Next week is Alternative Family Week.
‘Alternative’ encompasses so many different family set-ups. Most people’s perception would be a family with LGBT parents but there are also families co-parenting after divorce, grandparents and other family members raising children and single parents. An alternative family could be created through fostering and adoption or through surrogacy, or could be single parenting by choice. Whatever the family make-up, all are striving to bring children up in a safe, loving environment.
We asked parents who don’t fit the ‘traditional’ view of a family to tell us the one thing they wish other people knew about their families.
What we wish you wouldn’t ask
“We know you mean well but it’s awkward when you ask ‘how did you do it?’ We don’t ask you what position you think you conceived in. It’s private and being the ‘two gay mums’ is public enough already.” Harriet, mum to two children.
“It’s not OK to ask who’s the ‘real’ mum? It’s insulting. We’re both bringing up our children.” Eve, who’s bringing up their two-son-year-old with partner Jo
″’So whose sperm did you use?” is not a good way to break the ice.” Dan, dad to twins
“I’m still surprised when people ask ‘Will your son grow up gay?’ We have no idea. Do you know if your five-year-old will be? But whatever his sexual orientation, he’ll know we always love him.” Jackie
“It’s funny when you ask ‘who’s the mum and who’s the dad?’ Isn’t it obvious we’re two women? That’s the whole point. We’re just bringing our children up without gender roles.” Sally
“Don’t ask ‘who’s the father’? If I haven’t told you how I conceived, because we’re not that close, then really it’s none of your business.” Jasmine, single mother by choice to Esme, two
Stop with the labels, please
“I’m a mum and I’m gay. I hate the label gay mum. I would never call you a straight dad or a straight mum.” Leanne, mum to an 18-month-old
“We choose our parental roles as individuals, not as defined by our gender. Everything we do as parents is based on our individual preferences or circumstances, and there is absolutely nothing that either one of us automatically expects the other one to do simply because of our gender.” Alex Appleton-Norman, same sex parent and founder of Blooming Parents
“I know now that my gayness is not a barrier to becoming a parent, it’s part - but only part - of what makes me the parent, and person, that I am.” Sarah Hagger-Holt, co-author of Pride And Joy: A Guide For Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual And Trans Parents
“Families are the people who love and care for you. Sperm hitting eggs is just the first stage.” Dean
“I’m a single gay dad. I have the most amazing six-year-old son by way of adoption. But despite living in a very cosmopolitan part of London, parents have bluntly told me that a playdate between our kids is not possible because of my ‘lifestyle’ choice.
“Let me tell you about my lifestyle ...
“I aim to be the best parent I can be; I strive to raise a happy, laughing, kind and good young man while still striving to be at the top of my career; I consider getting to work having dropped my son off at school with homework done, his sports kit for PE in his bag, matching socks on and a (relatively) balanced breakfast eaten to be a successful start to the day! (Trust me, as any parent knows, that can be a real struggle some days!)
“I have debates over eating vegetables, getting extensions to bedtimes, and watching movies that are probably not age appropriate. I play board games and Xbox with my son, make up imaginary superheros, and have a tradition of making chocolate chip pancakes on Saturday mornings. My time belongs to my son and most days I don’t know how I juggle it all... but you know what? I wouldn’t change it for the world.
“So, to anyone who asks, this describes my ‘lifestyle choice’. And if this makes me a gay parent or me and my son a gay family, then guess what, every straight parent out there must I guess be (secretly) gay too!” Tuvia Borok, single gay dad and co-founder and co-chair of P3:Proud.Professional.Parents, supporting families no matter how non-traditional they may be and sponsors of Alternative Family Week 2017
“Every family is different, as is each individual within it. I just have to be the best mother I can be, and hope that my best is good enough.” Elaine Cogan, single mother by choice to a donor-conceived toddler who blogs at Single Mum Speaks
’A happy, functioning family has nothing to do with a parent’s sex, sexuality or the number of parents. Tuvia Borok
Thank you for your kind thoughtfulness too
″‘Please don’t worry, it really isn’t a big deal, we genuinely don’t mind’. These are the words I find myself saying to the children’s teachers. We don’t mind about who they make Mother’s Day cards for or if they only make a joint Father’s Day card. The concern of those around our children to ensure they are not left out, but that equally we are not offended in any way is, I think, extraordinarily thoughtful and kind.” Nick King, who adopted two children with his partner Jay and is now an adoption panel chair