When Dylan, a shy 2-year-old with a pixie haircut, calls out “mama,” it’s tough to know which parent she means.
Michelle Fraker is the only parent listed on her daughter’s birth certificate.
But Dylan usually says “mommy” when she means Fraker, her birth mother, and “mama” when she means her other mother, Shawna Fox.
Dylan and her 3-year-old sister, Riley, realize that most kids have a mommy and a daddy. And they know they have two mommies. They’re too young for a more complex explanation.
Their parents, a same-sex couple, have been together for nearly 13 years. When they met, Fox was 21 and Fraker was 20. Fraker grew up in Billings, while Fox was raised in Livingston.
Statistically, their household is rarity.
Same-sex couples make up only about 1 percent of all households headed by couples in the United States, according to a 2010 census survey. Of those same-sex households, only about 19 percent had children who were either biological, adopted or stepchildren.
In Montana, the census survey data show 1,614 same-sex couples, 424 of them with children under the age of 18.
Fraker and Fox began thinking about starting a family eight years ago. They each gave birth to one daughter, using the same anonymous sperm donor for both of their children.
The girls were born 14 months apart.
“We wanted them to be close together in age, so they would play together,” Fox said.
While only one mother’s name appears on each girl’s birth certificates, the couple consider themselves equal parents to both of them. The girls have the combined last name of Fraker Fox.
So far, the couple’s relationship has not been an issue for their children, Fox said.
If any of the relatives disapproved, none have said anything to them about it, Fraker said. Their parents seem delighted to have grandkids. Their pastor, at Mayflower Congregational Church, has been welcoming.
“The people that I work with, all those people who are close to us, they all know and are very supportive. If they weren’t, I guess we just wouldn’t be around them,” Fox said.
Since same-sex parents with children are statistically so rare, the only exposure for many Americans may come through caricatures on TV sitcoms like “Modern Family.” Some
studies indicate that Americans may be more willing to accept same-sex households with children as families than to accept gay marriage, a perennially hot-button topic.
In early February, a federal appeals court ruled California’s ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional. The ruling applies only to California. Seven other states allow gay marriage — Connecticut, New Hampshire, Iowa, Massachusetts, New York, Vermont and Washington state, along with the District of Columbia. Washington state became the latest when Gov. Chris Gregoire signed a bill approving gay marriage into law Monday.
To avoid some potential legal tangles of being an unmarried couple, Fraker and Fox signed living wills.
“We never know when we’re going to run into issues with schools or anything,” Fox said.
At the drop-in daycare center that they use sparingly, they cleared in advance that either mother could drop off or pick up the girls.
When they take the girls to restaurants or other places, strangers will ask occasionally ask, “Who’s the mom?”
Additional Resources on Same Sex Parenting & Adoption