Meet rainbow families

Who’s in your family?

At present, my immediate family comprises my boyfriend, Morgan, and me.

We are then surrounded by a few extended families around us, including Morgan’s and my birth families, my two donor families, and our gang of close gay friends.

My concept of family extends beyond blood line.

Where do you live?

In a gay friendly (well, as friendly as you could get) inner city suburb 5 minutes away from the Brisbane CBD.

How did you create your family?

I put my name down on an online donor registry and was contacted by my donor families.  The rest was history!

Do you have a relationship with the families you have helped create?

I was quite flexible in terms of my future involvement when I started negotiating with my donor families and I was fortunate enough that both families asked me to act as an uncle of sorts in the kids’ lives.

With Agnes and Liam (3 year old), we stay in touch via email because they live in Northern England due to Andrea’s work.

It is much easier to stay in touch with Molly, Elisabeth, and the twins (Pearl and Louis) as they only live a few suburbs away.  Even so, we probably do not get together as frequently as we like due to other commitments in our lives but when we do get together, we share a cordial relationship.  The twins seem to like us as well – probably because we are big kids ourselves and they could sense that.

Give us three words to describe each member of the family

From my vantage point:

Harry: stable, meticulous, responsible

Morgan: warm, endearing, sensitive

Agnes: calm, zen, academic

Liam: outgoing, energetic, independent

Elisabeth: composed, measured, tenacious

Molly: intellectual, passionate, visionary

Pearl: happy, cheerful, attention seeking

Louis: introverted, self-sufficient, sensitive

Why did you decide to become a donor?

I think it is generally not as easy for gay people to start a family and I want to help those who do. Also, it would have been good to leave a little of myself behind.

How did you meet the people you donated to?

Through an online donor registry.

Why did you decide on the people you ultimately donated to?

I tend to rely on my intuition in making important decisions.  Apart from the practical ‘selection criteria’, Agnes, Janice (Agnes’ partner at the time), Molly, and Elisabeth simply ‘felt right’.  They all came across very nurturing and ready to start a family.

Were there any times you felt it was too hard, or you felt like giving up, or it was inconvenient?

It was relatively easy with Agnes because she fell pregnant after our first trial.  She had to fly all the way from Japan to Brisbane, so if anything, it was a tremendous inconvenience for Agnes.

When Elisabeth fell pregnant and later suffered a miscarriage, it got a bit demoralising for everyone but I can honestly say I never felt like I wanted to give up.  If anything, I was more determined to keep trying.  Yes, there were inconvenient moments but they paled in comparison with the bigger purpose we were all collectively trying to achieve.

What impact has this journey had on your relationship with your partner?

It was actually quite a bonding experience.  Morgan absolutely adores the kids and absolutely feels like he is one of their uncles, so it is nice to share the journey with him.

Anything about being a ‘donor dad’ you didn’t expect?

I did not have too many expectations, which means that there have not been too many surprises to date.  I guess the only thing I did not really expect was the friendship formed between Agnes, Molly, and Elisabeth.  For some reason, I never expected the mummies to become friends with each other but they all seem keen on maintaining the relationship, for the kids and in their own right, which is a bonus for me.  It has been fantastic to see our rainbow family develop and grow.  After all, in many ways, we are charting new territory and it is great to see our model working out so well.

If you started all over again, is there anything you would do differently?

No.  I think all the decisions I made and the approach I ultimately adopted were products of necessity. Also, given that there has not been any unforeseeable and unpleasant surprises to date, there is nothing to make me think I should have done things differently.

How do you feel about having children of your own?

In some ways, contributing to the birth of the three children has satisfied my paternal urge, so much so that I don’t currently feel I need to have children of our own, unless Morgan really wants children in future.  At this particular point of my life, I do not feel as though I would miss out on anything if I do not ever have children of my own.

How have your extended families responded to the creation of your family?

My own family do not know about the children because they are still having trouble understanding and accepting me being gay.

Morgan’s family is very accepting.  His mum in particular even said that she felt like a grandma of sorts.

My close group of gay friends whom I would consider as a part of my extended family are also very supportive and proud of what I have done.  Many have expressed a fair degree of curiosity and may even follow my lead to create their own rainbow families in future.

