Wednesday, April 7, 2010
Television has always provided role models for parents and families. The Cleavers from Leave It To Beaver were the near perfect parents in the spotless home. They rarely disagreed with each other or raised their voices. I read somewhere that although people in the ‘50s knew the Cleavers weren’t reality, it gave them something to strive for. In the ‘80s, The Cosby Show was touted as the new role model for black families in America. The Huxtables really weren’t reality either. Clair and Heathcliff were professionals, a lawyer and a doctor, yet they seemed to always be home, have time for the kids, and their beautiful home was always clean, despite five children living in it, and no one was ever shown scrubbing toilets or mopping floors. Even so, it gave families and parents, especially black families, a role model and something to strive for. I remember as a kid, wishing that I had a perfect family like the Huxtables. They were classy, and Clair was a strong, yet fun mother. And who wouldn’t want to spend time with a dad like Heathcliff?
By the ‘90s, sitcoms began to reflect reality a bit more. The home I grew up in much more resembled that of the Conners on Roseanne. A small, working class home with a blue-collar father who came home exhausted from back-breaking work and a mother who wasn’t all that fond of housework. Maybe the Conners didn’t so much give parents something to strive for as it just gave the vast lower-middle class of America validation that they were normal, and people liked watching them struggle through the same situations that the average family struggled with.
But for gay parents, we’ve had no role models. Maybe we’re finally getting our role models on ABC’s Modern Family with Mitchell and Cameron raising their adopted infant daughter. This show really cracks me up, so we’ll see where it goes. I can’t think of any other sitcom that’s depicted a gay male couple raising an infant, so this show truly is groundbreaking.
Sometimes I wonder if our family is “normal”, or even what should be considered normal for a gay couple raising twins. I’ve often found myself thinking, WWCHD? (What would Claire Huxtable Do?) when the boys do something like dump a pound of flour all over the kitchen. She had all the answers and was a perfect mom in my mind. But I’m not a woman, so it seems odd that I’m looking to an ‘80s sitcom mom for a role model. I guess we’re in uncharted territory here, pretty much left to figure out what the typical gay parent family does and what’s considered normal family interaction for us. I’ve found myself comparing my relationship with Nick to other married couples, which I never did before having children. I’ve thought that he’s done something no wife would have ever put up with at times, but gay men interact differently than a husband and wife, and what may be considered normal within a gay relationship would be considered odd for a husband and wife.
Gay male couples are often more independent, and the feminine/masculine roles aren’t always clearly defined. Just look at Cameron in Modern Family. On the surface, he’s the big queeny mother role who stays at home with the baby. If you met Cameron in real life, you might assume he’s the mother figure in all aspects. But he’s the partner with brute strength who stands up to anyone just as a strong father figure would do. He’s the one who used tough love with their daughter by letting her cry herself to sleep when Mitchell, the bread winner, acted like an emotional mother, wanting to run to the baby and coddle her every time she cried. Again, the masculine/feminine aspects of their relationship and parenting styles don’t fit the typical mother/father roles, but we see that between the two of them, they both mother (verb) and father (verb) their daughter. Cameron and Mitchell very well may be TV sitcom role models for gay parents as they seem to be reflecting the reality gay male parents live. In the meantime, I’ve decided to stop comparing our relationship and our family to married couples with kids. I’ll just love my kids and be myself, sometimes more feminine, sometimes more masculine. I think they’ll grow up to be truly unique young men, having been raised by two men who love them so much.
Posted by GayDad at 9:46 AM