Can only a Mother, mother?

Why do I ask? I refer to the arguments currently doing the rounds against same sex marriage here in Ireland, one of which is that if a gay man marries and adopts, their child will be denied a mother. It has prompted me to ask can only a mother mother, or a father father?

How many among us were the primary care givers in our family? How many of us were mothers who worked, but if one of our children became ill it was us who had to leave work to take our child out of creche or school. How many of us put our children to bed because our children wouldn’t go to sleep for our partners? How many of us chose what our child wore, for fear of what sort of a miss matched outfit they might be dressed in if we didn’t.

I put my hand up here. I was that mother. I still am that mother. However does that mean my husband is incapable of fulfilling that role without me. If I were not around would my children have no one to act as their confident? Would they be without all that I give them?

I do not believe that to be the case. My mother has a wonderful saying, ‘You have them as you rear them’. In my case I created a monster. I believed I quietened my children quicker than my husband, so why would I let them cry for longer than necessary? I made their dinner the way they liked it, so why let him do it and see them refuse to eat it? Yet if truth be told I am convinced that if my husband had been the primary carer and spent as much time with my children as I did, putting them to bed more often than I, or getting up during the night to soothe them every night, then they would have been as content to be with him as they are me.

I have watched two families lose their mothers at a young age. Prior to their mothers death the fathers were far from hands on, and perhaps not ideal choices to be left as primary carers. Then very sadly they were thrown in at the deep end and all I can say is “Wow”. What wonderful parents they became. A softness emerged which was never there before. They had no choice but to become mother and father and they filled the roles so well. It has made me believe that we fulfill the roles we are put in, but we can play any role if required. same sex referendum

I strongly believe that two men or two women are just as capable as rearing a child as one of each. I do not believe a mother is essential, nor a father. Yes it is good to have one of each, but is it any better than having two of the same sex?

I have a brother who is gay. A wonderful, caring, loving person. My children love him dearly, and he is god father to my youngest. He was my soul mate as a child and continues to be a significant person in my life. He would have made the most wonderful parent and the world is a poorer place without the child or children he would have reared with his partner of eighteen years. What a team they would have made.

He is however not asking to adopt children, although I would fight for his right to. However he is forbidden to marry. Can you imagine that? Imagine living in a country, a modern western country, knowing you are ‘forbidden’ to marry. Imagine being with your partner for so many years, but no matter how much you care for each other your partnership is not recognised by the state. There are people you will pass on the street who believe you should not be allowed to marry have children, as if you are different. Less than a heterosexual.

Last night in response to a programe on television, I tweeted,

Can’t believe I lived for years with a real threat to the fabric of Irish society, my gay brother. He seemed like such a lovely fella’.

My tweet attracted the attention of another who tried to point out to me that if my brother adopted he would be denying that child a mother. I didn’t bother to argue, as there is no arguing with ignorance, but it has infuriated me all day. Not so much the belief he is potentially denying a child a mother, but the belief that a real family, the only family we should aspire to, is one with a mother and a father.

For it is my belief, that if they had been given the chance my brother and his partner would have done just as good a job at rearing their children as I and my husband have done.

Here in Ireland we are edging closer to the referendum on gay marriage. I am proud we are having this conversation, and that the country is getting the chance to right a wrong. However it is not a done deal by any stretch of the imagination. I just hope the numbers come out and vote, and that this country makes the right decision.

Then I’ll just wait in hope of a big day out!

46 thoughts on “Can only a Mother, mother?

  1. My niece is gay and her lover is all she could ever want and as a couple they are doing an amazing job with the two children. With the organization I volunteer for I have seen firsthand what great nurturing parents fathers make.

    1. Thank you Jackie. It seems so ridiculous that we are even having this referendum. Love is love. How lovely to hear your niece is living as she should, a ‘normal’ life.

