Dear Straight People: Please Stop Asking Us Who The 'Real' Mom Is

by Diana Eastman
Two young lesbian moms sitting next to each other while their baby peacefully rests in a crib just b...
SolStock / iStock

A friend of mine turned to Facebook this morning to vent her frustrations about people referring to the person who donated his sperm so that she and her wife could make a beautiful baby as a “dad.” He’s a donor, not a dad. But her frustration wasn’t so much with that question, but more so with the people who ask her who her children’s “real” mom is. And it is safe to say by the 20-plus responses to her Facebook post, many parents in the LGBT community have been asked this question multiple times and share in her frustration.

Most of the time, it is just ignorance and curiosity. People don’t mean to alienate the other parent. They don’t mean to point out that there is no DNA link between mother and child (not like that makes a difference anyway, though, right?), and they don’t mean to insinuate that the mom who carried the child is the “real” mom and the other mom just some random chick they’ve decided to live with.

But when you see two moms and their beautiful child in the grocery store and ask them which one is the “real” mom, you’re doing all of those things. In most cases, one of us carried this crazy, on-the-verge of a tantrum kid for nine months, and the other one rubbed her feet, helped build the crib, cried when the three other pregnancy tests said no, and has changed her fair share of dirty diapers. She’s been puked on, woken up, and embarrassed in public just as often as the one who carried the baby. They are both the moms. Whose body the child came out of is irrelevant.

Most of the people I know would be more than happy to engage in conversation about our unique family makeup and would be happy to answer most questions. That is how we change the world, after all, by engaging in positive and healthy dialogue and opening our eyes to a reality that is different from our own. (But asking us if we used a “turkey baster” while we load our groceries into our car is not appropriate. Don’t ask that. We don’t ask you how you guys made your kids!)

Curiosity is natural, and if you’re genuinely interested in how two girls make a baby, just use a polite disclaimer: “If this is too personal, just let me know. I’m just really curious about how you made your family. I’ve never met an LGBT family before.” This gives them an opportunity to tell you what (if anything) they want you to know. And if you put your detective hat on, you might just be able to figure out who the biological mom is by the information you’re given. But you’d be surprised by how little it changes anything, although to be honest, some of us gays go to great lengths to keep you guessing, which is kind of fun to watch as you try to process it. #sorrynotsorry

I get that there are some exceptions, such as a medical professional needing to know who the biological mother of the child is in order to best meet the needs of the child, and sometimes it’s not about what you say but how you say it. In this unique sense, asking who the biological mom is expected, but addressing both of us as moms, looking at both of us when you give medical advice, and confidently using the phrase “your moms” when speaking to our child is the kindest and most professional way to handle our unique family makeup.

Would you go up to a traditional family in the store and ask the male if he’s the “real” dad to those kids he’s lugging so patiently around the grocery store? Probably not. And why? Because it just doesn’t matter. He’s just a guy who’s in the store with his kids, just like we’re moms in the store with our kids.

Being a “real” mom is earned, but it is not dependent on whether or not you grew a person in your uterus. Being a mom is about late-night feedings, first milestones, and wearing your heart outside of your body for the rest of your life. We are both moms. We would both take a bullet for this kid who is now screaming for a “lellow” balloon and is probably going to cry the whole way home. We will both deal with that car ride, and the millions of other car rides to come, together.

We are both real moms. And to our fellow moms, gay or straight, you know how real the struggle is. You know how time-consuming and frustrating and exhausting and emotional being a mom can be, and that sometimes it’s that disapproving glare from granny in aisle 6 that sends us over the edge and makes us feel like we’re doing it all wrong.

As moms, we have to support each other, and acknowledge the strength and hard work and patience and love and dedication and sacrifice it takes to be a mom, not divide each other into “us” and “them” groups. That’s what mommy groups are for (kind of kidding).

Whether the baby came out of our body, our partner’s body, or the body of a stranger who was willing to give us this most precious gift, we are both the “real” moms to this bundle of unpredictable cuteness. And although we do not need your validation, we certainly don’t need to be made to feel as though our role in this family is somehow secondary.

We get that you’re just curious, and we have a lot of experience dealing with people who mean well and just haven’t been taught the appropriate way to ask these questions. So there ya go. We’re both the real moms — there’s your answer.