A Gay Dad Wonders…Do My Kids Deserve a Mom?



Jerry Mahoney suggests we look at all of the forces involved in parenting before judging whether single sex parents are “good” or “bad”.

Originally appeared at MommyMan: Adventures of a Gay Superdad

I almost wrote this post a few months ago when Bristol Palin said something annoying about gay parents. Now, it’s Rupert Everett who said something annoying about gay parents. Forgive me, but I’m having a harder time lately getting annoyed.

It’s the same argument every time: hey, moms are great. Kids should have one. (Ditto for dads, but I’m covered there — my kids have two! Whew!)

OK, you win. Moms are great.  I agree. I have a mom. My mom has a mom. Abraham Lincoln had a mom. (Turns out she died when he was 9. Think how much more awesome he would’ve been if she’d lived a little longer.)

So sure, if you have a mom or two, count yourself lucky. But don’t look down on my family just because we’re different. You think my kids are better off with some smack-talking piece of trash like Bristol Palin than with me and my partner? Or do you want to take her kid away, too, because she’s a single mom and a worthless idiot? Either way, you’re wrong. (See that, Bristol?  I’ve got your back.)

It’s almost too easy to make the counter-arguments to the people who insist that all kids should have exactly one mom and one dad.  Yes, there are those studies that say that kids raised with gay parents aren’t any more likely to knock over a liquor store someday than any other kids. But all that science overlooks an even bigger argument — namely, what if your mom’s an asshole?

Ever heard of alcoholics? Child abusers? Dina Lohan? Ever seen a little film called Mommy Dearest? Trust me, plenty of gays have seen it, so it’s no wonder we think we can do the job better.

Come to think of it, I should take it easier on Bristol. Her mom kind of sucks, too.

Lots of mothers are just plain horrible, and if you’re stuck with one of those train wrecks, you have my sympathies — and an open invitation to come hang out at our place sometime. You’ll love it. We don’t have any female role models, but we do have all three major video game consoles and a trampoline. Sweet, huh?

Again, I’m not trying to badmouth moms, most of whom are loving, nurturing, patient, incredibly generous people. I just think the anti-gay parents brigade are missing the point. Since when do we expect every single family to fit some ideal of How Children Must Be Raised, and why is that ideal so often limited to gender roles?

Couldn’t you say kids are better off in smaller families, where they can get more attention from their one mom and one dad?  That they’re better off in affluence than in poverty?  With access to health care than without? With a good education than in an underfunded public school?  With jetpacks and laser guns and a computer chip implanted in their head that helps them do long division?

You can’t just hold up some hypothetical ideal and tell everyone who can’t provide it that they shouldn’t be having kids at all. Who would be left?  And what if someone in one of those ideal families dies or gets laid off or moves to Cancun with their secretary?  Families face all kinds of circumstances, positive and negative, and they persevere because they don’t have a choice. That’s why we need families in the first place — to get through all the garbage life flings at us.

Besides, just having one mom and one dad is no guarantee that all the gender-related territory is covered. Even with straight couples, some dads are girly and some moms are manly. Just because a kid has a mom and a dad, it doesn’t mean he’s baking cookies with her and driving monster trucks with him. It could be the reverse, or neither. Tell me, Prince Charming from Shrek, how much micromanaging of familial gender roles is necessary to protect children?

Deep down, those of us in the trenches know the truth: families aren’t made by a mold. They’re made by people who love each other, and they come in all different forms, some of which seem weird to outsiders. Ours has no mom. Maybe yours lives in a Winnebago or has a reality show on E!  Nobody’s perfect. But even though we can’t all give our kids everything we’d like them to have, we do our best.

Before we had kids, my partner and I thought a lot about what they would be missing out on with no mommy. I was satisfied we could still provide them a good home, but I realized I could never satisfy the people who don’t think two dads should be raising a family. You think my kids deserve a mom?  Fine, maybe you’re right, but they’re not getting one. I’m just not capable of loving a woman the way I love my partner, so if we’re going to do this, it’s him and me.

And like it or not, we’re doing it. We have twin 3-year-olds who rely on their two dads to feed them, tickle them, wipe their butts and protect them from monsters — plus a few million other things we do because we love them to an unfathomable, sometimes ridiculous degree.

