Today’s episode is in response to my first two podcast episodes. A few of my lesbian and queer listeners were like, “What the shit is this hetero life and marriage you talk about??” Their shock and disdain made me want to know more about same-sex marriages, and how much of our hetero marriage and parenting issues are gender based. Today’s guest, a lesbian mom named Denise, so graciously lets me dig into her private life to seek the answers to my burning questions. It turns out that I had a lot of varying fantasies about what being in a relationship with another woman was really like. We talk about gender, sex, social conditioning, division of household labor, periods, working mom struggles, identity, and other relatable mom shit, including my really important opinion on pumpkin patches.
Brandy: Hello Adult Conversation Podcast listeners. Today’s episode is in response to my first two podcast episodes, “Behind the Curtain of Motherhood with Jessica” parts one and two. A few of my lesbian and queer listeners were like, “What the shit is this hetero life and marriage? Is it really like this?” after listening to those episodes. And my answer was yes. Yes it is. But it made me want to know more about same-sex marriages and how much of our modern hetero marriage and parenting issues are gender-based or not. So today’s guest, who is married to another woman (and they have kids), so graciously lets me dig into her private life to figure out what are the inherent differences in a hetero relationship and a same-sex relationship with two women. Basically, what are we heteros missing out on? And it turns out that I had a lot of varying fantasies about what being in a relationship with another woman was really like. One was true. But most of the others were not. (Darn it). We talk about gender, the pressure to have sex or not, social conditioning, working mom struggles, stay-at-home mom fantasies, identity, and other relatable mom shit including my really important opinion on pumpkin patches.
Brandy: But before that, two big things. First is that my book, Adult Conversation: A Novel, hit Amazon last week. It’s both super satisfying to see that, and also terrifying because now I can’t unsay all the things I say in the book. Haha. It doesn’t come out until May 5th, 2020, but it’s up for pre-order and you can also go check out the cover and the synopsis. This book has been in the works for over four years, so I’m like a mom who had a 35,000 hour labor and is showing off her baby.
Brandy: So the quick synopsis is: Adult Conversation is a darkly comedic novel about a frazzled, suburban mom whose life is upended when she is pushed too far by the ruthlessness of modern motherhood. She seeks an answer to the question, “Am I broken, or is motherhood?” which sends her on a do-or-die road trip to Las Vegas with her therapist.
Brandy: I will be doing a couple book signings and events probably in Orange County, California, Los Angeles, and Denver. And then a special weekend in Las Vegas. So, I’m encouraging moms who need a real break to grab some friends and come meet me there for a special Adult Conversation event that might include debauchery, or maybe just lying in a bed all alone with no one touching you for once. It’s scheduled for the weekend of June 27th and 28th of 2020, so save the date and get your childcare secured! More details to come. And a quick shout out to my newest Patreon peep, Alana Finley – thank you! Onto the show…
Brandy: Today on the podcast I have with me Denise Brick. Denise, welcome to the Adult Conversation Podcast.
Denise: Hello. Thank you.
Brandy: You were somebody who came to mind as a possibly great guest because after I released the initial podcasts, I got some feedback from some of my friends who are in same-sex relationships, or who are non-binary and they had listened to episodes one and two, which were “Behind the Curtain of Motherhood” with my friend Jessica, and we talk about marriage and motherhood and sex. And they were all like, “Oh my god. What is this hetero life? This sounds awful.” And so, it dawned on me that possibly I need to explore what the differences are in a same-sex parenting situation when your genitals are not dictating what your roles are.
Brandy: That might be an odd way of putting it, but I started to really think, “What is the difference about parenting in this way when you arrive at parenthood?” Whether you’re a female and female, or male and male, and you’re both like, “Well, we’re both supposed to be the mom. Or we’re both supposed to be the dad. So we’ve gotta figure out what this looks like.” I imagine there is more of a conversation or an equal building of the roles rather than these subconscious or conscious roles that happen in a hetero relationship. So you came to mind because I know that you’re in a same-sex marriage and that you have kids. And you’ve been on my page possibly since the beginning, but you’re another one of these names like some of the other guests that I’ve had that pops up all the time and I think you’re funny and insightful and I’m always like-
Denise: Thank you.
Brandy: … oh, what’s Denise going to say about this? So, when my friends were like, “Oh my god, what is this?” you just came to mind as, oh, I want to ask her all sorts of very personal questions.
Denise: Fabulous. And I’m delighted. I’m delighted to be asked and I’m happy to be here. Because I listened to those episodes too, and I was talking aloud as I was listening to them. Some of the things that were said that are happening in your straight relationships are making my head explode just like your friends. So, I had that experience too.
Brandy: Okay. So that’s what I need to know. That’s what you said – you said that you were shaking your fist a couple of times. So I need to know what specifically because for those of us in straight relationships, we’re like, “Really?” I mean, I could guess a couple things. But yeah. What were the things that made your head explode?
Denise: Well, just that there’s these cultural expectations. There’s these gender expectations that we have that when you’re the mom, you’re going to take care of everything. It felt so unfair to me. Just when you were talking about one of you running versus one of you just being completely oblivious, that’s really frustrating for me. I am a long distance runner and I know that I need time away from my needy family in order to do that. I have two kids. I have an eight-year-old and an eleven-year-old, and we had them by donor insemination. I carried them both. I know that when I leave the house, they’ll need something. So I have to trust that even if I’m leaving early in the morning and everybody in the family is still asleep and that’s always my goal, that somebody’s going to be there who supports what I’m doing. Who is excited that I got a chance to run. Who’s happy for me. She doesn’t run, so I guess that’s a hard comparison, but she does a lot of things solo that she appreciates where I come in.
Brandy: Well, so it sounds like in your relationship there’s not … well, a couple things that you said. But first, I have to ask you the question. What is something that you think the listeners need to know about you?
Denise: So I grew up in a really small desert Southern California town, El Centro. There was a time when I was in high school, and I was like one of five punk kids in the whole area, and when I was a freshman, the head cheerleader called me and said, “Get down here. We need punks for this movie. We need extras.” And I thought for sure, for sure I thought that I was being punked, right? I thought it was absolutely a prank of some horrible high school sort, but I could not take the chance to not be right. So I went down there and it was the movie Sid and Nancy, Alex Cox was the director. I got to meet Gary Oldman, and so I was an extra and I grew up in Southern California and had this small town and felt very different. And my friends and I were absolutely the others.
Denise: And it was super validating to have Gary Oldman – he was wearing the necklace. Because he looked so much like Sid Vicious when he played his character. Anne Beverley, Sid’s mom, gave him Sid’s actual necklace to wear for the production, so we got-
Brandy: Oh my god. Did you get to touch it?
Denise: Yes. We got to touch it. He was such a doll. He was so sweet. He signed autographs for us and we hung out with him and it was an incredible experience for me to be – you know, little kid, small town kid and to have that experience. So everything you need to know about me is that I was a punk-rock kid in a small town.
Brandy: Okay. How punk-rock are you now?
Denise: Oh god. Not at all.
