What is it like growing up with two mums?
I always find it funny when someone approaches me to ask what it is like growing up with lesbian parents. I think I find it peculiar because I would never think to enquire what it was like to grow up with heterosexual parents. Even though I have never experienced growing up with a mum and a dad, I can imagine the experience was exactly like the one that I had. I grew up in a loving, secure, stable, fun and dare I say it, normal family.
I dislike using the word normal when describing something, especially in the context of families. Because what is normal in this day and age anyway? There are so many different types of family in our society that the nuclear family is no longer normal anymore. Living with unmarried parents and being born out of wedlock is no longer a stigmatism, and being bought up in a blended family of step relatives is not considered rare anymore.
So really, the question you should be asking is not “What was is like growing up with lesbian parents?” but instead “What was it like growing up in your family?” By asking that question you would receive a much more open answer from the recipient. So here goes. What was it like growing up in my family?
I had two working parents. Two younger siblings. One dog. Two cats. We lived in a four bedroom house [which at one point may as well have been a two bed because inexplicably my siblings and I decided that for at least three years we would all sleep, cramped, in the same room together]. We went on holidays together, had picnics, went to school, got read bedtime stories, put on endless shows in the playroom for my parents. It really was just quite regular. This is not to say that our unique family set up came around easily.
There was huge thought and planning that went into creating our family unit. My dad, who was a very close friend to my parents, volunteered to be a sperm donor. He already had two children and knew that this role was purely donation and that it was not a parenting position. In the late 1980s my parents knew of no one else in their lesbian community that were having children. When they had decided that they wanted to start a family some people [not their friends] told them that they would give birth to the children of satan. My mum was so terrified that social services would come and take me away when I was born that she didn’t leave the house.
When we were growing up we were the only family like ours that I was aware of. We were surrounded by my mums' lesbian and gay couple friends but our family was unique in that we were the exception. When we were growing up my parents surrounded themselves with parents and families that were accepting and good to them, even though they were mostly conventional family set ups. People can be conventional in a family dynamic but unconventional in their parenting or interests. I never really remember feeling like I was the odd one out, surrounded by all of those mummies and daddies.
My point is that growing up with lesbian parents does not make you feel like you are missing out on something. When you ask what is it like to grow up with lesbian parents, even though it is out of curiosity, it is exactly the same as most people who are brought up by two loving parents. I guess as a child you don’t really tend to want something different if you are completely content and loved. I think that people expect being bought up by lesbian parents to be this wild roller coaster of unusual parenting. Yes, we did go to Pride every year, and yes, my mums have the most amazing collection of tools. However, there was never any distinction in our house about what boys and what girls do. My mums never had the excuse of “Oh that shelf needs fixing, best get your father”.
My mums were the male and female roles in our lives and I think that is a positive thing. My brother is no less of a man because my mum showed him how to shave, and I am no less of woman because my dad did not teach me how to drive. My mums were the male and the female roles in our lives and I think that this is a positive thing. There were no gender assigned roles and we were encouraged by both parents to be whoever we wanted to be. They have co-parented my brother and sister and I brilliantly, with love and devotion our whole lives, even after they split up. Family is what you make it. Love is unconditional whether you are two women bringing up a child or a man and a woman.
Jesse Toksvig-Stewart is a photographer living in Surrey and is co-author of a book for same-sex and adoptive parents called My Amazing Family and Me with best friend friend Kat Willott. Available to purchase at www.uglyduckbooks.co.uk for £15.99