Tips for Parenting as a Queer Couple — From Someone Who’s Been There
On their first date nearly five years ago, Carlos Larrea and Jeremiah Mayfield asked each other a question that might be considered a first date faux pas by some: “Do you want kids?”
Fortunately for them, having a child was something they both truly wanted. In fact, they each ended previous marriages in part due to this very issue. Bonded over their recent divorces and desire to be dads, Larrea and Mayfield felt like they had finally found what they were looking for. After getting married in late 2019 and spending their first few months as newlyweds in quarantine during the COVID-19 pandemic, they were confronted with the same realization that many of us faced then, too — life is short.
Mayfield says, “I think [the pandemic] made everybody reflect a little bit. And so it was actually during that time that we started talking about it more seriously, like, ‘Hey we know we want kids, we’re not getting any younger, do we want to go ahead and move forward with this now?’ And we decided, ‘Okay, let’s do it!’ So, we reached out to some friends who had recently done an adoption and the rest is history.”
Now that their beautiful daughter, Adriana, is about to turn one, mitú asked them to share tips on parenting as a same-sex couple, the challenges they’ve faced and the joys that have made it all worth it.
1. Trust your instincts.
L: It doesn’t matter if you’re gay, lesbian, straight — parenting is parenting and it’s different for everyone. If it works for you, it doesn’t mean it’s going to work for us. If it works for us, it doesn’t mean it’ll work for other families. You just have to follow your instincts. You know your child best and you know what she wants and what she doesn’t want.
M: I think the best advice is don’t believe any advice. Learn your kid and throw out all the preconceived notions of what they should do, when they should do it, how they should behave, all of that, because those constructs are basically asking your kid to be like the masses and the thing is, you’re trying to raise a child to be who they are, not who everyone else is. So don’t get freaked out if they don’t hit a milestone right on time, or if somebody else’s baby is crawling or walking before yours is, or if they don’t get into this absolutely amazing preschool that they have to get into. Be with them on the journey and let them teach you what they need, because they will. And you can trust that, and then you’re going to be exactly who they need you to be.
2. Custom-tailor your parenting style.
M: We’ve made a conscious choice of incorporating her into our lives versus changing who we are because she’s here, and I do think that’s something that is probably more unique to same sex parents. We don’t have a lot of the typical gender roles that are associated with child rearing and raising, so parenting looks different, and we get to decide what that’s going to be. So, you know, she goes to brunch with our friends… Her first birthday party is a drag-inspired birthday party with drag queens instead of clowns… We get a chance to write our own rules.
3. Don’t be afraid to be bold.
M: You’re going to get looks, you’re going to get questions. People will ask, “Oh, whose is she?” or, “Who’s the real dad?” I mean, they’ll ask the most horrible, crazy things that you would never expect someone to actually ask. “Who are the real parents?” Us!
L: My daughter is white, I’m Latino. For Jeremiah, it’s fine, but they think it’s a surrogacy. For me, it’s like, “No, that’s my child.”
M: They always think she’s a surrogate baby and she’s my kid because she looks a little bit like me in terms of our coloring. When those things happen, don’t be afraid to be bold and don’t be afraid to use those moments to show your child that you are not ashamed of the family that you have. It’s very important to me that Adriana sees that, in those moments, I respond with pride in my family. I respond confidently about who we are, where we’re from and what we are, and so when people ask those dumb questions, I will say, “Oh, she doesn’t actually look like me because she’s adopted and those are her birth mom’s eyes.” And I say it confidently because I want that to be something that she knows is not a secret or something to not be proud of.
4. Prepare yourself for an emotional rollercoaster.
M: When it comes to adoption, be prepared for many ups and downs. People told me that and I did not believe them. I kept thinking, “Oh, I’m emotionally intelligent, I’m fine, I can handle this.” But when we matched with her birth mom three months before the end of her pregnancy, I realized that there is nothing more trippy than my baby being inside someone else’s belly and having zero control.
That’s the thing with adoption: you do not have any control until the birth mother signs over the adoption papers after the baby is born. She cannot do it before she gives birth. And so, you’re going to be in a powerless position, and you have to just let it be and acquiesce to that. My mantra throughout the end of the pregnancy, especially when things were really very touch and go, was what’s meant for you won’t pass you. I just told myself that all the time, every day, because I would freak out that something was going to happen, like what if mom changes her mind, or what if she chooses someone else, or what if we make her mad, and you just have to tell yourself that if it’s meant to happen, it’s going to happen. If it’s meant for you, it’s not going to pass you.
The day that [our baby’s birth mother] passed her threshold where she couldn’t revoke her consent to adoption, we were in the NICU. At 5:00 p.m. on this particular day that her mom lost the right to revoke, all the nurses started clapping for us because [Adriana] was officially ours and nobody could take her away. That was an incredible moment that you can’t prepare yourself for emotionally; how that feels to just show that she’s my girl. When she became our daughter legally and the birth certificate was changed to our names, it was literally one of the best days of my life. All of that emotion and all of that pent up anxiety that you’ve been having just goes away. She’s yours and no one can change that.
L: One of my friends said that adoption is a beautiful demonstration of love, and I think that’s true. Now that I have her, I feel like she’s my blood. She’s everything to me. It’s not biological, but I feel like it is. I feel like she’s 100% my daughter and nothing is going to change that. If I were 10 years younger, I’d adopt three more.
5. Have fun!
M: She’s going to be a one-year-old next Friday and we cannot believe that a year’s already gone by! I don’t regret the spit up on the clothes; I don’t regret the diaper blowouts — you don’t regret any of the bad moments. The only thing you regret is that you didn’t laugh more, or that you didn’t close your laptop five minutes earlier to go play with her. You worked so hard to be able to get this baby and to be able to finally have your family that you’ve wanted for so long, so enjoy it! And soak up every moment that you can because it’s gone after that moment, and you’ll never have it back. A friend recently said something that really resonated with us, which was that there are very long days and very short years. It just feels like the days are very long and filled with lots of things, but then the years still fly by in the blink of an eye. So, enjoy it and have fun with them and experience the world with them because it’s absolutely magical.
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