“All our love, Mommy and Momma”: considering identity and lesbian families

Guest post by Jacqueline

My Shadows
By: Jeff TurnerCC BY 2.0
I’m often struck by the similarities of my childhood and my future child’s childhood. I was homeschooled; I will very likely homeschool. I had non-biologically related aunts and uncles, and my little one undoubtedly will too. But those are within my control — I can make sure those experiences are passed down.

The biggest similarity is one thrust upon us: neither of us will know what on earth it feels like to have a mom and a dad. That traditional American model — mom, dad, two kids, one dog — is as foreign to me as it will be to her, the daughter I want soon. But I believe she’ll have the better reason for skipping out on Americana.

I was flipping through old birthday cards earlier, in an attempt to procrastinate the real housework of dishes and laundry. I found some of my girlfriend’s birthday cards from last August, and opened one that was signed, “Love, Mom and Dad.” That wasn’t a revelation to me by any means: I’ve met both her father and mother multiple times. It just hit me how odd that phrase sounds — “Mom and Dad.”

I’ve never had a card signed like that. My parents were only together till I was 2, and I don’t have any of my first or second birthday cards. My cards were always dad-and-stepmom’s-name or mom-and-stepdad’s-name, or, more recently, for reasons I don’t fully understand, single names on three or four separate cards.

As I spent a moment mourning my poor child-of-divorce loss, it occurred to me that my children also will not have cards from “Mom and Dad.” They will read, “All our love, Mommy and Momma,” or whatever other terms we decide to go with. That sounds just as loving to me as the mother and father signature… I think. I’m still getting used to the idea that all the heteronormative facets of my upbringing and daily life are going to be turned on their heads. I haven’t quite gotten used to the reality that I’ll probably spend years crossing out “Father” on forms, writing in “Parent,” and filling in my name or my girlfriend’s.

The other night as I tried to fall asleep, I thought about my parents’ divorce and whether it had any impact on my eventual LGBT identity (things like this are why I avoid going to bed). I hesitate to say it did, lest I get trapped in a causation-correlation argument, but there is one part that I keep wondering about. Not only did I never have “mom and dad,” but the families I knew with that arrangement were generally not very great. In short, my life has always been lacking in heterosexual couple role models, starting with my own parents in my toddlerhood. Their second marriages have lasted, but still never provided me with an “I want that” envy.

Was it possible that my subconscious translated that into finding a girl to spend my life with? I certainly wasn’t actively looking — my girlfriend and I were straight, conservative best friends for years before we realized there was a heck of a lot more under the surface. Perhaps I was doomed from a young age to not be part of a “Mom and Dad” pair. Starting with my parents, and extending into their friends and my relatives, “Mom and Dad” generally didn’t stay together. If they did, they never seemed excited about that fact.

So I find myself, three and a half weeks away from marrying my girlfriend, facing another lifetime without “Mom and Dad.” But this time, it’s because of “too much” love, not a lack of it. She and I couldn’t imagine not being together, and we couldn’t imagine not bringing a child or two into the world to enjoy it with us. Those kids won’t have a mom and dad either. Instead, they’ll have two devoted, committed, loving parents. I’d take that any day.

Comments on “All our love, Mommy and Momma”: considering identity and lesbian families

  1. Interesting and thoughtful post! It takes so much to be a family, regardless of that family’s configuration. Perhaps the best thing we can do as parents is to let our children recognize that there really isn’t a “prince and princess fall in love and live happily ever after” model. It seems like that’s a disservice to them in some ways because it leaves them with an expectation that their own future relationships will be that way. The need to see and know that it is hard work and that you take the bad with the good.

    I wish you luck with your journey!

  2. love in any way shape or form is better than no love at all… i think if you do your best to love your child and parent them your best, that is all that matters. i would rather be filled with love then no love at all…

  3. As a child growing up in a “Mom and Dad” household, I can tell you that it’s not the greatest environment anymore anyway. I seriously got TEASED in school because my parents were together and people frequently discounted my opinions/experiences because I hadn’t seen my parents divorce. As an adult, I realize that those kids were all idiots (as kids often are) and I am beyond lucky to have two parents who are happily in love 30 years after they promised to stay that way. The fact that they’re a man and a women don’t matter as much as that kept promise. Hopefully, years down the road, when your kids as adults, they’ll see the same thing because I know that your household will be full of love. What I think it the most beautiful about it is that your kids are going to see your love for each other and your love for them, but they’ll also see your love for their aunts, uncles, and the stranger cats that “follow” them home. You will have a beautiful family and you and your wife will be enough.

  4. I’m a child in a family who can’t seem to stay married. My parents recently divorced, my grandparents divorced after 45 years of marriage, and all of my aunts have divorced. I’m going into my upcoming marriage with very little knowledge of a happy, healthy relationship. I’m making it up as we go. And, as you two, we seem to be doing a pretty good job.

    Thanks for this great, insightful post and congratulations on your upcoming marriage! I think that your future children are going to be very lucky to have such great relationship role models.

    • Thanks so much – and best of luck to you! Not to fall back on the “awareness is the first step” cliche, but I think for me, recognizing that I didn’t have the greatest role models helped a ton in avoiding some of what I didn’t want to repeat. Sounds like you’re there too.

  5. I would have to disagree with your theory, since my parents divorced at age 3 and I am married to a man (though, I am attracted to women…hmmm…).

    But it is interesting to think that, if my spouse and I do stay together, my girls will only have 2 parents. I have had 3 since I was 7. My parents were some of the first amongst my peers to divorce, so I felt like an anomaly for quite a while. Even now, many of my friends’ parents are still together.