How do friends (gay or straight) respond when they find out you are a donor?

I have been fortunate in that all the reactions have been positive to date.  The only comment that has featured a few times, which may be interpreted as less positive, is that some people expressed the view that they would never be able to help create children but are not actively involved in bringing them up.   But I guess people are different.

How do you explain your family if outsiders ask?

The truth – I helped in creating a family for two lesbian couples and I more or less assume the role of an uncle in the kids’ lives.

Have you experienced any difficulties or inconveniences because of being a donor dad?

Not to date. The only ‘difficulty’ has been, in a few odd occasions, when people tried to refer to the kids but couldn’t find the right term to describe them in the context of their relationship to me.  We struggled over terms such as  ‘surrogate’, ‘donor’, ‘donee, etc, but I am sure we would bed this issue down in time.

How do you maintain good relationships with the mothers?

Be sensitive and mindful that they are the kids’ mothers and try not to cross the boundaries and intrude into their nuclear family.  Other than that, I don’t think maintaining a good relationship with the mothers is any different from maintaining a good relationship with other people.

Do you have any legal or written agreements?

We all signed a written parenting agreement before we started our arrangements. While the agreement does not currently carry the force of law, in our view, it is a good idea to formalise it because, legally or otherwise, the agreement articulates and evidences everyone’s intentions.

What supports (rainbow or straight) do you recommend?

A close group of friends and extended families around everyone in the rainbow family.

How do you model pride in rainbow families to your child/ren?

Not sure how to answer this one since our contact with the children is currently limited and they are too young to understand.  In future, I think we can reinforce what the mothers have instilled in the children – a consistent message is probably the best approach.

What advice would you give someone planning to donate?

Make sure everyone’s intentions are clearly articulated from the start, so that there wouldn’t be surprises later on.  Even if there are uncertainties that are dependent on future developments (eg, the donor not being sure about how he would feel about the children once they are born), these should be discussed and vetted, so that all the parties are aware of those possibilities and therefore decide if they could live with the possibilities if and when they materialise.

Further, I think as a donor, we need to respect the fact that the mothers and the children constitute the nuclear family.  Therefore, boundaries must be respected and the primary obligation of parenting should be left to the mothers, unless it has been agreed otherwise from the start.

What advice would you give to mothers looking for a donor?

Be very clear on what they look for in the donor.  Make a list of ‘selection criteria’ and evaluate the prospective donors against the list. There may need to be compromises, depending on the availability of donors at the time but ensure that the key requirements are not compromised (eg, the desired level of involvement of the donor).

Take time to get to know the donor and in a comfortable and sociable environment – observe the donor for qualities such as emotional stability, reliability, etc.  Reciprocally, look out for qualities that may ring alarm bells (eg, indecisiveness, unreliability), which could put the arrangement in jeopardy in future.

What has being a donor added to your life?

Being a donor has added a new and rich dimension to my life.  As a gay man, chances are I may never have a conventional hetero-normative family of my own. Being a part of a rainbow family has filled that gap and I look forward to all of our future together.

Happy summer holidays!

Between visiting family in Melbourne and a group holiday with other lesbian families on the Sunshine Coast, I’m away for the next couple of weeks. For your holiday reading, I’m going to cut and paste other great posts I find around the net.

Here’s an oldie but a goodie, from US site Mombian.

(edited to add: I’ve been informed by Mombian that this post is copyright -something I hadn’t considered! So I’ve taken it down but left the link if you want to check it out)

How to respond when meeting lesbian mums (or Moms, as Dana says)

I want to offer a few tips to people who may be unsure how to react if lesbian moms come out to them. (Most are also applicable to gay dads, with obvious changes in terminology.)

Who’s in your family?
Our immediate family is made up of me (Sonja), Rosie (8) and Ari (1). Then there are our fairy godparent and biological families. The biological one is quite conventional (and a bit conservative with some Christian-right elements) but the fairy family more than compensates! They are a whole bunch of friends (and Ari’s donor and his boyfriend) who have a ‘special’ relationship with me and the kids.

Where do you live?
Foothills of Adelaide.

