Tuesday, August 05, 2008

(another chapter of The Brides of March: Memoir of a Same-Sex Marriage)

How We Came to Know These Women

We met all these newlyweds through a lesbian mom’s group.

When we considered moving to Portland very suddenly eleven and a half years ago (as in, “Hey honey, this job opened up, how would you like to move to Portland?”), little did I realize I would have three weeks to get us packed up, an apartment rented, our house in Tacoma ready to rent, and my spouse psychologically prepared to start a new job. I didn’t have time to realize that we’d be landing in a city where we had no social contacts except a couple of exes once removed (nice gals with whom we had little in common), and ex-boyfriend number two, heck of a nice guy and always up for a cup of coffee, but not a lesbian mom, and, to the best of my knowledge, never likely to be one.

We were two moms with a toddler son, three cats, and two canaries; we needed peers in a big way.

Making friends once you have kids is a whole new ball game. If you want to meet someone pre-parenting, you have endless options. You may not like them all, but they exist. You can hang out at cafés, you can idle in the grocery store, and you can stop and chat with interesting people when you meet them. While you enjoy an exchange of ideas you can categorize them in your mind: a) friend-to-be, b) absolutely incompatible, c) somewhere in between.

With young kids, you’re lucky to get to pay for that latte, much less linger, chat, or think clearly enough to categorize further than animal, vegetable, or mineral, and you’ll probably have food (or worse) smeared across your left shoulder while you’re doing that.

Knowing that we were in some serious need of contemporaries, we checked out the local gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgender newspaper, Just Out.

In it, we found a “Lesbians with Kids” group advertised, though when we went, it felt more like “Moms pretending to not have children, want to participate in our denial?” We only went to one or two meetings. Being new mothers, we were appalled that the goal of this group (who had school-age children) was to get away from their kids more often, not wallow in mother love.
Not that they were bad mothers, they loved their kids, read the right parenting books, and bought organic milk. They were just different than we were in their outside-of-children interests—they had them. They said they felt like they needed to be away from their children in order to be gay, something we could never fathom. They talked about two-step dances and hiking excursions, and warned us of the dangers of spending too much energy on junior, and not enough on ourselves.

Of course we scoffed, wanting no part of this attitude that children chewed you up like a candy bar, and your life could be swallowed up whole. We were blissfully naïve.

We checked Just Out again, and found “The Lesbian Mothers Group,” with instructions on where to meet and when. From the first, this was a better fit. The kids were closer in age to our son, the mothers were as hyper-involved as we were, and we made several lasting friendships over the years we brunched together on a monthly basis.

Meanwhile, society trudged on, and in those five years, amazing things happened (like our daughter Anna arriving): adoptions for lesbians and gays became more common, fertility clinics started catering to us, the gayby boom was in full swing, and it became not a statistical impossibility to find more than one child of lesbians or gay men in a classroom. Other parents we met got it about us right away, and didn’t blink an eye. We found ourselves hanging with the preschool moms, or having social gatherings with the soccer parents. The kids got older, and concerns we had about being the only family like this blew away in a collective sigh of relief.

Interest in the group dwindled, folks volunteered to help less, and brunch-goers tended to have conflicts with church attendance, which finally led Lisa, who’d been keeping the group going, to do a phone survey to assess the level of interest. She let everyone know she was ready for someone else to take it on, and when no one volunteered, ultimately decided to drop the ball and see if anyone cared enough to pick it up.

No one did.

Jannine and I had a hard time letting it go, but we weren’t about to pick up that ball and run with it. So, we began our own tradition of hosting a potluck shortly after Thanksgiving, to keep some of us meeting on a regular basis, if only annually.

I don’t remember that first gathering well, it has disappeared in a sleep deprived fog (Anna was still a lap baby at the time). I only know that we made a turkey and cranberry sauce with orange rind, our friends showed up, there was much laughter, the children spent five minutes eating and four hours playing, and we got to spend time with our friends when we could really talk for a change.

One year, by the time it was over, the kids had been playing for six hours and the youngest ones were begging to be allowed to go to bed! Another year, we broke out in an impromptu chorus of “The Age of Aquarius.” Two years ago, I had at least three medically-minded moms urging me to let someone else lift the twenty-four pound turkey in and out of the oven since I was big with child.

For the kids, this annual feast is special. There are the older children, leading the pack in knowledge about Harry Potter, PG-13 movies, the existence of Santa Claus, and the mysteries of sex. There are the middle ones, satisfied to play, sandwiched between these demi-gods, and the toddling upstarts that sit on their mothers’ knees and remind the other moms of those bygone days of babies, diapers, and symbiotic love. These kids go to different schools, are in different grades, the only thing they have in common are lesbian moms, which for the most part has been no big deal. But later, I hope these kids create a network of support for each other, if tough times come, and questioning begins. When they get angry at being different, or hurt by the words of others.

These women have taught me a lot about parenthood. We share the struggles with school administrators, with doctors who look at us blankly and say, “He can’t have two mothers,” with trying to keep our relationships going during the marathon race of high maintenance child rearing. We are resources for each other on swim teachers, art camps, dog breeds, and the side effects of obscure antibiotics. We are, in effect, that extended family of old, part of the village it takes to raise a child, made from a new model.

Plus, once in a while, reminding each other, with a twinkle and a knowing smile, of the lives we led before we were happily immersed in minivan heaven.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

What a sweet post. almost makes me wish for those days of diapers again. Almost. It sure makes me want to go out and meet some friends.