Brandy: Okay. So let me get us back to where we were before I derailed you. So you carried the kids. You carried the babies.
Brandy: So was there a thing that happened after they were born that was like, “Well you carried them so you’re going to be doing all the feeding and being up at night with them and the care-taking?” Does it feel like you get your run equally to the time that she gets? Like walk me through some of that.
Denise: So, I think that it starts way before that. When we decided to have kids, we both knew that I would carry. She’s seven years older than me, and she’s just not ever been remotely interested in carrying and she would find it horrible to do so.
Brandy: She’s not totally wrong.
Denise: As it turns out, she’s not. Although, I had romanticized the idea and I thought, “I never dreamed about being a bride, but I always wanted to be a mom.” So I thought, “Oh, I really want to carry these babies. I want to have this pregnancy, this magical experience.” I bought all of the bullshit, right, that you get that it’s this amazing, natural, beautiful thing. And it wasn’t for me. It was 80 weeks total that I was pregnant with both kids, and it was 80 weeks of nausea for me. It was … it just didn’t agree with me. But, we went through a giant process to determine who the donor was going to be, how we were going to do it, what we were going to do, was it going to be an anonymous donor? It took us months to determine who the donor would be.
Brandy: Wow. Okay, so a decision like picking which preschool your child goes to seems like something that a lot of us overthink. But then you guys had to make the decision of whose genetic material are we going to use to make our child? I cannot imagine how you even picked somebody.
Denise: It’s fantastic. Actually. It’s lucky. It’s beautiful science, right? Because you fall in love with this guy, and you get the genetic material you get. But for us, I have these short round genes. I could combat those with a tall, slender person. We went through this process of reading all of the descriptions. The cryobank we used had great descriptions of the guys. So, we would come home in the evenings, childless evenings, stretching in front of us. She cooks. So the nice dinner, glass of wine and reading about these donors. And we narrowed it down. We could buy audio interviews. We could buy baby pictures. So we narrowed it down. And then I have this lung pulmonary condition and one of our last guys had extended family with pulmonary, so we thought, “Well, we’ll eliminate that.”
Denise: And I mean, it’s funny, because it didn’t work. Our child ended up with really unusual genetic stuff going on with him. But even still, it was a process and it was both of us. So we both knew at each step that we would both be taking care of our project. And then when it came to getting pregnant, she was with me every single time I inseminated and she was with me when I was diagnosed as gestational diabetic, and she’s the cook in our house, and she took care of all of the meals and all the snacks and all of the tracking and she was really good. So, she’s 100% involved. It isn’t a 50/50. It was somebody who is very committed to making sure we can have the healthiest baby we can and we do right by this child. And we took all the classes. You know, your first baby. We took every class, but we both showed up.
Brandy: Okay. So as I’m hearing you say this, I’m visualizing it a little bit like but how is she not the dad in this situation? And I don’t mean that like – I mean of course she’s the other mom, but modern dads, a lot of them show up to all the appointments and things like that. So, do you feel like there was something different because you were both female? Even in that beginning period? I mean, I hear everything that you’re saying about … It was a very joint process of picking who was going to be the sperm donor. So there’s that thing that she’s there for. Same as you. Was there any time during your pregnancy that you felt like, “Oh wow, she’s kind of like the dad role”? Or was it … did it always feel like, “No, we’re both mom, and that’s not totally a dictated things with us”?
Denise: I don’t know that I think about that in that way. It was very deliberate for us, right? I mean, it wasn’t supposed that we were going to do this. There was no societal pressure on me from my parents or her parents or anybody saying, “Well, when are you going to give me grandchildren?” The whole process was so deliberate that there’s no obligation and it’s all on me to think through.
Brandy: That’s what I’m wondering. That fantasy that I have that you guys are both like, “Wow. So we’re both mom. What part do you want to do? I like doing this so I’ll do this part. Okay. I’m better at this part, so I’ll do this part.” That cobbling together a working relationship in parenting. So it sounds like that happened with you guys. Is that right?
Denise: Well, I think it’s also our personalities. I think that’s what, for me… I mean, it’s hard for me to speak to … first of all, I want to make sure that I say that I’m not speaking for everybody.
Denise: But in my relationship, we’re both super passionate, super engaged. Very interested. And when we get on something, we are very committed. So, when I breastfed, Julianne would have flew to the moon before she’d let me get up alone with the baby. I can’t even imagine. And that was less isolating for me, right? During that time she was awake when I was awake because when I wasn’t breastfeeding, when I was awake at night, I would pump and she would bottle feed so we could get the baby back down faster and I could pump and the process would be less arduous on everybody. The whole goal was to get as much sleep as we could.
Brandy: Right. I wonder, in my situation, when my son was born and I was up at night nursing, my husband would do this thing where he would … How would it work? So I would nurse my son, and then I would hand him over to my husband who would then go take him to change his diaper so I didn’t have to get out of bed, which was glorious. And I still remember the moment of laying in bed and feeling like, “Oh, for these 30 seconds I’m in my own space and I’m like I’m not needed for 30 seconds.” It’s so sad when I really think back to the morsels that you take, that you can get. And then, he would bring him back to bed and then I would nurse him and he would fall asleep again.
Brandy: So my husband was up doing this maybe two or three times a night in the beginning. Maybe it was a little bit more. And then this thing happened and I don’t know if it was a month later, if it was two months later where I just sort of realized, like it didn’t make sense to me, my logical, practical side said, “It doesn’t make sense to me that both of us are up in the middle of the night.” And that we were both going to be exhausted because we needed somebody to be solid in order to take care of everybody and steer the ship. And so I remember saying to him, “You know what? I’ll just do the diaper change too. I’m already up.” And we moved all the stuff so that I could just do it right there on the bed and not have to get out of bed. So we made it easier. So then my husband was sleeping and it was good because we both weren’t sleep deprived, but I can’t help but feel like in that moment that was the beginning of me valuing his needs over my needs.
Denise: Right. And why wouldn’t you both be bleary-eyed and why wouldn’t that also be valuable? Because you have this newborn that you’re going through together and everybody’s tired and that’s going to be the way it is. And I feel like if that were the case, if I said, “You know what? Just sleep through this,” how would I not feel resentful? How would I not feel like I’m the only one that’s up in the middle of the night in the world. In the whole world. It would make me feel isolated, lonely and angry.
Brandy: Yeah. At the beginning, I don’t think I felt angry but I definitely felt isolated. I would sometimes dread the evening coming because I’d know I’d be alone dealing with this care-taking. And looking back on it, there are those sweet moments where you think, “Oh, I’d give anything to have a night of just snuggling with my newborn and it just being us.” There was something so yummy about that. But over and over again for a year and a half, I don’t know about that, but I think the reason why I was able to give up my own basic needs is this idea that my husband was working and that that was somehow more important. And that seems to be a common belief, or, I don’t know if I want to call it a trap, but maybe a trap that we fall into as the mother role. God forbid a person who’s bringing in the money should be tired at their job. And there’s this thing because my job as mom does not have money attached to it, it seems like, well then you can kind of slack on that a little bit because you’re not getting paid. There is a devaluing.