How did you create your family?
Rosie was conceived in an unsuccessful attempt at a straight relationship. She still spends around half her time at her dad’s house. Ari was conceived with the help of a very old gay friend… and an intimate relationship with a collection of syringes.

Do you have a relationship with your donors?

Ari’s donor and his boyfriend come over for dinner most weeks. They adore both the kids (something I never fail to point out when people ask about ‘biological’ attachment). When Ari gets a bit bigger he may wish to call his donor ‘dad’, and I think that’ll probably be OK with me although I was initially very resistant to the heteronormative assumptions that word lugs around… In any case, donor ‘D’ has no legal and/or financial responsibilities… his job is just to love us all unconditionally ; )

Give us three words to describe each member of the family

Me – analytical, optimistic, self-scrutinising

Rosie – open-minded, imaginative, forthright

Ari – charming, curious, feisty

What’s the current favourite activity of each of your children?

Rosie – grinding up petals and rock dust to make fairy potions and dyes

Ari – inspecting the bolts and wheels on high chairs, prams etc. and/or climbing up and down steps, always resplendent in borrowed jewellery!

What’s your favourite thing to do together as a family?

Candle-lit aromatic bubble baths

What are some great kids’ activities where you live?

Beach, playing/walking/bike-riding in National Parks

How would you describe your parenting style?

Rational, flexible, compassionate… and, from time to time, stressed!

How do you feel being a ‘rainbow family’ influences your parenting?

We have many discussions about ‘difference’, equity, and perspective. Rosie is known to her peers as an activist… when they made ginger-bread houses for Christmas last year she boycotted because they were using Arnotts biscuits (palm oil) and Nestle smarties (third world distribution of infants formula). I had to do an emergency run to the shops in search of ethically produced Australian equivalents.

Single parenting is difficult. Have you found any issues particular to queer single parents?

Probably just the issue of being invisible (as Queer) and/or presumed straight. When I finally got pregnant it was almost a relief to have a casual excuse to out myself when people asked about the baby’s ‘dad’.

Anything about rainbow parenting you didn’t expect?

How much my latent activism would be piqued by the desire to protect my kids from homophobia and gender stereotypes

If you started all over again, is there anything you would do differently?

I’d rather not be dealing with ongoing family court sagas with Rosie’s dad. However, Buddhism has taught me lots of strategies for ‘letting go’… and probably I’m a better parent as a result.

How have your extended families responded to the creation of your family? How have you responded to that?

Now they love the baby to bits…. although I suspect they avoid explaining ‘where he came from’ to their kids. Though I try not to, I still resent that… I see it as passive homophobia. When the opportunity presents I daresay I will endeavour to be honest about who I am… whilst trying not to offend the kids’ Christian sensibilities.

How do you explain your family if outsiders ask? How do you respond when people assume heterosexuality?

Initially they didn’t understand why I wanted to have a second child and the way I wanted to go about it. I got involved in many extended conversations that justified my decision, even when I didn’t feel like I should have to explain. If I were in a straight relationship nobody would question my desire to have a  second child.

Being perceived to be straight is even more challenging to my own sense of identity. I’ve found myself getting dykey haircuts and wearing provocative t-shirts as a kind of compensation… but I’m also able to see how ironic this is! How can ‘passing’ as straight compare with the phenomenal threats to identity and huge scary decisions about visibility/invisibility that trans people have to make every day?

Have you experienced any difficulties as a rainbow family?

This has become even more complicated recently, since I’ve started ‘dating’ a trans guy. Even for this Queer readership I feel the need to explain – female to male. I have had several more nuanced and complex conversations about gender with Rosie… and also had to explain that, even though we see no issue, it’s possible that some other people may not ‘agree’. I’m struggling with this, because effectively I’m asking her to be ‘sometimes silent’… something I’ve come to hate.

Just the need to call attention to ourselves in order to have our existence recognised… even if it’s not validated with acceptance ; )

What supports (rainbow or straight) do you recommend?

Hanging out with other ‘pink parented’ families helps put things into context. I’ve often been surprised to note that, despite our many similarities, our differences as parents/kids/families are just as complex and numerous as any other small cross section of the wider community!

How do you model pride in rainbow families to your child/ren?

