Dear Christine, Tense in Trenton

  • Posted on February 4, 2018 at 11:54 am

Dear Christine,

My partner and I are expecting our first child, a boy, due in May. We are both very excited but we are getting a little family grief. Both families have supported our lifestyle until now. Suddenly it seems like everyone is concerned about the future of our child. It seems that no one thought we were going to have children and now that we are, we are getting some negative comments. A little too late now!

The family seems excited for the new baby but at the same time has told us that it might not be fair for a child, especially a boy, to be raised by lesbians! My partner is furious at our families and is ready to cut them off. I don’t know why they had to make the comments in the first place since like I said, too late!

What can I do to keep the peace, calm down my partner and assure everyone that this baby will be a happy healthy child. Including me! Can we do this? I love this baby already and BTW, I’m the one carrying this time. You’re next honey!

Signed Tense in Trenton

Hi Tense, Hell no, I’m not next!! Oh, you mean your partner, not me! Of course! She’s next to carry a baby. So, congratulations! How wonderful that you are pregnant and will have your first baby soon! This question is a first for my column, so also thank you for asking it. Pregnancy is a difficult time, or so I hear from pregnant mommies all the time, because people make all kinds of inappropriate gestures (touching your belly) and statements when they realize you have a baby on the way. Some of those questions get on your nerves, because they are asked constantly (“is it a boy?” “Do you have a name yet? Don’t name him ____ (fill in the blank)” and so on). People, maybe particularly family, feel entitled to tell you how to go through the pregnancy (don’t smoke, don’t drink alcohol) and if you violate one of these behaviors in their presence, they do not hesitate to at least give you dirty looks but often will tell you how wrong your behavior is, all unrequested.

As you are discovering, family especially, likes to give unrequested advice, including on parenting. So, apparently your families thinks that two women might not be the best parents for a little boy? Well, I guess there’s a little heterosexism in lesbian–friendly families! Gay men are told these things about raising a daughter, and black people are told they can’t raise a white child, and white parents are told they will never be able to understand their black child, so why have that child? A single person is often reminded that they can’t be a mom and a dad both, so somehow the child suffers. Suffers? Since when is having two loving parents and a large and loving extended family detrimental? I assume that your family has ample men and boys, who will be a part of your son’s life, and will be able to provide him with all the male role modeling and manly stuff that two women just can’t provide.

You, however, are both providing this very wanted baby with a loving home and family. Your “non–traditional” family may actually benefit this little boy, encouraging him to grow up not being limited by sex roles of our society, and to be more tolerant of people and families who don’t look just like his family. He may grow up to be gay, but studies show that the children of gay and/or lesbian parents are no more likely to turn out gay than any other children in society. They may explore their sexuality more fully than a child who grows up in a traditional family, but they tend to settle into relationships just like everyone else. Some turn out gay, and most do not. After all, I know I was the product of straight parents, and that didn’t define my sexuality, no matter how much they or I (at one time) might have wanted that! Think of your extended family as trying to be loving, but their cultural prejudices still surface from time to time. Come up with a “boomerang” phrase, or set of phrases, to help you deal with their pressure. Maybe you could say “We appreciate your concerns about our son and we are really looking for support and understanding as we become parents for the first time.” or “no parent can provide a child with everything! That’s why we have a big family!” or “Then I guess it’s a good thing he’s got 2 grandpas.” “Having two mommies sure beats having only one parent!” If you can come up with statements that are coming from the humorous, gentle side, that will facilitate people hearing what you are saying: “back off”. Try not to take their concerns personally, but instead, look at their comments as reflections of them, their era, their prejudices that they’ve clearly been working to overcome to be supportive to you and your wife. At least they are talking to you about it now, and not talking (only) behind your backs. This way, you can address their concerns and help them move beyond unconscious prejudices. Christine Cantrell, PhD

Christine C. Cantrell, PhD
1026 W. 11 Mile Rd,
Suite C
Royal Oak, MI 48067

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