Profile of a queer solo parent by choice
Meghan Lewis, PhD, is a proud, queer solo parent by choice of a soon to be 10-year-old son. She is the founder of Integrative Perinatal Psychotherapy and the LGBTQ Perinatal Wellness Associates of the Bay Area, and she is a monthly contributor to the East Bay Express parenting column, Kid You Not. We’re so grateful Meghan took a moment to chat with us about solo parenthood.
Q: What is the best thing about being a solo parent?
A: I definitely lean on my network of friends and family to bounce ideas off of, so I’m not making parenting decisions in a vacuum. I like that I get to make my parenting decisions all on my own. There’s an ease, efficiency, and ever-deepening trust in that.
Q: What’s the hardest part about parenting on your own?
A: The level of responsibility. Everything about my son’s well-being rests on my shoulders and in my heart.
Q: How did you choose to become a solo parent?
A: When I was an undergraduate, I wrote my thesis on lesbian coparenting and assumed that would be the trajectory of my life. Then, at age 35, I was working with queer parents-to-be offering preconception consultations, and my biological clock just went off! I had been dating women, looking for a partner, but life didn’t evolve that way. Also, my mom, having been widowed, became a solo parent to my older sister, so it was part of my family legacy. Knowing she did it was empowering. I felt like I could, too.
Q: Can you share your most useful parenting trick?
A: Think outside the box. In parenting, as in life, there really is no box. What that means to me is really being in the moment and creative and open to all possibilities—easier said than done!
Q: What helps you stay calm when you and your son butt heads?
A: On our whiteboard on our refrigerator, from week to week, we write quotes to consider. What’s written there now is “Where thought goes energy flows.” If I can remember to find a moment of pause to reset, I can ground my breath. Then I can make a clear choice about how I want to proceed. It’s all about my energy, my thinking, and my quest to cultivate continuity of connection.
Q: Tell us about a recent parenting moment where you felt proud.
A: When I pick my son up from the after-school program every day, he’s excited to see me. He comes right up to me and lets me tousle his curls and gives me big hugs. The fact that he’s still willing to be so affectionate as a fourth grader in front of his peers makes me hopeful that he’s going to grow up to be an affectionate and openly loving man. That makes me feel really proud—not just of me as a parent, but that he’s so comfortable with himself!
Q: LGBTQ parents face some pretty unique challenges. Will you share a challenge you have faced? How have you resolved it?
A: I feel very fortunate that I really have not experienced challenges as a result of being a queer solo parent by choice. The one circumstance I can come up with was quite some time ago when my son was entering kindergarten. I thought it would be of benefit to share with my son’s teacher at the very beginning of the school year that I am a solo parent by choice and that our donor and his husband are active in my son’s life. We consider these men as my child’s godfathers. I shared with the teacher that, from time to time, one or the other of my son’s godfathers would be picking him up from school.
One day that this occurred, my son wanted to introduce his godfather to his teacher. The teacher, at the end of their meeting, said to my son that it was very lovely to meet his dad. (Picture, here, my righteous solo-mama-by-choice hackles going up!) My son then explained to the teacher that this man was actually his godfather, not his dad.
I took the time to reiterate to my son’s teacher who the people in our immediate family are and what we call them. And then I joined Our Family Coalition as the Family Advocacy Program Liaison to help increase LGBTQ family visibility in our school system. I think, in this well-meaning teacher’s 20+ years of teaching Kindergarten, her possible lack of exposure and awareness contributed to her not fully retaining the uniqueness of our family formation.
Q: What advice do you give LGBTQ folks who are considering becoming, or who have recently, become single parents?
A: Trust that you and your child(ren) do indeed make a complete family. Know that the heteronormative married-parent paradigm is not necessarily the ideal. If you are having difficulty embracing solo parenthood, seek support from those in your community who value your experience. It is possible to feel complete. And as this becomes true for you, so does it become true for your child(ren). In this case, it’s a clear win-win!
Photo Credit: Meghan Lewis
Cheryl Dumesnil, ESME’s LGBTQ Resource Guide, is an author, educator, writing coach, all-around do-gooder, and one of two moms separately coparenting two amazing boys. You can follow her on Twitter at @cheryladumesnil.
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