By Frank Lowe
Originally published on Advocate.com June 03 2014 1:35 PM ET
Apparently someone has been studying my brain, or rather the brains of some fellow gay fathers. The study was originally published here, and it was covered by The Advocate here. The essence of it is that brain activity in gay fathers is similar to that of both a heterosexual mother and father. When a baby is born, typically the mother’s brain increases emotional processing and the father’s brain increases sensitivity to the baby’s nonverbal cues. A gay father’s brain shows increases in both departments. In other words, our brains are bad-ass when it comes to raising kids. This is my opinion and experience on the subject:
We adopted our child at birth, which meant that within a few days of his birth, he was 100% in our care. We didn’t hire a doula (live-in baby nurse), so we had to figure everything out for ourselves. I was overwhelmed with emotions: excitement, fear, hope, etc. The experience was surreal. The thing that struck me most was that I had to find myself in this new role as a nurturer. Me? A nurturer? I mean, I’ve always liked cats because they leave you alone and don’t require much attention. What the hell was I thinking? was running through my head like a hit song you hear on the radio a hundred times a day. Surprisingly, my “motherly” side kicked in almost immediately, and I somehow just knew what to do. In fact, I was damn good at it.
I am the stay-at-home parent, so that meant my new schedule was to revolve entirely around the baby’s. I don’t have breasts, so formula was the only option to go with. I quickly created a formula schedule and just applied it. Easy. He was never hungry or fussy for food – I had that licked. My husband, on the other hand, was not as deft as I was. Diapering stressed him out. Feedings were less than graceful. It was obvious that he was having a hard time with the nurturing part. Fast-forward several years, and everything has evolved into a nice homeostasis. It turns out that my spouse is in fact a nurturer. He just had to learn how to do it. There is clearly a “matriarch” (me) and “patriarch” (my husband) in our family, but the lines are pleasantly blurred. Our brains definitely have to think differently than heterosexual parents’. I find myself compensating for the fact that my son doesn’t have a mother. Simply put, sometimes I overdo it and insist on singing the Frozen soundtrack all day, even if it tortures him.
I believe parents who are gay should be studied. Hell, this is a brand-new concept, more or less. I know there have always been some same-sex couples who are parents, but this situation has become so common over the past 10 years that it is losing its shock value. We have to wear different hats depending on the situation and the needs of our child. One minute we may be snuggling on the sofa, and the next we may be kicking a soccer ball around. Then the kid bangs up his knee and we go back to being Florence Nightingale. We do it all, people, and that in itself should be researched. When I read this study about our brains, I wasn’t remotely surprised – it all made sense. We're here for our son to be whatever he needs – a mother, a father, a both.
FRANK LOWE is The Advocate’s parenting writer. Follow Frank on Twitter @GayAtHomeDad and on Instagram at gayathomedad.