Things not to say to same-sex parents

21 June 2021

For two weeks during Pride month, Kingsley Napley are publishing a series of blog to celebrate Pride and highlight LGBTQ+ issues from home and abroad.


In January 2020, I was fortunate enough to give birth to a beautiful, healthy baby boy.  As far as I know, I am the first partner at Kingsley Napley (although certainly not the first employee) who has a baby who is lucky enough to have two mums.  News of my pregnancy was met with overwhelming support from my colleagues.  That support continues to this very day, and my wife and I remain truly grateful for the kindness that has been shown to us.  However, since falling pregnant I have learnt that not all workplaces are as supportive to same-sex parents as mine.  The concept of two mums or two dads starting a family is something that some people still struggle to get their heads around.   So this year, for our KN Pride blog series, I have decided to explain the questions, that speaking from my own experience, it is not helpful to ask of same-sex parents.

1. Who is the mum? (Or worse still) Yes, but who is the real mum?

This is undoubtedly, hands down, the worst question of them all.

A child born to same-sex parents has two parents, both equal in status.  The fact that one parent is responsible for any of the following:

  • Giving birth;
  • Using their eggs to conceive;
  • Using their sperm to conceive etc. etc. etc.

Does not give them a higher status in the parental hierarchy.

In our family, my role in carrying and giving birth to our son allowed me to call in a few favours from my wife in the hours and days immediately following his birth.  I may even be guilty of delegating the first few messy nappy changes.  Save for that, I can assure you that my wife and I have always been, and are in all ways equal in our love, connection and care for our son.

2. How did you conceive? 

This is an interesting one.  Before asking this question of  a same-sex parent, ask yourselves how many times you have asked this question of a different-sex parent.  I suspect never.  Call me old fashioned, but in my view this really is none of your business.

If you were to ask my close friends and colleagues about the journey that we took to start our family then they would tell you that we are happy to share our experience with those who have a genuine interest, often because they are also struggling with fertility issues, or otherwise just because they are people that we feel comfortable sharing this personal information with. 

The point is … think about why you may be asking this question, think about the nature of the relationship you have with the person and the forum in which you are asking the question and don’t ask if you really don’t need to know.  Or better still, wait for them to share with you, which I am sure they will do, if they want to.

3. Who’s the father?

Our son has a donor and not a father.

Our son’s donor has: no parenting responsibilities, no financial responsibility, he is not named on the birth certificate and most importantly has no emotional connection to our little boy.   We chose him from a vast catalogue of donors and we have never met him.

One day, when our son is aged 18, he will be entitled to access identifying information about his donor.  Should he choose to make contact with his donor then we would of course support him and we would hope that that meeting is a positive experience.  

Do not get me wrong, our donor is a very special person.  He has been essential in helping us create the most precious thing (to us) in The World.  But, he is not, nor will he ever be the father of our son.

4. So, are you the ‘Daddy’ then? 

Does this seem like an incredible question to you? It does to me. Yet, without a word of a lie, one of my friend’s colleagues  asked her this question in a team meeting.  Even if this was said in jest, it is truly unforgiveable.

For clarity, my wife and I are both mums; to our son I am Mama and my wife MamaLou (which our son abbreviates to Mamou, making her sound like a protective bear from the Jungle Book… which actually is not too far from the truth).  Our son will thrive because he will grow up in a loving and supportive family, and that family has two mums.  In short, a child does not need a ‘mummy’ and a ‘daddy’ to be happy.

5.  How do I explain it to my kids?

It’s really quite simple.  You simply explain that all families are different.  Some have a mum and dad, some have either a mum or a dad, some (the few lucky ones) have two mums and two dads and some have a different combination altogether.  Having open, honest age-appropriate conversations with kids is to be encouraged.  In fact, you are welcome, if any confusion caused by our family structure has provided an opportunity for you to have a meaningful discussion with your kids about important topics like sexual orientation and healthy relationships.

6. Doesn’t your child miss out on doing ‘dad’ activities?

Um, sorry what are ‘dad’ activities and what are ‘mum’ activities?  I was unaware that activities are gendered.  Aren’t  they just activities?

It is true to say that, on balance, ‘Mamou’ has better sporting prowess than I, so should that mean that she can be of more use to him when it comes to standing on the side of a football/rugby pitch in the freezing cold of winter, then I may be gracious enough to stand aside and let her do so.   It is also a fact that our son shares a birth day with Christian Dior and Balenciaga.  So should he show a natural flair for clothing design then I’ve already set the expectations in our family that he’ll be designing my new season wardrobe before hers.

Also, if you were worried that our son won’t have positive male role models in his life then I can assure you there is no need for your concern.  When you are part of the LGBT community, friends become an essential part of your life.  As LGBT individuals we have a history of feeling different and that experience means it is even more critical to surround ourselves with people who truly accept who we are.  Our son has many gay, straight, black, white, neurodiverse men in his life.  If he turns out to be half the man that our precious male friends are then our parenting of him will have been an overwhelming success.

See it’s really quite simple.  Just don’t ask the questions that you wouldn’t otherwise ask any other different-sex parent.

So all that remains is for me to say “thank you” to those colleagues and friends who have made us feel like we know what we are meant to do with this new responsibility and for making our little boy feel so treasured.  Our family wishes you all a safe, Covid-free, Pride.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR 

Melinka Berridge is a regulatory and criminal lawyer specialising in the fields of private prosecutions private prosecutions , health and safety ,  licensing   and professional discipline .  She has considerable experience of working in the leisure & hospitality, built environment and charity sectors.

Melinka leads the team at Kingsley Napley responsible for bringing private prosecutions .  She helps individuals, corporates and charities to commence criminal proceedings when the state prosecuting agencies are unable or unwilling to act.  Melinka is highly ranked in the legal directories in the field of private prosecutions.

 

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