We join Lotte and Stu, still in lockdown, who have some questions from the Some Families community. They cover how to broach the conversation about having two mums or two dads with your kids, their parenting landmarks, making the right decision when going through the adoption process and the pressure to perfect the role being a gay parent.
Lotte Jeffs: I personally made a mental note of that as a good thing to do to not ever say that you don’t have something but focus on what you do have.
Stu Oakley: As soon as we met them, never thought about it ever again, they were our children.
Lotte Jeffs: The adoption process can really make you look inwards and look at yourself and also look at yourself as a couple with your partner.
Stu Oakley: I can’t wait for the celebratory hearing, when that day comes, for our youngest son as well
Stu Oakley: Hello and welcome to some families, the LGBTQ plus parenting podcast that’s here to cover all kinds of queer parenting, whether you’ve got questions whether you want to explore the journey or you’re just curious about queer parenting. So I am Stu Oakley. I am here virtually with my co host Lotte Hello to you Lottie
Lotte Jeffs:Hey Stu and hello to anyone and everyone who is listening how used to
Stu Oakley: Apart from technical issues that I keep suffering during this lockdown. I am all good. How are you?
Lotte Jeffs: I’m great, thank you. I’ve just had a week off work which felt weird. I had it booked as a holiday and then obviously took the holiday but didn’t go to the destination we had planned to go to instead just kind of stayed in the garden and had a really lovely time with my daughter and got her paddling pool and just like lay in the sun. And had some fun times together. So it felt really precious actually. and nice.
Stu Oakley: Lovely. So did you actually feel like you did log out as it were completely?
Lotte Jeffs: I kind of did. Yeah, I did. And also, I thought in a way, this is just what a holiday would be like abroad anyway, because we’d still be looking after our daughter all day every day. So it’s not like it would be dramatically different. We might just have a swimming pool, but you know, paddling pool is the next best thing.
Stu Oakley: So this week, we thought we’d throw out some questions to our amazing and wonderful community that have been listening to us and following us as we have been going through not the journey but the the some family’s adventure to date. And so we’ve got some questions that you and I are going to be answering Lottie
Lotte Jeffs: Yeah I’m really excited actually to answer them because you I am I’m very excited to learn about you the mystery man at the other end of this zoom line Who can I just say who’s got the most fantastic looking new headset which either makes him look like he’s a 19 year old gamer or a very sexy fighter pilot, and I can’t quite work out which to to call you.
Stu Oakley: I think I think I’ll go for the for the sector. I think I don’t think being a gamer has ever been in my apart from playing Tomb Raider at age 60
Lotte Jeffs: Tomb Raider as well. I played Tomb Raider. But then I got Lara Croft stuck down this well in Tomb Raider, and I just couldn’t get her out. So I just had to, I didn’t know what to do. And I was so far into the game that I just, I couldn’t go back. So I need to have to start getting completely. So basically, I’ve just left her there. Is that some kind of weird lesbian
Stu Oakley: fantasy that you had when you were younger?
Lotte Jeffs: It was such a lesbian fantasy. And I was like I for a while she was just in the well, and I was just making her do like drowns. They should do this sex and panting and then I was like, Oh, shit, actually, I can’t get her out of this well, so then I just like turned it off. I’d been playing for like six months, and then just never went back to it. So I sometimes think about it and feel quite bad about Lara Croft, just sort of virtually still stuck where I left her anywho we digress,
Stu Oakley: we do digress and also set the tone for a new spin off show where we just basically do gay confessions about gaming icons,
Lotte Jeffs: there are loads.
Stu Oakley: So actually, let’s kick off straightaway with some of the questions that we’ve had in. There was a great question that came in from Kim, who is known as a mum called mama on Instagram. So Kim, over to you.
Kym: I’d love to know if or how You’ve broach the conversation around having two moms or two dads with your kids. And we have a two year old. So we’ll be having those conversations soon. So any tips would be great. Thanks.
