Yesterday was Mother’s Day, and we know that it’s not always a happy occasion, perhaps especially for queers and other marginalized folks. It can be a hard day if you have no relationship with your mother, have a strained relationship with your mother, have lost your mother, or are struggling as a mother or to be a mother — and for many other reasons. Because of strained or non-existent relationships with blood relations, queers often have to make their own support networks that don’t fit with the traditional definition of “family” or get recognized by special holidays.
For the third year in a row, Strong Families, a movement that advocates for policies that make sense for all families, created a line of alternative greeting cards “highlighting mamas who are missing from greeting card aisles — queer moms, low-income moms, young moms, immigrant moms, single moms, incarcerated moms.” You can read more about the cards and artists who created them on the Strong Families’ Mama’s Day website.
Dyke March Team Member Julie shares her own perspective on queer parenting:
“A few months back I was sitting in the waiting room of my daughter’s pediatrician and, sincerely, there exists no better place to get a very diverse cross section of parenting habits or the subsequent effects these habits have on the children. Some kids sat quietly next to either mom or dad and played with iPads, tablets or went old school and actually read a book. Others ran around the office like they were coming off a sugar high, but for the most part the kids played with the toys sprawled about the waiting room. As I watched the interaction between parent and child it was very clear which kids’ parents had a handle on them and which kids controlled their parents. Actions can be misleading but, for the most part, I think I was able to get a fair sense of things. A parent would ask their child to please sit down and the child would bluntly say “no” and continue to raise a ruckus — to which I would comment under my breath “there is no way in hell my child would ever say “no” or behave like that – someone would get a slap!” Another parent would make the same request to their child and their child would comply — to which I, again, would mutter to myself “damn straight.” This got me to thinking: does the behaviour of my children cause people to comment about their home life, their upbringing, and my parenting skills?
I honestly don’t think parenting skills comes down to ethnic background, or whether the parent is gay or straight — as many of us don’t have our sexual orientation or family history tattooed on our forehead — but a combination of all those factors. It was very interesting to observe how kids behave as it tends to reflect on their parents’ parenting habits and/or home life. Being a gay female of colour with two kids, ages 12 and 20, I have always had a household which, at the very core, promoted tolerance and acceptance. I have tirelessly inspired my children to resist the perceived norms of society; they are encouraged to think outside the box. I have always, and will continue, to raise my children with a firm hand. Manners are essential, respect is mandatory, and opinions are always welcomed and encouraged.
We live in a society that on the surface appears to be tolerant, inclusive, and non-prejudicial, but in reality this isn’t always the case. Being perceived as a single parent and having all the stereotypes that accompanies it thrown my way has toughened me up and subsequently had a domino effect on how I raised my kids. I would always point out to my children that society believes that we are of another class because of our race, and the fact that your parents are gay doesn’t make things any easier. I told them they need to always give themselves that little extra push in all that they do, to always broaden their minds, to set examples of tolerance and of acceptance. This atmosphere of diversity which I continually preached to my kids was much easier for my daughter to amalgamate through practices at school or at play than it was for my son. He grew up in a time when having a single parent or gay parents wasn’t as widely accepted as it is today. He was never bullied or bothered due to his home life but when questioned about it he had the same resolve that he does today: “my home is happy, my parents are crazy, they support me in everything I do and I support them completely. My mom is and always will be my biggest fan, but has a no-nonsense mean streak, so I don’t advise that you piss her off.”
I have normal (within reason), balanced kids who are polar opposites in every aspect possible with the exception of core values. One is extremely extroverted while the other finds peace and solace in their core group of friends which hasn’t changed much since preschool. They are both amazing kids whose academic standing has always been stellar as I believe education allows you to chase whatever path you choose in life. Socially, my children have both always encouraged acceptance and welcomed diversity in every aspect of their lives. Teachers, other parents and friends have commented to me about my children’s behaviour over the years, some extremely supportive while others criticize me and call me controlling. I raised my kids on a short leash; I always expected clear, open and honest communication on everything — school, friends, and life in general. Some see it as controlling because I need and expect my kids to tell me where they are at all times, to ask for permission no matter what it is, and to always be honest with me regardless of the issue. I want my children to be progressive, active members of society who will contribute to the betterment of every environment as opposed to breaking it down with ignorance, intolerance and bigotry.
I don’t expect perfection from my children; mistakes are often the cornerstone of one’s history and of one’s existence. They allow you to learn from and to share with others, and to know what to steer clear of in the future if need be. I don’t pretend to know everything there is about rearing kids, or the basic requirements of parenting; what I do know is children will always learn from their environment whether it’s at home or school or their community as a whole. It’s my belief that there is no ‘right way’ or ‘wrong way’ to raise a child. It’s often the case where child and parent tend to raise each other. It’s essential to support their choices, and to stress the importance of respecting the choices and lifestyles of others. No one individual will go through life with the acceptance of everyone. Regret, failure, disappointment, and success are factors we all deal with; it’s a matter of how you manage the stress and benefits it has on your life. I can wholeheartedly say that both my kids are well-rounded, balanced individuals. They can at times ride my last nerve, annoy me to the moon and back but I thank them for the woman I am today. They have taught me patience, understanding — and most recently social media. I am who I am because of them and I know they are who they are because of me.”
This post written by: Andi and Julie
Facebook: DykeMarch Toronto