Tags: In This Issue, Parenting
When Niki Steveson and Amy Kieckbusch take their kids out to dinner, they are almost always asked a question other families don't receive: would they like one check or two? On a daily basis, the north side Indianapolis couple doesn't face major, hurtful incidents – just lots of subtle reminders that families like theirs are viewed as "different."
While they're a growing segment of the population, families with two moms are still rather rare. The U.S. Census in 2010 recorded 9,409 Indiana households headed by lesbian couples. Around a quarter of those couples are raising children – a figure similar to national statistics recorded by the U.S. Census Bureau American Community Survey.
Niki and Amy have been together seven years and are raising two boys: Amy's 8-year-old son Matthias from her previous relationship, and 20-month-old Jakoby, to whom Niki gave birth using a sperm bank. Both Niki and Amy played college basketball and are having no trouble teaching their athletic boys about sports. But recently, they started looking for guidance in helping teach Matthias how to cope with hurtful comments about his moms. "It's something we're concerned about – how to prepare him when one of his classmates says something that's not nice, and how he should respond to that," explains Niki. "Up to this point he has had no clue that there's anything different about his family."
Michele O'Mara, Ph.D., is a licensed clinical social worker in Indianapolis who specializes in counseling lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender clients. O'Mara and her partner are raising twin boys, and she has this Parenting advice for fellow same-sex couples: "My sons were taught early that 'all families are different.' We armed them with this phrase before they entered school and it has been a handy response on more than a few occasions."
Families with two moms often find themselves doing some homework to find environments that are sensitive to same-sex couples, from schools, to pediatricians to churches. O'Mara confronted this challenge when she was looking into a highly respected preschool for her sons. "I vetted the school for their sensitivity to our two-mom family because of its Christian affiliation. The answer I got was, 'Our program is not well suited for families like yours."
Still, O'Mara says incidents like that are relatively rare. In her therapy practice she's found that in many cases, the most painful rejection gay and lesbian clients face comes from within their own family. Niki says that has been true for her. "If a family member has come out, try to be more accepting," she advises other families. "It really hurts. You never get past it or over it, no matter how content or happy you are. There is always that void." But within their Indy community, Niki and Amy say they've encountered few problems. They have found tremendous support in their church, which welcomes them with open arms. For other families who have religious beliefs against homosexuality, Amy has this advice: "Raise children to be kind and caring and sensitive to all people. Raise your children to have acceptance of people who are not like their own family." Niki adds, "Children are listening to what their parents are saying at the dinner table."
Parents are parents
There is one thing above all else that Amy and Niki wish others understood about families with two moms: in most ways, they're just like everyone else. "We are pretty boring," Niki confesses. "We work in the yard, have cookouts, go to church on Sunday and have movie night on Saturday."
And, there's something else these moms do that every mom can relate to:
They love their kids. They want them to be happy, accepted and cherished.