By John Jericiau
It’s a very unique situation, to say the least. Here I am, a stay-at-home Daddy who is almost seven years deep into the whole parenthood thing. We’ve got three beautiful and thriving sons, two who are 6 years old (but are 8 months apart to the day), and one who is a tad over 16 months old. They’re doing great in school, and participate well in every activity they’ve got going on right now, including tennis lessons, swim lessons, gymnastics, Cross Fit, basketball, and Spanish Immersion. A significant percentage of the time I find myself navigating the day’s (and night’s) events by myself, due to the intensely packed schedule of my husband who is working his doctor butt off on the job while also putting his nose to the grindstone trying to complete successfully his physician executive MBA program. With that and our mutual desire to maintain a high heart rate for at least 60 minutes per day, trying to fit in all that is expected of us (and intimacy – don’t forget the intimacy!) is a huge challenge given the speed that the earth rotates around the sun (meaning there are not enough hours in a day.)
Look around you. Some families have a nanny or two. Not ours. Other families use babysitters to help bridge gaps or provide some needed relief in the schedule. We’ve never used one. And some families have extended families available at the drop of a dime. Ours are not local; although when times are tough we can manage a drive over there for a bit of a break.
The uniqueness I alluded to earlier is that our help comes in the form of our surrogate/friend. Beginning as coworkers, our relationship blossomed into a nice friendship but then absolutely flowered when she offered to carry not one but two of our three sons. And although she was not interested in a biological relationship of any kind (and neither were we – hence the use of egg donors), she was keenly interested in the experience of pregnancy, as she had never experienced that miracle of life previously, and by examining her biological clock, would probably never get the chance to, given the middleness of her age. I’m trying to put lightly that there is no husband in sight and she’s getting up there.
Every Saturday night our surrogate/friend has watched our two boys and then the third as well when he came along, in order for us to enjoy date night. I can count on one hand how many times we have missed date night in the last half a decade. This alone is huge, and we are enormously grateful (which still pales in comparison to the grateful we feel for carrying our sons, which is humungous.) But the kicker is that there’s more! On her days off, on weekends, on her vacations, she will come over to hang out and lend a hand. Ever have moments when your three boys are acting out and screaming and pretty much acting crazy and you think to yourself that you wish you could grow another hand? In our case my friend’s hand magically appears like a pond in the middle of a desert. She is truly a big help, the boys really like her, and she has definitely become one of the members of our family.
With all this good, which is really good, you have to know that there’s gonna be some bad, albeit not real bad. Just some things that might not occur to a person who has not had a chance to stand in our size 10 ½ shoes. Such as disciplining. The differences in style can be a little more than perplexing. While we might try to reason more and explain our decisions and the rationale we used to come to those decisions, she might be more Army Sargent in her approach. The boys know they only have two parents, but we want our friend to have some disciplining power to handle the boys, especially in our absence, so we tolerate her differences when they appear in our presence, even if it’s not exactly how we would do it.
If we’re enjoying a family night out, whether it’s dinner, the movies, or what not, invariably someone will say to our friend “Beautiful kids, Mom!” especially if my better half is not with us and it appears more likely that we are a heterosexual couple. Now, I’ve been out of the closet a long time (30 years to be exact), with no intention of going back in, but comments like this (harmless and as well-intentioned as they might be) don’t feel right to me. I do not want to appear (or act) any other way than the way I really am, which is really gay. The not-right feeling gets a notch stronger when my friend will, without hesitation, say; “Oh, thank you!” right back. The hairs in my ears stand on end as I smile graciously and take two deep breaths. I find that I am often reminding myself of the gifts that my friend has altruistically given to my family. Inside I am embarrassed of these feelings, for I want to give back to my friend a little happiness, and share some of the feeling of family that runneth over my cup, and stop being so concerned with my own selfish feelings. So I take the opportunity presented to me to hug my boys, thank the stranger, and give a big wet one on the lips of my husband.