Friday, August 11, 2006

Birthday Bashes and Mini Van Moms

My name is Sara. I am a suburban mom. I am a lesbian. I am a housewife. I never thought those words- except for the lesbian part?- would ever cross my lips. I find myself in a world I’ve never really understood, wanted to understand, or needed to understand. Now, it is my life. I’m absorbed by things I previously thought were ridiculous. Pointless. And now, they hold intense power of my ability to think. Silly things. Things like birthday parties.

Birthday parties. My first initiation to the world of straight, suburban parents has been birthday parties. As a lesbian, it is a return to a world I left as a young adult. I had no idea as I collected my college degree that I would someday be a thirty-six year old, mother of two, suburban housewife. In fact, I would have laughed in your face and described the goals of an idealistic young feminist who was on her way to change the world. I suppose I am, but not exactly in the manner I had planned. Having left the world of lesbian only sports teams, folk music, and political rallies, I have become a part of a mini van, household managing, PTA, Raffi world. Gladly, I might add.

And now, birthday season has descended on our family. With the new school year, we are suddenly innundated with what seems like weekly invitations to class members birthday parties. Multiply two kids times all their classmates and you have one hellava birthday party schedule.

The last few weeks I have found myself chatting with parents on the sidelines while our children follow the instructions of some overly cheerful, prepaid in full, party director. We talk about schools, what our kids will eat and won’t eat, and good places to take them for fun. The other parents are all very nice people and no one blinks an eye about the fact that my kids have two moms. I feel very safe.

Safe, but alone. We are the only lesbian parents at the daycare/preschool. The only time anyone made even a brief reference to our alternative lifestyle was when our kids were all dancing to the tune “YMCA” by the Village People. One mom sighed and said, “Remember when this was ground breaking? Now, here are our three year olds dancing away to it!” The irony hadn’t escaped me, but I personally didn’t point it out. I loved that she did. It was one of the few moments when I felt seen, and acknowledged.

It’s not that I want to spend the whole birthday party talking about my life as a lesbian, because I don’t (really, I don’t). It’s just that it’s hard not to have other familiar adult faces in the room, or a classmate with whom my kids can share their experience. When we gather with other two mom families, I feel relief. And it’s not that we’re all the same, nothing could be more untrue, it’s the shared experience. For that brief time, we are the faces. When I talk about schools, what my kid will eat and won’t eat and fun places to go, there is a level that may or may not be discussed, but the underlying understanding is there. Will our kids get teased? Are they going to be accepted? How are they going to deal with questions from their peers about their family? How will we deal with being gay and lesbian in a sometimes overwhelming straight world of parenthood?

It’s lonely being the only one. A friend, who with her partner and child moved into a predominately working class (and otherwise completely straight) neighborhood, once talked about the struggle to be accepted. On one hand it was essential that her daughter see her as a proud, true to herself, honest in her relationships. She spent many years as an out lesbian. On the other, she wanted to be accepted in this new place, her family embraced, her daughter comfortable and safe in her neighborhood. While the two aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive, she found herself letting her boundaries be pushed, not voicing opinions because she didn’t want to cause trouble. Who was she doing it for? Her daughter? Herself? She’s more careful now, watchful of her motivation, trying to be a good neighbor, but not at the expense of being true to herself.

Birthday parties and soon, soccer games, are simply a part of my life now. I am a suburban housewife. I am also a lesbian. I hope I never forget how important it is to be true to both.


Post a Comment

<< Home