One of the most striking aspects I’ve seen in working with lesbian and gay prospective parents is the amount of thoughtfulness, creativity and deliberateness that goes into the decision to bring children in their lives. Pregnancy is planned, not accidental, and there is usually not as much social or family expectation or pressure to parent.
On the other hand, without the reminders and expectations of parenthood, it can be easier to postpone pregnancy or adoption until later in life or to not even consider this life-altering choice. I often ask a gay or lesbian couple to think of it like this: If they looked back at the end of their lives, would they regret not having made the decision to bring children into their lives? If the answer is yes, then they have some decisions to make sooner than later.
When I lead Lesbian and Gay Considering Parenthood groups, three emerge repeatedly:
1. Is it selfish of me to want to parent? The answer is yes. But it is selfish for anyone. Parenting is a major time-consuming and expensive process. You have to have selfish motivations in order to deliberately take such a path. You are no more selfish than anyone else.
2. If I decide to bring children into my life, will I lose friends? Don’t expect everyone to approve, especially friends who are invested in not having children of their own, or have not examined their feelings about lesbian and gay parents. However, raising a child is also a great way to make new social beginnings. Finding supportive peers who are also considering parenthood or are already parents can greatly help.
3. Will I ever get my life back if I become a parent? No, but you will get a different one.
Another big consideration is how lesbian and gay men bring children into their lives. This varies greatly. Some adopt. Others choose pregnancy via insemination at a sperm bank. Others use a surrogate. Sometimes, instead of structuring a family around a same-sex domestic partnership or marriage, a gay man and a lesbian with a good relationship may decide to parent together so that the child will be raised by the two biological parents. Some choose to become single parents. Generally, the best way to start a family is the one that works work best for the parents to be vs. what someone might think is the right way to do it.
However, do not start the process of parenting without understanding what your legal boundaries and obligations will be toward the child and its other parent or sperm donor. It is always best to not make such a big decision in isolation. If you already have lots of lesbian and gay friends, who are parents or thinking of parenting, consider yourself lucky. If not, do some fieldwork. I would be happy to speak with you about how you can start to become part of a lesbian and gay family community.
As biologically based creatures, most people inherently have an intense inbuilt need to nurture and create. What is most important about considering parenthood, I believe, is that we pause long enough to give ourselves the sacred space to consider how we will manifest this most basic human potential. By doing so, we allow ourselves access to more of our humanity, gain a broader perspective ourselves, and how our lives will ultimately affect the world in which we live in.
© Copyright 2011 by Cheryl Deaner, MS, LMFT, therapist in Emeryville, California. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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