Wow what a crappy year 2020 was!!! Started on a high following our first family Christmas and New Year, we were looking forward to having our first family summer vacation with the in-laws but COVID had other plans!!!
But a positive of 2020 I actually accepted and finally opened up to those close to me about my mental health struggles which had come to a full on crisis last month to the point where I was drinking more, not eating properly (whether not eating at all or bingeing), going to very dark places, feeling that it might be better for those around me if I wasn’t around anymore. I held on to a lot of guilt and self hatred for the family separation during the initial part of the coronavirus pandemic.
It all came to a peak when I developed a ‘exit plan’, this is when I scared me I knew I needed to speak to my Gp and get some help, I spoke with my work and decided to get signed off sick. I knew it wasn’t safe for me to be there and I needed to actually take some to focus on myself and my family. After talking to my immediate family on how I was feeling, speaking with my therapist and the community psych nurse as well as starting a new medication I started to feel a tad better. I’m still not feeling back to myself but I am in such a better place than that I was say at the end of November.
But there is something about being a dad that makes this so much harder. Society dictates that as a Dad your not allowed to feel certain ways, and dads are often overlooked. For me there’s also the explanation that I’m a gay dad which is either responded to with raised eyebrows or that’s amazing….which I find patronising. Adoption as well just adds a lot more stress and pressure, adopted children come with a traumatised history, emotionally they are not the same age so when they have an emotional meltdown and you handle it in a therapeutic manner those around you tend to not understand and label it just ‘naughty behaviour’. This is also a parenting technique which isn’t associated as a norm for a dad. Modern day dads are hands on with parenting (regardless of parenting technique), housework, involved in their education and it’s still not deemed normal in society.
But thanks to the wonders of the online adoption community, LGBT community and the online dads community (namely the Dad AF app) have been amazing. There’s a world of support out there, and we dads have to be that pillar of support for each other as not many others get it.
Well, hi guys! Its been a while since my last blog post, I think probably around 6 months and as I’m sure as you all know the world is a crazy ass place at the moment what with the massive spotlight being placed on inequalities in our communities around the world (and rightly so). Despite me being a white male being gay, having an Indian husband, working in a mostly female dominated environment and being a gay dad I have been subjected to many different varieties of prejudice and discrimination, as I’m sure you can imagine or may have even experienced. The LGBT community faces a lot of different issues compared to other communities for example 52% of the LGBT experience depression, 72% of bisexual women and 56% of bi men have experienced anxiety (Stonewall 2018). Further to this 25% of the global population believe that being LGBT should be a crime (Stonewall 2016), here is a link to these stats https://www.stonewall.org.uk/media/lgbt-facts-and-figures
Very early on in my career being a male in a paediatric nursing environment it is pretty much assumed that you are gay regardless of who that person is, the assumption comes from patients, parents, families and colleagues. Fast forward to the present things are still the same, there is this perception/stereotype that male nurses are gay, it’s just a crazy perception thing, probably tracing back to those standard childhood chats (normally from grandparents – mine definitely were like this) that girls are nurses and boys are doctors.
During the adoption process there was naturally a tonne of support from friends and family, our agency mentioned multiple times during meetings that they were the first London adoption agency that took one prospective adopters from the LGBTQ+ community. It felt that they were using this to sell their adoption agency to us and basically saying that they were the best adoption team out of the other London boroughs. Following on from this and once we were matched and having to look at schools there was that worry and to be completely honest a paranoia about double and even triple checking that the schools we were considering for our little boy ensured that diversity, inclusion and equality were factors that they exceeded in, so that we knew this would be a safe school for our little guy and for us as two gay dads who would be attending his school for all events. But also to see what they knew about attachment was as this is something that would ensure they could understand what was going on with our little guy.
