posted by Mel
There are a lot of interesting discussions in the fertility/lesbian mom blogosphere around parenting roles, specifically whether a non-bio/non-birth mom equates to or should equate to a dad and how to navigate those dangerous waters. After all, most women are never going to see themselves as fathers, nor do they want to be called Daddy. In our case, should this next IVF attempt prove successful, Vanessa will be the bio-mom, while I will be the birth mom. Talk about confusing! There will be some trade-offs. Vanessa will get to look at our children’s physical characteristics and see her parents and her grandparents, her aunts and uncles. I won’t get that. Instead, I’ll get to know them much earlier than she does. I’ll get to sustain them with my own body. In a way I think our donor/surrogate model might alleviate some of the role confusion inherent in a same sex parenting relationship.
To date Vanessa and I have never felt the need to suss out who will be mama and who will be mommy, the separate names a lot of lesbian parents use. I can’t make myself believe that our kid or anyone else will be confused if our names are the same. When referring to one another around the dogs I call her MamaNess, and she calls me MamaMel— if two retriever mixes get it, surely a human child can. While we have made no moves to define our roles in terms of gender, I want to carry. Vanessa has no desire to do that. I want to breastfeed. Vanessa does not. That happens to fit very tidily into our plans/hopes for the begetting of children, but it never puts Vanessa in the role of Dad in my mind.
Since childhood I have been very uncomfortable with the idea of myself as a stay-at-home mom. From time to time I daydream about staying home for a while with our baby, but even the daydream makes me feel restless. My mom was a SAHM, and I always got a restless, even trapped, vibe off her. As I grew older, she frequently told me that she had given up her career to stay at home with me. It was clear that she was bored and a little bitter, and it was my duty to impress and entertain her so that she wouldn’t feel her sacrifice was wasted. So I have always seen myself as a working mom because I want to insure an intellectual life outside the home. I think that will be better for me and for our children, because I hope to avoid pressuring them to fulfill me. I hope that I will not feel different when the baby is actually here, that I will not resent needing to go back to work and being the stable one because I carry the health insurance. While Vanessa’s income potential and current income is higher than mine, my career is the one that provides security for our household. We’ve taken some significant risks with her career, and they’ve paid off. I’m happy doing what I’m doing right now and glad I can make it possible for her to do some exploration, and I believe Vanessa would be willing to do the same for me if I asked. Right now, though, Vanessa’s path provides a lot of flexibility for her to stay at home at least a couple of days a week with our children— pretty atypical for a non-birth mom who a lot of people would probably try to force into the Dad role.
So if no one claims the Daddy role, who performs all those functions specific to fathers? Providing for the family financially? Both of us. Taking out the garbage? Both of us. Driving on long trips? Usually Vanessa. Disposing of bugs? Usually me. Fixing shit that breaks around the house? We do it together—cursing each other the entire time—or we call somebody. Here’s a tougher one—providing spiritual direction. The Promise Keepers wouldn’t like this one, but both of us will, and we will encourage spiritual exploration. Lifting heavy stuff—here’s hoping Eric doesn’t move far away, but in a pinch we can do this together. Football games and navigating the men’s locker room—we will learn, and we have a circle of friends. We are not alone in this. I had a pretty good dad. With a little work, I think he will make a pretty good grand-dad. Our kids will not have a dad, but they’ll have two great moms and a village of both female and male trusted adults in their lives that can fill in the gaps that exist in any parenting situation, even the most traditional ones.