Our Family is a series that celebrates two-mommy families and delves into some of the challenges they face. The goal of the series is to depict same-sex parent families in a way that’s authentic and dispels myths associated with same-sex childrearing. Today we talk to Davone, 37, and Tiffany, 30, about what family means to them, co-parenting and more.
ELIXHER: Tell us a bit about your family.
DAVONE: My immediate family consists of myself, my fiancée Tiffany (soon to be married 12/23/11) and my daughter Tatyana. My extended family includes Tatyana’s father, Dewayne, because he is big part of our lives and is included in all major decisions about Tatyana. Tatyana is 17 years old and resides both with Tiffany and myself and with her father in Atlanta. She goes to school in Atlanta full-time and travels back to New York on holidays, vacations and once a month for weekend trips.
ELIXHER: How long have you and your partner been together? And how/when did you know it was the “right” time to start or blend families?
TIFFANY: I’ve known Davone, Tatyana and Dewayne since 2008 but we decided to blend our families in September 2010. We realized it was the right time to blend our families when Davone and I decided to make a commitment to be as one. We spoke to Tatyana about it and once she gave the “OK” we started the process of making both families one.
ELIXHER: How do you define “family”?
DAVONE: Family means a unit. A unit of people bonded together by one common factor which is love. You don’t have to be born into a family to be a “family.” You just have to want to be as one.
ELIXHER: Describe a typical day for you and your family.
TIFFANY: Davone and I go to work. During the summer, Tatyana works as a intern from home. We will get home from work, Davone cleans while I cook dinner. Tatyana is on the phone like any normal teenager. After dinner we sit on the sofa and watch TV. On the weekends we may do a family activity like shopping at the mall, dinner at a restaurant or the movies. We have a very typical family structure; it’s just that Tatyana is being raised by two mothers and a dad.
ELIXHER: What’s your favorite family activity?
DAVONE: We all love to shop! Even Dewayne is a shopper. Tatyana and I love accessories shopping. Tiffany and I love to go shoe shopping, so I get the best of both worlds. [Laughs.] We all also love to eat at our favorite restaurants.
ELIXHER: At what age and how did or do you explain to your kids that some families have two mommies or two daddies? What was their response?
DAVONE: From the time she was born, Tatyana has only seen me date women or her daddy. I read her a book called “Heather Has Two Mommies” when she was 7 years old. She understood what I was trying to say by giving me a kiss. By 10 years old she told me she was lucky to have a mommy and one day two mommies. She said she was special. I agreed.
ELIXHER: What has been the biggest challenge raising children as a same-sex couple?
TIFFANY: I think our greatest challenge is everyone deciding on one thing and agreeing. Whether it’s a punishment or schooling, Davone and Dewayne make the decision together. We schedule a conference call and discuss the issue at hand and come up with a solid decision that we all stand firm on.
ELIXHER: What has been the greatest gift?
DAVONE: The greatest gift is watching something I saw from inception grow up to be a beautiful young lady. She is a well-rounded young lady that’s not judgmental. She understands that a family isn’t just a mother, father and a child but a family has many different forms. No one looks unusual to her but everyone looks unique.
ELIXHER: What has been key to successfully co-parenting with Tatyana’s biological father?
DAVONE: The key to successful co-parenting is communication. Nothing is a secret. When one of us has information about Tatyana, we follow the chain of communication until everyone knows about it. We all stay on the same page.
ELIXHER: What advice do you have for other same-sex couples thinking about starting a family?
TIFFANY: Don’t rush into anything. Build a relationship with the children if you’re coming into a family and blending it as one. Take your time in finding the right donor. Davone and I are looking into expanding our family one more time, and we are researching and taking our time with the process. Point blank: don’t rush!