For nearly two centuries, divorce in America was extraordinarily rare. When my maternal grandparents ended their marriage in the early 1940s, only two in every 1000 marriages were dissolved. However, starting in 1960, those numbers began to rise, almost doubling by 1980. And just like my mom and her siblings, kids of divorce almost always lived with their mother. In fact, in 1968, barely one percent of kids of divorce lived only with the father — and today, only 4.5 percent of divorced dads have the kids.
The rise of mom-only heads of households led to debates about the importance of fathers — and men in general — in the lives of children. But what about the need for women in the lives of kids? There doesn’t seem to be as much debate. Even with changing attitudes about parenting, based on a history of women overwhelmingly being the caregivers, they’re still the default primary custodial parent.
But what if there was never a dad in the first place? Like single moms, two moms seem to hear the same tired trope about the need for a male influence. But what about two dads with no mom in the picture?
I reached out seeking expert opinion on the topic of the importance of women in the lives of kids with two dads. I was actually surprised at the number of people who suggested women are vital in the lives of children with two dads because they are more nurturing, loving, and compassionate — traits that men, apparently, lack.
To me, these characteristics attributed to women seem to stem from the long-held notion that women are meant to raise the children. Dr. Carolina Estevez, Psy.D, a clinical psychologist at Infinite Recovery in Austin, Texas agrees. She suggests, “Since women are generally assumed to take the bulk of child-rearing responsibilities, they are supposedly more nurturing even if men can be just as nurturing.”
According to Dr. Estevez, more important than the gender of parents is how they parent. She argues that kids with two dads aren’t at a disadvantage from kids with straight male-female parents when the fathers are present and loving.
This view was echoed by Florida-based licensed mental health counselor and national board-certified therapist Courtney Hubscher of GroundWork Counseling. She says, “The most important aspect of a parent is not their gender; what I believe is most beneficial for children is loving, consistent, and nurturing parents.”
That’s not to say that women aren’t important in the lives of children, because they obviously are. My sons definitely benefited from the amazing women in their lives — from my mom to their aunts, cousins, and godmothers. Dr. Estevez says, “The presence of women in the lives of kids with two gay dads can be meaningful, as it provides the children with a positive example of strong and supportive female role models in the family.”
Here’s the reality, kids do the best, in my opinion, when they have a variety of people in their lives. Each of us brings a different perspective and different contributions valuable to a child — men and women alike. Gay dads (and single straight fathers) don’t need a female influence in their kids’ lives because women have a monopoly on being nurturing and loving any more than lesbian moms (and single straight mothers) need a male in the lives of their kids because the guys are exclusively strong and independent. We need everyone — men, women, non-binary — involved in the lives of kids because to raise happy, well-adjusted, confident, and strong children. It really does take a village.