Talking about things openly at every available opportunity! Rosie recently took some treasures to school for show and tell. Part of her spiel was about acquiring them at the FEAST picnic… ‘that’s a celebration for Gay and Lesbian people’ she explained…

What advice would you give someone embarking on a rainbow parenting journey?

Be prepared to be challenged in ways you never expected to be! Embrace these opportunities as lessons in becoming better parents…

contact details

I’d love you all to check out our recently launched Queer Digital Storytelling site – Molly has a story there too! And my very out of date but soon to be updated blog And business website, inhabited by my filmmaker incarnation

The Chiang-Cruise family

Rodney, Jeff and Ethan live in Melbourne. They are outspoken advocates for gay parenting. Rodney keeps a blog at

Who’s in your family?

Our primary family is: Rodney Chiang-Cruise (Dad, 43), Jeff Chiang-Cruise (Dad, 41) and Ethan Chiang-Cruise (son, 3)

Our extended family is: Debbie Lin (Mum, 40),  Ling Lin (Mum, 43),  Justin Lin (son, 2), newborn (son, 5 days old – no name yet!)

Where do you live?

Richmond, Victoria, Australia

How did you create your family?

We created our primary family using commercial surrogacy in the US.  Our son was born 3 years ago in Ohio, USA.

Do you have a relationship with your donor/surrogate?

We have a strong relationship with our surrogate, Kelly, and her family.  We are in contact regularly and we have been to visit them in Ohio.  We don’t have a relationship with the egg donor as she was essentially anonymous.

Rodney is the bio-donor for Debbie and Ling’s 2 boys.  They are close friends and we have a very close relationship, particularly with all of our children

Give us three words to describe each member of the family

Jeff – Determined, calm, patient
Rodney – Detailed, geek, happy
Ethan – Talkative, laughing, singing

What’s Ethan’s current favourite activity?

Playing his guitar (with Murray from the Wiggles)

What’s your favourite thing to do together as a family?

Travel and visit family and friends

What are some great kids’ activities where you live?

Visiting the park, the zoo and the aquarium.  Drawing on the lounge room wall although the adults aren’t so keen on that!

How would you describe your parenting style?

Fairly traditional, similar to how we were parented as children (which is a good thing)

How do you feel being a ‘rainbow family’ influences your parenting?

Our family is and will continue to be an open, honest and accepting family.  Being a rainbow family also means traditional stereotypical roles are gone.

How has your relationship with your partner changed after children?

Yes, we have grown stronger as a family unit for sure.

Anything about rainbow parenting you didn’t expect?

No.  It is just parenting.  It’s not always easy but being gay doesn’t alter it.

If you started all over again, is there anything you would do differently?

Start our family earlier.

How have your extended families responded to the creation of your family?

They have always been and continue to be perfectly fine with it.  Even Jeff’s family which is a traditional Chinese (Taiwanese) family.  There has never been any issues except the usual things like grandparents offering advice.

How do you explain your family if outsiders ask? How do you respond when people assume heterosexuality?

We just say Ethan has two dads.  If they enquire more we tell them he was born via surrogacy.  So far no one has really assumed heterosexuality!  But if they did, I would probably assume homosexuality in return….that usually makes people think about their assumptions.

Have you experienced any difficulties as a rainbow family?

To be honest, we haven’t. Maybe because we live in Melbourne.  But we have never experienced any difficulties.

The exception is legal however.  Unlike lesbian co-parents in Victoria and other states who can now have their parenting role legal recognised,  surro-Dads are still in legal limbo.  Despite that we travel quite easily in the world.

Are there issues particular to gay men as parents?

The only issue is legal recognition, which is sadly missing in Australia.

What supports (rainbow or straight) do you recommend?

Surround yourself with friends and family who support you.  Get rid of those who don’t.  Don’t let you children grow up with those who don’t support your family 110% .  That is toxic.  If they don’t support you, no matter who they are, they should no longer be part of your life.

Make sure you find friends in similar family situations so your children will grow up surrounded by or knowing other rainbow families.

How do you model pride in rainbow families to your child?

You be proud.  It really is simple as that.  Be proud of who you are.  Be proud of your sexuality.  Be proud of the rainbow family you created.  Children will learn, respect and adopt that pride.

