“Those Aren’t Your Kids”

Imagine this: You’re twenty-nine, you’re a gay man, and

you’ve fallen in love. But he has two children who are with

him almost all of the time. You quickly fall into a groove with

the man. But most of the time you’re together, the kids are

with you too. To go out, he has to hire a babysitter so you stay

in quite a bit. While you love this man, you’re not quite sure

how you fit in. You clearly are not going to attempt to be the

kids’ father, because they already have one. And you clearly

are not going to attempt to be their mother, because you are a

man and they already have a mom. So what are you? What do

the kids call you? How do you describe your relationship?

Does this mean that you now have kids too, or are they just

“his” kids? As a father, he has a clearly defined role in the

household, but what’s yours?

 

And everyone keeps telling you, “Those Aren’t Your Kids.”

 

That is an excerpt from my book Out and About Dad: My Journey as a Father With all its Twists, Turns, and a Few Twirls. In it, I chronicle my life as a gay father from back in the day when none of that was discussed, accepted, or embraced. I chronicle the life of really any active father, being gay just added a lot of extra pressure.

In my book I also tried to give credit to my now husband of one year, but partner of eighteen. He too was in a fatherhood role, with all of the responsibility but none of the credit or legal protection. As a gay man, I barely felt like I had any legal protection, so being a “step” must have felt even worse.

But the truth is that I could never possibly give my husband enough credit for what he went through raising two kids that were not biologically his own, not legally his own, and not societally his own. Yet he did laundry, shopped for groceries, cooked meals, maintained the house, made school lunches, and yes even did the school projects (I thank him the most for that because I was a horror show at school projects). He did all this without any acknowledgement or thank you. In fact, he did it under great scrutiny and social commentary, despite his devotion to those kids and to me.

I made career choices all along the way so that I could be an active father, despite being divorced and despite society assuming that the mother takes control. I also need to acknowledge the career choices he made as well.

Shortly after we bought a house together, he quit his job that was over an hour away to join the marketing agency that I had started. He did that so that he could run the office while I was out with clients, and so that he could be home early for the kids. After we sold the agency and my work and travel ramped up significantly, he quit his job so that he could be more around for the kids. He literally became a stay-at-home dad, a rarity at the time whether gay or straight.

Stay-at-home moms often got a lot of grief, so imagine a gay stay-at-home dad at the grocery store. Let’s just say that there wasn’t a lot of acceptance from anyone. Not from the moms, not from the dads, and not even from other gay men. As much as I was an anomaly, he was even more rare.

I always told him that he was one-of-a-kind, and I guess I really was right!

He made sure that the house was in order, the kids had what they needed, and I had all the support required to grow an aggressive career. I literally couldn’t have done it without him. Interestingly, I got all the credit for it…I was the dad. He instead got stares and comments like, “Those aren’t your kids,” and “Wow, he’s so lucky he doesn’t have to work.”

As if.

Our now adult kids are happily off pursuing their own journeys…one in graduate school and the other in the last year of college. While I know that they had it rough too, just like anyone growing up, they are well rounded, spirited, and on their way to being successful. Yes, because of their mother. Yes, because of their father. But also because of this other parental figure in the mix as well…the one that never gets credit but is full of just as much pride.

__________

JimJosephCasualHeadshot

Entrepreneur of the Year, Agency of the Year, Consumer Launch Campaign of the Year, Most Creative Agency, Best Place to Work, Social Media Icon, Hall of Fame – these are the accolades that Jim Joseph has amassed through his long career in marketing.

But none are more important than the daily badge he wears with the most pride – Dad.

Jim Joseph is the proud father of two children. He has spent the last twenty-plus years raising them, looking after their physical and emotional well-being, and building their confidence to navigate their own lives.

 
While he’s written a trilogy of marketing books and is a regular contributor to Entrepreneur and Huffington Post, it’s his newest book and blog posts on fatherhood that represent what’s most important to him: being an Out and About Dad.
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