I know a hypothetical mom might add certain wonderful things to their lives. I think about that constantly, because like all good parents, I want my kids to have it all. I worry what’s going to happen when my daughter hits puberty and my partner and I have to Google menstruation to talk her though it. It breaks my heart when I pick them up from school and overhear the teacher telling the class, “OK, let’s see if your mommies are here to get you!” At three years old, they already know our family is different. Someday, they’re bound to hear the hurtful things that Bristol Palin and Rupert Everett and so many other people say about us, and that bums me out big time.

But that’s the world my partner and I chose to bring kids into, and ours is the family we knew they would have. And you know what?  I still think we made the right choice. Our family may be a bit different than most, but our kids know that they’re loved and that their two daddies will always be there for them, possibly with a female friend along if we’re buying a training bra or something.

The good news is that, other than the rantings of a few homophobic celebrities (including at least one self-loathing gay man), gay families are getting some pretty good PR these days.  We have sitcoms like The New Normal and Modern Family that make us look (mostly) good, celebrity ambassadors like Ricky Martin, Elton John and Neil Patrick Harris, even the support of the President. It’s not always going to be such smooth sailing, though.

Someday, maybe even soon, there’ll be a major news story about some horrible gay parents who kept their kids locked in a subterranean torture prison or made them work at an iPad factory or something horrific like that. You know it’ll happen, because every sexual orientation, not to mention every gender, race, religion, ethnicity, disability status, blood type, Edward-or-Jacob affiliation and grouping of any kind has its share of douchebags. And when the media circus springs up around Doug and Bob and the half dozen foster kids they used as drug mules, the Bristol Palins and Rupert Everetts will point at them and say, “See?  See???”  Kind of like what global warming deniers might say on a cool day in August.

You know what?  Doug and Bob are jerks. But if you think that says anything about me and my partner, then so are you.

So I don’t have time to be outraged every time someone in the public eye says something negative about gay families. It’s going to happen again…and again, and again. Ultimately, though, it’s not what a few people say but what the rest of us do just by living our lives that speaks the loudest.

photo credits: (main) Happy family outdoors by Shutterstock.com, (insets) Frustrated man by Shutterstock.com, Mommy Dearest,  The New Normal, NBC
About Jerry Mahoney

Jerry Mahoney is a stay-home gay dad, writer, sporadic tweeter and a frequent Bowser in Mario Kart. This piece probably appeared originally on his blog, Mommy Man. Jerry is also the author of Mommy Man: How I Went From Mild-Mannered Geek to Gay Superdad, which will be available in May from Taylor Trade Publishing.


  1. Richard Aubrey says:

    The existence of asshole hetero couples does not mean het couples are, by category, not a good idea.
    You can have asshole gay couples–see Frank Lombard at Duke if you can find any reporting on it–and that doesn’t mean gay couples are, by category, not a good idea.
    However, you can’t say gay couples are a good idea unless you say that mothering is irrelevant. Gay couples can be better than some other arrangements, but only disregarding the importance of mothering–iow not considering “all forces”–breaks gay couples as even with hetero couples.

    • To me it’s not a matter of gay couples (or any pairing) being a good idea or bad idea in and of themselves.

      It should just be a question of if the given couple, on its own merits, a good idea or bad idea.

      Or is that what you are trying to say?

      I guess I’m hung up on what you’re calling mothering. Is mothering something that only the female parent is able to do (honestly short of breast feeding I can’t think of anything that fits that bill)?

    • I never said heterosexual couples are “not a good idea”. Pointing out the straight assholes just makes the point that legally requiring all parents to be straight isn’t protecting kids, because not all straight homes are superior to all gay homes. The vast majority of parents, straight and gay, are probably terrific or at least passable, so my point is, why judge them on their sexuality? (If you read the post, you’ll see I also acknowledge the likelihood of asshole gay parents.)

      I also don’t think my argument fails unless I can prove “mothering” irrelevant. Like I said, moms are great. If you have one, lucky you. It sure doesn’t hurt. However, I don’t necessarily think “mothering”, if I understand the way you mean it, is essential. My kids are doing fine with their two dads, and neither their other dad nor this one is going to marry a woman anytime soon, so they’re going to have to make do without a mom. Something tells me they’ll be OK.

  2. In reality, kids don’t really “need” any parents at all. Millions of people survived to adulthood with no parents at all, or even any family. Some of them were better off in foster care without their trifling families. Many of people have grown up in one or a series of foster homes, and gone on to be law-abiding citizens with children of their own.

