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Coming Out…To The Children

We were recently asked by a LemonAider how we came out to our children…

Our situation was somewhat different from theirs since our kids were the same age and already knew each other from various activities and social meet-ups together, so our transition into spending more time together looked mostly like a growing friendship to begin with.

The Early Days…

We didn’t tell them for about 6 months which, while sensible, was very difficult when we were in the midst of something so utterly life altering for us all!

However, we obviously weren’t quite sure (or ready to admit) whether this was something huge and important and love or just 30 odd years of pent-up latent lesbian sexual desire!! (I think we were both pretty darn sure it was the former but a bit scared to share that too early on).

A lot of our early courtship happened around the kids…

I had hardly any child-free time except when they were at school and Lea home educates hers so it was tricky! Needless to say we spent a lot of time at the cinema and in soft play centres (ugh) with them during those winter months so we could have the occasional illicit hand hold or cuddle between the seats or behind a giant wipeable block. Sexy, huh? Hide and seek was invaluable to us!

Coming Out…

When we did come out and tell them all, they were relatively unfazed by it all.

The older two had an awareness that women could have girlfriends and men boyfriends but there was no-one gay with a partner in their acquaintance who they saw regularly. We kept it brief and simple to begin with – we started holding hands in front of them and being more tactile. Kissing was a spectacle and can still, even now, cause guffaws or calls of ‘gross’.

But what they’ve all witnessed and still do is our love, physical affection and, for the most part, our care and desire for one another, something that was lacking in our previous relationships with their fathers. We both really wanted them to have a healthier model of what a loving, adult relationship can look like.

The Impact…

On the plus side for the two older girls, they quickly realised that our relationship meant they could see more of each other and be the ‘besties’ they’ve become. The younger two have had their moments of jealousy with the mummy being ‘taken away’ from them narrative playing out at numerous times.

From the beginning however, we agreed that the family model we wanted to emphasise is that we are the parents and adults at the top of the tree (and that our relationship and partnership is pivotal to the success of the family as a whole), with the children in their roles as children, NOT rescuing any of their parents (a work in progress!), and that as our children our love for them is always there, but in a different way to the love of a partner.

None of it has been without its difficulties, not least of which has been my guilt…

We’ve experienced a period when the big girls were feeling a lot of anger towards their fathers and feeling let down by them, which led to them turning even more into their friendship with each other and discussing whether they were going to be lesbians (and even whether that would be with each other!!!).

That was a tricky one and Lea had to pull me down off the ceiling to deal with that one calmly and not go off in a state of panic!

Then there was the dawning realisation from Mali that sex isn’t just for procreation which led to us letting the big girls ask us anything they wanted to know about sex, including whether we’ve had sex with each other (bless!).

They haven’t yet asked how we have sex – they know how men and women make babies and that sex is also for pleasure but thank goodness their naive little minds haven’t joined up any more dots…yet!

Let’s Talk About Sex… 

Since coming out, it’s been noticeable how sexualised a topic being gay is for many people. We’ve always agreed that sex is going to be positioned as something ‘normal’, natural and healthy, between adults…hell we’ve shown them pictures of Kim Anami weightlifting from her vagina (if you haven’t checked her out you really should – gay or straight she’s THE biz for all matters sexual).

We want sex to be a topic that we always talk about honestly (in an age appropriate way), that we’re not prudish around and connect to it as part of a loving, intimate, healthy, ADULT relationship. There are kids at school in the same year as Flo who have no clue how a baby is made or the correct names for their vulva and vagina…we want our children to grow up considering sex a natural form of connection (with themselves and others), and without the stigma or negative connotations so many of us feel. 

…And Other Things…

Our coming out has led to many interesting conversations with all the children – the vaginal weight lifting for example, vaginal health more generally, stereotyping, gender fluidity, masculine and feminine energy and how interchangable that can be.

In many ways it’s putting the theoretical meat on the bones of the gender studies degree I did twenty years ago, albeit tailored to a slightly different audience!!

Two of the children are now aware that their uncle is gay, they know about Pride and rainbows and about feeling like you’ve been born in the wrong body. They know that some people prefer not to have a gender at all (that’s not as complex for them to get their heads around as it seems to be for adults!). They know that mummy stopped being friends with someone they knew because she believed gay people would go to hell. That led to some very interesting discussions about love I can tell you!!

Having Gay Parents…

They’re also learning and telling us about their experiences of having gay parents. At our old Primary School Flo encountered some negative comments about it being unnatural for two women to be together. The Head seemed more concerned with stopping us flexi-schooling than dealing with that! Similarly, at our current school we’ve just experienced an incident with another child commenting on the girls having parents in a same-sex relationship.

These incidents are so small and yet they each have an impact which we see when our daughters are considering whether to tell people at theatre school that their mums are ‘gay together’. They made friends with two girls who they did tell, but were much more discerning about telling some of the boys, recognising that they might make life harder for themselves.

Those are the only incidents we’ve had and generally people are warm, friendly and interested (sometimes a bit too interested!).

