Growing up in an “Unusual” Family

Growing up in an “Unusual” Family

A child born by ART to two moms talks about his family

I always dreaded talking about my family in school, whether it was playing get-to-know-you games, learning about “la famille et les parents” in French class, or studying heredity and genetics in biology. Don't get me wrong, I love my family more than anything, and I’m proud of us. It’s just that I never knew how people would react. My immediate family consists of me, my little sister, my mom, and my mom. I was raised by two women, although they’ve been separated since I was six.

I’ll answer all the usual questions: yes, they’re lesbians, and yes, they used to be a couple but they broke up. Yes, they’re both my moms. One gave birth to me and the other one adopted me when I was a baby, so they’re legally both my parents. Yes, they both parent me and my sister, but individually. No, I don’t have a father; I was born with the help of a sperm donor. No, I don’t know him, nor do I really want to meet him.

Even though shows like Modern Family or the children’s book “classic” Heather Has Two Mommies are helping bring nontraditional families into the mainstream, a lot of kids (and surprisingly many adults) simply aren’t aware of these families. When I tell people I have two moms, their responses are split. Luckily for me, I grew up in a pretty liberal area, so a lot of people just take it in stride. Sometimes they don’t think twice about it, and sometimes they’re just afraid of being politically incorrect.

But for everyone who goes along with it, there’s someone for whom it’s a total conversation stopper. Some people don’t see how it’s possible. “Two women? But that’s not how biology works!” Now that I’m older, it’s easier to explain sperm donation, but it was much harder in elementary school, before everyone had really figured out the birds and the bees. One of my first memories of this was when a new girl joined my class in fourth grade and didn’t understand how a baby could be born without “the dad giving the mom a special hug.” I had a heck of a time explaining to her how the “special hug” could be donated or even arrive in the mail from California.

The other common response is a well-intentioned barrage of questions, which can sometimes be just as difficult as a complete misunderstanding. I once mentioned my moms to a group at school, and it completely derailed our group project: one of my group members proclaimed me “the most interesting person in the world” and spent the rest of the class grilling me about how it is to be raised by two women, how sperm donation works, and ironically, about any annoying ways people tend to respond. I do my best to be patient since it’s often innocent curiosity, but it’s sometimes hard to answer the same questions over and over again.

The reason that I get tired of people making a big deal out of my family is that I really don’t feel like it’s as different as people think. I still have caring, supportive parents, and I grew up like any other kid. The separated and coparenting setup isn’t terribly rare either. To me, the most important thing about my family has nothing to do with the fact that I have two moms or that I was conceived with a donor. It has everything to do with our tradition of having crepes for breakfast when I came home from boarding school or singing along to the Sound of Music on road trips. We’re really just like any other “normal” family. Yes, I know my family isn't “normal,” but no, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

If you’re a parent with a kid who has two moms, was born by ART, or any other nontraditional family, here’s some advice:

  • Introduce your children to other kids who have similar family structures as you do. My parents did a good job with this. When Father’s Day rolled around, and all the other kids were making cards for their dads during craft time, my friend Jayme and I would just hang out and play with the craft supplies instead. It helps not to feel like you’re the only one.
  • Teach your kids to stand up for themselves. People might say insensitive things to your kids. I remember once I sat and listened to my supervisor tell me that gay couples shouldn’t be allowed to adopt children and that solo parents shouldn’t be allowed to run for political office because those things damaged society by challenging the traditional family. I wish I had stood up to her!
  • Find resources to help your kids understand how they came about. Kids are naturally curious and will probably want to know where they come from, especially when they start learning about where babies come from. Look for resources like these that can help explain ART and nontraditional families to them in a way they understand.
  • Be caring towards your child, and make sure they know that as long as their family is supportive, it doesn’t matter who’s in it.

Dr. Jacob Kronenberg was raised by not one but two fabulous Solo Moms. He enjoys cooking, learning languages, and spending time with his family and friends.

Please feel free to contact us with any comments or questions.

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