Denise: Exactly that. Isn’t this your whole identity now too? Doesn’t that make you feel like you’re undervalued in general? Isn’t that you putting somebody else’s job over yours which is at least as important?
Brandy: Exactly. The me of now would have a totally different viewpoint on this. The me of now knows what 12 years later looks like.
Brandy: So with Julianne, with the getting up in the middle of the night with you, did you ask her to do that? Or did she think about that? Was she thoughtful for you?
Denise: I could not have stopped her.
Denise: She found it completely unfair for me to be awake by myself.
Brandy: Okay. Stop everything. That. That right there is the thing that I think exists in a same-sex female relationship.
Denise: Maybe. Yeah.
Brandy: It’s that care-takey thing. Many moms in straight relationships have to ask their husbands and have to explain to them why it’s important and have to justify.
Denise: Yes. Yes. Let me not mischaracterize my relationship. Because when I told Julianne I was doing this, she said, “There’s no difference. Tell them all. That I leave my shoes everywhere just like their husbands. That there’s no sunny picture over here. That you have it just as bad as they do.” Because people always make the joke around us, right? Especially if like Julianne’s got me a plate of food or she’s doing something nice to me in a public situation, they go, “Wouldn’t it be nice to have a thoughtful, considerate spouse? Would it be terrible to have a wife? Women are reasonable. They’re pretty enough. Like would it be horrible?” But no. She laughs at that because she says, “No. I’m a pain in the ass. I’m messy. I have all these flaws. And I’m at least as flawed as your husband. So, no. You don’t want this. It’s the same thing. If you wanted it, you’d already have it.”
Brandy: But she’s wrong. Does she know she’s wrong?
Brandy: Can we tell her that? Because here’s the thing. The shoes, the messy shoes, least of our worries. But having somebody who is looking out for your well-being in a way that you are looking out for everybody else’s and their well-being, that’s reciprocated in an equal way, that is the piece that I am trying to zero in on.
Denise: To an extent, I am the kind of person that will not keep my mouth shut if there’s something I need. I make my needs known all the way down to, I, on my birthday, need a present that is wrapped. I would like something that you wrap with paper, not in a bag. I would like something given to me. I want to go out to dinner and I want to have it in between the dinner and the dessert course. Like I’m a pain in the ass, too! I think it’s important for me to get what I want, too, and I make sure she knows. Would she be a little clueless about what I want? I don’t know. We’ve been together a long time. I think she has a good idea. She got taught too. So many of my girlfriends say, “Wow. You got this piece of jewelry or whatever. I wish my husband knew that I would want that.” And I have a Pinterest page that is all the things that I want for holidays. So, I choose my own things. I don’t leave it up to other people. We don’t have time for that. Nobody has time for guess what I might want.
Brandy: Exactly. And I think you’re right about the training part, and I think that’s why later in the parenting journey, women realize this. Because in the beginning it’s all so new and you’re trying to find your way, and you want to be good at it and being good at it, what does that look like? How much help do you need from your husband or somebody else to be good at it? Which, by the way, isn’t real. But I’m just saying that’s the mindset, right?
Brandy: But what I think is interesting is we lay the groundwork from the beginning with our partners, and in the beginning, the baby is the neediest it will probably ever be. And we’re trying to figure out our way. And so that then alerts the husband, okay, well she’s going to be up at night with the baby and I’m going to go for my run in the morning while she’s nursing the baby or whatever, and these things get set. And they’re hard to undo. But, they can be undone and they can be retrained, but by the time you realize like wait a minute, this is not exactly how I want it to be, everybody has their roles kind of already solidified. And so it is a big upheaval to be like, “Hey, I want things done differently.” And it’s hard to not … for many people, it’s hard to not feel like a nagging bitch when you’re like, “Listen.” The things that you are saying, Denise, the things that you’re saying that you speak up about and you say your needs and all of that stuff, is so great, because we should be able to do that. And I’m wondering what part of that are you able to do because A, it’s just your personality, but B, because the person on the receiving end of it has validated and listened to that need.
Denise: Yes. Absolutely.
Brandy: And I’m thinking about the listeners who have said, “I need this,” and their partner has not helped them get that thing. And so they’re begging for the thing, and finally they give up on it. Or, the listeners who haven’t realized that they need these things but are feeling exhausted and overwhelmed and all of those things.
Denise: Right. Because we’re raised to not have needs, right? We’re raised to be really cute. We are raised to do great grooming, but we’re not raised to raise our voices. It’s always a frustration for me. I feel like you have an extra layer because you have all of these gender roles and your guys all have had these ideas about what it means to be a husband. What it means to be a father. You even have chores that are gender segregated, even if your guys are not good at car stuff or taking out the trash or whatever. We all kind of know like those are the things that boys are supposed to do.
Denise: We grow up with these pressures and specific ideas about who does what. I think that’s one of the benefits. I read this book a long time ago – I think it was Betty Berzon, that was about how same gender relationships have really unique problems like since we’re the same gender we could be competitive. There are things like that, but we also have really unique positives that are fantastic like everybody gets to do the thing that they’re the best at. It doesn’t have to be equal if everybody’s happy. It just has to make everybody happy. Like my wife is a great cook and she is one of those people that is relaxed by chopping and putting flavors together and is delighted when you love her food. That is just the happiest place for her.
Denise: And cooking, to me, is drudgery. I’m not unhappy cleaning a bathroom. I’m not unhappy taking care of other things and her job is just the whole kitchen. So I don’t think about that component that sucks up so much space. What is dinner, shopping, that kind of thing, that is completely composed of somebody who enjoys doing it, who doesn’t think of it as the monstrous drudgery that I think it is.
Brandy: Gosh. What it would be like to … and I’m thinking we need to get to people early before they have kids and even in child birth classes I used to teach … we would talk about this, but it needs to be something more overt which is, what if we set up our parenting relationships as if we had like a list of the tasks. And then you cut them out into little strips and then you’re like, “Okay. Everybody pick your top three.” And just seeing where people’s talents and where their joy is and what they like to do, rather than, well, you have a penis, so you’re never going to be doing the cooking or the meal planning or the groceries. And you have a vagina, so you will be doing all of the toilets. What if we were more, like you said, the word deliberate. It even has me thinking about in my own marriage what if we did that? What if we took everything that each of us does and we put them … we have little slips of paper and each one’s written on and then we put them all out and we say, “Hey, reset.”
Denise: Yeah. Burn it down.
Brandy: Yeah. Burn the whole thing down. I wonder what would that look like in our lives if we burned the shit down and rebuilt it? Just an idea.
Denise: An incredible idea and I think we’re all ready for it, right? I don’t know that it always occurs to us that we have the option of completely starting over or redoing whatever. Hitting reset. And I think that even before that birthing class, I think that’s the way that we have to raise our kids, right?
