Queer Mom Chronicles: When You’re the Only Lesbian Mom on the Playground

I’ve written before about my desire for more queer mom friends. Making mom friends is really hard. And it’s only made harder when you’re often the only queer mom in your mom circle.

When my son was born, we lived with my parents. I was lucky because my best friend at the time lived nearby and had a son the same age as mine. But I needed more than one friend, so I decided to start attending one of those baby groups. Our local library hosted one every week, so I’d load up my baby and we’d go. It was cool for him to be around a bunch of other babies (I guess, he was an infant) but more importantly, it was nice to be around other moms. I could talk to them about naps and feeding them solids, who was walking and talking, and lament about things like breastfeeding and the lack of sleep that came with early motherhood. But inevitably, they’d talk about their husbands or boyfriends, and I would be left out. At the time, I wasn’t out as queer and had recently ended a relationship with my son’s father. One minute I felt like I was part of the group, and the next, I remembered I was on the sidelines.

I was so desperate for mom friends and to feel included that I went to church. Now before you say anything, yes I know there are inclusive religious folks. But these are not the people I encountered. I became friends with the pastor’s wife — we would usually meet at the neighborhood playground, but sometimes she invited us over. One day we got into a very heated debate about gay marriage. At that moment, I didn’t feel comfortable outing myself to her, but I gradually stopped hanging out with her after expressing my disappointment in her views. We stayed Facebook friends, and after I came out, she tried to insinuate that I was an intolerant lesbian (at the time, I identified as bisexual or queer, so she was wrong on two counts). It was the one time a mom friend had turned on me because of who I was, and it was an important lesson.

My son was school-aged when I started dating women, but it wasn’t until I met my partner that the person I was dating became a part of his life regularly. This happened to coincide with the pandemic, which means we weren’t interacting with other parents much. And when we were, it was happening separately. She often took him to the local playground after virtual school, and during that time, the other moms came to recognize her. For her, it was difficult to relate to them because she had only been a mom for a few months. The first time I took him to the same playground, the kids he played with repeatedly asked him which one of us was his “real” mom, well within earshot of their mothers. Not once did those moms stop their kids and tell them that was an invasive question. Those moms had made assumptions about our family dynamic too; they seemed fine with there being two moms, but no one could hide their surprise that I’m Black.

The regular moms who knew my partner were cordial to me, but they didn’t try to engage me or invite me into their social group the way they did with my partner. They gushed about how much they loved her and how sweet my son was, but they didn’t have any interest in getting to know me. It was hurtful, because whether they intended to or not, they made it very clear which one of us they felt was worthy of their time. And unlike my partner, I would have been more interested in doing the mom talk with them.

As far as I know, my partner and I are the only same-sex parents at my son’s K-8 school. The school itself is incredibly inclusive; the administration knows our family dynamic and are always warm and welcoming to my partner and I. Before the pandemic, there was a middle school GSA, and many classrooms have inclusive books. But I know there’s been negative feedback from families in the past. I’d been told by several administrators that I was rare for pushing for more inclusivity in classrooms. When I volunteered with the GSA, they were shocked to see a parent who wanted to be involved. And not only a parent, but a queer parent. Even though no one had directly othered me, I felt it, because I knew my beliefs were so vastly different from the typical parent in our community.

There’s a certain amount of risk calculation you have to do when you’re the only queer mom in a group of parents. It’s a sad truth: You simply don’t know how those parents will react. And more importantly, you don’t know how that will affect the way they treat you. Or how their kids will treat your kid. One of my biggest fears is that one of my son’s friends will be told to stop hanging out with him because their family doesn’t approve of his two moms. Kids might be able to make their own assumptions about people, but they’re still very influenced by the adults in their life.

Last school year, my son told me that one of his male classmates called another little boy in their class “gay.” Of course, my kid knew exactly what that meant and asked me if hugging his male friend made him gay. We talked about it, and I told him that next time someone said that, he could say “my moms are gay, and being gay is great!” The whole situation gave me an uneasy feeling though. Look, I know kids can pick things up from anywhere, but I had to wonder who at home this kid heard that from. Then I had to do a risk assessment on what would happen if that kid’s family found out one of his classmates had gay moms. Would it become a thing? This was a kid he considered a friend; I didn’t want to do anything to jeopardize that. At the same time, I don’t want my kid being friends with someone who would use gay as a derogatory comment. Especially a kid who was only in the second grade.

Interactions with other parents are always awkward, if I’m being totally honest. But it’s most obvious when you’re the only queer moms in the group. This is the most obvious at birthday parties. When I was a kid, my friends’ dads never came to a birthday party. But that’s not the case for my kid’s peers. But the dads just kind of sit there mostly silent. My partner and I are very chatty people and will converse with most of the parents at a party. So it makes me wonder why the other moms drag their husbands along if they’re not going to engage. It’s weird!

