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! www.rainbowfamilytree.com And my very out of date but soon to be updated blog www.familyvalues.katalyst.com.au And business website, inhabited by my filmmaker incarnation www.incitestories.com.au

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With the UN Climate Change Conference struggling along, I’ve been thinking, rather despairingly, that I’m misguiding my energy working towards my children’s parenting security  when I can’t even guarantee my children a planet to grow up in. That seems pretty basic. Elisabeth has just finished  the harrowing The Road by Cormac McCarthy and we’ve been wondering what we can do. It all seems so big.

J-le over at  The Twinkle in My Eye has also been giving this some attention. This is reposted from her blog, at  Greening the Twinkle’s Future

I’ve been inspired by a range of factors to tread more lightly on this earth. Those factors include:

My head has been filling with ideas on how we can lessen the impact we have with our lifestyle and I’ve finally decided to put them all in one place, categorised, in public, to challenge me to go ahead and deal with them instead of just thinking about them. So here goes.

Here’s the list:

The things we could do more of:

saving water

  • collect excess water from kitchen and bathroom sinks and bucket onto garden/indoor plant
  • collect cold water from start of shower and bucket onto garden
  • install rainwater tanks – large for whole roof, small for verandah
  • collect more greywater and direct it onto the front (non-edible) garden
  • use more greywater-friendly cleaning products
  • plant more indigenous plants in front yard
  • buy a front loader washing machine in the long run

saving gas

  • put more clothes on before choosing to put heater on
  • reduce draughts around windows and doors
  • keep hot water service turned to fairly low temp
  • consider double-glazing
  • close vents not really needed (eg kitchen, bathroom in evenings)
  • keep thermostat low-ish
  • consider pelmets above windows
  • cover bathroom fan
  • put insulation in bathroom and laundry ceiling
  • put insultation in walls when weatherboards are replaced

saving electricity

  • be more vigilant about switching off lights
  • find a replacement for halogen downlights
  • switch appliances off at the wall
  • turn computers off at night
  • put in a smart switch for computers and maybe tv
  • switch to buying green energy
  • look at solar in the long term
  • buying 5-6 star rating appliances (not in the near future – most of our whitegoods are new-ish)
  • don’t use the dryer except for emergencies
  • only use air-con on 40+ days if possible, and don’t set thermostat too low
  • close all blinds on hot days
  • install exterior blinds or other shade treatments
  • use cross-ventilation on hot nights (find out out how to open top window on front door)

reducing waste

  • be more vigilant about separating recyclables
  • make the most of the worm farm and compost
  • find the best solution for dog poo
  • get a diva cup or similar
  • toilet-train the twinkle
  • get hankies instead of tissues
  • use microfibre cleaning cloths
  • consider rechargeable batteries
  • buy less pre-packaged meat and veg
  • buy less processed food in general
  • find creative uses for rubbish and recyclables (eg toilet rolls as seedling tubes, softdrink bottles as mini greenhouses)

sustainable transport

  • walk more!
  • get the bikes serviced and get a seat for the twinkle
  • investigate local produce to reduce food miles
  • produce more food at home
  • use public transport as much as possible

There’s lots of things that we already do, and there’s plenty more we could improve on. There’s more stuff that needs to be on that list that I have forgotten in my big brain dump just now. I will add them as I remember or learn them, and I plan to talk myself through it on my blog.

Molly adds:
Readers, I’d love to hear your ideas on what you are doing or could do more of to green your children’s future.

Some of Santa's favourite families have two mummies

Yesterday in Brisbane, Santa made time in his busy pre-Christmas schedule to drop in on the (second) annual rainbow families Christmas picnic.

There were about thirty families there; mostly mothers, but some grandmothers, donors and assorted ring-ins.

It’s a delight seeing my children respond to it from year to year – this year they were really engaged with the races, and quite excited about seeing Santa, although they didn’t know who he was or what he did – just that ‘Santa’ was something one was meant to get excited about.

At this time of year, difference from the mainstream is highlighted.  The representations are Mum, Dad and two or maybe three angelic blonde children. Hale and hearty grandparents who are clearly still married to each other look on adoringly- no messy running between divorced grandparents between breakfast and dinner.

Pearl gives Santa a careful once-over

From the marketing, I would assume that stepfamilies, separated families, single parent families, people with disabilities, non-Anglo families and gay families don’t celebrate Christmas.