What advice would you give someone embarking on a rainbow parenting journey?

LOL………that is a hard one.  OK….creating a rainbow family is much harder than 6 Bacardi Breezers in the back of a Barina at 3am in the morning.  It takes time, patience, more time, more patience, more time, lots of money, a rollercoaster ride of emotions, more time…..lots of love and trust.  But the journey is worth it.  It may be a difficult journey or a long journey but the joy of being a dad or mum at the end of it is worth it.  Being a parent is not for every one (gay or straight) but if it is for you…follow that dream.

Rodney Chiang-Cruise

Who’s in your family?

In the same house: Deanna (mummy), Sue (mumma) & Noah, three.

Sue has two sons in their 20’s.

Noah is close to his grandparents (Deanna’s parents) and was adored by Sue’s mum before she died.

Noah is close with his little cousins.

Noah has a group of donor siblings that we are in regular contact with – other children with two mums who have the same sperm donor.

Then there is one year old Venice and her two dads.  Deanna gave birth to Venice in October 08 for her gay dads.

Where do you live?

Tamworth NSW

How did you create your family?

To have Noah we chose a man that we met through Pinkboard. We used at home inseminations and were lucky to achieve pregnancy first go .

We met Venice’s dads with a view to being their surrogate, she was conceived with at home inseminations also.

We had an early miscarriage the first month and then got Venice the next month we tried. Very lucky indeed !

Do you have a relationship with your donor/the family to whom you are a surrogate?

Noah’s donor was to be a known donor. He agreed to have casual contact with Noah via email, phone and the occasional visit. We wanted someone Noah could send fathers day cards to, someone that he could call dad and be able to say to the kids at school, ‘My daddy lives in Sydney.’ The donor was happy for this at the time. We knew the donor had other children like Noah and made it clear to him that we would be happy to have contact with the other children and their mums, and at the time the donor agreed. Time has turned that arrangement sour. When we came across another couple with one of Noah’s siblings, the donor, for reasons unfathomable, tried to warn us off mixing with these women. He then proceeded to ring all the mothers of these children and tell them he would have nothing to do with any of us if we continued to mix with these women, accusing them of things they simply have not done.  Unfortunately, we believe the main reason he wanted to have control over who we mixed with is because we now realise the extent of his donations goes way further than any of us could have dreamed. He is a serial donor and we believe there are upwards of 20 + children out there. He has slandered us to the other mothers and we have copped flak from women who have never met us based on this “kind generous man’s word”. He now has no contact with 5 of these children simply because he can’t control who their mothers socialise with.

A case of beware of the serial donors!

Had we had the opportunity to meet Venice’s dads before we had Noah we would have had a tribe with them!

When discussing having Venice I made it clear that I couldn’t do it if they expected me to completely walk away. Venice is being raised by her two dads in a town four and   half hours drive away from us. We get regular photos, emails, phonecalls, and skype calls. We see her two to three times a year. The guys tell her I am mum, they keep a photo of her and I beside her bed. My parents and extended family are encouraged by the guys to be in contact with Venice. The relationship between us and them is a positive one which focusses on what’s best for Venice. Noah knows Venice is his little sister. As Noah and Venice get older they will spend time together, and Noah will be able to go to the guys in school holidays and vice versa.

What are some things you do that maintain or promote good relationships with the other people in your family network?

That’s a hard one. Noah’s donor basically gave us an ultimatum: in order to maintain contact with him, we had to do as he said. That got my back up and made me question  why he felt the need to control the women he had donated to.We decided that Noah building a relationship with his donor siblings, would in the end, be more valuable than risking his donor pulling away from him when it suited him and leaving a very hurt and confused little boy. So those siblings we do have contact with are family. We have get togethers, we email, swap photos and stay in touch. The premise of our relationship is fostering relationships between the children, however we all seem to click. We have vast differences in backgrounds and lifestyles, but we all seem to be in tune on some intrinsic level.

As for maintaining a relationship with Venice’s dads, we seem to have similar parenting styles, and I guess it helps that they think I can do no wrong, hehehe! But with the main focus on doing what’s best for Venice and Noah and putting the kids before the adults it seems to be working well.