You can see people mentally trying to work us out as a family – did we each have sperm donors and settle on two brown and two white children?!? Did we each birth each others?! It’s quite hilarious to watch, and tempting to play up to!

Lea and I have only had two direct experiences of homophobia, once in a bar in Lincoln where a guy made a rude remark as we walked in and once when we went to a dance class together. On both occasions Lea, as the more masculine energy, is the one in the firing line from men who cannot hold or handle that.

We’ve not told the children this but they are aware that discrimination happens to gay people because of who they love, just as it does to people of colour, women, disabled people, and anyone who isn’t a white, of a certain age male.

There is already a sense of injustice in them all about this, and a matter of factness that this is their normal. It will be interesting to see how this changes or develops in their teenage years, and whether it’s different for our son and daughters…

The Experiment Continues…

Our living together, blended family experiment continues apace (see here for the warts and all version of how it’s going between the two of us!). While the kids all seem to be adjusting pretty well to what amounts to a pretty big change in their lives, it’s not been without its challenges and obstacles!

It helps that, for quite some time, all the children have been asking when we’ll all live together so we know this is something they want versus something we’re just imposing upon them with no voice, desire or choice in the matter.

Becoming Minimalist…

Delcuttering and streamlining two households to fit into one fairly small house, with stuff for 6 people, is an ongoing challenge.

It has meant the kids having drastically fewer toys between them and discussions about whether they’d like to sell some of their stuff and put the money into a travel fund for when we go travelling (the answer was a definitive “YES!”).

On the upside, they’ve all been far more creative with what’s available, with the little ones rediscovering needle felting, fimo-ing, playing ‘tennis’ with 2 fly swats and ping pong balls and the big girls creating endless set-ups for their dolls and creating stop motion animation music videos with them on the iPad.

For us, it has meant numerous discussions about whose stuff goes where, who gets the most drawers and wardrobe space and just how much stuff we’re keeping in the house!!

It has also meant repainting almost all the walls downstairs, as well as the gloss paintwork, negotiations over furniture and room layouts, and the difficult decision of what to do with the household pets (especially since cats and rats are not a great match!!).

Remote Working…

All of this has also coincided with Becky looking for (and getting) not just one but two remote working roles, and the stress that that has entailed.

This is critical to our goal of travelling more and being able to work while we do, from anywhere with a decent connection (this post, for example, is being typed from a hospital waiting room!).

Blended Family Dynamics…

One of the biggest challenges we’ve faced – and continue to face – is navigating our way through the maze of blending our two units of three into one unit of six.

What has become absolutely clear is that if we are to make this work on every level, we need to agree on some fundamental principles…

1. That we – the adults – are the head of the unit, and that our relationship must be a priority because the more stable, grounded and ok it is/we are, the stronger the unit as a whole. 

2. That we are each ok with the other parenting our children; and by that we mean giving them loving and firm boundaries, guiding them when needed, helping them when needed and generally playing a parental role when needed. Our family unit just wouldn’t work in such a blended way if we took a ‘you parent yours, I’ll parent mine’ approach to raising the children, especially when we all live together. And for this to work, we have needed to agree on our parenting approach, what appropriate boundaries are (and aren’t) and, where there are differences, how we handle these differences in a fair and balanced way. 

We are fortunate to have discovered in each other an adult willing to parent our own children; to love them, to set boundaries for them, to model for them, to give enough of a shit about them that they feel secure, loved and that they belong with us and in our family unit. This feels so critical to our long term success in building a family together, and for our relationship too. 

Hard Works Pays Off…Doesn’t It?!

The minimalism, sharing a smaller space versus a 3 or 4-bed house, the remote work…all of it is great practice for the rigours of travelling and working internationally while home educating 4 children!

The therapy and emotional processing of some of our most deep-seated patterns feels vital to our relationship and the patterns we both still bring to it…and if we think it’s like being in a pressure cooker now, let’s see how it feels when we’re sharing a train carriage travelling across Europe!

This feels like we’re putting in much of the hard work now so things feel easier in the future. Here’s hoping!!

Welcome To The Family Blend: A Blog About Our Blended Family’s Adventures

This week has been a big one here at LemonAid HQ. Almost three years into our relationship and 6 months since Lea proposed, we are still living in separate houses but not this week!

No siree, this week (half term for my kids) we had an official ‘trial run’ of living together as a blended family of six.

We all spent four days (they are with their father’s/grandparents the other days) living and sleeping at Lea’s house to see if we could cope with us all moving in there!

I confess I was nervous…all four children and the two of us in a two-bedroom, one-bathroom house for three days and four nights? Sounded like a recipe for disaster. Lea, of course, saw things very differently. Sigh.

 We had a great week!

…The kids were, well, kids. Stroppy, delightful, cheeky, loving, challenging, awake too early, constantly hungry, little people. But we all got so much ground from the experience.

Our rules were few but firm: Mealtimes at the table together, showers before bed, everyone has to help out and do household tasks, and ongoing emotional sportscasting during arguments. 

We went out and did stuff, and we stayed at home. We went on a mammoth hike for four hours in the rain (not the most sensible plan with my foot already swollen and sore!) with the kids carrying their own kit. 

