Which one is mummy?

Katy Robson-Malone on the most awkward of question for lesbian parents.

“Which one is mummy?”


And there it was. One of the most common questions I’m asked when my partner and I attend anything related to our kids. When I am on my own with them it’s usually, “What does your husband do?” Although that’s the occupational hazard of not looking “dykey”!


It seems the general public still can’t think outside of the box when they see two women together with children. We are just a normal family, and to me it feels like quite a personal question as not only are you disclosing your relationship to the child but every time I hear it I feel like I am having to “come out” to complete strangers and what’s worse is I’m usually feeling nervous about how they will react. Super sensitive!


Life before kids (ahh, those were the days… box sets, parties, lie-ins, hot restaurant more-than-one-course meals and copious amounts of alcohol). I hadn’t had many awkward coming out moments and especially not with strangers. I was a pretty private person and there weren’t many times where I had to explain my relationship status as my family/friends/work colleagues all knew the craic – but then came kids and that was all to change!


Children mean you have to strike up a conversation with complete strangers and it’s NOT frowned upon. Not just that either… it’s not just polite conversation like the weather, the latest news headlines or any holiday plans but it’s full on PRIVATE conversation topics ranging from your child’s behaviour/eating/bowel patterns to relationship problems, latest medical issues, childbirth stories (the good, the bad and the ugly), fashion trends, life stories… the list goes on and on until you are pretty much given a piece of someone’s soul to decide what to do with. 


The problem is I have one of those faces where I can’t hide what I’m thinking. Yes! I know that can be a good thing in moments of elation but in times of disgust, awkwardness or pure horror, this doesn’t go down well. I can’t even begin to apologise for the amount of times I have actually eye-rolled or glazed over when hearing about someone’s super-long-labour-without-pain-relief or how little Tarquin is fluent in French and walked at only three months. Sometimes it is possible to give too much information to someone you don’t know, especially when I haven’t decided if I like you enough to tell you I’m gay and my babies have two mummies!


It has actually gotten easier to field the questions in the two short years we have been parents as you kind of get used to it. In the beginning, it felt a little awkward and I would dread the question… see, there’s this awkward silence which feels like a lifetime as you can see the clogs turning in the person’s head while they are working it all out. CLICK! Yep, the penny has dropped…. this woman is GAY! Oh right now what shall I say?


The reality of it is it’s probably only a split second but to me it feels LONG. I find myself filling in the gap with some gibberish, talking really quickly while I decipher whether they are likely to speak to me again or make their excuses and that will be the last I see or hear of them.


Since I spend a lot of time alone with the kids, the “what does your husband do?” question is usually asked a couple of times a week and my answer is always different depending on my mood and what my first impression is of the person. 


If I really don’t like the look of them and am fairly certain I’ll never have to meet them again, I will tell them my partner’s occupation but won’t correct them simply because they don’t get to have a piece of my soul. If they’re total uppity bozos and I still don’t like them but I’m likely to see them again, they will get the hiss of a “SHE” followed by no filling of the awkward silence to let them think about what they’ve done! Ha! Makes me feel better! 


And on the rare occasion where I get a good vibe from a person, where there is future potential to share birthing stories, and if I’m feeling quite jovial (usually after an extremely rare good night’s sleep, not to be confused with delirium which is the complete opposite) I like to mess with people a little. I say, “Sorry?” and get them to repeat the question just to reinforce it before smiling and saying, “Our girls have two mummies!” The poor person normally apologises profusely while I laugh and watch them squirm. Those people laugh about those moments now too!


A couple of our moments-of-confusion highlights have got to be when we were seeing a paediatrician for our youngest daughter and they asked us, “Which one of you mostly carried her?” My partner is even worse than me at hiding a WTF face so you can imagine the doctor got the message pretty bluntly! Like it got tough around seven months when my belly was gigantic and my bladder needed a break so we switched over…. that’s what you do when you’re in love, right?


But my favourite has to be when I was nine months pregnant going for a check-up at the hospital when the midwife asked which one of us was pregnant. Ouch! That went down like a lead balloon. Although I think it was the midwife who felt more awkward and her day just went from bad to worse when she then asked if I was with my mum! She may as well have gotten herself a giant spade. She then went on to do the fast talking babbling thing with a red face which just made me feel sorry for her. Sometimes people just don’t know what to say!


We are just two people who have kids. We don’t have two heads, burn our bras or teach our kids the lyrics from I Am What I Am – we are just riding the same rollercoaster that is parenting…. pretty normal, I think! 



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