    I know this first hand from my family having hosted at least 20 different kids over the course of a number of years. All of whom are now adults, many still close to us.

    However, I also know from that experience that those who don’t know one or both of their bio parents will eventually want to know about them, and meet them, even if it’s just to tell them that they (the bio parent) missed out on having them in their lives. It’s not a rejection of who they were raised by; rather a natural affinity and curiosity about who they really are, which does have a biological component – from two persons of the opposite sex.

    Hence, there is no good reason to not allow a child to at least know who their opposite sex parent is, and acknowledge them as such. It takes nothing away from their custodial parents; unless the opposite sex parent is some horrible person, it can only be a positive for the child.

    • I appreciate your perspective, Eric, but what I’m talking about is very different from foster parenting, where the bio parents are out there and may even have spent some time raising the kid. My kids were born via surrogate, thus there is no other “parent” to be curious about. If by “opposite sex parent”, you mean their egg donor, well, in my case they do know her. In many families, kids will never know their egg donor, but her relationship to them, such as it is, is far from parental. Sure, she contributed half their DNA, but she never intended to raise them and never had any legal rights to them. Will the kids still be curious about her? Maybe, but they won’t think of her in any sense as a “parent”.

      • I specifically didn’t use the term “parent” with respect to caring for foster children. My point is that although parents are nicer to have than not, they aren’t “needed.” So, anyone who is a parent shouldn’t feel that it would be a major problem for their children if they weren’t around.

        However, all children get 50% of their DNA from one person and 50% from another. Those people are referred to as “biological” parents, and people are usually curious about them, and their families since they are inextricably connected, even if they have no role in raising them. Unless there is some danger, they should have open access to them.

  3. courage the cowardly dog says:

    Do you really think your child will always consider his “mother” to be an egg donor? At least half of his genetic make up consists of that “egg donor”. Think about how little you really know about that “egg donor” and their genetic history. I had a great aunt that I discovered suffered from diabetes. No one in my immediate nuclear family suffered from diabetes nor do I, but in the course of doing my genealogical history (which is very popular these days) I discovered my great aunt who had to have her foot amputated due to diabetes. Do you really think your child will always think of his “mother” as an egg donor. He knows no better now, but as they grow older they want to know. I have raised three children myself.

    • Sounds like we have very different definitions of the term “mother”. To me, a mother is someone who’s in it for the long haul, who kisses your boo-boos, cleans up your potty accidents and stays up with you all night when you’re sick. I have too much respect for mothers to assign that term to someone whose sole contribution is to donate her genetic material. (Granted, it’s a big contribution, and thus “egg donor” is a term of respect in our family, too — it’s just distinct from “mother”.)

      My kids know their surrogate and they know their egg donor. They’re very aware of how our family came to be because we celebrate it and are grateful for it every day. They’ll never go looking for their mother, because they know they don’t have one. They have two dads instead, two dads who love them very much.

      As for medical issues, egg donors (even anonymous ones) are put through extensive medical testing and background checks. You don’t just buy eggs from a vending machine. I know more about my egg donor’s health than most people know about their own health.

      Gestational surrogacy is really a fascinating process, and you’d be smart to educate yourself about it before you go judging people based on the many, many false assumptions you’ve clearly made. If you have questions, I’d be happy to answer them. But please, stop the judging until you know what you’re talking about.

      • courage the cowardly dog says:

        Mother’s are all you describe and 50% of the genetic make up of every child. So your 3 year old children understand what an “egg donor” is, surrogacy and the reproductive process? They truly are amazing if they do. Since homosexuality is innate, (ie genetic, as I am told it is, because if it is a learned preference, it can be unlearned), I would think that you would be acutely interested in the genetic make up of the “egg donor”. Are you? Do you have any remote idea as to the genetic history of the egg donor? What recessive characteristics she carries that could potentially manifest themselves later in life. I know that one of my children carries a recessive gene for cystic fibrosis. He does not have it, but it will good information to know when he marries, and believe me he and his wife will be aware of it.

        Look, I do not begrude you children. But don’t place your family unit on the same plane as the ideal. As I have said, there are very few “ideal” families out there. There are alot of couples (hetero and homo) who should not have children. You yourself made reference to them in your article and I am not saying you shouldn’t have children, but whether want to agree with me or not yours is not the ideal; it may be adequate and probably better than a lot of family units, but don’t try to turn it into something it is not and that is the “ideal” family unit which I have already described.