Stu Oakley: So a lot of your little one. She is how she now two and a half, two.
Lotte Jeffs: She knows she’s one. She’s coming up to two. She’s two in July.
Stu Oakley: Because she’s so mature doing all these wonderful drawings on Instagram.
Lotte Jeffs: Okay, so I think that was a great question. And it’s a question that I have for lots of LGBT Qi parents myself. She is a bit young, despite her exemplary drawing talents, to to really be kind of talking to about this stuff. But I must say recently, through reading her children’s books, it’s really come up quite a lot. And so we have some great books with two moms in and we have one with Dad’s in. And then of course, every other children’s book from a tiger that came to tea to. I don’t know, room on the broom is like very heteronormative actually room on the broom is a bad example because there’s a witch and other animals.
Stu Oakley: Anyway, Every Witch, which is a lesbian, right? That’s how it goes.
Lotte Jeffs: I will exactly I mean, it’s just implicit. But so what I’ve started doing is when there is a mom and a dad, I say, Oh, look, this little boy has a money and a daddy, you have two mommies, don’t you and some people have a mummy and daddy. And so I just like when we see examples of other pair parenting and dynamics. I just point out, I always remind her that she has two mommies and that this person has two daddies or this person has a mom and a dad and I really see how much reading books that have two mothers really resonate for her and she kind of repeats them back and when I’m reading her She got she looked, looks at me and says, your mind Mama, your mind Mama. And it’s really nice because we use the words mama and money and it’s so nice that she differentiates me as being her mama. And that being a sort of special and different kind of relationship to a money. So maybe we can talk more about that in maybe this episode even. But she What about you? Your kids are older, aren’t they? So presumably you have had that conversation with them along with the adoption conversation.
Stu Oakley: Yes. And again, I must admit his books that really helped that journey. And I hope that isolator stage we can get further into this conversation about books, and how much meaning they have for children, and how much responsibility I feel that publishers and authors should have when it comes to fair representation of the of the Audiences reading them, especially with the new legislation that’s coming into place that will not the words actively promote because that’s that sounds like something out of Section 28. But the the books will be available and the teachers will be openly talking about LGBTQ families within schools. I think it’s such an important topic. And I think it goes to help support gay families out there in answering that question, or even getting to a point where they don’t even have to give that question or explain that question. It’s just something that is natural to children. And some children have two mommies and some children have two daddies. And that’s something that I’m really looking forward to talking more about. But to answer your question, more concisely, we I love the book to dads. I’ve expressed the fact that I love that book quite a lot because it talks about a child has two parents who are both male and and that child is also adopted. And it’s a beautiful, simple, really simple story. My children absolutely love it. And they read it back to me like you were saying and are able to call out the similarities between between their own dad and daddy. So definitely books is is a way to introduce that to children for sure.
Lotte Jeffs: Something that Kirsty said to us in one of our previous episodes, the one about the lesbian mom who carried which is the biological mother. And she said she doesn’t talk to her son in terms of what he doesn’t have. So she never says you don’t have a dad, you She always just says you have to mums, which I personally, I personally really made a mental note of that being a good thing to do to not ever say that you don’t have something but just to focus on what you do have. So that’s A nice piece of advice can. And we’ve had a question from the Lincoln shores who are two adoptive dads.
Darren: Hi it is Darren from the Lincoln shores. My question would be what is your most important landmark or milestone to date that makes you so unbelievably proud of your children? And what do you hope for them to be as an adult?
