Another friend of mine – a bisexual woman – adopted a teenager last year.
Currently, my clients include: 2 gay dads with 2 kids (one adopted, one via a surrogate), a gay man and a bisexual man who adopted a child, a “marriage” of 3 gay men who adopted 2 special needs children, a transgender man and his lesbian wife who recently were awarded custody of their 3 grandchildren and quite a few same-sex couples who are parents (and step-parents) to children from previous relationships.
LGBT parenting is definitely here, and the number of forms it can take are infinite.
I am an LGBT elder who really likes kids: they “get” me and I “get” them. I was a preschool teacher in NYC and worked as an intern for “Sesame Street”. I wrote a Master’s thesis on how having same-sex parents affects children’s personalities. As a psychotherapist here in San Diego, I work with adolescents and their parents (together and separately) in my private practice.
I have worked with children and parents for over 30 years and would like to present some ideas for your consideration if you are thinking about becoming an LGBT parent:
Why do you want to be a parent? This is crucial to consider, rather than just “going along” with your partner, friends or family because they think you “should” or that you’d make a great mom or dad.
Is your partner as committed as you are? In my thirties, I felt a strong desire for fatherhood, but my then-partner didn’t share it. I was tempted to push the issue, but am glad that I didn’t. I would have ended up as a dad who was into it with dad #2 who wasn’t. What child deserves to grow up in a situation like that?
What happens if your relationship status changes? Many people start out as part of a couple who choose to become parents and end up as two single people sharing custody of a child. You see this in straight couples all the time, but it could happen to you too. Give some serious thought to how you would handle parenthood if your relationship ended.
Change of status in the community: If most of your friends are single, parenthood may rock your social life, big-time. Those weekend trips to Palm Springs may not be possible anymore. Those late nights out may have to go too. Your single friends may not understand how your life has changed. You may – ironically – have more in common with straight parents than single LGBTers.
Age of your child(ren): Some people love babies but are less thrilled as kids get older; other people find babies annoying and only enjoy children they can converse with. Know thyself, and, if partnered, discuss this with her/him.
Time commitment: I don’t think you can overestimate how much time and energy it will take to be a parent. Whether you have a baby or adopt a teenager, your life is changed forever. Even when your child is an adult, you are still their parent. You may someday be 90 years’ old, but if your child is still alive and kicking, you’re still a parent.
Financial commitment: According to the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture (August, 2014), the average cost of raising a child born in 2013 up until age 18 for a middle-income family in the U.S. is approximately $245,340 (or $304,480, adjusted for projected inflation), not including college. Is this something that you (if single) or you and your partner can handle? The luxuries you currently enjoy (e.g., travel, dining out) may not survive the financial demands of parenthood. Are you okay with that?
Emotional commitment: This may be the biggest challenge of all. The parent-child bond is powerful, long-lasting and laden with many joys and sorrows. While not a parent myself, I see how my family, friends and clients are incredibly bonded with their children. As a result, these kids can give them “heaven” but also put them through hell.
Have I discouraged you? I hope not. My intention is to be a reality check, not a Debbie Downer.
We all had parents, and they all did their best (however that looked at the time). If we become parents, we’ll be doing our best too, knowing that we will make mistakes, lose our tempers and inadvertently hurt our kids. That’s how life works.
Yet, no one can really measure the potential for joy, satisfaction and love you can share with a child. Many have written – so beautifully – about this; yet it remains almost indescribable.
If you are considering becoming a parent, please don’t take this responsibility lightly. It’s the most powerful, long-lasting commitment a human being can make.
It has been my intention to present some ideas to consider in your decision-making process. Whatever you decide, please do it conscientiously.