OK, it was only a week but we got to see how this really could work and it’s not like there weren’t tears, tantrums and tiaras…there were, and that was just me!

We aren’t blindly expecting this to go smoothly all the time and are well aware of some potential flash points and triggers. After all, you don’t spend 2.5 years both in therapy and processing the sh*it out of your stuff together for nothing! 

So what did we learn from this week?

SO much.  Foremost is that we don’t need to play the conventional game on many levels…

All too often we are shoehorned into lives we never really wanted – living in bigger houses with bigger mortgages that require us to stay in the same rat race on the same old treadmill, often doing jobs that no longer inspire or challenge us (if they ever did), let alone make our hearts sing. 

This week made us realise there really is another truth and another path to tread (in fact, plenty more paths to tread)…

Tiny House Living IS Do-Able With 6!

We learned that we CAN survive and thrive in a tiny house, and that our freedom and independence is more important to us than paying for a 4-bedroom money pit, show-house style home, especially when we want to home educate and go travelling a lot, both with and without the children.

Paying for a larger house, filled with stuff just doesn’t seem like a good investment of money or the time needed for upkeep when instead we’d like to be out and about, roadschooling, worldschooling and enjoying ourselves rather than worrying about a large, empty house filled with expensive stuff. 

Minimalism As A Conscious Choice…

Six of us living together in a two-bedroomed house is going to require a paring down of ‘stuff’ but as I’m learning, minimalism is very freeing (when I can unclench my butt cheeks). Physical things that I hold onto become reasons not to do things. 

Consciously deciding to live with less stuff means we can do more, be together more, and embrace new opportunities with the space we’re creating.

Now don’t get me wrong this is a work in progress for me!! I’ve been learning to let go of many things, not just physical possessions in the past three years, but also dynamics, behaviour, patterns and even relationships that no longer serve me.

It has been and continues to be challenging, lonely, and scary, as well as freeing, refreshing and inspiring as I can begin to see a glimmer of new light at the end of the tunnel of change.

Unsurprisingly, the children cope well with less stuff and are far more creative and imaginative.

Being Location Independent + Working Remotely Is Pivotal To Our Lifestyle…

And no, I’m not just saying that because Lea was at the forefront of the Location Independent movement, even coining the phrase back in 2007.

It’s key because we want to be flexible, to have time with our kids while they’re growing up, to be able to home educate them together, to travel, to take advantage of term-time cheap rates for activities and trips, and to work to live not live to work. 

Being able to work from wherever we are is absolutely fundamental to creating the lifestyle we want to live and while Lea has been doing this for over a decade, I’m relatively new to this and will be focusing on creating my own version of digital nomadism over the coming months!

Crazy Is Relative!

We’ve also learnt that some people think we’re BATSHIT CRAZY!

If you’re one of them, you likely haven’t got past the six people, two-bedroom, one bathroom house bit! To be fair, given the way most people live, I can hear that it sounds unusual but the joy of streamlined, uncluttered living is profound and gives a real sense of living in the ‘here and now’ that I think is lacking for so many in modern society.

To us, it sounds more crazy to work all hours under the sun in a ‘conventional’ job and send our children to school so we miss half their childhoods, just so we can earn more money to pay for a bigger house and more stuff, enjoy a couple of holidays a year, put money away for a hefty pension and only THEN really start enjoying ourselves and the freedom we’ve created. Why not create lives of freedom NOW? 

Challenging Family Dynamics!

Being part of a Blended Family, whilst challenging at times, has some real advantages as we inevitably shine a spotlight on areas that might need work in our dynamics with our own children or with our step children.

This rightly involves dealing with old stubborn patterns that might never have surfaced had we stayed in our comfortable 2.4 family units, in a haven of co-dependence. 

So we’ve also learned that being part of a blended family has meant that we’ve all had to (and continue to) look at our ‘stuff’ because it’s more noticeable, and our blind spots are highlighted by each other. Not easy by any means!

The Unequivocal Need for Adaptability… 

Living so closely together in a small house, as part of a blended, multi-racial, lesbian family has gotta make you pretty darn FLEXIBLE and ADAPTABLE, right?!

These are skills that I think we often lose as we age and become more ‘set in our ways’ and so it has been a useful eye-opener for me to see where I rely on patterns and routines that I might choose to forego in favour of meeting my longer term deeper goals rather than my short-term comfort needs! 

Flexibility and adaptability are key skills and part of a mindset that we really want to encourage in the kids which will set them up for the realities of modern life, in their learning, travel, relationships, work and beyond.

Hitting All The Buttons!

So there you have it: Tiny house living, digital nomadism, location independent, remote working, minimalism, blended family life, gay…that’s a pretty potent combination for a Family Blend of LemonAid, right?

We hope you enjoy the journey we’ll be blogging about as we begin the process of fully moving in together, beginning to home educate all 4 of our children together (currently my two are still flexi-schooling), and create a working and family life that enables us to enjoy the fruits of roadschooling, worldschooling and a life of freedom and independence 🙂