    While I love my spouse very much, after reading your post, I oddly feel a little sad for our girls. The addition of my step-dad was such a great one to my life – him and his extended family. My spouse and I have been cultivating relationships between our girls and our close friends, so they have other adults to turn to besides us.

    Also, because of their divorce, my father moved to Alaska and I spent most of my childhood summers up there, which was a fantastic experience.

    Many people only see divorce as a bad thing (I am not lumping you in that group – just having a revelation), but for me, it was a really positive thing. My parents were not meant to stay together, so thankfully they did not; I got a great step-dad and exposure to a place I would not have had my parents stayed together.

    • I definitely didn’t want to put that out there as a theory! I don’t think it holds, but it’s an interesting personal correlation.

      I’ve had four parents since the age of 7, and in some ways they definitely have been positive additions. I have yet to come to a place of being extremely glad my parents divorced; I think that’s probably a factor of me not knowing how their relationship was pre-divorce, and so having a difficult time conceiving of it as bad. But I can say that the divorce played a big part in my character, for which I’m grateful.

      When my wife and I have kids, we definitely want to integrate other adults into their lives. If we use a known sperm donor, we’d love for him to be an “uncle” or some other specific close friend, and there are other friends whom we’ve already joked about shipping our kids off to for the summers. I definitely value that interaction, but I don’t think it has to be specifically a step-parent.

      Now I need to go read the article Stephanie linked!

    • I completely agree with you. And maybe I’ve posted this somewhere else but I definitely think that I benefited in so many ways from having four parents who loved me and my step-siblings. My parents got married when I was six months old, divorced by the time I was three and then my mom started dating my step-dad when I was four or five. My dad started dating the woman I consider a second mom when I was nine or ten. All four of them are very different people with different ways of parenting, of looking at the world, and different ways of relating to me. Out of it I gained not only more parents, but an amazing older brother and a younger sister and I wouldn’t trade them for the world. My brother’s got the business and crazy fun sense, I’m committed so thoroughly to those around me, and my sister has some serious acting/singing talent. I am so proud to be in this crazy mixed family even though none of my parents are together anymore we’re still family and we make sure it stays that way.
      And I guess that makes me kind of sad that my children hopefully won’t have those experiences. I hope that my fiancee and I will be happily married for the next 80 years or so! But my kids will know the wonders of the family you choose because they’ll have my extended family to see all kinds of families become one.

      • It seems so odd for me to read posts about people wishing step-parents on their children.

        I’ve got two, and while I really connected with my step-dad, and while having him as a part of my life and my mom’s life has been a really good thing, it is so not the case with my step-mom. She essentially kicked me out of “her” house – the house that my dad lives in as well – and has spent quite a long time since bitching to my father about my ungratefulness and how I need to apologize.

        While I do see both sides of it, I think a much healthier way to have more than two parents is to deliberately assign people as aunt or uncle.

        Even in my adult life I can pick out whose parents divorced and whose didn’t by the emotional maturity and/or pain and resentment under the surface (those whose parents didn’t divorce seem slightly less mature).

  6. I’m in a different boat with the same paint. In my case, I was raised in a very single parent family. My dad and I still are only marginally “related” in my head. That said, our Fia will grow up in a two parent household. The idea of being a “normal” family is a little off to me. I know we’ll make it work though.

  7. I know its not your intention but this article comes off as a little anti-heteronormative. There’s nothing wrong with having a mom and a dad, and its too bad that you were never exposed to a healthy, loving hetero couple as a child. You have a chance to change that with your child and show them that loving families exist whether they have two moms, two dads, one parent or a “normal” mom and dad. I think you have an important message and POV but as a product of a happy hetero family, it did come off as a little spiteful.

    • Thanks for recognizing that it wasn’t my intention, and pointing it out. I currently am a nanny for some of the greatest mom-and-dad couples, and I also know some of the greatest dad-and-dad couples too.

      A few years ago, you would have been the recipient of my envy, but at this point in life, I’m glad for both where I came from and where my kids will come from. Congrats on having a happy childhood; I hope I can give my kids the same.

    • I have to disagree (completely respectfully) here. To my reading it felt almost wistful. I’m the product of a very happy hetero marriage and am now a lesbian wife.

      But it’s probably each of us bringing our differing experiences to the reading.

      Either way, so much love to all the beautiful diverse families out there.

  8. I’m a product of a “normal” hetero parents (who celebrated their 30th wedding anniversary last year, and are working on their 31st!). I’m queer, and marrying my fiance in 26 days (!!!), and we are going to start a family soon after! She had a shitty childhood in terms of her family, but she turned out OK (was straight until she met me). We’re using a known donor for our kids, who is a long-time friend of mine. He is a gay man (who is wearing boxers instead of briefs for the first time in his life), and will be utterly devoted to our kids, but doesn’t want to be a parent, and thus will take on the name “Aunty Jay*” (name changed).

    Our kids will never have a “love Mom and Dad” card too, and sometimes I feel horribly guilty about doing that to them (depriving them of a dad), but that’s mostly heterosexist and homophobic bullshit coming up. Our kids will know who their father is, and have a chance to build a relationship with him. Our kids are *very* much wanted and will be *very* deeply loved by a variety of people, and I think that’s one of the very best things about Queer parenting!!! It’s very existence defies what is “right” and “normal”, and so much creativity and love errupts from it (just like queer weddings!).

    I started a blog about our experience, since I can only find blogs about what people have already DONE (their kids are over 2 years old now). 😀

Join the Conversation