  2. I post this with reserve. I do not want to create argument or denigrate anyone. But it is part of the conversation. Gay people are people and can love and care for others as much as anyone and deserve respect as human beings. However, men are men and women are women, and they bring something to children that the other cannot. I realize that many times a woman or man has to do single parenting; I have a daughter who is a single parent, but research is showing that children do better with the influence of a mother and a father.

    1. I think we have yet to properly research single sex rearing children. When we can compare apples with apples then we can make correct comparisons.
      However I am glad you commented, as it would appear you believe as passionately as i do but on the opposite side.
      Maybe if you knew as many as I do who are gay you might change your mind, but I respect your opinion.

  3. I used to work in early childhood mental health. Believe me, I saw lots of terrible parenting. But never among the gay couples I met with. They never called me because there children were “behaving like monsters.” They called me because they were so concerned about being great parents and were hungry to learn.
    I hope it passes in Ireland! Yeah for love!

    1. Fingers crossed. I do wonder if in time we will have real figures which I believe will prove there is no disadvantage in having two same sex parents… maybe it will be proved to be an advantage!

  4. To have 2 loving and caring parents of any combinations should be the end goal. I grew up with a mom and a dad than a mom, a step dad and a dad with many girlfriends. He eventually picked one and remarried. Over the years, I gained in-laws that I love and lost my step-dad and father-in-law due to illness. One can never have too many loving parents. My husband was our daughter’s main care taker for awhile while I was working on my career and to this day, he his better at bedtime than me but I am now the one who can answer the calls to drop everything and come get her… Life is a cycle. I have a friend who married his partner this past summer and for us this was just two friends getting married. If they decide to have kids, they will become a family of 2 parents with a child. Nothing more or less than we are… Two parents with a child.

    1. Thanks so much Pascale I think that when you know couples who are gay you see how ordinary they are, just as your two friends are. I loved your analogy showing how many parents you had in your life and saying ‘One can never have too many loving parents’.
      I think that line says it all. Thank you.

  5. Excellent post Tric. Surely children growing up in a loving home where they are cared for, nurtured and respected is far more important than whether their parents are mother/father, mother/mother or father/father.
    And I do hope you get to throw on your heels for a lovely day out to celebrate your brother and his partner, I will certainly be in your favour 🙂

      1. Unfortunately you are probably right. I do feel people aren’t really looking at the bigger picture at all. Fingers crossed for the right outcome.

  6. Fantastic post Tric, as always! I do not personally know any gay people but I have no aversion to them, it doesn’t matter to me what anyone’s sexual preferences are, I don’t think it makes any difference to who I see them as a person, just like I couldn’t give a fiddlers fart if some was straight either. I get to know the person and would never judge.

    I’m glad I read your post. As you may know I’m the primary caregiver to my son and the bond between him and I is quite intense. I ofter worry if something happened to me how would my other half cope. He is never here and sadly I’ve done all the raring myself. He can be quite abrupt with our son and I am the softer parent, the one who is always there for the hugs and kisses and to reassure our son when he’s sad or scared of something. I thought only a mother could give this type of love and do believe that mothers have a very unique bond with their children.

    However, after reading your post, who am I to say that two gay men could not give that love to a child/children of their own? There are many mothers and fathers out there who have given up on their children, walked out and didn’t look back (I didn’t grow up with my own father and it had a huge effect on me) but if two men, two women or a man and a woman are in a happy, stable relationship and long for a child then why deny them that right and that child the right to a loving home?

    Thank you for making me think below the surface and look deeper into both sides of the arguement Tric, as always you are an inspiration. Hopefully one day we can live in a country that does not deny people their basic rights to happiness, love and making their own decisions.