Stu Oakley: I am so proud, I think when my daughter got her ballet certificate, and then went on stage in front of about 500 people, the natural theatrical theatrical person that I am just exploded with joy was I Oh, my god, oh my god. But I would say really Connolly it’s also just every single day they come out with different things. And they just surprise me and I think my daughter who is now four and a half going on 20 She comes out with things that have gone into her tiny little brain and, and she’s so smart. And she comes out with really witty things, and really clever little comments that she’s just taken from my husband at NIH, which is also deeply worrying at the same time because every time she does that, I go, Oh my God, you’re so amazing. I can’t believe you’ve retained that. And you’ve explained that and then there’s like, a dread dummy that goes, Oh my god, she’s gonna repeat what I said about this, or she’s gonna repeat what I said about that. I’m just, I’m, I’m so proud of them. I mean, for us as a family. The key landmark was the day we had our celebration hearing, which is the day when it is officially announced in court that we are the legal parents of our children. And, and it was a really wonderful, special moment. And we’d heard so much about it during our trading from other people, and we hadn’t quite anticipated how wonderful it would just feel, because the court really does go as all out as they can to make it feel special. Because if you think about it, it’s actually the only thing that happens in a in a family court, which is celebrated. Because normally they’re dealing with either divorce or care proceedings or any different types of family issues that generally have some kind of negative to them. It’s actually the day where they’re celebrating a new family coming together and these children finding a forever home. And so the judge gets really involved and you’re allowed to take photos, which he never normally allowed to do in court. And so for us I like I would say, when we finally got the celebration hearing of our eldest daughter, and our eldest son, it was just amazing and I can’t wait for the celebrator hearing when it comes for our youngest son as well.
Lotte Jeffs: Oh, that’s so nice and just to quickly I noticed on Instagram that you posted your daughter doing a puzzle 100 piece puzzle and you must have been really proud of that. Can I ask you if no, no, no, no, no how many how many pieces thousand piece puzzle? Oh my goodness. Okay, it was 1000 piece puzzle.
Stu Oakley: Did you do the puzzles? Gee, I watched her do the puzzle as I quickly signed her up for Mensa. She She’s amazing. She is one of those things where you go oh my god, she genuinely she so I helped separate the pieces. So it was a Disney Princess puzzle. I helped separate the pieces. And then I literally give her the pieces and she arranges them. And I went on I was kicking the other day and I did her gave her the snow white one and she pretty much put it all together. And there are times where I sit and do help her because we’re supposed to be doing it together. And I’m actually I could be like, Oh no, this goes here and this goes here and I’m like jumping ahead, but she is she and it says this, those little things when you go, oh my god, you know, they’re amazing. And that really helped my feeling that I haven’t done any, you know, homeschooling with her because she’s not yet at school age, but I was like, right. Okay, she’s done a puzzle. She’s 1000 thousand piece puzzle. That’s fine. I don’t need to do anything for the rest of the day with her part. That isn’t
Lotte Jeffs: Impressive. That’s really impressive. Thank you. Okay, we had some more question. Yes. And do you have you got a question there from becoming D dad. I love
Stu Oakley: becoming two dads. They are on their journey currently. And I know it’s been really hard for them because of the current situation. But they sent in a question aimed at me about adoption.
Becoming Two Dads: Hi, guys. My question is mainly for Stu. I guess. So It’s about the adoption journey and the part of the process just before matching. So, when you’re on the journey, and you’ve found a child that you feel like you might want to proceed with, how do you know you’ve made the right decision? Like, was there any point where you thought, yep. 100% I know this is the right thing to do. And was there ever any doubt? Thanks, guys.
Stu Oakley: We first saw our son and daughter through in the middle of a load of profiles that were sent to us via our kind of Matchmaker, as it were from the agency we’re at and at the same time, we got access to a database as it were called link maker. And link maker is a place where all the children’s profiles Who are in care and up for potential adoption? It’s where all their profiles are house so you can literally just search through them and you have to be you have to be an approved you have to be approved to adopt to adoptee to be able to have access, but when you have access you you can search for anyone’s profile across the country. And simultaneously to having the profile from our matchmaker. I can’t I don’t use actually called Matchmaker, but I’m gonna call her our matchmaker matchmaker matchmaker in terms of this process, but we the same time we got that we also receive we also found our daughter’s profile on link bank. Now, it was only our daughter’s profile that was on there with a small video and attached was our sons. It was didn’t even have his name. It just had the first initial of his name on there. And he was just for the purposes of this it wasn’t but it was just baby a. And the video that was of my daughter was this incredibly just heart warming Lee gorgeous video of her running around in circles, playing with a doll. And at one point she fell completely flat on her face, like pretty hard as well. And she stood right back on laughed and carried on going and just doing what she was doing. And there was something about that video that just really, they say when you know, you know, and we just knew and we expressed interest so
Lotte Jeffs: Amazing.
