Our Family: Tiffany and Carla
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 Tiffany, a 31-year-old small business owner, her partner Carla, a 30-year-old social services worker, and their four children: Darren, Aisha, Erica and Jermaine.*
ELIXHER: Tell us a bit about your family.
TIFFANY: We have four children, all biological. My partner has three girls and I have one boy from previous heterosexual relationships. We live outside of DC in Northern Virginia.
Darren, 9, is the lone boy! He’s very diplomatic, but he also thinks he knows everything and will debate a point until the end. He is very confident, right or wrong. He, like most boys, loves video games, plays football and basketball. He’s also an honor roll student. He’s also very forgetful. It’s typical for him to misplace something. He lost a quarter from the door of the house to the car and again from the car to school one time. But this is typical Darren! [Laughs.]
Aisha, the oldest girl, is 8. She is our little fashionista and chatterbox. I swear she’s the next Oprah or Donna Karan. She loves all things girly and is a Girl Scout. She has an incredible eye for design and makes clothes for her dolls. I mean stuff that we would want to wear. She loves people and being around people and talking to people. She’s extremely extroverted.
Erica is 5 and is very strong-willed. She just started Kindergarten and loves it. She was upset because there was no school on the weekends! She is the only one of all four of the children who helps me in the kitchen. Albeit, she’s just “working” for a taste of whatever I’m making, but she’s always a big help and can be counted on to get stuff done. Unlike Darren, if I want something held on to, I can give it to Erica. If you give her something, trust, she will not lose it.
Then there’s Jermaine who is 4 and is the boss. She’s our little enforcer and helps keeps the other kids in line. She’s not afraid to get in someone’s face and tell them what they need to do. [Laughs.]
ELIXHER: It sounds like a lot of personalities under one roof! How long have you and your partner been together? And how/when did you know it was the “right” time blend families?
TIFFANY: We were together in high school, and she found me again after ten years apart. I’ve always loved her and so it was just “right.”
ELIXHER: How do you define “family”?
TIFFANY: Two or more people who love and care about each and work together towards common goals and ensure that everyone is happy, healthy and taken care of.
ELIXHER: Describe a typical day for you and your family.
TIFFANY: It’s pretty much routine. My girlfriend gets up, gets Darren dressed and takes him to school and heads to work. I get up, get Aisha dressed, she gets on the school bus and I come up to my home office and go to work.
ELIXHER: What’s your favorite family activity?
TIFFANY: I like the holidays. I think we always have a good time. We always bake something and do holiday activities, arts and crafts together.
ELIXHER: At what age and how did you explain to your kids that some families have two mommies or two daddies? What was their response?
TIFFANY: At this point, the kids just know. We told them a little bit after we began to live together. I don’t think we received any particular response. I don’t think it makes a difference to them.
ELIXHER: Are the children’s birth fathers involved in their lives?
TIFFANY: Yes they are. My son spends every other week with his dad. Our youngest daughters live with their dad out of state.
ELIXHER: How do you ensure that your son (and daughters) have male role models? Is this a concern?
TIFFANY: No, it’s not a concern. The main concern is the quality of people they have in their life. We wouldn’t want our kids around a bunch of losers just because we think they need male role models.
ELIXHER: How do the kids address you and your partner?
TIFFANY: My son calls me “Mommy” and my partner’s daughters call me by my first name and vice versa. Every so often they will refer to us as “Mommy 1” and “Mommy 2.” Honestly, what they call us depends on what they are trying to get from us. [Laughs.] But you know, they have grown up most their lives with just one mom. It’s just the past 2-3 years that we’ve been together, so it’s not like we were together from the birth of the children. We don’t make them or expect them to call us both “Mommy.” They don’t have to. But they know and understand we are both their parents.
ELIXHER: What has been the biggest challenge raising children as a lesbian couple?
TIFFANY: Honestly, I can’t think of anything.
ELIXHER: What has been the greatest gift?
TIFFANY: We don’t have to deal with preconceived gender roles. I think gender roles in this day and age are a bit archaic anyway. I can see how gender roles can hinder a family from functioning as well as it should. Conforming to what people are “supposed” to do is something we don’t have to deal with.
ELIXHER: What advice do you have for other same-sex couples thinking about starting a family?
TIFFANY: Children are a lot of work! They require constant care and attention. On the other hand, kids aren’t as fragile as people think. Parents don’t have a manual; we make mistakes too. So, if you’re waiting for the “right” time to start a family…there is no “right” time. Love makes a family and that’s what matters.
*Names have been changed.