Lesbian and Gay Parenting book coverIn a Family Way

A column by Arlene (Ari) Istar Lev

Mother’s and Father’s Days

Posted By on July 1, 2009

Mother’s and Father’s Daze
By Arlene (Ari) Istar Lev

I heard that a school in New York City was planning on banning Mother’s and Father’s Day in support of gay and lesbian families. I confess to being dumbfounded by this kind of thinking, a sort of political correctness wrapped up in bizarreness. For me the point of these special days is to celebrate parents; I suppose it would be fine to have a "Parent’s Day" and I have no interest in elevating mother’s over father’s or visa versa. My understanding is that most two-parent lesbian households just celebrate both moms on Mother’s Day and don’t particularly acknowledge Father’s Day, and most partnered gay dad’s celebrate both dads on Father’s Day, and don’t do anything particular on the Mother’s Day.

Certainly, it is not only lesbian and gay families that have an absence of the "opposite sex" parent in the home. Single parent families have always addressed these issues. Growing up with my mom and grandparents, I confess to not remembering spending one hour of my young life contemplating "what to do" on Father’s Day, anymore that I fretted about not celebrating Christmas or Dwali growing up in my Jewish home.

I suspect that the solution that my butch/femme queer lesbian family has adapted to the traditional Mother’s/Father’s Day is unique. I was, first of all, not interested in sharing Mother’s Day with anyone. I spent much of my adult life wanting to be a parent, and started out as a single parent. One of my partners’ and mine first dates was her taking me out on Mother’s Day. Mother’s Day is "my day," my day to be appreciated, to be pampered, to not lift a damn finger (though it has yet to happen quite like that). I like that I have a partner (after all who else can orchestrate two small children to know how to celebrate Mother’s Day right?), but I don’t want to share my day with her.

So this is what we do: I take Mother’s Day and she takes Father’s Day. This fits in nicely with her butch self anyway, and allows the kids and I to have lots of fun looking at tools and ties and all that guy stuff. She gets breakfast and presents with kids, and dinner out with me on Father’s Day; I get the same on Mother’s Day (our excuse for hiring a babysitter and having a romantic dinner).

Schools and daycares of course send double gifts and cards home on Mother’s Day, which is generally fine with us. I do wish they would get the simple differences between Momma and Mommy, our respective designations, but at least they are able to acknowledge both of us equally. We have had teachers nervously lean in to us saying, "We didn’t know what to do." (As if there were that many options.) They say, "So we made two cards. I hope that is okay." We assure them it is fine, very good, you pass the queer non-discrimination test, and they clearly feel better about themselves.

My son came home on Mother’s Day this year feeling very excited about being the only kid in his class with two moms and therefore two presents; it made him feel special. We worried a bit over how Father’s Day would be handled, but we left it to his smart Montessori teachers. He came home with a lovely Father’s Day present, which said in bold hand printed letters, "Happy Father’s Day, to my mommy." He explained to my partner over the delicious scrambled eggs he made for her all by himself, that she was kind of like a dad anyway. "You have short hair, just like a dad and when you wear those shirts you can’t really tell that you have breasts, so you are my mom and my dad and that’s okay."

I say leave Mother’s and Father’s Day the way that are, and let us queers figure out how to manage them; I assure you our solutions will be as creative and imaginative as the world has come to expect from us.