    1. Thanks Fiona for your comment. I found it so very interesting that for you the issue wasn’t single sex, but more the lack of a mother. I’m delighted my post helped you imagine that a father can mother, and I hope equally that a mother can father.
      I think the bottom line is that as long as a child knows they are truly loved and cared for they do not feel they have missed out.
      On one occasion not too long after my friend had died, I called to the house and her husband was chatting to me but writing. I asked him what he was doing and he said. ‘That brats maths homework, she doesn’t want to do it and I don’t want to have to send in a note. I’ve Irish to do too!’
      His ‘brat’ was 11 and was missing her mom a lot. I was highly amused but so delighted, as in a million years I had never for a moment imagined him doing such a thing. He went on to do a whole lot more for all of them. When we have to, we can.

  7. Tric, great post as always. There is a lovely phrase a single parent friend once used which covers all types of parent and that is a ‘fathering mother’ or a ‘mothering father’. Once a child is loved and looked after that is all that matters. Who can judge otherwise?

  8. One of my daughters best friends has two mammies. Two of the most strong, funny and loving people I know. They are amazing parents.
    Anywho the sooner the referendum the better. And as you say I hope Ireland come out in there thousands!!

    1. Children don’t find this odd at all. Hopefully the next generation will be a much more tolerant group.
      Fingers crossed for May. I think it will pass but I’m taking no chances.

  9. I just think it is amazing for anyone to adopt a child, I would gladly like a child who was without a family to be given one that was ready to love and care for it. What more could any child want?

    1. I agree wholeheartedly with you. Why argue over the rights and wrongs of a parent when a child has none, and there are couples and individuals out there to love them.

  10. great post, tric – and loved the quote about ‘marriage’ predating christianity

    couples have been falling in love and choosing to live together since the dawn of history – it really is the height of arrogance for the church to seek to claim ‘marriage ‘ is a christian invention sanctioned by their God

    fingers crossed the vote in May will go the way you wish

    for the life of me, if a couple love each other and want to spend a lifetime together in partnership/marriage, I can’t see what difference it makes whether they are male-female, male-male, or female-female – all that matters is that they love and support one another and make each other happy

    I have lived long enough to see a radical change in how ‘society’ views couples in a non-heterosexual relationship – from horror, fear, loathing, condemnation in the ’50s/’60s to a gradual acceptance they are just people like everyone else and their sexual preference is just a small part of who they are and not a defining characteristic

    this change in attitude was brought home to me just a couple of weeks ago at work

    one of my colleagues was leaving to take up a new position with another company

    the M.D. called us all together at lunchtime to thank him for all he had done for us in the few short years he had been with us, to wish him well for the future, and to present him with a large sum of money collected on his behalf from his soon-to-be former workmates

    I work for a small engineering company – predominately male, traditional working class employees – and yet, looking round, I saw I wasn’t the only one struggling to hold back a tear or two as we bid farewell to a colleague and a mate – a mate who just happened to be gay and open about it

    for his sexuality was only a small part of who he was

    he was accepted, liked, and respected because of the person he was – no-one gave a f**k about his sexual preferences, and it struck me what a long way we have come since the ’50s/’60s

    hopefully, Ireland, in May, will take that big step into the future – it’s not as scary as some might think !

    just stop allowing a religious sect to determine what is ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ – treat everyone as an equal, with respect, and life is so much nicer

    fingers crossed, tric, that the vote in May will go the right way – meanwhile, I’m keeping my fingers crossed that the attempt by ‘R’ and his partner ‘J’ to adopt a child will be approved – I am confident they will be excellent parents and give some child a loving, caring, supportive environment to grow up in

    1. Thanks Duncan, sorry for my tardy delay but it was a busy weekend socially (if you get what I mean!) I loved your comment and I couldn’t agree more. Even in the fifteen years since my brother made his big announcement I see huge changes in Irish society. I have great confidence in the next generation, but until it’s over the line I do worry about the dinosaurs and those of strong religious beliefs scuppering it.

      I know without a shadow of a doubt my brother and his partner would have made amazing parents, because of who they are irrespective of the fact they are gay.
      Fingers crossed.

  11. Great post. While I can see the argument for children needing both a good male and female role model in their life, there’s no reason that this has to be their biological parents (and often isn’t)!