Its been great to see that over the course of our adoption journey and since we have been a family of 3 how much societies attitudes have changed towards same-sex parenting. naturally there are people who we have come across who have made comments or given us disapproving looks when we have been out, some people have even commented saying that they don’t understand how two dads can parent a child. Luckily early on we found a national group called New Family Social where LGBTQ+ families can meet up with your children, this not only allows your children to play with other kids in the same situation (adopted and who has gay parents), but you get build up your social and supportive network from those who understand what it is like to be in a same-sex relationship and be a parent. Being around those who are in the same/similar situation helps to build your confidence but also brings some normality into your life and this is beneficial to your whole family. Having those around you who understand what it is your going through makes life so much easier especially, like me, as you can feel very alone and isolated.
There are a few resources available to help teach children about acceptance and diversity when it comes to LGBTQ issues, below is a list of resources that I have used with the little man to help teach him about equality and diversity, and not just in terms of LGBTQ+ rights & equality:
Books by Olly Pike. Olly has written 5 books that focus on LGBTQ+ issues as well as interracial relationships. Check out this link to see his books and other resources, my little man loves his books. https://www.popnolly.com
Pride. This is a great book teaching children about the meaning of pride and why it exists.
Auntie Uncle. Such a great book about a little boy who’s uncle goes out to work in the day but at night he becomes a fabulous drag queen!! Cant wait to get round to reading this to him.
And Tango Makes Three. This is a cute book about two gay penguins that bring up their son. Super cute which my little dude loves.
We are family. This is a sweet little book that talks about 8 different families of different backgrounds, sexualities and abilities.
Stories for boys who dare to be different. This is an amazing book about famous males such as Barack Obama, David Attenborough who struggled to begin with either in their upbringing or in their careers but made it big in the end! A great book to show children that if you struggle at first keep going because you’ll make it.
I think as long as we start to teach our children that people are different and start to get them to accept difference and diversity we can help change peoples perceptions from the beginning. My little dude is a total example of this, we have help create one of the biggest LGBTQ+ allies going, he loves everything to do with pride and rainbows!
Also for those going through the adoption process or know people who are going through the process/thinking of adopting, my first and second book editions are still available on amazon. Check out my previous blog or my website for the link to them.
So on Saturday just gone, it had been a year since squidge had moved in with us. It has been a year of just having our dream son, and a whole year of constantly hearing “Daaaaaaaaad”. I cant believe where this year has gone already its completely mind-blowing. Also so scary because it really hurts to see him growing so quickly, he’s not the little squidge that he was when he moved in just over a year ago.
The one consistent thing that has been going on on, and probably will be an ongoing thing, is that I have learnt so much. There has been a super amount of self reflection, lack of sleep because of this. I have realised that all of the learning and prep work that you go through during the adoption process is the tip of the iceberg and until your parenting a child who has gone through psychological trauma (no matter how bad it is) will you realise how tough it actually will be. We have been through the mill lately with behaviour problems, generally not listening to us, feeling like absolute shit parents at times. Countless times I have felt like a complete failure, and to be completely honest I still do, but its a two way street, he needs to feel like we will be there for him. After many discussions with our social worker and our lovely psychologist who is working with us, I’m starting to remind myself that he is testing me and that he still does love me. I think that since this is all within the last few months its partly because he is now so settled and comfortable with us as his parents that he feels able to act out. Also, I was that constant figure in his life, for around 8months I never left his side, unless he was at school or if Ricky was with him, I was present for the good, the bad and the downright ugly moments in his life. But now I have returned back to work his life has changed again and his security barriers have now risen. He is still adjusting to that. Unfortunately, my job is not a 9-5 Monday to Friday job, I work 12.5hr shifts, days and nights as well as weekends so its a major adjustment for him and for me I am bearing the brunt of it. And it’s bloody difficult.
But I am super proud of this little guy, he has adjusted amazingly to his new life and all the changes that he has had to endure, change of house, change of parents and extended family, change of school and a change of his environment. He has taken it in his stride, and done so well. Academically he is acing it, he’s made a great circle of friends at school and is wanting to have some playdates with his friends. So proud of him for this.
Despite being told by many social workers that we will not get our dream child and that we wont have our dream family, we did. And I wouldn’t change a thing about him, he is truly the son I dreamt of.