There has been quite a bit of discussion around exactly how much importance or emphasis should be placed on gender when raising a child. As a new parent, I want to make sure that my daughter’s environment is always conducive to all gender expression while still playing with some mildly “girly” notions that make it so fun to be the father of a baby girl. However, beyond the role gender will inevitably play in my child’s life, my gender, as it relates to parenthood, has me pondering a new question. Exactly what, if any, impact does my male gender identity have on my role as a parent?
Of course, my initial belief was that it had none at all; that parents are parents and gender doesn’t really have an impact as long as there is enough love and proper guidance. However, the way society treats parents contradicts that. Once I started reading books on parenting and even reading children’s books to my daughter, I noticed that the experience of parenthood takes place squarely from the perspective of the mother. If a father is mentioned at all, it is usually in some ancillary fashion. So this got me thinking about my gender expression as a parent as it applies to my daughter and how she will experience her relationship to society.
My daughter has two fathers. I identify as male. However, in the context of how “mother” is used in juxtaposition to “father,” quite frankly, I am the “mom.” I’m on top of all the doctors’ appointments, I’m a wiz at navigating her insurance plan, and I have researched every potential school from daycare to college. Don’t get me wrong, my husband is my complete equal when it comes to parenting. But regarding that binary idea of the role that moms play, I guess I would take the lead. So, as I was reading maybe the 16th or 17th book where the mom was present and the dad was seemingly nonexistent, I said, “Fuck it. Just call me Mom.”
It isn’t that I believe in such strict gender roles in parenting. Quite the opposite. But if growing up with two dads means a constant question of who is filling that “mom” role in her life. Then to hell with it, I am Mom. Yeah, I am also Dad. But if for some reason being Mom has some different, more legitimate meaning when it comes to my daughter’s foundation of parents, then I am that too.
If this is all sounding a little sexist, I could not agree more. I do not believe that this undue burden should be placed on women just because they are the “mom” any more than I believe a child is somehow lacking because she is raised by two dads. I do not do more than my husband, and no one should be made to feel like they have to carry more of the weight because of their gender. But the day will come when my daughter’s teacher reads a book in class about the magic of a mother’s love. The day will come when the kids in her class get to make Mother’s Day gifts and she might feel some sort of way.
So on those days, you best believe my daughter’s mom will be the first in the carpool line, beyond ecstatic to receive that crooked macaroni necklace and that janky handmade card. Her mom just so happens to have a beard and a hairy chest, but he loves her all the same.
Contributing editor TYLER CURRY is also editor at large at Plus magazine, the author of A Peacock Among Pigeons, and a gay man living with HIV. (@IamTylerCurry)