    1. Exactly. If we look around us there is evidence of that everywhere, even in my own life. Love is what really matters and I’m sure many gay parents would love their children exactly as much as heterosexual parents would.

    1. Yes I agree. Hopefully this is a new start for this country, one I’d be proud to be a part of. Heaven knows at this stage we need something to be grateful for with some of the messes this country is in.

  12. What a fabulous post. Absolutely, a human being, male or female, gay or straight, aunt or uncle, can be a fabulous mother. It’s what’s INSIDE the person, it’s the nurturing, that counts. I watch my son with his children, and many times I think, ‘what a good mother he is!’ Cool, huh?

    1. Actually you are right in many ways my husband was at times a wonderful ‘mother’ to my gang. Yes there is more to parenting than your gender role. Thank you.

  13. I’ve thought about this post a lot over the last few days, tric. Reading it coincided with my reading a lot on attachment parenting and the prevailing orthodoxy around ‘maternal instinct’, which, when you dig deeper, is revealed not to be an absolute objective truth. The far-reaching benefits of mother-centric parenting has come in for scrutiny by credible researchers, with the net result being that no – the purported claims and outcomes (from emotional development, to a raft of health benefits) don’t stand up to a good kicking. Which is not to say that these approaches are not to be supported, or the satisfaction parents derive from them dismissed or invalidated – many approaches make happy families. But I think it gives lie to the accepted wisdom that a child will thrive best within the traditional nuclear family only.

    I would hope those who resolutely advocate for the more intense form of attachment parenting and rearing, while at the same time supporting the rights of gay couples to raise children, would realise the potentially contradictory nature of their views. Allowing skepticism into the debate is fair game, but that cuts a number of ways.

    Really thought-provoking post.

    1. Thanks a million for adding so much to the conversation. Initially I was writing this post almost from that view point, and was toying with the title ‘Women need to get over themselves’, or ‘mothers you are not that special’, but I think this one probably worked better.:) Great minds!

  14. I agree with your mother: but you can only know if you got it right with your kids in hindsight, and by then it’s sometimes too late 🙂 I also have absolutely no problem with families of any blend, the only issue I have is that some people do, and that could be hard on the children. So lots more education, awareness and a global change of attitude is needed, I think.

    1. Yes I agree with it being difficult to be different, but children are very resilient and overall I don’t think it would be their greatest difficulty as long as they felt loved and wanted.
      I think there will always be discrimination of some sort there but I am pleasantly surprised how the tide is turning so quickly over the past few years. Hopefully May will prove this to be the case.
      Thanks for adding to the conversation. I appreciate it.

  15. The tide is most definitely turning, Tric. My youngest, at 8, told me recently that she had to have words with a boy in her class who made a derogatory comment about gay people. According to Anna her words were, ‘ You’re being homophobic and I take offence at that. You’re insulting my big brother and sister.’
    When I asked what he said in reply she said, ‘Nothing. He just looked at me a bit funny and walked away.’
    I must admit I looked at her a bit funny too. I didn’t know she had it in her. But I’m proud she has and that she sees no reason to treat any of her brothers or sisters differently. Your 17 year old daughter is right. If it doesn’t go through – and I hope it does – the next generation will make sure of it. Even while there are still children being raised to ridicule there are many who are not.
    Love is love and all people -whatever their sexuality – can demonstrate it in many ways and are entitled to the same rights as everyone else.
    There are a lot of people who need to get over themselves when it comes to dictating the terms of love.
    My fingers are crossed for you. I hope you get to your brother’s wedding sooner rather than later.

  16. You must be very proud of your daughter, she sounds wonderful, and very well informed.
    I remember when my brother first told me he was gay I wondered if he would ever find love and I was sad he wouldn’t have children. Now twenty years later the future of gay couples in Ireland seems brighter, if this goes through it will be even better.
    Thanks so much for taking the time to comment and share your own experiences. It was an interesting read.

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