Welcome Mandy to the VillageQ Community series. I love this interview because Mandy is honest about the things that are hard. It is hard to be the token gay family in the fish bowl. It is hard to parent sometimes. And, most of all, it is easy to be hard on ourselves. Mandy is a fantastic Mom with a beautiful family.
If you want to be part of the VillageQ Community series, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Name: Mandy Gray Hartley
Hometown: suburban Atlanta
Social media handles: www.mandygrayhartley.wordpress.com
Number and ages of kids: 3 boys, 5, 3 and due Jan 2016
Number (and type) of pets: none
Day job: Mama
Relationship status: Married
Favorite children’s book: Matilda (Roald Dahl)
Favorite flavor of ice cream: mint chocolate chip
How did you create your family?
Shortly after I met my wife, we began dreaming about the family we would create together. Shortly after we married in the fall of 2008 we got to work. Deciding who would carry our children was an easy one in our relationship. I wanted to have a baby, and my wife wanted to have a baby. It was perfect. We started with IUI and anonymous donor sperm in the summer of 2009. By the fall it was clear that IVF was our path and on Christmas of that year we got our first positive pregnancy test. Our first son was born in August of 2010 and shortly after his first birthday, my wife was pregnant again with a frozen embryo from our (at that time) only IVF cycle. Early next year, my wife will deliver our third son, who was conceived in a 2nd IVF cycle with the same anonymous donor sperm. Once we meet that little guy perhaps we’ll have a better sense of whether our family is complete.
What challenges have you faced as a queer family and how did you overcome them?
We are too often the only queer family in whatever space we occupy. While this has not led to overt discrimination or even much detectable tension, it is a significant internal challenge. My wife and I are both keenly aware that we are the face of “gay families” for many of the people with whom we interact. It’s weighty, this token life. I often wonder who we might be without it. Without the pressure to represent our people, to impress even. It’s impossible to know how it might feel to be just another couple with kids. Most days I can recognize the gift in the not knowing. Most days…
What did your parents do well that you want to emulate? What mistakes did they make that you hope to never repeat?
I am profoundly lucky/ blessed/ whatever to have been born into a family with a whole lot of love. My parents felt grateful to have a daughter and I could (mostly) always feel their love. This is a tremendous gift and one we’re certainly invested in as a family. Along with all the love I felt in childhood, I also felt a lot of fear and caution. While my home was a safe, secure space, it wasn’t a place for risk taking or pushing at your edges. This is something I’m working to shift in our family. I hope our boys will feel both safe and appropriately challenged in our home.
What words did you swear you’d never say to your kids but have – often?
Anything screamed at the top of my voice. Ugh. A shameful admission, but true. When I haven’t made my own needs a priority I’m vulnerable to this kind of losing it. It’s a lesson I’m learning. Slowly.
Describe your favorite family moment.
My most favorite moment each day happens just as I wake up. Although the boys are tucked into bed each night in the room that they share, each of them abandons their bed in favor of ours in the small hours. They steal in so quietly that we frequently don’t even notice until light begins coming in through the windows. When I open my eyes I see the three people I love the most. Close, snuggled in and sweet with sleep. Two adult women, two little boys and a queen sized bed. All the pieces of my heart. It’s the sweetest sweetness I know.