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 catch up with Jae and Em, a beautiful couple in the process of planning their wedding.
ELIXHER: Tell us a bit about your family.
JAE: We have a 3 person, 1 cat household. I am 30, my partner, Em, is 30 as well. I have a 9-year-old biological daughter from a previous relationship and a feisty but sweet blue-eyed cat named Farrah.
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?
JAE: We’ve been together for 4 years. Em and I both lived in Tennessee when we met. After Em took a job in Texas, I soon followed. Driving 7 hours each weekend wasn’t going to work for me. We both discovered that together everything was so much better. Food tasted better, colors looked brighter and no matter what was going on, even on our bad days, something within us always found a sense of comfort in each other.
EM: When I started to consider Jae as ‘family’ – I knew I was ready to take our relationship to the next level. Marriage.
ELIXHER: How do you define “family”?
EM: I define family as those that are around to nurture and celebrate the real you. Often people cling to their biological families first because there is an expectation that comes with the blood relation. However, if your biological family is not providing a positive influence and support system, there are many others out there who will stand in the gap as ‘family.’ These relationships are just as important, and maybe even more so because it is a chosen relationship and not automatic.
ELIXHER: Describe a typical day for you and your family.
EM: The kid leaves for school around 7:30am. We are lucky she is older. We don’t have to do much in the way of getting her ready – except I make her lunch the night before and Jae will style her hair and sign her homework chart in the morning before she leaves. Jae is off to work by 8 and I get up right after she leaves. I work from home. The kid returns from school at 3:00pm and Jae gets home around 6:30. I cook, and we have dinner at 7:30. The kid is in bed by 9pm and after that is our quality time together. This is a typical week sprinkled with my floral certification classes, Jae’s homework or fitness classes, bike riding in the evenings, the kid’s basketball practice or drama club, video games, dinner at restaurants. Pretty normal and boring stuff.
ELIXHER: What’s your favorite family activity?
EM: We go for bike rides together when the weather is nice. We like to go out to dinner and get gelato (this is popular in the spring). Most recently its been playing the Xbox with Kinect. We have a number of dancing and karaoke games. Jae and the kid can spend all day on that thing.
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?
JAE: I explained to my daughter at the age of 7 that there were all different types of families. Unfortunately, other people in her sphere had already planted many ideas in her head about same-sex relationships so it was not an easy conversation. Over the past couple of years it has gotten much better. It takes a lot of patience when dealing with children from a previous heterosexual relationship, but it’s not impossible. We’ve let our love for each other speak for our relationship and she is in a much better place.
ELIXHER: What has been the biggest challenge raising children as a same-sex couple?
EM: I think the biggest challenge is worrying that the ‘outside’ world will treat our children negatively because of our relationship. I can honestly say we have not encountered this yet, but it is something that concerns me. I want our children to be proud of their family and teach the outside world what a loving family looks like and not the other way around.
Another challenge for me is parenting a child that was conceived in a heterosexual relationship and having to deal with those strong influences. Being a stepparent already has its nuisances but couple that with being a same-sex stepparent and you have the makings for a really good book.
ELIXHER: What advice do you have for other same-sex couples thinking about starting a family?
EM: I think the advice I would give would be the same advice I would give to anyone planning to start a family. Be confident that this is who you want to have a family with. Being a family ties you together for life and a strong tie is very important when raising children.
Read more about Jae and Em’s journey here!