Denise: I have two children that look like they are straight, cis, white kids and I feel like my goal for them is to speak up for the voices that can’t be heard. If I don’t do anything else. They don’t have nice manners. If they don’t have whatever it is that signals success in our culture, if they’re able to speak up for voices that can’t be heard, then that will be success to me. So, we talk about gender and I expect that my son will be a feminist. Jack is now speaking up for people and he is somebody who challenges when kids in his kind of conservative school say, “Oh, well pink is for girls.” So the teacher brought in some kind of stick figure and she was talking about something and while she was doing it she puts a tutu on the stick figure and one of the boy’s says, “Well, now it’s a girl.” And Jackson challenges him the way he does. He says, “Well, why would it be a girl? Why would a tutu have a gender? It’s a piece of fabric. It’s ridiculous.”
Denise: And the kid says, “Oh. Like you’re going to wear a tutu.” So my child takes that as a challenge. So I give him a tutu and I say, “What’s happening?” And he explains the situation and he is going to wear it to school and I think, “Oh my god. Something’s going to go wrong with this.” But you know what? He goes to school. He wears the tutu all day. Comes home in the tutu and says, “Do you have more tutus? There are other boys that want to wear them.”
Brandy: Oh my god. Chills. Ah. Our kids are going to save us.
Denise: Oh my god. I am so optimistic. They’re so much smarter than we ever were. They’re so much cooler. They get things. I know it feels like Thelma and Louise off the edge of the world. But no. We’re okay. We’re going to be okay. They’re going to be all right. They’re going to turn it around for us.
Brandy: And that’s the thing. Sometimes it feels too overwhelming and that we cannot chip away at some of this patriarchy and hatred and racism and sexism stuff, but in our own little world, this is where we have some of the control. So this idea about burning the shit down in your own home to rebuild what you want. Yeah, maybe you can’t do that with our government and our culture at large, but you can sure as shit begin the process of doing that in your own home.
Denise: I feel like I was just reading something about that about how there’s the world out there at large, and there’s the world that we have that we see every day. Which one’s real? Which one is the one that affects the most? And certainly, there’s laws. We know. There’s a lot of things that touch us. But on a day-to-day basis, on a minute-to-minute basis, the world directly around us is what we have control over and what we can feel hopeful about, what we can feel joy about.
Brandy: Yeah. So, going back to what we were talking about with some of the gender stuff, when we were talking about how we’re raised to put other people’s needs ahead of our own and to be cute and care-takey and all of those kinds of things. So when I imagine being in a relationship with a woman, I imagine, wow, you’ve got two people who have been conditioned their entire lives to put other people’s needs ahead of their own and then you get in a relationship with that person, you have two people, and this is just my fantasy, lovingly care-taking each other in these really profound ways where one of them isn’t clueless. I mean, we’re all clueless to what we’re clueless about. Nobody’s not clueless about something. But, just at the heart of who you are and who you’ve been conditioned to be, it’s like a direct reciprocal that I operate in this world where I caretake and I’ve been taught that that’s what I need to do and that my needs aren’t as important as others. And then your partner’s like, “Yes, and I also operate that way. So what could I get you from the fridge?” And then the other one’s like, “No, but what am I going to get you first?” I imagine you guys just out nurture each other. Is this true?
Denise: No. No. I’m sure there are couples like that. I think I might know couples like that, but we’re not like that.
Brandy: But wait a minute. But you said that she stayed up with you and wouldn’t-
Denise: Yep. She did.
Brandy: … take no for an answer and was like, “I’m not letting you be lonely.” That is what I’m talking about! Because that is the foresight that is I’m thinking ahead of your emotional well-being and what this might lead to. That is not small.
Brandy: I want to talk about this work thing, because part of my question is, is some of the difference that I’m seeing in hetero relationships and same-sex relationships, is it a breadwinner versus a non-breadwinner thing? Is it about money and is it about somebody having a job that brings in income versus a mom job that doesn’t bring in any income that there are these sort of disparities?
Denise: Yeah. It might be.
Brandy: Or is it a gender thing, or is it not? So, what was your situation? Did you both work or did one of you stay home and how did you figure that out?
Denise: We are people who wouldn’t not work. We both have careers that we love. We do hard jobs and we’re compensated nicely for them. I mean, sometimes we travel. Sometimes we have to be away from our family. It’s mostly me that travels. So Julianne knows that she has to be the single mom for sometimes it’s a few days at a time. She wouldn’t have wanted to be with somebody maybe who wasn’t like also … that’s part of, I think, what went into our personality and our motivation was that she sort of loved how in love with work I was. How passionate I was about my job. Of course we met through work.
Denise: And it was not even a consideration. It wasn’t even something we talked about. Only if we didn’t have the means to have good daycare would we have had somebody stay home, because nobody … that is a beautiful thing that people do, but I don’t know that I have the personal ability, the temperament to be at home like that. And we felt really strongly that we wanted to both go back to work and I loved it. I have to tell you. I enjoyed my time off. It was pretty great. I loved … like the war time was pretty bad. But when you’re just about to go back to work, everything’s kind of evening out a little bit. When I went back to work, I remember the first time I came back to my desk and I went to the bathroom by myself. Oh my god. It sounds crazy to say that out loud, but it was so fantastic to not have anybody else on me to worry about to do anything.
Denise: I took my leave and because we live in California, I had something like 12 weeks. And then Julianne also had maternity leave. So when I was done with mine, she started hers. So I went back to work and I knew the baby was at home with her and that was such a comfort to me until he was … He was almost five months by the time he went to daycare. So it felt to me like I wasn’t handing off an infant. It felt okay. It wasn’t to strangers. I mean, that was definitely my concern that like how am I going to do this? When it finally came down to it, I thought, “I don’t know if I’m going to be able to give this baby up.” But as time went on, I thought how important it was to me to get back to work. And since we’re both working and everybody is sleep deprived, and everybody’s going through the same thing, there’s definitely that equality. And at times, I’ve made more than she has. She’s made more than I have. So there’s never any kind of money inequality.
Brandy: I’m finding it interesting because I’m thinking if you’re both making around the same amount of money – what does this say about me? But in my mind, I’m thinking, “Well, then you both have equal bargaining room.”
Brandy: Like you both have equal power. And I grew up in a family that was … my parents both worked. I grew up in a family that was pretty masculine in terms of our values. Being productive and being valuable was prized in my family. I even remember when I was a little kid, there was a weekend where my family was working out in the garage or doing something. They all had projects or were working on things. And they all sort of shamed me for not being involved and that I was lazy or whatever. And I remembered writing a list of all the things that I did in the world that was like, “I’m the one that sends people birthday cards in our family. I write letters. I’m doing well in school.” And I can’t help but think that being more in the feminine was something in my family that had to be justified. That’s just sort of like my take on my experience.
Denise: Doesn’t that fuck you up about money then?
Brandy: Well, so that’s … Today, Denise, I might be realizing this. Like in this moment where I’m thinking, “Oh my gosh,” you’d be like, “No. I’m not doing that. I make half of the money.” So I’m thinking-
Denise: Oh my god.
Brandy: … money equals that.
Denise: So here’s the thing. No.
Brandy: Okay. Help me.
