Thursday, January 29, 2009

Perfect Parents

I'm at the Creating Change conference in Denver. A massive gathering of LGBT folks put on by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, it is something to behold. An entire hotel filled with every beautiful aspect of our community.

I've never been to one before and I must say, I'm a little overwhelmed.

I went to a session today on "Invisible Families," which talked about LGBT parenting and how we are identified in the community- or not. It was a six hour session and I'll be honest- I didn't stay for it all. But in one small group session, we talked about the changing nature of how we are seen in the community today.

One woman talked about her fears as a soon to be mom. The challenges that face her, her partner and their baby to be felt incredibly scary to her.

It is, I thought, but I didn't want to freak her out.

The irony is, most of what she needs to be afraid of isn't about being a lesbian and being a parent. No question there are hurdles and discrimination but when that sweet baby comes into the world, the obsession about when the last diaper was changed, how often they are nursing and please god, will there ever be sleep again takes over the angst about being different.

Until they are school age- then it comes back and rightfully so.

One point made, that hit home for me, was the concern that we are so afraid of being judged harshly simply because of who we are, we try to be perfect.

And there is no such thing as a perfect parent.

The pressure, though, is there. Some of it is self imposed but some of it comes from the community at large asking questions- do you have appropriate role models for your child? If you are two women, you must have a man in your life to help teach children manly things. If you are two men, well, how can any child possibly live without a mother?

Questions not often asked of heterosexual couples. Or single heterosexual parents, although I do think single dads deal with similar issues. I wonder if people who ask "do you know the father?" realize how incredibly insulting that is. Do they? Are they sure?

There is also an overriding fear of being too sexual. One woman quoted a couple in Canada who had a newborn, who swore they were in bed by 10:15pm every night and went straight to sleep.

As if that makes them OK to parent? I say get them a babysitter and remind them that without a healthy sex life, chances are they won't make it through the next 18 years.

And yet a Florida pastor urged his heterosexual congregation to have sex every day for a month. He believed sex was important to relationships. And that while "Jesus disapproved of pre-marital sex and promoted sex in marriage."

But since we're seen through the lens of sexuality, we have to go overboard to prove we are sexless. Only there to parent, nothing else. Because... well, I'm not really sure why.

Except that we all feel the pressure to fit in, to be okay in the communities eyes, and our community, when we become parents, changes drastically. We are thrust into school situations where we are the only ones. We want our kids to be accepted.

We want to be accepted. It's human nature.

So we tuck away parts of ourselves, and our struggles to look the right way.

I wanted to tell that young woman it would all work out. Get a strong group of other gay parents to have time with- some of it is for the kids but mostly? For you. So you have a place to say, I'm struggling. I'm scared. Where you don't have to be the role model for every gay person who ever had a child.

For goodness sakes, don't ever stop having sex. We didn't go through all this bullshit, discrimination and angst to give up an essential part of being human.

There are no perfect parents. Parents are, as a whole, are messy, make mistakes, wish back things we've done. It's the most terrifying and exhilarating experience you will ever have. You will feel joy and love in a way you never knew imaginable- unconditional and on a cellular level.

Try, please try, to let the world's judgment stop at your doorstep.

There are no perfect parents.

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Blogger Lula de Montes said...

what's even sadder, is that the heterosexual component of the population does not understand the pressure that you're under, between trying to run a company, being a domestic goddess, keeping a clean house, being an active parent at school, a loving mother... The list goes on and on. Some days I just want to hand in my parent card. But the big gap-toothed smile of my munchie is worth it. It's what gets me out of bed on days like that. It's feeling her little hand in mine as she hops next to me on the way to school. And it's the bear hug that she gives me several times a day. It is love.

3:50 AM  
Blogger Courtney said...

I love this piece. As a new mom, what you said about obsessing about the last diaper change, etc definitely out weighs the other stuff. I was nervous about it, being the non-bio mom, but it did in fact, fade away.
We have friends with a 10 year old who said when their son reached school age, they had to come out again- to a whole new group of people. And it was terrifying because they were afraid of the discrimination they might feel- but more importantly, their son.
Your boys are older than my daughter, but reading your blog helps me feel like I have some clue of what to expect down the road.
Thanks for the warning! :)

7:51 AM  
Blogger Seda said...

It's so true - there are no perfect parents. We all just do the best we can, and agonize over our mistakes, wondering if they'll mar our children for life. And then there are all the calls that really get me - where even after it's over, you don't know whether it was a mistake or not, whether you could have done something that would have worked better.

I'm lucky to live in this town. We have a strong LGBT community, and in my own neighborhood, every parent on the block knows I'm trans and is supportive and lets our kids play with theirs. But school? I'm so glad we don't have to deal with that!

In any case, I think authenticity is important. We need to let others see how loving and special our relationships are, because even if parents scowl, their kids are wondering, "what the hell's got your knickers in a twist, Dad? So what? You do it with mom."

Easy for me to say. I live in a place where it's relatively safe. For those who aren't - I do so admire your courage.

9:36 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

HEY! Welcome to Denver! I live here...

I'm moving this weekend across town, otherwise I would have been at this conference! Let me know if you have any down time, and would wanna meet up with a fellow blogger for a little bit. Otherwise, enjoy the city!

12:01 PM  
Blogger Sara said...

AJ! I just got back in. I'm leaving tomorrow... sorry I couldn't meet up!

11:23 PM  
Blogger Rev. Bob said...

If you're having too much sex, get a small dog who sleeps under the bed and wants to come up and play too or watches with big, brown eyes. And when you put him outside the bedroom door, he howls.

4:24 AM  
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9:15 PM  

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