Rivka Cocker’s personal account of growing up with two mums for TWSS Issue 15.
I have two mums. My nephew has five grandmas. The most ‘nuclear’ thing going on in my family is probably an outing to a CND march to protest nuclear weapons.
Growing up as the child of lesbian parents, one of the weirdest things I’ve come across is ‘new’ research findings reporting that children from same-sex families achieve just as well as children from heterosexual families. To me, this comes as absolutely no surprise. Does the non-heteronormative gender and sexuality of my parents really make me that different? I was pleasantly surprised after a quick Google search to find a study stating that I, as a child of same-sex parents, am likely to be more socially aware and have higher self-esteem than heterosexual-parented peers. I’m amused by the idea of academics researching children who grow up with two mums or two dads finding that, SHOCK HORROR, they aren’t all that different. Put crudely, the presence of a middle-aged penis (or any age penis for that matter) in my household doesn’t affect my academic ability. I think my parents would appreciate me saying here that they aren’t separatists, in fact, some of their best friends are men!
The expression ‘my mum’ is one I use interchangeably for both mums. I realise this may be confusing for my close friends, although I do think they enjoy the ‘can you guess which mum I’m talking about?’ game. Uni friends, though, who haven’t yet had the joy of meeting the radical duo, or acquaintances who don’t necessarily know that I have lesbian parents, must think I have a multi-faceted double-personality super-woman for a mother! Which I do – ‘she’ just happens to be two people. And yes, I know what you’re thinking: Mother’s Day must be double the work, but it all equals out when I can chill out on Father’s Day – or even crash my friend’s Father’s Day celebrations (e.g. dinner in Chinatown one year at a restaurant owned by the man who claimed to bring bubble tea to the UK. Thank you bubble tea man: men aren’t completely useless it seems).
Someone once asked me what it’s like having two mums. I laughed because it’s ‘like’ nothing. Nothing different, if that’s what they wanted me to say. It is, for want of a better word, ‘normal’ to me – and how could it not be? I haven’t known any other way, so there’s no way for me to fairly compare growing up in any other family set-up. Plus, where would we be without queering social norms?
Whilst writing this article, my flatmate asked me how, in the earlier years of my life, my mums dealt with other children questioning my family. I think that the answer lies in the spatial patterning of the LGBT+ community. Proudly born and raised in Stoke Newington, Hackney, I have come to learn that I live in what I like to call a lesbian hub. This meant that I was brought up in a strongly established lesbian network (they all know each other!) with many other children who have 2 mums or 2 dads or some other amalgamation of parents. My friend and her mums used to hold 2 mummies parties! In this way, and in this community, having 2 mums was celebrated, and I never felt different to the other children in my class, even if Italian food brand Barilla claims that I am not part of a “classic family” – boycotting homophobic brands must come from my enhanced social-awareness.
Being raised by two women undoubtedly helped shape me into the feminist I am today: Princess Smarty-Pants was a frequent bedtime read, to say the least. The countless fairy stories I insisted we read may have struck my parents as less empowering, and it might have taken a few years of tongue-biting through my princess and Barbie phases (never Bratz, I was faithful – and not into oversized heads). Through all the DIY science kits, lack of ballet classes and ugly ‘boy’ trainers I reluctantly wore through my childhood, pink remains my favourite colour. Oops. Growing up, I’ve learnt that all feminists are different and that even if I was raised by two women/two feminists (not to mention the older sister), I couldn’t resist holding onto a few gender norms. Taking all this into account, I can honestly say that my brother, sister and I are lucky to have grown up under a roof with two women of the house, and this doesn’t make me different to any other woman.
Illustration by Rivka Cocker.