Denise: We don’t do that. I think of that money as mine. I’ve doubled my salary by being together with somebody and so has she. And we get to do things that we wouldn’t otherwise do because you have just gotten this raise or bonus or whatever. We both think of it as ours.
Brandy: That’s exactly right. That’s how I’ve always been with my husband too. But here’s the thing. When you go to being a stay-at-home mom, you don’t have that pride. If you come from a family that values productivity and making money, you don’t have that warm, fuzzy feeling of my husband got to double his income because I’m also working. You’re like, “I have nothing to give in that realm.” Even though …
Brandy: Right? Even though you know, “I’m giving so much in this other realm and raising our kids.” If being a contributor in the money realm made you feel good, even in a healthy way, made you feel good, you all of a sudden are not contributing in that way and from my perspective as an independent woman who always had a job – I’ve had a job since I was 14 years old, my husband and I made the same amount of money before we had kids – I always felt like, yeah, like I’m an independent woman. I don’t need a man but I got this man that I love and we’re doing this shit together. He’s not taking care of me. Then you have a baby and then you don’t work. All of a sudden you’re like, “Oh fuck, where is my value?”
Denise: But what happened to baby Brandy that was writing down all the things that were of value? Right? All of the things that you contribute that aren’t bringing home money. And maybe that’s the difference. I don’t know if that’s also a gender thing too because if I stayed at home, I would think of all of her money as all of my money too and I wouldn’t necessarily feel a power imbalance. If I didn’t work, it would be like a whole big identity thing but …
Brandy: Yes. That’s what I’m realizing. I don’t think of it as his money, but I think what happens is in my mind he should get all of the comforts and we should cater towards the person who’s making the money because if we didn’t-
Denise: Oh no.
Brandy: … that person couldn’t make that money and then we would be homeless. There’s some sort of logic in my brain that again, for the first six or seven years of being a mom was there and now that I’ve sort of woken up and like wait a minute, my job is actually crazy hard, and doesn’t have to have money tied to it, but I can’t help but still feel like some of those things are at play or were at play back then. So that’s why I’m wondering… but see, here’s the thing. Friends of mine that I know that are in hetero relationships and they both work, the mom still does 80 to 90% of the household and child rearing duties. It’s not split 50/50.
Denise: But why? Why would you do those things?
Brandy: Because somebody has a dick. Because somebody’s dick-
Denise: Oh my god.
Brandy: … is flapping all over that family.
Denise: It doesn’t make sense.
Brandy: I know.
Denise: What value is that dick bringing? Is that dick that good that it brings like I’m going to do more toilets? Like no.
Brandy: No. It’s that set up though. It’s that framework that already exists. You’re an independent woman. You’ve got a career. You can have it all. You can have the job as a modern woman, but you’re also going to be doing most of the work because of the way that we have these roles set up.
Denise: No way. Hard pass.
Brandy: I know!
Denise: Okay. So there are things that I do. If we go on a trip, I do all of the packing. I pack for Julianne. And I think there’s a lot of emotional labor that goes into that.
Brandy: Oh yeah.
Denise: Like I have to remember contact lens solution. I have to remember everything. And if I’ve forgotten something on a trip, all of that shit. But as I’m doing it, I’m aware that what I’m doing is a choice, and Julianne has done all of the reservations, all of the research, all of the figuring other shit out so I don’t have to manage that. I am buying birthday cards, but she’s buying birthday presents.
Brandy: Okay. See, this right here. In a hetero relationship, and this is a total generalization, but in my pool of anecdotal people that I know, this is not split like this. This is the mom is doing the packing for everybody and the reservations and the snacks on the trip there. All of these things. The birthday presents, the cards, even knowing about the party, getting the kid to the party, bringing the present, buying the present, wrapping it, the thank you cards that they then have their kids send afterwards so they learn how to be grateful – all of those things are done by the mom. So is this an unspoken thing with you guys? Or did you say, “So you’re going to do the reservations, then I’m going to do the packing. Does that sound cool?” Or did it just naturally you guys sort of figured it out?
Denise: Everybody who’s good at what the thing is, does the thing.
Brandy: And could it be you are in this amazing unicorn relationship?
Denise: I could be a unicorn, yes. But I just feel like I just can’t even imagine what that would be like. No wonder you guys are so ready for change and you have it hard. That’s only one small part, right?
Brandy: I mean, that’s just one facet. Actually, this brings me back to … Okay. I want to walk back real fast to after you had the kids and when we were talking about the whole run thing which we’re talking about something that the guest, Jessica, had talked about in, I think it’s episode one, about how dads are like, “Hey, I’m going to go for a run”, and that fills us with rage when we have a newborn or an infant and we don’t know why because we’re like, “I shouldn’t hate that you’re doing a thing you love, but why do you get a run and I don’t?” But we don’t know how to ask for it yet. It’s all complicated. Listen to episode one if you want to hear more about that.
Denise: That was the thing that made me crazy. Yes.
Brandy: Yeah. Okay, so tell me more about that and about how the setup was that you actually got a run and you didn’t even have to ask for it. See, this is the groundbreaking stuff that us hetero people are like, “And you didn’t even have to ask for it!”
Denise: I would never ask. But that’s the thing, right? I have the expectation that she isn’t going to just think about herself. I mean, I’m not talking shit about your guys. They’re wonderful. They’re very evolved. But I would never … I can’t even imagine somebody getting up, thinking just of themselves and not about all of the things that happen in the morning and just taking care of themselves and their own needs first. I guess they’re raised to do that, right? They’re raised to think about their own needs first. Certainly, we’ve had a lot of conversations about it and Julianne has picked up a shit ton of slack because of last year, year before, I was doing a big race and doing a ton of training and that took me away from the family during the weekends. That’s primetime is when everybody’s at home and everybody’s front and center and everybody wants an activity and everybody is hungry every minute and a half.
Denise: So, I realized how big of an ask that is. And before I do any race anyway, I think, I’m sure I check with her because my race requires a lot of travel, but we bring our kids and she doesn’t race, but she’s like a pit crew. She’ll drive me to the race. She’s super supportive. I am an overweight runner. I’m an obese runner, I guess, is what you would say. So I want to break that myth if you’re imagining some SoCal gal that’s lean and … So, all sizes of people run. And anything that somebody feels passionate about in our family, we are there 100%. Maybe we even overdo. It’s entirely possible. So if she knew like you have to train for this race, you get your ass out of the house. Go, go, go before the kids wake all the way up. And I will get people cereal.
Brandy: Okay. See, so right there, there’s some fundamental thing that must happen in this situation. And granted, there are relationships in which this happens, in hetero relationships, in which the husband sees like, hey, this really makes you happy. You should go do this. But I don’t think that’s the norm. So I’m even kind of blown away that you would have a passion, that you would even know that you are allowed to have a passion. That you have a passion and that it’s supported without you begging for it within the first five years of your kids’ lives. So these things, these passions, to me, tend to, in hetero relationships, come a little bit later once the kids are grown up. And there’s a whole bunch of stuff behind that which is, I think, partially some guilt that we moms have for doing our own thing. And especially stay-at-home moms. I think working moms, and I could be wrong about this, but I think working moms have accepted a little bit of the, I have life outside of my kids. And so I think they can see themselves separated from their kids in a way that stay-at-home moms can’t. I think the way that working parents are able to do that is actually healthier then the stay-at-home parents are because sometimes our whole identity is these children.
