About five years ago I went on holiday to Benidorm. I met a gay couple from Berkshire, one of whom had been a long term employee at one of the world’s largest banks.
After a few nights we got very drunk and started one of those deep conversations about life. Recounting his time at the bank and his life since, he said ‘until you’ve really encountered some s**t, you don’t really appreciate life’. His encounter was leaving the bank he had worked for, for 15 years, during the recession. It made me think about what I really appreciate in life, the proverbial that life had thrown at me, if I really appreciated what I had and what sort of person I am. In the last issue I asked, what does £1000 mean to you, and now I ask, what sort of person do you think you are and what’s important to you?
The first person I spoke to about it was one of my oldest (15 years and counting) best friends. His reaction was a mixture of shock, anger at what he saw was my irresponsibility and disbelief.
My answer at the time, to myself, was multi-faceted. Firstly I have been through st: from ten years at boarding school from which I will never recover, but which essentially has defined me as the person I am today (it’s hard to deny what you are); through to significant but minor stuff like: being so poor I couldn’t pay for food in the supermarket and being on the verge of bankruptcy and losing everything for several weeks in 2008. On the plus side, I’ve come from a very privileged background: I was one of the 7% that went to boarding school, educated alongside royalty. Growing up I never went without, had plenty of opportunities and a happy childhood until 8. I’ve worked in the profession I wanted to work in, and today I am a Director at both the business I work for and a charity. So, I’d say I’ve been through some st and what’s most important to me is family and friends. Everything else is important, but a nice to have, because when the proverbial hits the fan, what is important? For me my family and friends aren’t just complex, but are probably the most important part of my life.
This was part of my reasoning behind having family when ‘we’ started to evaluate what we wanted in life (with my now, ex-partner). So, having been to the shows and conferences, I began to explore the topic with friends and family. You would think that the prospect of having children would fill friends and relatives with joy, hope, happiness and good will. But, in some cases, not a bit of it.
The first person I spoke to about it was one of my oldest (15 years and counting) best friends. His reaction was a mixture of shock, anger at what he saw was my irresponsibility and disbelief. Having been to Tate Britain, we spent an hour perched on a wall where he preached about why I shouldn’t and couldn’t do it. So I knew then that if someone so very close to me, could react in such a way, that I would need careful management of everyone else.
Indeed as I hadn’t sold the house at the time, this was one of the reasons why I placed everything on hold until last year.
Based on that experience I have told very few friends and none of my extended family. Thankfully the reactions have been mixed from the positive (good for you, you can do it), to as I said, the negative. So far out of the ten individuals or couples I have told, seven have been supportive and three have been virulently against. My parents for their part swing from good to bad, and my brother is very supportive.
Understandably I’ve studied the negative reactions in some detail and I’ve come to conclusion that it is a mixture of worries and fear for the future, tied into the respondents own background issues, and worries about my capabilities. It’s also a reflection of the wider gay community. So often we are on the fringes of society and what binds us together can be what makes us different (and quite often cutting edge), but not what is considered ‘normal’. One of my friends who reacted negatively, was abused as a child and you could understand his worries about security for the children I would bring into the world. Another is older and never had the opportunity to have children and you can see his thoughts lined with regret and resentment. The third person of concern is my own mother.
My mother is the living embodiment of a conventional parent, and a 1950’s housewife. She left a job as a manager at International Computers in the 70s, married my father and life for her became having children, cooking, ironing and keeping the house clean. I have to give credit to my mother as she has a hatred of the last three, but as one of my friends said, entered into and stuck to, an agreement with my father, where they had clearly defined roles. She has raised two decent, productive, contributing members of society; despite the bumps along the way (my homosexuality and my brothers psychological crash with drugs).
Her reaction has been the most worrying. In part it’s down to the baggage my mother brings.
When I was young, we were due to have a sister, a child my mother dearly wanted. Unfortunately (now thanks to the genetic testing I have undertaken) we know that I and (therefore most probably) my mother carry a gene which contributes to miscarriages. My mother’s own miscarriage, is never spoken about and amazingly, the sheer pain after all these years is still there. So, one Saturday a mild conversation about choosing gender turned into a fraught conversation based on my mothers pain. (I’ve decided for that reason not to choose the gender.) On top of this my mother goes from highs to lows: “What names should we think about,” to, “I’m too old to raise a child,” and “How will you work with the crying at night”. The last is a decent point, but with the help of hefty pay from my job, I will be able to afford child care and expect to have time off following birth. I wish that my mother, who is usually so practical would offer calm, collected, thoughtful advice. Instead as with three of my friends I quite often have hysterics management. I now avoid the friends, one of whom I have stopped speaking to entirely and the other two rarely. In some ways it has accentuated what is important to me: family and friends.
Next time I want to take a helicopter view over the ‘legals’ and some of the ethical issues that prospective gay parents have, from: ‘who is mum’, to which jurisdiction, to sexism.
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by Simon Hill | @SimonXHill
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