It seemed important to me to start up a Rainbow Families Christmas Picnic. As my children get older and understand more, Christmas will become more and more heteronormative.   Advertising that convincingly reproduces gender stereotypes. Mr & Mrs Claus. Years and years of soppy Christmas special movies yet to come! We’re all gathering to celebrate the quintessential nuclear family – the Virgin Ideal Mother Mary, the macho, protective, strong silent Joseph, and the perfect baby Jesus, ‘no crying he makes’ (how did they know when to change his nappy?). I want my kids to have a moment where they can stop and say, ‘Look, here are a whole bunch of families like mine, all celebrating Christmas’.

Ready...Set...GO!!

Do you feel a need to queer Christmas? How do you make Christmas an event that includes our children? That celebrates families – all families? At the time  of year when family is exalted to ridiculous, unsustainable heights, how do we deal with our messy networks of relationships? Or are you happy to accept Christmas for the odd hybrid of sanitised religiosity and rabid consumerism  it offers?

Radical Christians suggest that Jesus himself lived in an unconventional family as an adult – living unmarried with Lazarus, Martha & Mary would have been highly scandalous at the time.

Jesus had two dads, and look how he turned out!

Santa takes a break with Mrs Claus

The Chiang-Cruise family

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

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
rodneycruise@gmail.com
www.chiang-cruise.com
www.gaydadsaustralia.com.au

Last week Pearl and Louis turned two.  With Elisabeth working, I planned a whole bunch of fun toddler activities. I thought I’d take them to the park with their birthday scooters, and then we’d go out for babycinos and maybe even a celebratory muffin, and then stop at the local train station to watch the special Christmas steam train go past. A lovely jampacked birthday morning, and we’d be home in time for a good solid nap.

Pearl and Louis wouldn’t get dressed.

When I say wouldn’t,  yes I know I’m bigger, but they were kicking and flailing and crying out, ‘No nappy! No t-shirt!’ and then, when I tried to explain the morning’s plans, ‘No scooters! No babycino!’

I. Was. So. Angry.

At this point, for me, parenting by instinct would go awry. For me, parenting by instinct means unthinkingly reproducing how my parents parented. Some elements of how I was parented I would like to pass on to my children, others, not so much.

So my ‘instinct’ would have been to shove them into their clothes, possibly giving one or other a smart slap at some point, force two screaming children into car restraints, and head down to the park hoping that the combined three-way bad mood would clear once we spotted the play equipment.

Instead I took a deep breath and tried to remind myself of my parenting principles.

One: children often know what’s good for them. It was about 34 degrees at 9a.m. and getting hotter – who wants to get clothes on? They’d also had an exciting birthday whirlwind morning, with a present opening frenzy before Mummy Elisabeth went off to work. By 9a.m, they’d been up for four hours, and had more excitement than they get in most full days.

Two: natural consequences. They don’t want to get clothes on, therefore we don’t go out. This isn’t a punitive response, it’s just the way it is. My tone is not, ‘Right, you’ve refused to get your clothes on therefore we have to stay home and have a really bad time’. The message is more, ‘Okay, if you don’t want to get dressed, what shall we do around the house?’

The top of my brain was frantically working through what I should do in line with my parenting philosophy, but underneath that my mental conversation went something like this:

After ALL I’VE DONE FOR YOU, the very least you could do is co-operate!

I have gone to all the effort of planning a lovely day and you ungrateful wretches just don’t appreciate it!

If I don’t force you to do what I want, you are going to be SPOILED (like overripe fruit?) and take advantage of me forever.  I will be nothing but a doormat in this house.

OMG! I AM nothing but a doormat in this house!

So I stopped and tried to listen to them, and what  I heard was something like, Mama, this has been really great and all these big new toys are great and talking on the phone to every single relative has been fun and all that shiny wrapping paper is fantastic and I really loved the pancakes with maple syrup at six a.m. but it’s hot and I’m really quite tired and can we just sit still for a while?

And what I was really saying was something like, But if you reject all these lovely ideas I have for us then really it’s just like you’re rejecting ME.

So I decided to just follow their lead and see what happened. We went out into the garden – small ones naked – and had a lovely time making Christmas decorations and jumping in and out of the pool. An hour or so later, when I suggested babycinos again, they very happily got into clothes and climbed into the car (although they fell asleep on the way there – they really WERE exhausted).

The point is that it’s important to identify your hot-spots as a parent. Everyone has them. Perhaps you don’t like mess. Or you get distressed when your child doesn’t eat. Or you want your child to have good manners. Or you want your teenager to choose a ‘good’ career. Whatever your button is, your child will find it. That is how they keep forcing us to grow.