Stu Oakley: Yeah, it was and we kind of expressed interest in in her and her brother and her brother. We had no information he was just baby a just baby That was it. And, well, we knew his age, roughly, and a rough medical background, but that really was it. We didn’t know his name. We didn’t know his full medical details. And so we were kind of venturing into the unknown, but it was the power of her. And the thought of him that just made us be like, right, this is, this is not our children. We weren’t saying that at that time, but it felt it felt just completely right. And then we expressed an interest and to be honest, we had expressed an interest in a few other children as well. We were a bit unsure there was a and I will always remember that there was a group of three children. There was a, there was a ironically, now that we do have three there was a sibling group of three that we expressed interest in, and everyone around us, my my mom, John’s family, we’re all very Much like what are you doing, you can’t have three or social workers like you you wanted to, don’t push it with three, you’ve really got to think about your resource and and what you can take on. And that kind of dampened our kind of view on those three plus also one of them had a condition, a medical condition. And that also went into the factor of whether we could look after three children plus one that had a quite severe medical condition. But I always remember those three, but there was something that was pulling us in the direction of those to our children. And once we expressed an interest, the social workers came involved and wanted to see us immediately. They came within a few days, and the ball just started rolling really, really, really quickly. And because the happens so quickly, there definitely was a moment. There definitely was a moment where I had to stop and I felt I remember having a conversation with asthma. I felt like it was too fast. I felt that they were our children. But because we hadn’t been looking at loads of children and going through the journey, it I felt like were we acting too soon. And but then it was, but actually, if we don’t have now these might, these might be our children, we might miss that opportunity. So it’s a really weird thing in your head to get around. Because if it happens really fast, do you feel that is happening too fast? And you should wait a bit? If it happens too long. You feel like maybe you’re letting children who could be your children pass by? But all I would say is that when you know, you know, and I had that in my, my head that maybe this isn’t right, and because very quickly, they took us off link maker to be able to stop sending us profiles of children. And I felt Oh my god. Well, that’s it now. But then that went all the way when I met them. And as soon as we met them, I never thought about it ever again. It was that was that was our children, which is interesting, because actually, I think it’s similar to how I’ve met my husband, in the sense that I was 21. And I always thought, well, maybe I met him too young. But actually, what is too young or what’s too soon? If it’s right, it’s right. And, yeah,
Lotte Jeffs: You just know, I mean, it could be comparable to looking for a sperm donor as well, and just having to make a decision. You know, if you want to do it, you have to make a decision, you would be crippled, if you started thinking, well, like, you know, we’ve just got to keep looking. Maybe there’s someone better or there’s someone better at some point, if you want to just get it done. You’ve got to just say, we’d go in with this one person. And yeah, maybe there are other options that might be just as good or better for whatever reason, but you just have to make a decision and I think that going with your gut And just thinking, this feels right. Just really listening to that is a really, really good piece of advice. And finally, we have a question from the utterly fabulous two dads in London.
Two Dads In London: Hi, this is Lou from two dads in London. And my question is, becoming a new parent is a very stressful time. And I’m sure as everyone does try to portray themselves as the perfect parent, did you feel you had the added pressure to perfect the role being a gay parent.
