Parenting & Gender Roles


Parenting & Gender Roles

by Brent Almond

My son and his husband have been married for just over a year. They’ve recently brought up the idea of adopting a child. I’ve been supportive of my son and his partner, but as a mother I can’t help but wonder how the lack of a mother figure in the household could negatively affect the child’s upbringing. Any advice?
— Anonymous

Brent Says:

Yours is a very common question. For many — whether it was their reality or not — Family = Mother + Father.

I’ve been asked your question many times, initially even by my own mother — if not in your same words, certainly in a similar spirit. Here is my answer:

Every child needs feeding and nurturing; to be taught how to read, sing and dance; to be caring towards others.

Every child needs to be protected, sheltered, and clothed; to learn about nature and go on adventures; and to be shown how to be confident in who they are.

While, for many, those attributes may fit neatly into “mother” and “father” gender boxes, same-sex parents (and an increasing number of heterosexuals) enjoy a fluidity in their parental duties not limited to their anatomy.

Between the two of us, my husband and I manage to cover all the things I listed in our roles as parents. Sure, I do some more than he, and vice versa — but it’s based on our talents and personalities. I'm a graphic designer and illustrator, and I sing with a chorus, so a lot of our son's appreciation of and experience with the arts and creativity comes from me. My husband is a wonderful cook (due in large part to his Italian heritage) and does all the grocery shopping. Since he was a baby, our son accompanies Papa every weekend to "help" at the supermarket. We've both shared — as equally as our schedules/careers allowed — the duties of feeding, bathing, changing diapers, dressing, grooming and potty training. It baffles my mind that there are still fathers that haven't or won't change diapers! When there are no restrictions on who does what, you’re not left with an imbalanced and incomplete child, but one who’s well-rounded, fully complete, and open to all the opportunities life brings their way.

Now for the stats and such. The Human Rights Campaign has compiled a handy list of quotes, opinions, and statistics from leading parenting, medical, and legal organizations on the topic of LGBT parents and the effect their sexuality has on the welfare of their children.

Here are a few of my favorites:

“There is no scientific evidence that parenting effectiveness is related to parental sexual orientation: lesbian and gay parents are as likely as heterosexual parents to provide supportive and healthy environments for their children.

Research has shown that the adjustment, development and psychological well-being of children is unrelated to parental sexual orientation and that the children of lesbian and gay parents are as likely as those of heterosexual parents to flourish.”

"We believe that every child has the right to a loving, nurturing and permanent family, and that people from a variety of life experiences offer strengths for these children."

“…a considerable body of professional literature provides evidence that children with parents who are homosexual can have the same advantages and the same expectations for health, adjustment, and development as can children whose parents are heterosexual.”

One final question for you. Do you plan on being a part of your grandchild’s life? Because you have the potential to be the solution to your own concern. You may not live in the household, but the more supportive and accepting you are of your son’s decision to become a father, the more likely he’ll turn to you for advice and include you in his child’s life as a strong female influence. Keep in mind, however, that the opposite may also be true.

Continue to ask questions — you only benefit from educating yourself. And what you do with the answers will show your son and son-in-law that you’re not only concerned, but willing to be a part of their journey as parents. And what grandma wouldn’t love that?

Brent Almond is a graphic designer, writer, and father of a pre-schooler. He combines all of these on his blog Designer Daddy, where he writes about being a gay dad of an adopted son, chronicles the progress of same-sex marriage with fridge magnets, and shares the superhero doodles he puts in his son’s lunchbox. More of Brent’s writing can be found on Huffington Post and The Good Men Project, and he was recently honored as one of the Voices of the Year at BlogHer 2014. Brent also serves on the board of Rainbow Families DC, an organization that supports, educates and connects LGBT families. Read more of his work on his blog, Designer Daddy.