Three words to describe each member of the family?

Deanna = gregarious, generous, trusting,   Sue = patient, tolerant, kind.  Noah = gentle, bright, oldsoul.

What’s the  current favourite activity of each of your children?

Noah, loves anything to do with the Wiggles, he sings and dances and plays his wiggles guitar, and drives around in his big red car dressed as Anthony Wiggle.

Venice has just in the last few days started walking so she is into exploring !

What’s your favourite thing to do together as a family?

We enjoy getting together with our extended family both rainbow and bio.

What are some great kids’ activities where you live?

Tamworth has a lot to offer if the kids are into sport, otherwise it’s left a bit wanting!

How would you describe your parenting style?

I’m tough. Noah is very intelligent and very stubborn. He does get the occasional smack, he gets timeouts, he has a routine and is expected to do chores  – yes, chores! He has been ‘feeding the dogs’ since he was two, (he carries the bowls in and gives each dog their bowl and goes back and collects the empty bowl), he also puts his dirty clothes in the washing machine, asks to leave the table, says please and thankyou. Perhaps I’m a bit old fashioned but children learn from the minute they are born. How confusing for them to have adults let them do things in their first few years because they ‘are just a baby’ and then turn around and try to rein in the stuff society finds unacceptable when they are older.  It confuses them.  Noah has been given boundaries from the beginning, and he worked out pretty quickly that if he pushed those boundaries there would be consequences.  After all in the adult world, when we push boundaries we face consequences – children who don’t learn this I believe become children whose parents are tearing their hair out when they reach their teens. We constantly have people remarking on what a fantastic little boy Noah is.

How do you feel being a ‘rainbow family’ influences your parenting?

Only in so far as I’m probably more determined not to raise a “juvenile delinquent,” for want of a better term. I realise the stigma is there, and I guess a part of me feels we have to ‘prove’ ourselves. We are out and proud, and Noah has a multitude of books with rainbow family themes. He goes to PFLAG meetings.  I guess it means he will be raised in household tolerant of differences, he’ll have an understanding of what it feels like to be part of a minority. We hope to instill in him empathy for those around him, he’ll see that there are no men’s roles/women’s roles; that everyone gets in and does what needs to be done.

How has your relationship with your partner changed after children?

It’s probably stronger. We’re not your ‘average’ lesbian couple because of Sue’s health. It’s difficult to explain !

Anything about rainbow parenting you didn’t expect?

Not really, just the parenting gig in general can be so hard whether gay or straight !

What is great about being a rainbow parent?

I have always liked to stand out in a crowd and can be a bit of a show off, so it suits me most of the time to be different from the majority. I use every opportunity I get to educate the straight community. Work colleagues ask me lots of questions about how it all happens and I delight in answering them openly and honestly. Having a child in some respects makes you more OUT there, in that there are many more opportunities for coming out. At the same time it makes you less visible within the gay community because there are still a lot of  lesbians and gay men who don’t have time for us ‘breeder’ lesbians.

How has your extended family responded to the creation of your family? How have you responded to that?

We have been extremely lucky that nobody in our extended family has been negative. Knowing my personality as my extended family does, they wouldn’t be game ! My parents, Sue’s mum before she died, my grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins have been supportive. I’m not naive enough to think there haven’t been whispers behind my back, especially from some of my extended family, but they’re not game to say anything negative to my face.

How do you explain your family if outsiders ask?

I tell the truth. I look them in the eye and tell them exactly what they want to know. Most are just curious because it is such a foreign concept to the average straight person.  I use it as a chance to educate. Sue’s youngest bio son, who is 25, tells everyone Noah is his little brother. Sue, when she has Noah out on her own, has been called grandma (she’s 49) by people. She will correct them and say, ‘No I’m his mum.’  They inevitably make some comment about her having him late in life. Just the other day she had someone say, ‘Your other half must think Noah’s  wonderful.’  Sue says, ‘Yeah SHE does.’  They get it then.

Have you experienced any difficulties as a rainbow family?

Not really …I guess on a small scale now that Noah is getting more aware and going to day care with kids from straight families, there are two little boys in particular who drum the ‘daddy’ thing into their play. The carer is clueless when it comes to rainbow issues, and I’m not sure that tackling her with some education would make much difference. I’m just looking forward to next year when those little boys won’t be there !

