Mother’s Day? But we’re gay parents

 (Illustration by Lydia Silver)
(Illustration by Lydia Silver)

This year my daughter has declared that Mother’s Day is now going to be known as ‘Sister’s Day’. She’s seven and has two dads so it’s quite a genius move on her part. She’s effectively decided to take the day and make it all about her, she’s a girl after my own heart. The fact she lives in an all-male house, has two younger brothers at home and three older brothers who are in long-term foster care, is perhaps what has led her to this decision. She is literally the Lady of the Manor and at least we now have a plan for the day.

‘What do gay dads do for Mother’s Day?’ I’m often asked. Or the even more offensive, ‘Which one will get to be mum today?’ But you see one of the beautiful things about queer parenting is that we do not have to conform to ‘the going out to Harvester treat for mum’ type of vibe. In reality, some gay parents will celebrate by honouring their own mothers and getting the kids to spoil grandma. Some adoptive parents may use it as an opportunity to talk to their children about their birth mothers and hit any questions or queries they have head on. As adoptive parents, my husband and I are always as honest, open and talkative as possible about our children’s birth mother. They all know whose tummy they grew in, but know that they are adopted and now have two dads. We celebrate this as it’s something for them to be proud of, never ashamed of.

‘What do gay dads do for Mother’s Day?’ I’m often asked

Then, on Mother’s Day, there will of course be the lovely lesbian and trans mothers out there who will hopefully be celebrating in whichever gay way they like. But what about non-binary parents, when do they celebrate? And do we really even need hyper-gendered parenting days any more? Before the Clintons Card brigade gets out the pitchforks, calm down — I’m just being curious and isn’t that surely one of the best parenting traits there should be? To question and wonder if our ‘traditions’ and the way we always seem to do things are in fact right. What about those who have lost a mother? Those who never knew their mother? Or those who can’t stand to be in the same room as their mother? Would scrapping mother and father days and instead creating a ‘Parenting’ day really be such a bad thing?

Okay, so logistically it would probably be a bloody nightmare. For one, how would you decide who gets the special treatment for the day? Trust me, as parents of a seven, five and a three-year-old, I can’t say my husband and I overly enjoy Father’s Day. We sort of cancel each other out as one of us has to be the one to get out of bed and sort breakfast. Following shouts of ‘Daddy, I’ve done a poo!’, one of us has to wipe some bums — Happy Father’s Day, indeed! Who gets to be the one to lie in bed with a cup of tea and a soggy bit of toast? I’m just counting down the days till I can be wheeled out to a pub and have our grown children buy their old dads a big bottle of the most expensive wine on the menu on Father’s Day.

No, give me the equal parenting we get to enjoy for the remaining 364 days of the year in exchange for one day when neither of us gets special treatment. In our house there are no gendered stereotypes for us to perform. I’m not expected to clean the house and he is not expected to stay at work late. We do what works best for us and our family by sharing the load, both emotionally and physically. Dare I even suggest that Mother’s Day is in fact a fairly toxic way for some straight men to atone for being so darn-right useless the rest of the year? A nice bunch of flowers and a sickly sweet card to make up for the inequality that is still rife in heterosexual parenting.

This is often the narrative told by a group of, let’s call them, ‘mother martyrs’, who seem to thrive on dates like Mother’s Day to pedal their bizarre mum-memes such as the one that landed in my feed the other day: ‘When kids say “Daddy, I want Mummy”, it’s the kids’ version of, “I want to speak to your boss.”’ Eurgh. I guess I am a tad more sensitive to this as a gay dad who often finds himself feeling he is on the outskirts of being a parent simply for being a man. That I am somehow less worthy of being ‘maternal’ or capable of looking after my own children. The applause I’ve often got for being out alone with my kids is insulting, I’m just being a parent — don’t congratulate me on taking my kids out just because I am man. So Happy Mother’s Day to those who celebrate. My dad has always said he never really believes in Father’s Day, nor Mother’s Day, as he feels you should treat your parents with respect and love every day of the year. I’m down with the logic of this and really it should include being equal in day-to day-parenting, regardless of gender.

Oakley hosts the podcast ‘From Gay to Ze’. His new book ‘The Queer Parent’ is out 11 May