Denise: Yes. Yes. Is tied up in these people.
Brandy: Yeah. We don’t even know what we would want. What are we passionate about? I don’t know. I’m passionate about buying diapers that actually fucking work. That’s so sad. But to know that you can be somebody detached, separate from your children and have a passion that doesn’t involve something with them in terms of like care-taking them, like oh, I’m in a babywearing group. Well, that’s great. But what else?
Denise: I don’t know that we are, though. I don’t know that we’re necessarily better. I know that, for example, when I have gone away on a trip, I don’t have any interest in doing anything social with other families, with anything else on the weekend other than seeing my kids because I feel so guilty that I’ve spent an overnight away from them. And were they missing their mommy? And they’re older now. They’re not missing me at all. But, ah, it feels horrible to be leaving them. The worst feeling is to be driving away from your house, on your way some place for three days and to have … my daughter will come to the door and she’ll hug and kiss me and she’ll make a long good bye and it’s just this horrible experience I feel so guilty about. I wouldn’t run that weekend that I came home. I would be with them and I would say, “Let’s make pancakes together,” or whatever. That guilt is driving a lot of what I do. That guilt and feelings about wanting to be a good parent and doing better than my parents did with me is my hope, is my goal, right?
Brandy: Yeah. Isn’t it kind of funny how a stay-at-home parent who has just been in the thick of kids for so long, leaving their house is the greatest gift – if they knew they could leave for three days. And then somebody who’s a working parent, leaving their house for three days may be the worst thing and make them feel awful. These extremes, I’m so interested in these extremes. And granted, there’s, on both ends, there are stay-at-home parents who also wouldn’t want to leave for three days and there are working parents who feel great leaving for three days. But motherhood is one of these things where it’s too much and not enough all at the same time, and this is just one of those examples that really feels like it illustrates that.
Denise: We all find ways to feel guilty about what we’re doing, right? We all find ways to feel guilty about how we’re not quite parenting the way we want to.
Brandy: Yeah. It makes you wonder, where is that middle ground where we don’t feel guilty, but we also don’t feel like we’ve seen them too much? And really, this is a whole podcast in itself, but is our society built for a framework of middle ground for us mothers where part-time jobs are a thing? Where there’s space for that-
Denise: I love that.
Brandy: … where there’s child care for that. I don’t know. And I think when we’re talking about maternal wellness, I think that middle ground, that place of balance, is something that hopefully in the future we’re going to explore because I think many of us would be happier in that middle ground. But there’s really no place for it. So anyway, I don’t want to get derailed because I have a couple things that are super on the top of my mind that I want to make sure that I talk to you about.
Denise: Oh! Yeah.
Brandy: Yeah. Because was this one of the things when you were listening to the podcast when we were talking about the sex stuff and the feeling obligated that many moms at night time are like, “Oh my gosh. If I want to be a good wife, I should have sex with my husband.” Was that one of the things that you were like, “What is this?”
Denise: Yes. Yes. Absolutely. Okay. So I don’t know. I think … I can’t even imagine, and maybe it’s because she was also awake with me and we were doing kind of the same situation. But I can remember when we got away one night. We had an overnight by ourselves, and we looked at each other and she was like, “You want to fool around?” And we both laughed. We both cracked up because in the early days, when there are people in the bed and there was up all night and there was no sleep, and we were both so, so … we just wanted eight hours in a row. Man, it’s such a luxury. We were so excited to go to sleep. Like both of us were excited. And I don’t think that we don’t have a sex drive. I mean, I think we’re pretty evenly matched when it comes to that kind of thing. And certainly, things have turned around now that we can sleep. But I can’t even imagine in the early days her ever even being remotely interested. God, after you give birth, it’s horrible. It’s… Nobody’s sleeping. Nobody feels physically right. Your body is still getting back to where it was before. You want to feel comfortable, and confident and happy. Right? And I don’t want to necessarily even be like touched too much because I’m touching a little person all day. It’s hard.
Brandy: Right. You’re exactly right. And then I’m imagining in this fantasy scenario where both of you are so overly thoughtful about each other, I’m imagining if she’s the kind of person who is thinking ahead or if you were up alone at night that you would be lonely. I would imagine she’s also thinking, “There’s no way I’m going to pressure her to have sex when she doesn’t want to because she’s probably been so tired.” And the other piece of it that you’re saying is, if the other person has been equally sleep deprived as you, they probably aren’t going to have the energy to do it either. So when we … so like, when I said to my husband, “You shouldn’t get up at night. I’ll just do it all,” one of the side effects of that also was, well then you’ve got somebody who is sleeping well and whose sex drive can be normal. And then you’ve got somebody who is not sleeping, who is feeling touched out because they’re the one doing all of the night work and it just creates a bigger divide there. So there’s a couple things going on in that scenario. Have you ever felt … I mean, you said that you guys are pretty evenly matched sex drive, but in same-sex couples, specifically in your couple, is there any pressure or obligation or guilt if you don’t have sex? Does that exist?
Denise: I can’t speak for everybody. I am the kind of person … and you know me. I’m optimistic and happy and I’m in. I’m in. So, if somebody feels like they want to be close or somebody wants to do something then I’m in. But I can’t think of a time during that period of war time, it would have been like hilarious. And it could be because we were both sleep deprived. It absolutely could. But it would have been funny for anybody to suggest it one way or the other. I can’t even imagine what that would look like.
Brandy: See, that blows my mind and that’s what some of my friends – one who is a lesbian couple, they messaged me after those first two episodes. And they were like, “I mean, we would never feel obligated.” And even one of my other friends who identifies as queer was like, “I’ve never felt obligated to ever have sex or that I should be having sex.” I mean, actually, let me … huge caveat here. None of these people have kids. Maybe there’s something to that.
Brandy: There could be, but it was more of this idea, like one of them said, “I would just never … I always kind of know the temperature of her emotions and where she’s at, so I would never …” I guess they’re just better at reading signals, whereas I feel like poor guys are not great.
Denise: Right. We’re raised to do that, right? So thinking back, I think that you know where things are going to lead, right? Where you start out physical and someone’s kissing and it’s going some place or it’s not. And you get your cues physically, right? This person is definitely not in the mood for this, and, oh, I got it. Without ever being in this position where I can tell somebody’s mood and I have to say something out loud. I can’t even imagine the awkwardness of that situation. No. Everybody kind of gets it. Yeah.
Brandy: Yeah. See, and that, that I think is a gender thing because this is a thing that we talk about as we’re talking about consent and rape and all of those sorts of things is there’s plenty of guys that are like, “But she said … she said yes.” And it’s like, well, was it enthusiastic? Was it scared? And it’s like that’s where there seems to be a disconnect with some men that they can’t read the signals on it. Where, as women, that’s generally one of our traits is that we can read a room and we can pick up on multiple people, but specifically our person.
