I once asked my mom what her reaction had been to learning she was pregnant with me. Was it, “Hooray! I’m pregnant,” or more like, “You have got to be kidding?”
She looked at me and said, “Honestly, a little bit of both.” And who could blame her? I am, after all, the youngest of six kids and a mid-life surprise baby.
Parenthood isn’t for everybody. Unlike most straight people, since pregnancy isn’t a byproduct of physical intimacy for gay people, we need to go out of our way to become parents. And it can be a hard, emotional roller coaster.
I had an opportunity to speak with Dr. Sharon Katz, a psychologist and licensed psychotherapist, about what LGBT people should consider when weighing whether or not to become a parent.
“Treat the decision to become parents very seriously,” Dr. Katz told me. “I always tell people that once they are parents, everything they know to be true about their lives is no longer true. It is difficult for people to believe this, even educated, experienced people. They assume that they will just go about their lives and fit in a child and nothing else will change. “
It’s pretty easy to get wrapped up in the romance of parenting. I think we each have these fantasies of what it will be like to be a parent, and those visions are only part of the story. Kids really are not the good-natured, obedient, loving creatures that television sitcoms tell us they are. There are arguments, homework, illnesses, and a myriad of other aspects of being a dad or mom that the Ricardos, Bradys, Huxtables or Tanners never warned you about.
Dr. Katz also advised that before you head down the road to parenthood, you talk about the decision a lot, and be in total agreement. “Make certain that you both want to become parents. Becoming a parent because your partner really wants this, and you agreed to do it because you love them and want to give them this experience, may not work out well as time goes on.”
And being united is important. Because in spite of all of the advances and the acceptance we enjoy today, LGBT families still stand out. We have to try to prepare our kids, and ourselves, for the discrimination we face. It’s not easy. Last year when one of Gus’s friends told him he couldn’t come to our house because of his family’s “religious beliefs.”
So it’s important to discuss diversity in families from an early age – it helps kids to mitigate the feelings of being out of sync when they understand families come in all sorts of varieties. Dr. Katz says talking about diversity “will help your children with their self-esteem in the face of a sometimes unkind world.” She even has a series of dolls that come in a rainbow of colors and family structures that help overcome that feeling of isolation.
When it boils down to it, becoming a parent is a scary proposition. It’s a responsibly that never ends. So it’s not for everyone, and that’s perfectly okay. But if you think you may be parenting material, it’s the greatest adventure you’ll ever experience.
All these years later, my mom is glad that she became pregnant with me. And I’m glad that a social worker called to tell us we were expecting. Because in spite of all the craziness that comes with fatherhood, every single day since the first moment I held my boys in my arms, I’ve said, “Hooray!”
You can buy Dr. Katz’s dolls at http://www.diversefamilies.com.