Defining parenting roles and titles in same-sex families

Susan Goldberg, MA Author & Blogger, shares advice for same-sex couples on how to best define parental roles and titles in non-traditional families
Same-Sex Parenting | Defining Parental Roles In Queer Families
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Defining parenting roles and titles in same-sex families

All the different titles - mom and dad and grandma and grandpa and who gets to be called what. And that takes up a lot of space in these discussions I've found. I think the very first thing is for the people who are going to be the primary parents, usually two people who are going to be doing the hands-on, living with, diaper changing, up in the middle of the night people. I think those people really do get to figure out what they'd like to be called first. Whether there is mommy and momma or papa and daddy or any kind of variation on those things that work for them. Because they're really going to be doing the work. And I think what you do defines who you are. So if your donor is a lovely person but really just donated some genetic material and isn't around much, it doesn't make a lot of sense unless everyone's comfortable with that to call him dad. But if he's someone who's around, pitches in with some child care, and you're all comfortable with that, with calling him dad, maybe that makes more sense. But again, it's what he does. Or similarly for an egg donor, what she might do. And I think the same thing with grandparents. Grandparents do certain things. Maybe it's your donor's mother knits little sweaters for the baby and sends Valentine's Day cards and really makes some kind of effort to be a part of your child's life. If you're comfortable with that, if that's a good thing and a positive thing for your family then it might make sense to call her a grandmother because she's doing the kind of grandmotherly things that people do. So for example our donor, for years, our kids called him Rob. And only in the last couple of years they've started saying, this is my dad, Rob. And they've given him a dual role. And that reflects the fact that he has been on board for their whole life and that he's really stepped up to the plate. So I think when people are talking about names, think about what is the role that you're going to play, and assign that role accordingly. And then understand that it can change.

Susan Goldberg, MA Author & Blogger, shares advice for same-sex couples on how to best define parental roles and titles in non-traditional families


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Susan Goldberg, MA

Author & Blogger

Susan Goldberg is a writer, editor, essayist and blogger, and coeditor of the award-winning anthology And Baby Makes More: Known Donors, Queer Parents, and Our Unexpected Families. Her writing has been featured on the CBC and the Globe and Mail, in Ms., Lilith, and Stealing Time magazines, and several anthologies, including the forthcoming Chasing Rainbows: Exploring Gender-Fluid Parenting Practices. Susan is a contributing blogger at Today’ and In 2012, she was chosen as one of BlogHer’s Voices of the Year. She’s currently (always) working on a novel, called Step on a Crack, and on Overflow, a one-woman performance piece about lingerie and breast cancer. Susan lives in Thunder Bay, Ontario, with her partner and their two sons.

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