Just recently I have found myself wandering into some blogs of other lesbian mums. It has got me reflecting on the way our lives as parents have panned out, and on the whole thorny question of identity.
The group was usually pretty busy and families would come quite a way for the sessions. We were very active in the whole thing – being key-holders, keeping the books, getting involved with planning Christmas parties or organising speakers. Mostly that was just an established pattern for us – and especially for Dani. If she gets involved in something she tends to get really involved! But it was also indicative of our sense of looking for an identity as a family, and as parents. Not only did we attend the group religiously, we read all the books we could find (both always do that, no matter what the issue!) on lesbian and gay parenting. Looking back, I am glad and grateful that we took that approach. Going to the group when P was little gave me a place where my parenthood wasn’t questioned and I didn’t have to keep explaining myself – and that was then mirrored for D when L was born. Can’t say what it gave to D, P, or L but they were generally keen to go. I think that it did help the kids to realise that other people had two mums, or no dad, or some other combinations of parents. So, how come we aren’t still there every month? What happened to that need?
I guess that part of the explanation is that people just do tend to throw themselves in to things when they are new to them. The way we behaved was pretty much a carbon copy of our early years as out dykes – at the club nights, in the campaign groups, wearing all the gear, reading all the books. Later on you calm down a bit, realise that you’re in this for the long haul and attempt to integrate the new aspect of your life with everything else. (Think Little Britain’s Daffyd as someone not yet engaging with this process!) Also, you tend to realise that whatever the label you still have a need to work out how to do this as you – or, in the case of family, as us.
Several jolts occurred when we were very involved with the L and G parents’ group - things that jarred with our sense of how we wanted and needed to parent and live. One was the realisation that our model of family creation (each giving birth to one child, sharing the childcare and both working outside the home) was not actually being followed by anyone else! We found ourselves floundering for common ground with families where one person thought that all the housework was her job, or that the kids should be neat and tidy when their working mummy got home. That kind of rigid distinction of roles wasn’t reflected in the heterosexual partnerships of our own siblings and we were a bit gobsmacked to find it in lesbian parents’ relationships. Another was that we’d find ourselves being part of discussions on ‘discipline’ for toddlers and little kids. Talking about appropriate punishment was just way off the radar of our beliefs about parenting. It was only a matter of time before our decision to home ed Leo, and
I have realised that recognising and caring for all elements of myself is essential for happiness, though it is not easy. If I’m tasked with finding a good image of a dalek for someone’s poster, that doesn’t mean I won’t just sneak a quick image search for Karina Lombard – just to brighten my day. If I am reading something heavy on the origins of thinking, then I might well take a break with the latest G-Scene. Nattering to my mum on the phone is as vital as following in-depth debate about the government consultation on home ed. Getting the washing on is as important as getting to work on time – but neither is as vital as being there when the children need me. If I get just a couple of chances to dance ballroom stylie with my true love in any one year, then those chances are worth grabbing with both hands. And so on… Being a parent, being a lesbian mum, being a home educator – they’re all who I am, but they’re only part of who I am. What I hope for the future is that our children feel the freedom to define themselves, to name what and who they are - no matter how unusual the combination of labels.