by Justin Rosario
We’ve all read the stories about the creeps who have two families living in different cities. They live with one family for days or weeks at a time and then leave “for work” to go live with the other one. They raise their kids, love their wives, clean the garage, etc. for a few days or weeks and then go back to the first family. They do this for years, sometimes decades, without either family knowing about the other and I always wondered how these rat bastards could transition so easily between their two families…until I started doing the same thing.
For those of you unfamiliar with my cool superhero origin story, I was bitten by a radioactive liberal spider that compelled me to become a donor father for my lesbian best friend Maria and her partner Jenny. Two weeks before Kyle was born, my wife Debra (fully supportive of the donor daddy thing) landed a job in Washington D.C. so we packed up our two kids, Jordan and Anastasia, and moved away from New York. The timing was not great and none of us were particularly happy to miss Kyle’s birth. We were still close and they came to visit us whenever they could and we visited them whenever we made it back up to NY but 400 miles apart is 400 miles apart. Boo.
The other part of this story has to do with Debbie’s mother who proudly announced the day after the 2016 election that she’d voted for Donald Trump. As a Puerto Rican Jew that had been putting up with her low grade racism for almost 20 years, that was the last straw. Voting for a man that openly appeals to Jew-hating white nationalists that would happily kill every Jew in America meant that had she put her hate of brown skin (she’s quite bigoted against Latinos) ahead of her love for her Jewish grandchildren. I informed Debbie that I would not be speaking to her mother again for the rest of her life and why. She understood it but her mother threw a hissy fit the next time she came to visit when I refused to be in the same room as her and her rabid Fox News zombie husband, Debbie’s stepfather, Lou.
Under no circumstances was I going to tell Debbie her mother was not allowed to visit but I wasn’t going to smile and pretend she hadn’t crossed a line, either. For years, there had been no consequences for her casual racism and I was beyond done with it. And that was before the Nazis started marching and Puerto Rico was left to rot in the dark.
Looking to avoid her mother’s repeated freak outs, Debbie came up with the idea to send me to New York to stay with Maria, Jenny and Kyle whenever her mother was in town to visit. Most people would raise an eyebrow at the idea of a wife sending her husband to stay with “the other woman” but aside from the fact that Jenny and Maria are A. lesbians and B. ridiculously in love, Debbie is an exceptional woman that scoffs at the rampant marital insecurities of lesser beings.
And so I found myself driving up to New York alone several times over the last year to stay with what I somewhat ironically dubbed “Family 2.0.”
Maria and Jenny were thrilled to have me stay with them. Part of our donor daddy arrangement was that Kyle would know that I was his father and they always wanted us to have a relationship. Living 400 miles apart makes that difficult and when we see each other, I still have to split my attention between Kyle, Jordan and Anastasia. And that’s assuming Anastasia allows me any time with her little brother (Anastasia really really likes being a big sister). But staying with them alone means I can give Kyle all the attention he wants and being a 4-year-old, he naturally wants a lot.
The first time I drove up to New York, I didn’t really know what to expect. Kyle was finally old enough to be excited to see me and Maria and Jenny were always happy to have me there but this was an entirely new dynamic. I was in their home being a part of their lives, if only for a few days. It was like I was a timeshare. For that weekend, I was theirs and theirs alone.
And it was perfectly natural. I fit smoothly into their routine like I’d always been there. We watched movies together. We took Kyle to the playground together. We vegged on the couch together. I played with Kyle while Jenny studied and Maria cooked dinner. I worked on my laptop while Kyle took a bath. I read Kyle bedtime stories. There was much tickling and giggling.
I took a passive role in parenting because while I’m “daddy”, I’m not Kyle’s parent; that particular privilege is reserved for Jenny and Maria. On the other hand, when Kyle wasn’t listening to one of his mothers, you can bet I deployed the “Daddy Voice.” That never failed to motivate him. To be fair, Jordan just turned ten a few weeks ago and Kyle will be five in August so I have a lot more practice at projecting a world of disapproval with as few words as possible.
At the same time, Maria and Jenny really seemed to enjoy having a man around the house to open jars, change light bulbs on the ceiling and reach stuff on high shelves. I teased them mercilessly about being a stereotype:
They didn’t bat an eye when I gave Kyle the stern Daddy voice and even said, I kid you not, “Listen to your father.”
Frankly, I found the whole thing disconcerting at first. It was too seamless; the dynamic too natural. Maria and I have been best friends for years but that’s not the same thing as living together. That Jenny was just as comfortable was even more surprising since we don’t have nearly the kind of history that Maria and I have. Didn’t matter, she just slid right into the groove. I’ve thought a lot about why that is and the best I can come up with is that we’ve all been conditioned from birth to accept a male presence in a family unit as natural, even if it’s entirely superfluous. Not for nothing, Kyle has two excellent parents and Jenny and Maria are madly in love. I am literally unnecessary but I still fit into their lives with astonishing ease, so much so that I hesitated to mention it to Debbie lest she, at long last, get jealous of the whole arrangement. I eventually did and she didn’t because, as I said earlier, such insecurities are for lesser beings.
After a little over a year of having two families, I can see how the creeps mentioned at the beginning can do it. When you’re with one, you don’t forget about the others (how could you?) but the immediacy is gone. You can focus on the family in front of you and when you go back, you simply switch your focus again. I suppose it’s vastly simpler for me since I don’t have to hide my families from each other. Jenny and Maria practically worship Debbie; how many women do you know who would let their husband get another woman pregnant and be a father to the child? On the flip side, Debbie loves Maria and Jenny but she adores Kyle to pieces. I haven’t been allowed to pick a single birthday or Christmas gift since he was born and Debbie would gleefully slaughter a small country to protect him just like she would for our own children. Debbie’s mother disapproves of the entire thing but unlike most of her mother’s criticisms, the number of fucks Debbie gives about this one can be measured at zero.
Obviously, we won’t be on Jerry Springer anytime soon. Although if they showed more families like ours instead of the screaming freak shows they normally have on, we might be a better country.
I wouldn’t recommend it for everyone. Our extended family requires a level of maturity and commitment that many (most?) people couldn’t maintain. There’s a reason almost half of marriages end in divorce and it’s not because of Ashley Madison. Still, the rewards are outstanding. The security of knowing that if something were to happen to Debbie and I there would be someone to take in our children that we trust implicitly, someone that would raise them as their own, cannot be overstated. At the same time, there’s the satisfaction of having deliberately built something wonderful for all of our children that they will carry with them for the rest of their lives.
Definitely a step up (or two, or a dozen) from the creeps hiding their families from each other and hurting both.
I’m a stay at home dad, father to a special needs son and a special daughter, a donor baby daddy, a militantly pragmatic liberal, the president of the PTA, a hardcore geek and nerd and I’m going to change the world. Or at least my corner of it.