I knew we would get the “whose the real mother” question eventually, but I hadn’t figured it would come like this.
A little background: Nico’s just moved up to from the baby room at daycare to the toddler room. The two rooms are separated by an open door with a window in-between so it’s not all that much different, but it feels like a big step. In the toddler room the kids sit at a mini-table to eat instead of in highchairs. They have a mini ball-filled mosh pit to play in and they take one set nap from 12 to 2 p.m. every day. They also get to go out on buggy rides from time to time, which makes me want to be a toddler again.
The other difference is the employees working with them. In the baby room, I grew close to this woman Corina who was with Nico in the mornings. She’s a highly Catholic daughter of Mexican-born parents who talks a lot about her church and family, but she also had this lovely gentle and accepting spirit. Though I am sure we were the first same-sex couple she’s known, she always treated us with complete acceptance and ease (which is not as much as I can say for other people around here: they never say anything directly to us, but it’s clear they think we’re odd).
In the new room I like most of the staff, but there is one woman who works in the afternoon who always seems to be looking at me askance. Then the other day, when I went to get Nico, she said to me, “Do you carry her?”
Nico was crawling toward me from across the room when she asked this, so I wasn’t paying all that much attention thought at first that she had asked the question in the present tense. How odd, I though, of course I carry my daughter. But then I reheard what she had asked: “Did you carry her?”
I was so surprised that I answered the question without thinking. “No,” I said, “Marta carried her.”
But afterwards I was unsettled and, then later, kinda pissed off. I don’t mind discussing the dynamics of our family with people, but I want to be the one who initiates that conversation. I also think it depends on context. With some people, like this woman, you know they are asking because what they really want to know is who the “real” mom. And that underlying question is what grates at me. You wouldn’t ask a heterosexual woman if she carried her baby–even she might not have. She might have adopted. But she gets assumptive motherhood, whereas with lesbian couples there can be a tendency to try to legitimate one mother while de-legitimating the other. If only slightly.
And so, I’ve decided I need to have a ready-made answer on hand so I don’t get taken by surprise again. Both Marta and I want and plan to be open with Nico about her biological origins, but that doesn’t mean we need to be open every Dick Tom and Harry who asks. I also don’t want to make sure her daycare and (in the future) schools support the idea of her having two “real” moms.
Do any of you other lesbian moms out there have a strategy that works? Or do any of you other creative folks (Uncle Bob, I’m talking to you of course) have some ideas?