  4. No, I’m not kidding. My kids already know that most families have a mom and a dad. They also know that they don’t have a mom. They have two dads, an egg donor and a surrogate. They know our family is different, and that being different is something to be celebrated, not ashamed of. We have friends with straight parents and friends with gay parents, so they also don’t feel like we’re the ONLY family with two dads. I think my kids are well-equipped to handle the world, and I find it insulting that you give me so little credit as a parent as to assume otherwise.

    If you really want to know what life is like for a family with two dads, I invite you to follow my blog, where I talk about it all the time. If you’d rather remain ignorant and go on considering mine to be a third-class family, that’s your prerogative, but don’t expect me to be polite to you in return.

  5. courage the cowardly dog says:

    (My kids will not wonder who their mother is, because they’ve never had one. That’s how surrogacy works.)
    You are kidding right? You are going to let them go out and play with other kids right? Where they will be exposed to families the majority of which will have mothers. Do you really think he will not see the differences between his family and the majority of other families? I believe we should strive for, promote and encourage the ideal. Not settle for something less. One of the reasons our society is so screwed up is because we have accepted less than the ideal and it has been a slow, but steady slide into chaos.

    I don’t believe I attacked the author, just the author’s concept of a model family. I believe there is room in society for families like yours, just so long as we keep in mind that it is not the ideal family model for raising kids and as a society I think we should always strive for the ideal when it comes to raising kids. In others words, as a matter of policy we should encourage the family as one biological, mentally stable, loving and responsible mother and one biological, mentally stable, responsible and loving father, second adoptions performed by again one mother and one father and perhaps 3rd down the list arrangements like yours. Sorry if you disagree. Start thinking how you are going to explain the absence of a mom to your child, for his sake.

  6. I responded at exactly the intellectual level I felt your comment deserved. Did you even read the article?

  7. courage the cowardly dog says:

    The ideal family unit for raising children is one mentally stable, loving and responsible dad and one mentally stable,loving and responsible mom. Everything else is less than ideal. Presumably as parents we want the best for our children. For every child do such pairings exist? Probably not. But for any child the question is how did they come into the family unit that they are in? If conceived for the purpose of fulfilling some kind of need or desire for a gay couple to feel complete or for the couple’s fulfillment then the child exists for the satisfaction of the couple and ill begotten. If the child was adopted then the child has moved from a situation where he was not wanted to perhaps a place where he/she is wanted. In other words an adopted child was not created for the purpose of someone else’s fulfillment and though he may be adopted for purpose of the adopting parents’ fulfillment he has nonetheless moved from an unwanted situation to a wanted situation, though maybe for the wrong reasons. The latter is better than the former, but not as good as the ideal. I have no problem with mentally stable, responsible and loving gay couples adopting unwanted children. I do have a problem with artifical insemination for the purpose of creating a child because a gay couple wants a baby. In other words, while gay couples are less than the ideal family unit, they can prove to be an adequate family unit for children that otherwise would have no family unit.

    • Valter Viglietti says:

      @courage the cowardly dog says: “gay couples are less than the ideal family unit”

      Problem is, “ideal family units” seldom exist (if ever, since humans are always less-than-perfect).
      Thus, comparing gay couples to this ideal is misleading and dishonest. And subsequent arguments like “Gay couples should not adopt a baby, because that baby deserve an ideal family” are BS, because that baby will never find such a family – that would be like winning the lottery.
      While I agree with the commenter’s conclusion (last sentence), any argument revolving around an “ideal” is practically bogus.

      A gay couple should be compared to the average hetero couple, and the question should be “Is this gay couple at least as mentally stable, loving and responsible as the average hetero couple?”.
      In other words, considering the quality of the human beings inside the couple, and not their gender.

      Regarding children wanted “for the purpose of fulfilling some kind of need or desire”:
      1) Any child is wanted because some kind of need or desire; nobody does anything for entirely selfless motives. Then, that need or desire can be more or less “healthy”.
      2) Hetero and gay couples may want children for the same reasons, hence this argument – while valid – has nothing to do with sexual orientation.

