlee. Pickerington, OH. Child: Sebastian Felumlee-Deans, age seven.
We are very lucky in our household because I was born on Mother’s Day, and it always falls either on or within the same week as Mother’s Day. From our son’s first year in preschool, his teachers have been able to make minor adjustments to their Mother’s Day projects and turn them into birthday gifts for me. That said, when I dropped him off at school this morning, the “journal question” of the day was “What do you most love about your Mom.” Yikes… He turned to me without missing a beat and said “I think I will just write about my Dad (me).” He got an extra hug for that.
Alan Ibbotson and Steven Greenfield. Ridgefield, Conn.Children: Issac age 15 and Jesiah age 12.
Mother’s Day is a strange day in our house. My own Mom is in the UK and they celebrate Mother’s Day in March. Steve’s mom passed away several years ago – and there’s no mom in our home.
So what do we do? A couple of things, actually. We toast their Mom. While she made bad choices and ultimately wasn’t able to take care of her kids, she did bring them into the world. And without that, we wouldn’t have these two precious and amazing kids. So it’s an opportunity for them to reframe the “I don’t have a mom” story into an “It’s OK to be grateful to Mom for bringing us into the world, even if she didn’t get it right once we arrived – it all worked out in the end.” We’ve done this every year since they arrived.
The other thing that we plan to do this year is to give love thanks, flowers and chocolates to the surrogate moms in our kid’s lives. Jesiah has “aunt Allegra” in NYC who she visits for weekends. She’s an enormously influential force in Jesiah’s life and we can’t imagine being without her. Ditto Steve’s cousin Karen and Aunt – they smother Jesiah with love on weekends at their house and we can see the immediate and lasting effect that maternal attention has on her. Our son Isaac has amazing teachers who go way above and beyond for him and they’ll be feeling the love from him this year.
J & J. East Sussex, UK. Children: Big S age six and Small S age three.
WAP to black domestically adopted children. Mother’s Day means reminding nursery & school that not all children have a mother that is their parent, that this day as an adoptee is about loss for my child, that making a card for us or grandma isn’t the same. We send Grandma cards. We do not have any contact with our children’s birth parents so it’s not possible to make cards. We are age appropriately addressing loss, our children are still young, I know next year that the discussion with our son will be different, it started this year but he took the lead and went where he wanted to, he told me he was angry and I said I could see and hear and that he is allowed to be angry that he didn’t have a mum, I said that he did and we discussed why she couldn’t be his parent and the shorthand version of how he joined our family. That we were his parents a Daddy and a Papa that we loved being his family, his parents. We talked about all the different families we knew and cuddled up and I held him like baby. There should be more honesty about Mother’s Day. I always have to find the blandest, without sentiment card for my partner’s mother. He wants to send a card but finds it excruciating to buy it himself. She is his mother, but he is clear that there is little love because of his childhood experience. Every year on FB I post a message to all birth mothers on Mother’s Day acknowledging their loss and try to share their stories/blogs. I also post a message honoring all my women friends who have made a choice not to have children, who can’t have children or who haven’t had children.
Joël Lëoj and Sean. Los Angeles, Ca. Children: Son age 10 and daughter age 8.
As this next Mother’s Day comes up quick I realize the importance of it more. I recently attended Mom 2.0 Summit and experienced many mothers and a few dads at this event. I was one of those dads. It was an awesome experience. It’s here that I learned that I am the mother that my son and daughter need. I am not making a joke here. I am saying that I am the nurturing parent, the parent they need me to be. I won’t ever have my mother or father in my life and neither in theirs. I too relate to my children’s experience of not having a traditional family. So what I am able to impart on my children is the wisdom of what power words can have on others and the images that are cast by unrealistic ideals. My children will learn to embrace everyone and accept everyone. They will love and appreciate the beauty around them. The love they will have will abound. Mother’s Day is a day I am able to teach my family about family. It may not be biological but that doesn’t make it any less awesome. I find awesome in our family daily. Mother’s Day is about finding love and real family.
Frank Emanuele and Norm Furtado. London, Ontario, Canada. Children: Luca age two and Nico age five months.
On the Saturday before Mother’s Day we celebrate Donor’s and Surrogate’s day… a chance for us to recognize and do something special with the moms who helped us become dads.
On the actual Sunday, we honour OUR moms, the boy’s grandmas.
Kent and Ben. Minneapolis, Minn. Children: Cordelia age three and Thomas age two months.
I knew the celebration of Mother’s Day had evolved when we were blessed to become fathers. Before children I know we sent cards, called our moms and on occasion found a place that offered brunch (which was a tough task). This year we are celebrating more since now our daughter is three and able to be aware of family structure and the unconditional love parents have for children. This year we took a Great Aunt, whose kids are grown, out for lunch (and hope to continue this tradition of taking a mom out for a meal). Since both of our children are adopted we do a majority of our celebrating on Birth-mother’s day, which is the Saturday before Mother’s Day. This day we remember their birth mothers and one tradition we enjoy is making a garden for each child to have a special place to watch their memories grow. It will be fun this year for Cordelia to be able to pick out her plants and we have a feeling it will be a very colorful garden with lots of pink and purple flowers. Ben and I still send cards and call our mothers on the actual day. The major difference is that after having children of my own it’s nearly impossible to really express how grateful and blessed I am to have my mother in all our lives.
-So as you can see, the idea of mothers in a home full of dads can be an interesting dance. We spend much time balancing the realities and sets of circumstances that comes with each of our children with what is safe and healthy for the new families that our love creates.
I’ve always believed that the best Mother’s Day gift I could give my children would be to raise them with the same love that mine surrounded me and yes, at times, smothered me with.
We don’t all have those motherhood memories as many of our children will grow to understand but love truly does conquer all, right?