While I’m grateful that so far none of the hetero parents have been blatantly exclusionary to my partner and I, it would be nice to feel more included in the group.

Tell me, have you found this to be true? How do you cope with it?


Queer Mom Chronicles is a monthly column where I examine all of the many facets of queer parenthood through my tired mom eyes. 

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Sa'iyda Shabazz

Sa'iyda is a writer and mom who lives in LA with her partner, son and 3 adorable, albeit very extra animals. She has yet to meet a chocolate chip cookie she doesn't like, spends her free time (lol) reading as many queer romances as she can, and has spent the better part of her life obsessed with late 90s pop culture.

Sa'iyda has written 122 articles for us.

10 Comments

  1. Sa’iyda the way you composed this piece really resonated with the way I wonder about heterosexual ways of being. I think about these huge issues of personal risk, inclusion, and all of the big and small interactions I’ve had throughout my life that inform these ideas in relation to my queerness. And then somehow, at the end of it all, I’m always left wondering why male partners in straight relationships just…sit there..at events they presumably had agency in choosing to attend!

    This is such a small thing to focus on in the larger scheme of your excellent piece, but getting to that last paragraph just made me laugh. Thank you for sharing this!

    • My wife and I (both POCs) are parents of a toddler and live on LA but are constantly trying to figure out if there’s a slower paced place to live in LA or LA adjacent that also isn’t racked with so much racism and homophobia… reading ur article I’m like shoot maybe there’s isn’t. Where we live now, we deal with the “regular” amount of injustice but as a family we are for the most part accepted and seen.

      but as our kid gets older it’s like how where in LA can we go that’s not so city but still have safety to protect them from that barrage.

      Really appreciate these articles. We’re all in this together.

      • i truly don’t know if such a place exists! i’ve only ever lived in major cities (NYC, LA and Boston) and that’s because i can understand and manage any sort of injustices that exist. i couldn’t imagine how much these things would ramp up if we went to the valley or another more “suburban” part of LA. i know there are bad people everywhere, but at least in the city proper, we know how to navigate and mitigate these situations. there’s safety in understanding, ya know?

    • it’s something i didn’t really observe until my kid got older, but it’s such a weird thing right? like, sir, you could have said no! you can still be an involved dad and stay home. it also kind of creates barriers to getting to know each other, because then the wife feels she has to give her attention to her husband instead of the larger parent group. so weird!

  2. “ And more importantly, you don’t know how that will affect the way they treat you. Or how their kids will treat your kid.” THIS.

    Most of my queer parent friends have kids who are older than mine, but they’ve been great to connect (and commiserate) with.

    Some of the biggest supports though have come from elder widows at my church (many of whom are women of color with their own queer kids/grandkids/great grandkids) and moms I’ve met thru mutual aid groups. We have a queer affinity group thru the school district I work for and That’s led to some very deep friendships.

    Finally, my kids and I literally just knock on doors in our neighborhood that have pride flags (more pop up in June) and we start conversations with new-to-us neighbors. It’s been incredible to realize what a queer neighborhood we live in within a relatively conservative suburb, and to have so many other queers and queer elders to help raise up my kiddos.

    • I love this idea! We live on a queer corner in a relatively conservative area. I feel like I know most of the people with pride flags, though definitely not all. I did go up to a gay guy at church and start a conversation, but he seemed a bit overwhelmed by it. Oh well.

      I’ve debated at school events about going up to people who seem queer, but I haven’t. Something to think about.

  3. Thank you for this article. I was raised by my mom and her female partner in a very suburban area in the 1990s. From a young age, I seemed to have picked up that I needed to risk assess and gauge levels of prejudice – from both kids and parents- towards my parent. I think this is part of why my mom chose to compartmentalise aspects of life, which is sad but understandable for the time. I hoped we’d moved further along but parent groups and school gate conversations have not caught up. I find it so refreshing when another parent mentions a sister’s wife or friend’s (gay) wedding- sometimes it reminds me I may be seeing people as potential bigots rather than potential allies- but scanning for threat is a hard habit to break. Finding other same-sex parents to share with and create opportunities for children to see families similar to their own, even if its not in your own community, I think helps with alienation. Thanks again!

  4. My wife and I have a two year old in Colorado Springs and it has been one of the most isolating experiences of my life.

    There are many factors contributing to my feelings of isolation. In a way, I’m still trying to figure out what motherhood looks like myself. And I need a lot more social connection than my wife, so I’m constantly trying find a balance of being a supportive partner present parent, and connected social creature which is really difficult. This is has been especially hard when trying to put work into building new friendships early on.

    Thankfully, we have found a few other queer families in our area, but I’m still searching for deep friendship and connection as a parent. I’m still learning how to balance time and efforts.

    I’m in a constant state of anxiety because of the Colorado Springs demographic (religious/military) that my son will have a hard time in his own relationships. At the same time, I want our family to be a part expanding understanding and acceptance for our community.

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