* Any views expressed in this opinion piece are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters Foundation.
Becoming a parent can be very isolating - but even more so for gay dads
Jesús Morán is a stay-at-home father
You might think that a gay stay-at-home dad in London, one of the most diverse cities in the world, would be surrounded by other dads in a similar situation. I sure did, but unfortunately, it can be as lonely in this city, as it is in many others around the world. With so few others who relate to your situation, it’s not hard to feel alienated and isolated from the community.
After moving to London from Miami, my partner and I felt that it was time to pursue our lifelong dream of becoming parents. The process of preparing ourselves for the change took about 14 months from start to end, but eventually, we got to bring our little boy home.
The first three months were the most intense of my life, it was the "not knowing" that really kept us on our toes. A whole new chapter of our lives was starting, and we were filled with fear and anxiety. All we wanted was to welcome our little boy into his new home and have him settle into his new family.
Months went by and the bond between my son and I started to grow stronger and stronger with every day that went by. Of course, there were ups and downs - lots of downs - but for every moment of calm and love that we had as a family, it was worth it.
However, it was strange for me, because the more I bonded with my son over silly little jokes, newly blossoming traditions, favourite cartoons and ball games, the more I felt completely isolated and alienated from my community. It was like a broken graph axis: I wanted my involvement in our local community to grow as my relationship with my son was growing, but instead found it so difficult to step out and find other gay fathers in the same position as me.
I missed going to work, being surrounded by those the same age as me, I even missed taking the metro, to be honest.
The more desperate I became, the harder the loneliness hit me. I’d spend time talking to my social worker, asking if she could recommend any groups, websites or local meetings I could throw myself into. However, most of these groups catered primarily for young stay-at-home mothers in a completely different situation to me.
Eventually, when talking to the mother of my son’s best friend - she suggested that I join Nextdoor.co.uk, a private and safe social network for our local community in Southfield, London.
I started connecting with really interesting mums who were so friendly and went out of their way to help me. We were able to make meaningful connections that allowed me to discuss some of my more general parental worries, in an understanding and loving group.
I still, however, believe there’s a lot to be done when it comes to spaces for LGBT+ parents to convene and talk about shared experiences.
Often, sexuality doesn’t affect how you raise a child, but it would be a fool who thought it didn’t affect what it’s like to be a parent.
Talking to someone who understands what it’s like to become the father of a four-year-old without knowing him for the first few years of his life, asking others how they prepared their children for ignorant bullies and horrible comments being made, figuring out how to explain to your child that his dads’ are different to his friend’s mum and dad - these are all valuable questions that I would love to be able to ask.