Lotte Jeffs: So that is really interesting. And it’s something that we’ve spoken about in previous episodes of feeling like because we are non heterosexual parents, we’ve somehow got more to prove, and we have this thing on our shoulders that we need to be brilliant parents to be perfect. And when we’re out and about in public, you know, if our kids having a tantrum or something’s not you know, perfect that we that we somehow are being seen as failures because We’re not a normal, in inverted commas heterosexual family, and that can feel like a lot of pressure. And Steve, what’s your experience of that?
Stu Oakley: Yeah, I hundred percent agree. I think it does add a new level of awareness to your parenting good or bad sometimes. I mean, there are definite times and less so now I think when it first started when my daughter first went to school, and I would be worried about her, you know, I remember taking her into school and she had a mark on her jacket and some dirt on her shoe. And I was just thinking, oh my god, and her hair was a little bit of a mess. And I was like, Oh my god, people are gonna think that we as two dads can’t look after this little girl we can’t do our hair perfectly or we can’t you know, or she’s coming to school messy or or things like that. And it’s really hard and I think you do add that pressure to yourself. And I must admit as an adoptive parent as well, it’s something especially recently and it’s something I’ve been thinking about a lot recently that as an as an adoptive parent, you’re always throughout the whole process of adoption, you are on show. And you you actually feel like you are a show pony trying to answer the right questions. You know, you’re interviewed by your social worker, you’re interviewed by your children’s social worker, you’re interviewed by a panel of 12 people to be approved as an adopter. Then you’re interviewed by a panel of 12 people to be approved to be matched with your children that you’re constantly going through this. It’s like the multiple X Factor rounds, like you’re always trying to be the best and you’re always trying to put yourself in the best light and I think that then starts seeping into your parenting as well that you’re always trying to be perfect, and always trying to have the perfect answer and any sign of not coping or anything I have fucking up, you feel is gonna be held against you and very much feel like that. And it’s been interesting going back through the adoption process again with our youngest who’s come into our life recently, we, we thought we’d put that past part of our life aside and then suddenly it all comes back again. And then there was a really interesting piece in the newspaper recently in The Times about this adoptee and he talked a lot about the he really struggled with the adoption of his child, because it wasn’t perfect, but he really struggled. He was a gay adopter, but he and I don’t think that was necessarily part and parcel of the issue. But he really struggled being honest and open with his social worker and with people around him for fear that people would think that they’d failed. As adoptive parents in some way, and so all I can say to anybody out there is just be honest, be honest with someone. If you feel you can’t be honest with your social worker or with the team that’s around you try and find somebody, reach out to somebody online, reach out that, you know, well, maybe you’ve met through the community or friend, or if you know somebody who has been through it, just reach out to somebody and and try and have an honest conversation because I can, I can guarantee or make you feel better.
Stu Oakley: I think that is really, really great advice. And it’s true of all stressful parenting situations. You know, it’s so important to be able to talk to someone who can just listen in an odd, non judgmental way. But I guess what I’ve really learned from talking to you sooner is that the adoption process can really make you look inwards and look at yourself as a future parents and also look at yourself as a couple with your partner.
Stu Oakley: Absolutely It is a form of therapy in a way that you really look in depth at yourself. You question a lot about yourself, you go right back into your history and it really makes you look at who you are overall, which ultimately, I think makes you really evaluate who you are as a parent. So thank you for all your lovely questions as you know I love learning more about the fabulous lottery Jeff’s I just tapped into that brain a little bit more and find out more and more every time.
Lotte Jeffs: I can confirm that you might look like he’s neither 19 year old gaming aficionados nor a sexy fighter pilot he is a snack doesn’t mean word I’m trying to I’m trying out did it’s like calling people a snack. Oh, I my edible. Did I did I say it convincingly because I’m just trying just in case juicing it into my lexicon and trying it out. I don’t know if I can carry it
Stu Oakley: off. I think maybe we’ll let everyone out there be the judge of that one.
Lotte Jeffs: Thank you all so much for listening you snacks. So until next time, goodbye. It’s been a pleasure as ever seen and all of you listening. Thank you and goodbye.