      • courage the cowardly dog says:

        “ideal family units” seldom exist;

        But they do exist. There are alot of hetero couples that should not have children either. All I am saying is the best family unit is one loving, mentally stable and responsible dad and one loving, mentally stable and responsible mom is the best model for raising the biologicial children of such a union between a man and a woman. Everything else is not ideal. Sorry if I won’t call your homosexual relationship the ideal parenting arrangement. It isn’t. It was never meant to be ideal and never will be. The child will grow up wondering who is mother is and why she chose not to raise him. That may be true in hetero couples adopt children as well. Which is why marriage should not be for everyone, nor is parenting. It is a select vocation for which not all are suited. I recently saw a story that many women have a gene that is unique to women and this a mothering gene. Men don’t have that gene (gay or not). If that is true then women are preprogramed to be moms and men are not.

        • The ideal family unit is several loving adults and peers of myriad genders. The nuclear family is a modern invention, a temporary product of industrialization, and far from ideal for raising well rounded children.

    • Frankly, I don’t give a shit if you have a problem with my family. I love my kids. I take good care of them. They’re happy. How they came into the world is none of your business.

      Adopt all the kids you want. I’m happy with how I created my family, and if I manage to piss off a few small-minded assholes in the process, so much the better.

      • courage the cowardly dog says:

        Frankly, I don’t give a shit if you have a problem with my family. I love my kids. I take good care of them. They’re happy. How they came into the world is none of your business.

        This is an intellectual response if I ever saw one. It clearly doesn’t refute my point that your family model is not ideal. It does not refute the inevitable wondering your child will have about who his mother is and why she didn’t care enough about him to raise him. I think your child will probably be grateful for your raising him, but it won’t stop him from wondering. I don’t discourage couples like yours from raising children that are otherwise not wanted by their biological parents. I just hope you have considered what the child’s thoughts might be along those lines when he grows up and made arrangements to deal with it.

      • courage the cowardly dog says:

        How they came into the world is none of your business.

        Well you are the one who wrote the article on a site that invites comment. Sorry you don’t like my comment.

        • Yeah, and it would be nice if you read the article before attacking the author. The entire point of my piece is that I can’t claim to be an “ideal” family, but that doesn’t disqualify me from being a parent any more than it would any other non-ideal family. I also point out that I’ve spent a lot of time considering what my kids will be missing out on by not having a mom, so yeah, I’ve considered what my kids will be missing out on by not having a mom. (My kids will not wonder who their mother is, because they’ve never had one. That’s how surrogacy works.)

          Maybe “none of your business” was the wrong phrase. It might have been more accurate to say “irrelevant”. What I meant was that you don’t get to inquire about the origins of my (or any) family before you’re allowed to determine its validity.

          If you came here to debate those points, fine, but if you just want to spout your preconceived opinions with no regard to what I wrote, then why are you wasting everyone’s time?

  8. Valter Viglietti says:

    Kudos, Jerry!
    This article is a delightful mix of fun and smartness.
    As someone said, “Never mind the bollocks”. Morons are always too many to lose time with them 😉

    What kids really need, first and foremost, is love – and love has no gender.

  9. Bravo, well said! Love this.

  10. Marcella Rose Christensen says:

    “Someday, they’re bound to hear the hurtful things…. ” – Your love will carry them through, and I hope that by the time they hear hurtful things, there will be many more people standing by to tell them how fortunate they are to have two dads who love them forever.

  11. Kirsten (in MT) says:

    Thank you! Brilliant!

    As someone who grew up with a female parent and a male parent, both of whom were (and reportedly still are) trainwrecks, I have learned two things:
    1. The job of parents isn’t to be one male and one female. The job of parents is to love and nurture their kids to help them become well-developed adults.
    2. If you, as a kid, don’t get that from your parents, it’s still your job to develop yourself into a decent human being as an adult.

    • Jean Brandt says:

      I can’t imagine what it would be like to grow up without the family I have. Having both a mom and a dad seemed essential to my development. But that’s just me. For others having two parents of the same gender may work out. But in same-sex-parented families, as with all others, it is love that matters most. I do think it is important for children to have positive role models, both men and women, to look up to while growing up, but they don’t have to be the actual parents. In the old tribal days, children were raised by the village. There wasn’t just mom and dad and the kids (or with the current subject, dad and dad), but everyone else around who contributed to the boys and girls’ learning. As long as a family isn’t isolated away from society, I don’t see any harm in gay couples parenting children (whether by surrogate or adoption).

      • I’d say the only case where you are really going wrong, parent-quota-wise is if your kid is growing up with two or less role models. Nuclear families, including straight ones, do not seem sufficient to create a well rounded human.

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