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Talking about same-sex parenting

As a same-sex parent, planning for a child differs from the traditional route in obvious ways. Whether you’ve chosen to adopt or work with a donor or surrogate parent, you’ve had to make some big decisions to get to this point.

It can be difficult to turn to others for a quick chat about how to child-proof your kitchen without the conversation leading to the topic of how to raise a child can be raised in a same-sex family or which of you is going to take on which duties when the child arrives.

You might find that a lot of the traditional advice and information that’s been handed down through regular channels doesn’t immediately relate to your own experience, or face discriminatory attitudes from the service providers who are supposed to support you,

Your employers and other colleagues might also be putting barriers in your way. All of this can lead to difficulties around the practical arrangements of childcare and other financial matters, making you feel isolated and confused about where to turn.

Why is this affecting our relationship?

Discrimination can affect your relationship in several ways. Your relationship may already be under strain from parenting [1], so any additional pressure can be much harder to deal with [2].

It can also be troubling because it’s difficult to face the issue head on. It’s not easy to resolve stress that comes from outside your relationship, and it’s hard to talk to people who don’t understand or respect your desire to become a parent [3].

How can I improve things?

Take a moment to remind yourselves why you wanted to become parents in the first place. Remind yourselves of the journey you’ve been on and all the challenges you’ve dealt with so far. The discrimination you are facing is not your fault, and bears no reflection on your capabilities as a parent, or your potential to learn new skills and raise a child. There is no evidence to support claims that children should fare any worse in a same-sex household [4].

It may also help to remember that there are others out there facing similar challenges to your own. The number of same-sex couples raising children is on the rise [5], and the introduction of same-sex marriage represents a significant step towards more widespread acceptance.

Where to get support

Try seeking support from statutory services either privately or through your GP, to talk through anything that’s bothering you. You can also turn to online forums, such as the one here on Click, where you can voice your concerns anonymously amongst people in similar situations.

You may also be able to lean on your social circle. At first, you may find it helpful to seek the support of a few trusted family members and friends. Research has shown that couples who maintain close ties with their family and friends can feel the benefits in their general wellbeing and quality of life through practical and emotional support [6] [7].

Research has shown that family members who initially express disapproval often warm up to the idea once the child arrives [8]. Keep reminding your family that you love and support each other and that, while you would prefer to have their support, you will still be parents regardless. Letting your family know that their negative attitudes won’t affect you gives them a more realistic choice to make about how involved they want to be.

And remember – it’s your decision to become a parent and you have the right to be supported through that process. Make room for the voices that want to help you and politely ignore the ones that don’t. With a bit of self-acceptance, you may find that there are more people on your side than you realised.

 

References

[1] Petch, J., & Halford, W. K. (2008). Psycho-education to enhance couples transition to parenthood. Clinical Psychology Review, 28(7), 1125-1137. doi:10.1016/j.cpr.2008.03.005

[2] Shapiro, A. F. and Gottman, J. M. Effects on Marriage of a Psycho-Communicative-Educational Intervention With Couples Undergoing the Transition to Parenthood, Evaluation at 1-Year Post Intervention. J. Fam. Commun. 5, 1–24 (2005).

[3] NatCen (2014). British Social Attitudes.

[4] Crouch, S. R., Waters, E., Mcnair, R., Power, J., & Davis, E. (2014). Parent-reported measures of child health and wellbeing in same-sex parent families: A cross-sectional survey. BMC Public Health, 14(1). doi:10.1186/1471-2458-14-635

[5] ONS (2013)

[6] Gierveld, J. D., & Tilburg, T. V. (2010). The De Jong Gierveld short scales for emotional and social loneliness: Tested on data from 7 countries in the UN generations and gender surveys. European Journal of Ageing, 7(2), 121-130. doi:10.1007/s10433-010-0144-6

[7] Moor, N., & Komter, A. (2011). The impact of family structure and disruption on intergenerational emotional exchange in Eastern Europe. European Journal of Ageing, 9(2), 155-167. doi:10.1007/s10433-011-0207-3

[8] Koller (2008)

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