Denise: Social cues.
Denise: And I’ve been at the party with a guy who could not read social cues that I was done with a conversation and you have to walk away from a person. I think it can be any gender that’s unable to pick up on the social cues and they struggle with that. But I think that we’re probably raised to be, and she and I are probably uniquely raised to be very attuned to somebody else’s needs and wants and making sure that ours are secondary. Part of what makes us work well is that we had similar, not always the best parenting that makes us super aware of just a little change in emotion, just a little shade of something happening. Where, I don’t know that all humans are probably not like that.
Brandy: Yeah. I don’t know. I’m one of those humans that… I identify as a human who notices any shift in temperature in people. So, to be … to know people who don’t notice it at all, it’s like, are you stupid? Can you not see? That’s not very compassionate of me. But …
Denise: It’s all right. Because you know, these are skills that we worked on. That’s what we do when we walk in twos and threes in elementary school where we’re all talking to each other and we’re working on social skills. These are the things that we hone while other people who are a little different from us are honing their kickball skills.
Brandy: Exactly. One thing I wanted to ask you about the guilt piece and about working. When you had your kids and you guys were both like, “Oh yeah, we’re both going to work”, it seems like the way that you were talking about it is there was no question like, “Oh, but maybe I should stay at home.” You guys were just like, “No, this is who we are and this is what we’re going to do.” So a lot of moms have guilt with going back to work and it sounds like you’ve been telling us about some of the feelings of not having enough face time with them and going to do your running stuff and sometimes cutting that out to prioritize time with them. So when you became a working mom, did you have that guilt? And the reason I’m asking this is I think it’s an interesting thing because in our society, there’s this spoken and unspoken thing that a mom is supposed to be there to raise their child. That’s their mom. And that’s the person who should raise the child. But in your situation, you have two moms. And so what I think is really cool is that it’s like you’re both validating for each other, or mirroring or each other that it’s okay to be a working mom. Whereas, even in a relationship like with my husband and I, and he’s working, if I was feeling unsure about, I don’t know if I should prioritize my work over my kids, well he’s a dad, so even though he’s doing it, it doesn’t make me feel potentially like I could do it. That doesn’t give me any sort of like no, he’s doing it, and so I could do it. Because his gender’s different and he has totally different rules. But with you guys, in those moments where maybe you were feeling like, “I don’t know. Is this what I should be doing?” You’re like, “Shit, Julianne’s doing it and she’s happy doing it. I’m going to do it too!” It’s almost like just a built-in validation. Did it feel like that for you?
Denise: That is a really great way to put that. But not really. Julianne is super practical. She is the kind of person that would never have thought to be at home with kids. She loves what she does. Has no … like makes no apologies about it. Just is who she is. And isn’t interested. I, however, am completely different about that. I think I had always seen myself as somebody who could stay home. Who wants to stay home. But I think it’s more cultural expectations that does that. Because I have this Pinterest idea of what it likes to be a stay-at-home. Like why wouldn’t we do this? We could make a garden. We could grow the kinds of flowers that attract butterflies and … No. That’s not what really happens. That’s just like my ideas about what pregnancy would be.
Brandy: Oh my god. You know what’s funny though? Is my kids and I, we planted a butterfly garden a month ago. So you have like personally called me out.
Denise: That’s what I want to do. Brandy, you’re living the dream! But it’s not all butterflies, right?
Brandy: Guess who has to water that shit every day? Not my kids. Me. So it’s like the idea is nice, and then there’s a whole world attached to that idea.
Denise: Yes. And that maybe was my dream, was the fantasy. Isn’t it for all of us?
Denise: But I don’t feel guilty about working. I feel like I’m a good example and I feel like my income allows us to do more things than we would be able to do just on Julianne’s income. And I get a lot of identity from work. I feel like an important person when I put on a suit and go to a meeting. It feels cool. But I feel all of those guilty feelings when I miss a thing.
Brandy: Yeah. There’s … I feel like a broken record. But, there’s a cost to everything which is when you are the working parent, you’re making more money so that you can do more things. You have a sense of identity outside of your children. So those are the pros. The cons are that you feel a guilt and possibly a lack of face time with them. But then, as the stay-at-home mom, you’re not feeling the guilt because you’re constantly with them, but you don’t get the identity and you don’t get that extra income.
Denise: Yes. But could there be something to thinking about what’s interesting to you? You doing a craft outside of the house a night a week. Being autonomous, having an identity, isn’t there something to … that too? I mean, other than being away from the kids just to have a peaceful grocery store run?
Brandy: Oh, absolutely. But the amount of work, especially in those first five years, to even get to any of that is so huge.
Denise: You’re right.
Brandy: And what you have to set up in order to do it, you have to basically do the pre-parenting, the setting out of the things that might happen while you’re gone, and then the post-op when you get back from the thing. And so sometimes it’s more work to do any of that and go have your thing and sometimes you don’t even know that you should get to do a thing. Sometimes, you’ve lost parts of yourself that you don’t even know if you like a thing anymore. What thing do you even like? Because who are you now? So these are things, obviously, because I have a podcast and a blog, and a book and I found these things for myself. But, it took years to really understand and know that I should be able to have these things and to find what they are to really rediscover this new me. What is she like? You need space and time to be able to do that and it’s hard to find that when you’re constantly in the company of other people who need you.
Brandy: And so, that’s the thing too is if you have one child, maybe after five years you really kind of find yourself again and that seems like, wow, that was only five years. But if you have another child, right when you’re finding yourself again, you go back and so then you’ve got 10 years where you haven’t really found yourself yet.
Denise: Right. I can remember I didn’t even read a magazine. I had subscriptions that I canceled because I couldn’t even open up a magazine. There was no room for anything extra. There was no room for reading books which is something I really love to do.
Brandy: Ah, yes.
Denise: And I can remember the first time I went back and was able to read a book. It was like a revelation where oh, it’s me again. Something that gives me pleasure and that doesn’t do anything for anyone else. It was amazing.
Brandy: That’s exactly right. That doesn’t do anything for anybody else, because we are so busy multitasking and so the thing that we like isn’t actually the thing that we like, it’s the thing that our kids like that then makes it that we like it because nobody’s fucking melting down. So that’s what I realized for a lot of years. It’s like, I don’t even know … pumpkin patches? I hate that shit! But you know what, if my kids are laughing and smiling and having fun and we’re making memories, then I guess I love that shit, but it took me years to realize, ah, I don’t really love a pumpkin patch. But I couldn’t have understood that in the beginning because I didn’t know the difference yet.
Denise: Right. You’re just trying to do the thing you’re supposed to do.
Brandy: Yeah. You just show up and if your kids are happy, then you’re happy.
Denise: This is the way the holidays look.
Denise: It’s so hard to figure out what’s expectation and what’s something you really want to do.
Brandy: Yeah. Will you … will you either validate or just totally ruin my dream of this other scenario?
Denise: Okay. Here we go.
