All it takes to be a great parent is a big heart, a little flexibility and a lot of patience.
No girl starts life thinking, "I'm going to be a lesbian mom when I grow up!" As a child, if you're thinking about having kids, the phrase you use in your head is, "I want to be a mother!" or "I want to have children of my own someday!" As girls growing up, many of us simply embrace the images of motherhood that our culture shows us in movies, television, magazines, and within our own families and daily life. Until a few years ago, there were no lesbian mom role model images for us to embrace. That's changed as being a lesbian mom has become decidely cool.
I'm not sure I ever use the phrase "I'm going to be a lesbian mom!" in my own girlhood, but as the founder of Gay Girl Dating Coach, a service designed to help lesbians conquer their dating struggles, I often work with women who have come out later in life, after being married and having children. That's my story too. Not one of us, as a young girl, is thinking about our sexual preferences as a defining characteristic of motherhood. And neither do the children we birth, adopt or foster.
I realized I had an attraction to girls when I was around 6 or 7, but it took me many more years to understand that and find the courage to embrace that truth about myself. After 20 years of marriage and two children, I finally had to admit to myself that I was a lesbian. A vital factor in my finally coming out was being a mother and realizing I wanted my children to live their truths and know that they would be loved and accepted. I wanted them to know they would not be harshly judged for who they are or who they love. I clearly remember the day I sat down and told my husband I was leaving him because I had come to terms with being lesbian and I knew I could no longer stay married.
I was 45 at the time and I never once thought I had to change my parenting style from when I was married to when I was openly out. In the most important ways, nothing changed. The days immediately following were hard for all of us, but we made it to the other side and found new ways to live our lives. The experiences I've had as a mother aren't any different than those of a woman who defines herself as straight, bi or tran. But the truth is, my parenting style changed dramatically after I came out. This happened not because I was living my life as a lesbian, but because I finally stepped away from the belief system I'd learned in church. It took a year from my coming out conversations to finally find a new way to approach my spiritual life.
At the time I came out, my son was a senior in high school, while my daughter was going into the 1st grade. What they needed as individuals was dramatically different. He needed to be learning how to be more responsible with his time, money and choices as a young 18-year-old. She was learning how to read and write, do chores, take care of her cat and get along with friends at school.
My son was so angry with me for leaving his dad and coming out that we barely spoke for two years. My daughter was busy playing hide and seek, dressing up her stuffed animals, riding her tricycle, missing her dad and trying to understand why we couldn't just all live together anymore. She was also enjoying the fact that she often had her mom all to herself.
As their mother, my role and responsibilities didn't change from when I was their father's wife to when I was their lesbian mom. I wanted them to be healthy, well fed and well educated, to feel supported and loved, and to know I was always there to talk to and support them, provide guidance and correction and be a steady, loving presence in their lives.
I've helped my children figure out school, do homework, navigate bullies and friends. I taught them both how to cook and clean their rooms, do laundry and mow the lawn. I've encouraged them in their low times, cheered them on when they thought they couldn't do something that I knew they could, and showed up for them in all the ways parents should.
I've also let my kids down. I've lost my temper. I've yelled at them. I've been less than patient, and sometimes was too tired or too preoccupied with my own troubles to be able to listen to theirs. I'm a real person and the title of lesbian mom didn't bestow on me any super lesbian or mom powers. It's been humbling to raise my children. Keep reading...
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