Being Gay Has Nothing To Do With My Parenting Style

The truth is we are exactly the same as everybody else. My quirks and oddities as a parent are as a result of my own upbringing by own mother, not because I am gay

My daughter has started to tell people that she’s got two Mums – loudly and usually in front of elderly people on the bus. She has also said, my Mummy’s got big boobies and my Mummy’s got a tattoo on her bottom.

It is innocent but sometimes I have a sharp flicker of worry – for us, for her. For the umbrage I imagine some people might take from our family.

At age three she is aware that there are many benefits. Exhausted at the park and with a runny nose she remarked, as I picked her up and carried her, while my wife simultaneously wiped her nose with a tissue, good job I’ve got two Mums!

I have seen the widened eyes of other Mums when we turned up at the hospital ante-natal class. The shock as the penny drops. I don’t register disdain. I’m careful not to put us at risk in circles that might hurt us. In fact we moved to Brighton, (Hove Actually) and it is a mecca of tolerance and broad-mindedness.

I am lucky that most of the people I come into contact with will roll their eyes in boredom and indifference at the thought that we – a family with two Mums are any different at all. We talk openly with her about everything and I hope that we will always do so.

The truth is we are exactly the same as everybody else. My quirks and oddities as a parent are as a result of my own upbringing by own mother, not because I am gay. My wife and I row extensively about our daughter’s bedtime, me being strict and my wife being more liberal. We go on package holidays to Tenerife.

My Pride comes from the fact that my daughter knew, aged two, what coriander, mint and rosemary were. She knows how to crack an egg open. She loves making cakes and then afterwards pretending to play making cakes.

When my daughter has a cold I smother her in Vicks VapoRub like my mother did to me.

I grew up in a busy household captained my Irish mother who never molly-coddled us and certainly never stopped talking from noon until night.

Just like in the Ed Sheeran song Castle on the Hill I was running from being chased by my brothers, aged only two. I jumped, landed badly and broke my leg. I got three things; a plaster cast, a plastic frog and my very first memory.

When I was growing up I thought I wouldn’t have cuts and bruises on my knees anymore. I thought I would get married to a man and have children. Neither of these things ever happened.

When my mother found out I was gay (in a letter written in my hand to a teenage love interest) she went bonkers. No happy coming out story here. She hid the letter in the bible, but having taught me to very tenacious I found it quickly and disposed of it commencing years of skirting around the issue. Eventually she softened as people often do.

When I was young to think that I could possibly have the life I have now would have been unheard of. There were no gay mums on the television. To be gay was to be marginalised and doomed never to have a family of your own. I am aware there are so many places around the world where my lifestyle would not be tolerated.

Talking and education were my Mum’s main priorities. Every game we played had a hidden educational agenda. I had an imaginary friend called Justin that my Mum actively encouraged and even set a place for him at the dinner table. She unleashed an imagination I often can’t stop!

She would always ask me what my favourite word was and I would try and think of words to impress her. When I was quite small I said the word ‘ingredients’ and this delighted her because it had so many syllables and combined her other great joy – food.

If I said to my mother that I was bored she would reply ‘do you think starving children in Africa are bored?’ She would drag me away from watching Danger Mouse to watch her make a gravy, giving me detailed instructions about how to manage the thickening without lumps.

This was bold mundane stuff. She was giving me a recipe for independent living. She was thrifty, what we now call the Swing Generation, she lived through the war, remembered eating her first banana. She had dusters made from old cotton knickers. She sewed and fixed things. I love it when my daughter calls me ‘The Fixer’ and demands that I sew or glue.

My mother imparted her wisdom and this is what I am trying to do for my child.

My daughter is loved. If she had ever met my mother they would love each other too. My mother died while I was pregnant. I like to think that they met somewhere in transit. My daughter on the way in – my mother on the way out. I want to meet your Mummy, my daughter said to me. She’d like to meet you too, I say.

For any further information on gay parenting Helen is the Treasurer of Brighton and Hove Rainbow Families and her debut novel In The Wake is out now