Brandy: So apparently, I have a lot of fantasies about what it would be like to be in a … we’re learning a lot about Brandy today is what’s happening. Okay, so one of my fantasies about being in a relationship with another women is I would imagine when one of you has your period, it’s like just the most nurturing, amazing experience to be in a relationship with somebody who firsthand understands the hell on Earth that that can be. I’m imagining foot rubs, foot baths, heating packs, shoulder and neck massage, and chocolates being offered and fanning and all of these wonderful things. Is it some sort of Red Tent fantasy? And Red Tent is just a nod to a book, about how in the old days all of the women used to get under this tent and they would bleed into straw and have this real … it actually sounds kind of awful experience, but they would all be together, just like nurturing each other and they didn’t have any male energy during the whole thing. Is this what it’s like in your house?
Denise: Oh my god.
Brandy: Please tell me it is, Denise!
Denise: Oh, let me lie to you. I feel like we’re always on the run so much that nobody even notices, pays attention to that. See, you’re imagining all this nurturing and all these needs are being met, but I feel like a lot of it is two people meeting the needs of two children.
Denise: If somebody started rubbing my feet, if Julianne started rubbing my feet, I can tell you 100% that Zoe would be right in there like, “Here, do my feet. My feet now.”
Brandy: Yeah. Of course.
Denise: “Let’s do my feet. How about my feet?”
Brandy: Well, so you’re telling me that when one of you is on your period, the other one is not like, “Oh, I’m going to care-take you through this, or what can I get you?” Is it just like it goes by and nobody notices?
Denise: Pretty much. Sorry.
Brandy: Damn. Well, I’m bummed because …
Denise: You know, she’ll get me ibuprofen. She’ll make a cocktail if I need one. But not anywhere near Red Tent. There’s no like my hair is getting braided. Nothing like that is happening.
Brandy: See, with like flowers and just like “You’re a goddess and your fertility is for all to see.”
Brandy: I’m wondering … so just for a second, will you talk about what it’s like to be in a same-sex parenting situation and how that is, like let’s say, at your kids school and maybe what obstacles you guys come into contact with, and I’m wondering, too, are there times when you have to censor yourself before you say something because you’re representing a bigger cause in a bigger group of people? What is that experience like for those of us heteros that don’t understand or don’t know?
Denise: I don’t know. I think since coming out, that I’ve felt a level of responsibility to make sure that I am talking to people. That I’m out. I’m cis gender. You don’t necessarily know by looking at me that I’m a lesbian in a same-sex relationship. So, I feel a responsibility for talking about it. For telling people. For making sure that I’m out. Because you might not otherwise know that you know somebody who’s gay. You don’t know. I just want … if there are questions, I want to be the one. My wife, you look at her and you probably can tell. But not me, necessarily. So you don’t necessarily know. And when we decided to have kids, I knew we were both super mindful that we were bringing kids into the world, in a world that can be really hateful. And actually, it’s been so much … there are so many homophobic things that happen and when you grow up gay, you internalize them and you kind of just suck it up and you try and ignore it.
Denise: So I don’t know. There are lots of little micro things that are always happening. So my experience thinking, “Oh, it’s been pretty good,” it might be that I kind of minimize these sorts of things. But by and large, our school has been really supportive. We’re the only … well, I think there’s one other gay family in our school now. But, we’ve always been the first. We’re always the only. And we really try to make sure that our kids … we feel like we need to come out for them so they don’t have to have that conversation. If it’s difficult. If it’s awkward. Whatever. They’re pretty cool about it. We’ve worked really hard at making sure that they know that their family, while they may feel other, their family is something to be proud of. And sure, kids have questions from other kids and they’ve told us the kinds of things that kids will say, but we’ve tried to minimize their experience with the adults, which I think are the harder situations.
Denise: I mean, kids can ask questions and we’ve heard lots of adorable comments like, “Oh I want to have two moms. Two mommies in the family? That sounds wonderful.” They have … kids have good experiences with mothers so …
Brandy: Yeah. Totally. The only lingering question that I have is what do the kids come to you for and what do they go to her for? Is that pretty equal? Or are you the default parent because you gave birth to them? Or is that not a thing?
Denise: I don’t know how it is with other families. But, they will go through periods of time where it is just mommy, mommy, mommy, mommy, mommy, mommy, mommy, mommy, even when I am just like you, even when my hands are full, I am bringing in groceries or I’m completely busy and completely engaged in something and Julianne can be sitting down, fucking around with her phone. She’s playing a phone game and nobody is bothering her at all. We laugh about that. I’m like, “Momma’s hands are empty. Go talk to Momma. Don’t bring it to me.” So they do. I don’t think it has anything to do with me giving birth, it’s just I’m the person that’s more likely to listen to the whole story of what their … like to look at every single room that they made in Minecraft. That is who I am. I will listen to the entire story, and that’s why they come to me, I’m sure.
Brandy: Well, you know what’s funny is here I’m trying to see, okay, so what’s gender and what’s not gender, and the story you just told me about Julianne about how she’s sitting playing a game on her phone and the kids are pestering you, I’m like, “Wow, she sounds like the dad!” So maybe this doesn’t have anything to do … maybe the moral of the story is, it’s not about gender. It is about gender… I don’t know. I feel more confused now than I did in the beginning.
Denise: Yeah. It’s her personality. I can’t even picture her sitting through one of those stories without going like, “Hurry it up. Come on. Talk to me. How can you make this shorter? I have things to do.”
Brandy: That’s amazing.
Denise: Yes. Yes.
Brandy: Denise, I am so grateful for you coming and sharing all of this information and for your time. Seriously, thank you so much for giving us heteros a look into your life and your relationship and just being really transparent and open and candid about the whole thing. Thank you for letting me dig basically into your personal life.
Denise: It was very enjoyable. I enjoy listening to the podcast. I enjoy all of the people that come on. I get something fun from all of them. And I have opinions. I go to the website and I have to say the things. So, I enjoy the work you do. Thanks for doing what you do.
Brandy: Well, I feel just as dumb when as when I started this podcast, as in, I don’t know what to make of gender, same-sex relationships, and hetero ones. It seems like personality is obviously a huge factor in parenting roles which is not a new idea. But there’s also definitely something there to the difference of being in a relationship with someone else who is conditioned to look out for everyone else’s needs. That part struck me. Since this is just one woman’s story, I’d love to hear your feedback or anything else you want to add to this conversation. I realize that it’s super nuanced and there’s not going to be an all or nothing with gender, but it was super interesting to get a look at what Denise’s life looked like, and where my fantasies were completely wrong. Also, isn’t Denise just so damn lovable??
Brandy: And if you’re enjoying the podcast, please consider leaving a rating, or even better yet, a review in your podcast app. These help me out tremendously. If you’re an overachiever, why not flex your extraness by supporting a mom (Me, hiiiii!) By heading over to patreon.com/adultconversation and become a patron of mine for as little as $4 per month. That’s less than a Costco rotisserie chicken. That’s less than getting stuck at the Target dollar spot, which is really also the $3 spot and the $5 spot. As always, thanks for listening.