The best thing about lesbian parenting is not simultaneous breastfeeding. There is not a lesbian couple I know who wanted to be pregnant at the same time. And while two moms always have a tampon around, can borrow each other's clothes, and can be pretty sure they'll find the toilet seat down, these are things roommates enjoy. They're convenient, yes, but they're not nearly what make lesbian parenting special. In the U.S. alone there are at least 3 million children with lesbian moms. Research says these kids are happy, confident, and exceptionally broadminded. One study even concludes that kids with gay parents get better grades than peers with heterosexual parents. So what makes lesbian parenting so special? Clearly there's more going on than breasts, tampons, and toilet seats.
Lesbian parenting is intentional. When two women want children there's no way to begin but with a conversation. Although it might be more romantic for parenthood to start with sex, we are forced to consider not only how much we want children, but the impact having kids will have on our relationships, finances, community, and ourselves, all before we can get knocked up. As a result, our daughter, Phoebe, has known from a very young age how much she was planned for and wanted, to say nothing of where babies come from.
Keeping an open mind is a major family value. Along with debating the pros and cons of plain vs. Honey Nut Cheerios, we have to discuss which neighborhood to live in, which schools to attend, and which vacations to take based on where people are most accepting of same-sex families. Because we discuss homophobia, we also discuss discrimination, compassion, and a respect for differences. We taught our daughter that not all people and families are alike, that differences are to be appreciated, and that she always will have our blessings regarding her life choices. Do many straight families teach the same values? Sure. But it's one thing to discuss prejudice and another to be a part of a family that is susceptible to discrimination.
I am constantly surprised by people (in a good way). Coming out as a lesbian mom brings me much closer to other parents than merely sharing a Band-Aid or carpooling might. It reminds me that most people are kind and open-hearted, and that what we have in common -- love and a commitment to the well-being of our children -- overrides our differences. It usually starts something like this: Blonde, blue-eyed Phoebe and I meet someone new and in seconds they exclaim, "Where did she get that hair! Your husband must be so fair!" Or I've just introduced myself to someone as Phoebe's mom and then Phoebe's other mom pops in and does the same. My choice at those moments is to come out (the equivalent of publicly stripping down to my underwear) or lie. Ninety-nine percent of the time I take a breath and announce that my daughter has two mothers and then the most amazing thing happens. The beefy, tattooed swim instructor with the perpetual snarl smiles hugely and says how proud Phoebe's two moms should be. Our new neighbor tells the story of her elderly Catholic mother who, when faced with a neighborhood petition against gay marriage, slammed the door in the face of a close friend. The other 1 percent of the time, when I lie, it's more about fatigue then fear. Some days a girl just wants to pick her kid up and get home without talking about her sexual orientation.
The communication, tolerance, and humility that lesbian parenting generates is a fabulous foundation for life. That may or may not explain why our kids are getting better grades, but it sure puts the myth of simultaneous breastfeeding to shame.
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