I know my button (or one of my buttons, more accurately) is being rejected when I feel like I’ve gone to an effort. The after all I’ve done for you… line. When they won’t get into the car when I’m trying to take them to visit a friend, or they turn up their noses at a meal I’ve cooked specially from ‘Delicious Toddler Meals’.

I don’t think what I did was the only response to that situation, or even the ‘best’ response.  It was certainly the best I could come up with at the time.  Sometimes the best I can do is not let them see I am completely, irrationally angry about something that is just normal child behaviour. I think the final outcome is less important than the fact that is wasn’t a knee jerk reaction  at the whim of my ‘button’ response.

What are your buttons? How do you deal with it when your kids push your buttons?

Today’s post is written by J-Le,  who blogs at The Twinkle in My Eye. She lives in Melbourne and has a two year old daughter with her partner.

Last weekend, masses of people around Australia protested about the Federal government’s inaction on marriage equality. This followed a Senate enquiry, initiated by Sarah Hanson-Young of the Greens, into the topic. And here I am writing about it on this rainbow families blog… but is marriage even a rainbow families topic? My instinct is that same-sex marriage isn’t primarily about families – indeed the Marriage Act itself makes no mention of children – but if you’ve been following the debate you’ll know that opponents of same-sex marriage have made it into a debate about families. And as rainbow family advocates, we can’t ignore this, regardless of whether we want to be married ourselves.

At the Senate enquiry hearing, the opponents were all Christian, as were some of the advocates for same-sex marriage, interestingly enough. The opponents mostly insisted their position wasn’t religiously-based (which is just as well because we do pride ourselves on being a secular society). Their position on marriage can be summarised by these direct quotes:

· “Out of all human relationships the union of a man and a woman is fundamental to our continued existence. (Australian Family Association)

· Marriage is not simply a loving, committed relationship between two people but a unique kind of physical and emotional union which is open to the possibility of life. (Catholic Archdiocese of Sydney)

· “It is possible and does happen for two men or two women to have a loving relationship. The question is not whether they love each other; the question is what is best for the children. (Australian Christian Lobby)

Clearly opponents of marriage equality believe that marriage is about families and children, and not about love and commitment between two people. They brush aside the obvious drawbacks of their argument – we allow infertile, post-fertile and couples with no intention of putting their fertility to child-bearing use to marry – with an argument along the lines of “even if they don’t have children, it’s sort of like they can, even if they can’t.” (I kid you not – read the transcript here ). They insist that a child is best raised by a mother and father who are biologically related to them. Single parents are “heroes”, but same-sex parents in committed relationships are wrong, wrong, wrong. They are in denial about the fact that gay people have children – always have, and always will, and these days in increasing numbers – and that the communities and governments of most Australian States have accepted this. They think that by disallowing same-sex marriage that children won’t find themselves being parented by two people of the same sex. They are forcing the marriage debate to be about what’s best for children, and this may be their downfall.

If indeed they are interested in what’s best for children, then it seems inevitable that the Federal government will one day catch up with the State governments who are one-by-one realising that children raised in same-sex relationships do not experience harm and should be given equal protection and recognition in law, just as the State governments are progressively doing in the area of assisted reproduction.

One of the opponents of marriage equality suggested that “law reform supported by the Australian community has given them (ie us) equality with de facto heterosexual couples.” And of course he is right. Our relationships are now recognised by the Commonwealth as being de facto, giving us and our children equal treatment under most Commonwealth laws (with the exception of marriage, adoption and surrogacy). But there is a danger in us settling for this level of almost-equality, because being unable to marry continues to place us on a tier below heterosexual couples. And this translates into family and social differences, which can be subtle but significant. We call each other “partner”, which has become an impotent word, equivalent to girlfriend/boyfriend, with none of the unspoken implications of wife/husband. Our partners can remain invisible to family and society. If one of us dies, we’re not considered to be a widow. And when our daughter asks why we’re not married and we tell her we’re not allowed, I fear we will be faced with one of those pre-schooler whines of “but why?” and we would be obliged to say that the government thinks our relationship is not important enough. And I hardly think it is in the best interests of our child to have her believe that her family is less important in the eyes of our government.

I don’t think marriage is about children. I think it is about commitment and love and I think that any two adults who enter into such a commitment voluntarily should be supported and their love celebrated. We’re not trying – to quote a Catholic bishop at the Senate hearing –  to “steal marriage” (yes, he really said that). We’re trying to embrace it. And I think the more visible our rainbow families are in the debate – showing that you don’t need to be in a heterosexual marriage to perpetuate the species, and showing that kids don’t need two opposite-sex married parents, both biologically related to you, in order to be a good and happy personthe weaker the opposition arguments become.

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 !