How do you model pride in rainbow families to your children?

We tell Noah he’s very lucky to have two mums, special little boys and girls have two mums or two dads. He can tell you by pointing to photos who his brothers and sisters are. He will be raised knowing they are a special family, to be proud that he has brothers and sisters and lots of aunties and uncles in his rainbow family. We don’t hide who we are in front of him, we give him no reason to think that our family has anything to hide, we’re open and honest in public and in private.

Noah has books, and clothing that are all rainbow family proud.

What supports (rainbow or straight) do you recommend?

I think people need to surround themselves with genuine friends and family, whether they be blood related or not. Children are hard work and you should have a group/community around that will help out when the going gets tough. Another good advertisement for co-parenting arrangements; it gives you a chance to have a break. Some parents (very few ) don’t ever feel they need a break, but most of us if we’re honest, do  need timeout from the kids, so how wonderful for the kids that end up with two mums and two dads, for example, to share the burden !

Networking and being in touch with other rainbow families is important. It lessens the feelings of isolation you get from being surrounded day in day out by straight families and people.

What advice would you give someone embarking on a rainbow parenting journey?

Go for it, don’t be afraid to explore all your options, keep an open mind, don’t close yourself off to possibilities !

There should be no taboos whilst ever the interests of the child are at the forefront. If people go into a parenting arrangement with the ‘good’ of the child as paramount you can’t go too far wrong. Do your homework. For us even finding out that we have a serial donor and donor siblings all over the country side can be turned into a positive if the children are not lied to and / or encouraged that their situation is shameful. Noah will be raised to feel special that he has so many siblings. There are so many guys and girls out there who would dearly love to parent, and I have a hard time understanding why we can’t all help each other out. It’s probably lucky for me I didn’t start my parenting journey until I was 36 or I would have had 10 all over the countryside !

Kelly, Sam and two year old Charlotte live in Perth, Western Australia. You can read more of their story at their warm and clever blog, The Muriels.

Who’s in your family?

Kelly: Immediate family is Sam, Charlotte, my mum and step dad, three dogs and a cat. Wider family also includes step grandparents, cousins, aunts and uncles.

Extended family includes Charlotte’s donor dad, mum and sister and we have some close friends whom I would consider to be part of our extended family as well. Then of course we have our “internet family”.

Sam: Because we decided to be very public about our journey, sometimes it feels like half the population of Perth is our family!!

Where do you live?

Both: In the kennel zone of Southern River, Perth, Western Australia, but we’re trying to sell our house as we speak because one acre is too much to look after.  We’ve been there 16 years or so.

How did you create your family?
Our daughter Charlotte came to us after many years of IVF and infertility.  In the end, she was created with Sam’s egg, our known donor’s sperm and a lot of wishing and hoping.

Sam: We mixed a little bit of cute, with a little bit of funny.  A lot of smiles with some style, and a big fat happy on top!!  Okay, we did IVF!

Do you have a relationship with your donor?
We do have an ongoing relationship with Charlotte’s donor dad, his mum, sister and wider family in Tasmania.  Because they’re in Tasmania and we’re in Western Australia, the face-to-face visits are not as often as we’d like, but we treasure our time with them when we visit.  We are also in regular contact by phone and email.  Creating a child for us was always about providing her with the opportunity to develop a relationship with her donor, so we are very fortunate that our donor is willing to be part of Charlotte’s life and even more blessed that his wider family have also been embracing of us.

Give us three words to describe each member of the family.

    Kelly: really, only three? Sam: insightful, nurturing, smart (and funny).  Charlotte: bright, loving, hilarious.
    Sam: 3 words is virtually impossible!! Kelly: Beautiful, complex, hysterical!!! Charlotte: awesome, (delightfully) exhausting, precious!
What’s Charlotte’s current favourite activity? Reading, dancing and singing, animals
What’s your favourite thing to do together as a family?
    Kelly: Heaps!  The zoo, museum, wildlife parks, playgrounds, dancing, singing, etc, but the best fun we all have is spending time with Nanny and Pop at their property every weekend and just hanging out and relaxing together.
    Sam: It’s a toss up between lying in bed together on a Saturday or Sunday morning just enjoying being near each other, and the three of us dancing to the Wiggles which inevitably ends in all on the floor giggling our heads off!

