If your social media platform includes Facebook, then you’ve probably seen the “Motherhood Challenge” taking over newsfeeds this week. Thankfully, there are no buckets of ice water involved in this new viral craze. Facebook mommies are simply asked to choose and post “three” pictures of their children that best illustrate why they love being a mom. After posting, these mothers must then tag, thereby nominating, and a specific number of friends to take the challenge. The result has been an all out cuteness convention, with pictures ranging from angelic sleeping children to group hugging sessions with adorable toddlers. Throw a few family pets into the mix and the “Motherhood Challenge” offers up a wholesome, picturesque opportunity to showcase why you love your family. It also provides the challenger the opportunity to give a motivational shout out to fellow mommy pals letting them know they too are doing an awesome job!
As the mom of a 3 year old and 1 year old, of course I was quickly nominated by several Facebook friends to take the “Motherhood Challenge.” Quite easily, I chose three pictures of myself with my two adorable daughters from the thousands (yes, thousands) I have on my computer. But when it came time to nominate other mommy friends to also complete the challenge, I may have gone a bit, well, rogue.
My particular challenge request required me to nominate twelve other mothers to complete the task. I chose “11” women and “1” gay dad.
My friend Luis is the proud father of two six-year-old twin boys, Kostas and Vasilios. He raises them with his partner of 12 years, Demetrious, in Michigan. Luis and I met in high school. He was a senior and I was a freshman when we started dating. I was completely infatuated with this handsome, older man who made me his girlfriend. It was puppy love at best, but when the Homecoming King of your high school asks you out on a date, you absolutely say, “YES!” Our May, December romance fizzled quickly, but I always had a suspicion that the real reason things didn’t work out actually had nothing to do with me. In my gut, I suspected Luis was gay. We parted friends, moved onto other relationships and ultimately chose different paths in life. Years later, thanks to the wondrous world of social media; we reconnected on Facebook.
It was then my high school suspicions were confirmed. Luis had officially come out about his sexuality when he was 22. It was obvious he was in a committed, loving relationship with a man who shared his same love of family. Ultimately, Luis became a stay at home dad. His twins call him Daddy” and they call Demetrious, “Papa.” Kostas and Vasilios are handsome, smart, creative and wonderful boys – a true testament to the two men raising them.
So why then, did I ask Luis, a gay dad, to take the motherhood challenge?
Quite simply, because you don’t need a vagina to embody the role of somebody’s mother. There are countless men, as in the case of my friend Luis, who “mother” their children on a daily basis.
Gay, straight, single or married, men are quite capable of displaying the same nurturing, loving, domestic behaviors that are typically expected of women. These men who occupy the role of “mother” have the same wealth of experience and parental knowledge as their female counterparts.
After having my first daughter, navigating life post partum was beyond difficult. Sure, other moms gave me advice on everything from bottle-feeding to teething. But I also got advice from Luis. Good advice. Non-judgmental advice. Some moms on social media were shocked that I took parental direction from a “dad” occupying the role of “mom.” But when you’re baby is running a fever, you can’t get the pediatrician on the phone and you’re completely scared out of your mind, does it really matter the “gender” of the person giving you some support?
Physically and emotionally, Luis supports his children. He cooks their meals, takes them to play dates. Luis encourages his boys to explore their interests, without worrying about any pre-conceived gender stereotypes. His twins play with action figures just as much as they play with dolls. Luis doesn’t do this because there is no female figure living in his household. He does each of these tasks because he loves his boys with every breath in his body. It’s the same exact reason why I nurture my own two daughters as a stay at home mom. We are both mothers.
Luis happily took my challenge, posting 3 beautiful pictures of his family. He then nominated his own group of friends to participate in what he called the “Motherhood/Fatherhood Challenge” where parents representing diverse, beautiful families got to share their three favorite pictures on their Facebook newsfeeds.
The “Motherhood Challenge” should not be about “whom” a person is, relating to their gender. Instead, it should be about “what” the person does. The gender of the parent who occupies the role of nurturer and caregiver should not diminish the commitment involved in “mothering” their child. Being a mother is a wonderful, precious gift that should be celebrated. So if somebody nominates you to take the “Motherhood Challenge,” remember to think of your parenting counterparts equally, inviting all “mothers,” heterosexual or otherwise, to create a pictorial collage symbolizing the unique love we have for each of our children.
Pictured: Luis & Holly in High School.
Pictured: Luis & D with their twins, shortly after their birth.
Pictured: Holly and her husband with their two daughters (Halloween 2015).