New book tells new gay dads how to juggle things like pee blockers… and even their own hormones
By Kit-Bacon Gressitt
While it’s true that “a rose is a rose is a rose,” Gertrude Stein was surely aware that one is not identical to the next. Rather, there are differences in petals’ shapes, in the curve of each thorn, the dentation of each leaf.
And so it is with parents. Yes, they all change diapers and suffer sleep deprivation, but, as author and LGBT activist Eric Rosswood writes, “Parenting as a gay dad is different.”
Hence Rosswood’s new book, “The Ultimate Guide for Gay Dads,” released this week (Oct. 24) by Mango. In it, he replicates the thoughtful and practical approach of his previous book, the bestselling, “Journey to Same-Sex Parenthood.”
While the first book guides gay and lesbian couples through the options for achieving parenthood, “The Ultimate Guide for Gay Dads” presents the unique challenges gay couples face upon becoming fathers.
A native San Diegan who now lives with his family in New York, Rosswood reveals just about everything gay dads need to know about parenting and likely don’t: from fathers’ hormonal changes, male parent monikers, and selecting baby names that don’t encourage teasing (avoid those that rhyme with “pooper”) to family leave, tampons or napkins, and coming out as a gay parent.
The last can require particular care, and the questions strangers ask of men with young children often make it all the more challenging, something Rosswood addresses in his book with encouragement and sensitivity.
Here’s an excerpt:
“Do you remember coming out of the closet? Were you anxious and maybe a bit paranoid? Did it take you a while to get comfortable in your own skin? Well, get ready for all of those emotions to come flooding back. Having a kid is like coming out all over again, on a daily basis, especially if you have an infant. Strangers everywhere, from people in line at the grocery store to those working behind the counter at the dry cleaners, will want to tell you how cute your baby is … and then they’ll want to know where his or her mother is. … [H]aving a kid is like adding a spotlight to your being gay, and before you just had to worry about yourself. Now you have to think about your little one too, and they’ll be watching your every move. If you stutter or pause when responding to prying questions about your family, your children may pick up on you being uncomfortable, and they could start feeling that something is wrong with their family unit. So be ready for it, and practice what you’re going to say and do before you get asked the questions. Talk to your family and friends about it too, so they know how to respond when your child is present.”
While Rosswood has a gift for tactfully managing the more philosophical issues of gay parenting, he deftly handles the practical considerations with helpful lists and comparison charts: donor breast milk versus formulas, cloth or disposable diapers, the pros and cons of circumcision.
There’s even a section on all that baby stuff a parent just does not need:
“Pee Blockers — Seriously? While this may sound cute and useful, they’re pointless. These whizz blockers are supposed to prevent baby boys from spraying you during diaper changes, but in reality, they’re hard to stay put on a squirming baby, and you’ll most likely wind up getting peed on anyway.”
Rosswood’s writing style is conversational and personal, and he includes additional voices in the book — firsthand accounts from other gay fathers, which illustrate the multitude of options when making parenting decisions.
“What I wanted to do was take everything you get from regular parenting books, take out the things that are relevant to mothers and replace them with things that pertain to males,” Rosswood said. “There are so many things we need to know as a community, like we need to know that men have hormonal changes, and if two men get on a plane with an infant, it might be an issue, depending on the TSA agent. There are things male parents experience that females don’t.”
Knowing the things that are unique to gay parenthood can mean the difference between being at ease as a father or being fearful, between raising a confident child or a tentative one.
“The Ultimate Guide for Gay Dads” is a rich resource of knowledge that will prove a useful tool in any gay father’s diaper bag.
Read more about the book at EricRosswood.com.
Editor’s note: Just before we went to press we learned that openly gay television writer and producer Greg Berlanti — who, along with his partner, pro-soccer player Robbie Rogers, is parent to Caleb — wrote the forward: “… But there was never a moment during the time I wrestled with my own sexuality that I ever doubted my desire or capacity to be a parent … I hope this book helps you with some of the many questions you’ll have about your own family, I know it helped us.”
— Kit-Bacon Gressitt formerly wrote for the North County Times. She currently writes commentary and essays on her blog ExcuseMeImWriting.com and is a founding editor of WritersResist.com. She also hosts Fallbrook’s monthly Writers Read authors series and open mic. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.