Doing Away With Gendered Parenting Roles

“Two moms are better than one!”

“Moms do it best!”

“He’s a really good dad!”

“Just wait ’til your father gets home!”

As we began exploring what parenting might look like for us, we knew pretty early on that W was going to be just as active and probably slightly more active in raising our future kid. In our Western cultural norms, this means that W, being a dude, is a super-duper amazing dad. Or a Mr. Mom.

Because deep deep down (OK, actually not that deep down), we equate “parenting” with “mommy.” W wants to be a great dad. But he’s not a Mr. Mom. He’s a Mr. Dad.

PROOF: Go to the Parenting website right now. Parenting is the largest magazine for parents in the US market, known for their 3 magazines: Parenting, BabyTalk, and Working Mother. Just go to the regular homepage. Count how many times you see mommy vs. daddy vs. gender-neutral articles. Yup, told ya’ so.

The outdated notion that women are better at parenting is boring, cliché, and simply untrueWhile it may seem like not-a-big-deal, perpetuating the idea that mom=parent is dangerous. There is no biological argument to be made that kids need a mom and a dad, though that is exactly what has been argued in court time and again by anti-same-gender marriage folks. Any person can be a great parent. Or a horrible parent. Any person can be a nurturing parent. Or a stern parent. Or teach their kid to cook. Or to throw a baseball.

This way of thinking is also damaging to single parents. If you need a man and woman, single parents are lacking one half of the ideal parenting structure. The unspoken stereotype is that a single parent is, or should be, someone who is looking to not be single anymore. About 1/4 of U.S. families are headed by single moms and about 6% by single dads. Our system doesn’t do nearly enough to support single parents, making it so that many single parents live in poverty, but the issue with single parenting is not that the person lacks a partner. Some single parents may feel that they would prefer a partner. Some are happy with their families, just the way they are. It makes the stigma even higher for single dads, who are either viewed as super men or as incompetent idiots when it comes to parenting, by nature of their gender. (Also see, man can’t cook/clean stereotypes.)

It is the reason we can’t stop talking about “working women” or ,”Can women have it all?!” As long as women are the ones expected to do most of the housework and parenting, it doesn’t matter if they are also the CEO of a Fortune 500. They truly can’t have it all and not because it is too high of a goal. Because the gendered system is flawed. This is the reason K never saw herself having kids. Because you can’t have it all. So K picked career and community activism and social justice over family. Even now, K is having to think about which boards she will resign from, how many after-work meetings she can rationally commit to each week (since W works nights and someone has to be home). Until parenting is gender neutral, seen as something that anyone has equal skills and responsibility for, and until we really address reforms that make it possible to work AND parent, like, you know, PAID PARENTAL LEAVE, we’ll have to keep reading annoying pseudo-feminist pieces about women “having it all.” Noooooooo!

Lastly, this thinking continues to put gender into a binary system. What about folks who, like W, don’t identify strongly as Man or Woman. Like many people in the transgender community, W doesn’t feel strongly that he is the man of the family, but he definitely isn’t a woman. He is definitely not cisgender. So he leans towards the man box. But just slightly outside of it.And, of course, there are also people who identify as genderqueer or genderfluid. What about them?

One of the discussions we had early on was whether there was another word for “dad” that would be more fitting for W. We found some lesbian dads and queer parents using “Baba,” but we’re not sure if that works for us. There really aren’t widely recognized words yet for parents who fall outside of “mom” or “dad.”

Until we start challenging the notion of gendered parenting roles, all of us, not just queer parents, we will continue to struggle to break free from the weight of socially ingrained parenting stereotypes. First step, change the way we talk about parenting. Celebrate all types of parents and families. Affirm that a good parent can be a parent of any gender or relationship status. Stop saying that kids need “male role models” or “a mom’s love,” even if you have the best intentions. Maybe one day we will be like Sweden and have a gender neutral toy catalog. Until then, keep on keeping on, mamas, papas, babas, and parents of all stripes.

Updates from the Birthday Grrl

This post is by K.

It’s my birthday today! I’ve spent all day writing for work. Somehow, I managed to procrastinate on multiple writing projects in such a way that they are all due at the very same time. Or overdue. Don’t judge. Procrastination is how I organize my life. Truth.

We’ve also been procrastinating a bit on the blog. There is so much we want to say! But putting it down in words takes some focus. Here’s where we are, two months in to this blog:

Blog Updates

  • We are still floored by how little there is out there for queer families, but we’ve discovered some awesome queer bloggers along the way. We’ve reached out to some faaaaabulous potential guest bloggers so our blog is not just about our queer family, but a diverse range of queer family experiences. Look for that in 2014.
  • We realized that K is really going to do more of the writing than W, by nature. W’s perspective is really important and his first post was super awesome (and popular–one of the most popular posts). It is just more up K’s alley to pump out a blog post, where it take W some time to get a post ready. So don’t despair if you’re holding out for more W. It’s coming!
  • We have over 218 followers of the blog and 225 on Facebook (and a small following on our underutilized Twitter), which is kind of shocking considering how long we’ve been around, but really validating that people want to read this stuff. With that in mind…
  • We officially bought our domain name. All old links will still work and will redirect to www.queerfamilymatters.com. Ta da!

Personal Updates

  • We decided to move our baby plan up. A lot. We want to start trying this summer. Which makes everything feel more intense. Money has been stressing us out more, as has wanting to cram in more couple-stuff time. These two worries are in conflict with each other. We are planning a very queer return trip to NYC to see Hedwig and the Angry Inch, Cabaret with Alan Cumming, and maybe Sleep No More (again again) in May. We’re also trying to figure our where to spend and where to save to scrape together the cash for the first rounds of IUI and donor sperm. We are both feeling the pressure. This will all be fleshed out more in a longer blog post, but we basically came to a point recently when we were like, “Wait. What are we waiting for?” Yes, it makes a ton of sense to pay off more debt before incurring baby debt and costs, but on the other hand, we could make it work. We always do.
  • I’ve been having lots of feels about adoption lately–maybe because my birthday was coming up. I even brought up the topic again last night to W, but I know it’s not the best option for us (#homophobia #transphobia #closedvsopen). Another longer blog post on that topic will come eventually, but I have been feeling some sadness that we won’t be adopting. I always thought adoption would be my first choice…but then again, I never thought having kids would be a thing I’d do in real life, so I didn’t really think it all through until recently.
  • I continue to struggle with not being weird. It’s so haaaaaaaaaard. I need a not-being-weird life coach.

Thanks to everyone who has reached out to tell us about their boobaloo baby plans or their queer families or just how much they are enjoying the blog. We’re enjoying writing it, and having these meaningful and helpful conversations with ya’ll. Onward to 2014!

Honoring Trans* Families on Transgender Day of Remembrance

238 trans* people were killed in the past year, according to Transgender Europe’s 2013 report.

Today is Transgender Day of Remembrance, a day when we mourn the beautiful people we have lost.

It is also a day to celebrate the lives of trans* people, to support each other, to demand that the rights and lives of trans* people be affirmed and treated with dignity, to acknowledge that trans* people are often multiply marginalized, to stand up and say that trans* communities are resilient.

Trans* folks know that relationships with their legal and biological families can be challenging. And wonderful. They know that the families that we create in trans* and trans*-inclusive queer communities are just as real as the families who raised us.

Here’s to all the beautiful queer and trans* families in this world. Here’s to a future world where all of our families are affirming of gender non-conforming people, where we can send our trans* kids out into the world without fearing for their safety, where we don’t have to worry about the legal system treating us differently because of our gender identity and gender expression, where everyone matters.