What are some great kids’ activities where you live? Kindy dance time, swimming, Armadale Reptile Park, Perth Zoo, Perth Museum, King’s Park Ivy Watson Playground

How would you describe your parenting style?

Kelly: I’m a bit of a pushover actually.  She only need look at me with her big brown eyes and I’m done for.  We like to negotiate with her, we don’t like to physically maneuver her to do things we want her to do, we don’t smack and we don’t use time out (not to say we never will, just for now, it’s not what we want to do).  We’re hoping to raise a free-thinking, independent, creative person who knows right from wrong, not because we’ve ingrained it into her, but because she has developed her own sense of justice and has come to her own conclusions about the world in which she lives and how she behaves within it.

Sam: Lazy… I mean laid back!!

How do you feel being a ‘rainbow family’ influences your parenting?

Kelly: I think we’re both more hands-on than we might otherwise be if we were an opposite sex couple.  We are not restrained by the expectations of our genders.

Sam: We’ve seen enough “ugly” in the world to ensure that we’re fair, just and open to all possibilities – unless of course we’re in the middle of a two-year-old’s tantrum, then it’s a case of ‘whatever works’.

How has your relationship with your partner changed after children?

Kelly: I have gained so much respect for Sam as a parent – she truly rocks at this parenting gig and we have learnt and are continuing to learn how to approach parenting as a team, with a united front!  I suspect this will be even more important as Charlotte gets older.

Sam: We had a wonderful relationship before, now it’s wondrous as well!!

Anything about rainbow parenting you didn’t expect?

Kelly: I tend not to differentiate between rainbow parenting and just plain parenting.  I mean, really, at the end of the day, what’s different?  We all change nappies and wipe noses and read bedtime stories and work out how to deal with things for which there are no instructions.  We’re actually all in this together and I fail to see how separating us by some imaginary rainbow divider helps anyone.

Sam: Just how darn accepting people would be, we expected a few more “pregnant pauses”.

How has your extended family responded to the creation of your family?

Kelly: No issues at all with my family.  They have been supportive and brilliant from the beginning and I’m grateful for that every day.

How do you respond when people assume you’re part of a straight family?

We don’t often have people asking us about our family – I suspect because we’re so up front about who we are that there’s nothing left for them to ask. We are always out to everyone – there’s no pride in shame and we don’t want to raise Charlotte to think there is something to hide, because there isn’t as far as we’re concerned.  We always correct people if they assume heterosexuality. Occasionally, I’ll need to say, Charlotte has two mums, but the response has always been positive. I can’t really think of any situation that we wouldn’t – unless it involved an immediate threat to our physical safety.

How do you model pride in rainbow families to Charlotte?

Both: By being open and honest about our family structure.  By never hiding that we are a two-mum family – which is not to say that we shout it from the rooftops at every given opportunity, it just means that we explain who we are to people when we’re asked.

Have you experienced any difficulties as a rainbow family?

Kelly: None.  With hand on heart, we have had nothing but positive experiences as a family with two mums.  That’s not to say that people don’t say things behind our back, but what we don’t know doesn’t hurt us and any such bigotry is not our problem.

Sam: Well, besides the need for medical intervention to actually get pregnant, no, none that stick in my mind.

What advice would you give someone embarking on a rainbow parenting journey?

Kelly: Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.  Be completely certain it’s what you want and if you are partnered, be absolutely positive that you have all your “partner” stuff sorted before bringing a child into the world.  It’s the most awesome thing you will ever do, but nobody should do it without an enormous amount of care and thought beforehand.  It will absolutely turn your life upside down, but if you are ready for it, those changes will be for the better and you won’t be able to imagine your life pre-child(ren).

Sam: Given the nature of the journey it’s a very taxing and difficult time.  Keep a sense of humour!!  Be kind to each other and remember why you’re doing it.

What supports (rainbow or straight) do you recommend?

Both: Our family and friends provide us with any support we need.

You can find Kelly, Sam and Charlotte at

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