I’m Not Your Typical Mom — Here Are 5 Assumptions You Have All Wrong
PHOTO © v.morarash/Twenty20
Oct 23, 2019
I’m a queer mom and a loss mom. I started off as a single mom by choice, but life took an unexpected turn and now I’ve got a new partner and a new toddler, plus two babies in the past who died.
It’s complicated, I know. And it doesn’t fit the “norm.” But these days, don’t enough of us not fit the norm that we could agree to get rid of that idea altogether? Or can we at least start to make room for more difference than less?
I encounter all kinds of assumptions and stereotypes when I’m out in the world with my kid. Here are my top five refutes:
1. I don’t have a husband
Pushing my daughter’s stroller through the narrow aisles of a bric-a-brac shop, the clerk is peering and cooing.
“What a beauty she is!” she says. “You must adore her.”
“I do!” I reply.
“And is your husband getting jealous yet?” she adds. First of all, ew. Second of all, just because I have a baby, it doesn’t mean I have a husband. “No,” I say without elaborating, and exit the shop.
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2. I’m not married
Having a baby also doesn’t mean I’m married (or even partnered for that matter). Single parents exist! “First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes the baby in the baby carriage” is a schoolyard rhyme and not a fact of life. Single parents, co-parents, it-takes-a-village parents — in my province of Ontario, the All Families Are Equal Act allows for up to four people to be registered on a child’s birth certificate. On my daughter’s, there’s just one: me.
That said, I do have a girlfriend.
3. She’s not just my “friend”
Yes, girlfriend. As in sweetheart, as in lover, as in totes gay. Queers are out here and we are parents! (And always have been.) When my daughter was tiny, we had to take her to the hospital for a blood test. As my girlfriend and I walked in to the exam room, the lab tech asked:
“Which one of you is the mom?”
“Err,” I stumbled, not expecting the question. “I grew her,” I answered clumsily and truthfully — in that moment, I meant I would nurse my daughter while she got jabbed, which is maybe what the tech was getting at.
A few months before, during the pregnancy and a hospital visit, the intake nurse nodded to my girlfriend and asked, “friend, partner, family…?” That was fantastic — she didn’t make any assumptions. I learned from her a great way to simply ask, and I’m happy to share it with you.
4. My baby doesn’t have a dad
For every “your husband” there are a handful of questions about “her dad." The thing is: I used anonymous donor sperm to conceive my daughter. There was no relationship at all with that person, and while I’m so grateful to that man for donating, he is by no means a dad, no more than an egg is a mother.
This one is tricky, and different folx (including other families with donor babies) will see it differently, and describe it differently. As it stands, there aren’t a lot of other words for our genetic heritage, but for me, a dad is someone you have a relationship with — good, bad, present or not. If we can’t agree on what or what isn’t a dad, let’s agree there’s no one right answer.
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5. She’s not my first
And she’s not my only child. But also, she is… I’m a loss mom. I have two sons who died before my daughter was born.
For some reason, “is she your first?” is one of the most oft-asked questions and a frequent small talk go-to on the playground or in shops. I know for many people, that’s a straightforward question. For loss moms — and we’re not that few — it isn’t as simple as yes or no.
Is there a better way to ask that question? I don’t know one. So I actually never ask it. If a person offers information about other kids, I respond and base my questions on what they tell me. Not everyone is walking a mine field or even just a slighty complicated field when it comes to their experiences with parenting, but enough of us are that I think if we got creative and got rid of this knee-jerk conversation starter, it would be for the greater good.
OK, but how do we change stereotypes?
It isn’t always easy to answer honestly “what does your husband think?” or “do you have other little ones?” — sometimes, I don’t want to get into it.
But when I do answer honestly, I hope it helps people change the ways they think a person can be a parent. I hope it helps change the questions we ask.
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