Not Mom or Dad: Parenting Beyond the Binary


I am a parent. I have a gorgeous 3 month old baby, Hadley Rose, and yes, I change diapers, I give bottles, and I cherish every moment of her snuggly beginning months. What I am not, however, is a “mom” or a “dad” in the way our society assigns roles to parents. I am beyond that.

You see, I am an equal partner in the raising of Hadley. I am the person other than my wife, Rachel, her mom, who has been with her for every growth stage, every fussy night, and every new milestone. I am her parent who will love and support her every day for the rest of our lives.  I am also a non-binary person who finds the labels of “mom and dad” to be too limiting. If I had to be one, I would be “dad,” but the judgment of others confused by someone they perceive to be a woman using the name “dad” was not worth it to me.

Throughout her pregnancy and short life so far, I’ve been forced to question why so many people are focused on who is labeled as “dad.” Want to be let into a secret? It’s me, I just happen to go by Abba.  To me, that title feels much better than “mom” or “dad.” I do not produce sperm, so yes, Hadley has a donor who gave us a gift that allowed us to create a life, but Rachel and I did that together.

Hadley’s donor is her donor. Period. Yes, we know what he looks like, where his family is from, about his education, and what he does for a living. In our case, we will discuss those details with Hadley when the time is right, and for everyone else, it is none of their business.

Let me be clear, Hadley is 100% mine. Hadley is my baby, an extension of me, and a being who just might look and act like me. All of those things are in the eye of the beholder. We can discuss nature vs. nurture, but in reality, people grow up to be who they are based on various influences. When people focus on the person who provided sperm as the “dad,” they’re saying that I don’t matter as the second parent. They’re saying that my role doesn’t deserve respect and that they believe they have the right to intimate information that shouldn’t matter in how they view our family.

Hadley is mine; I am her Abba. I see her in the exact same way I would a child made from my DNA. People cover their absurd questions around her paternity by saying they wonder about her medical history. Let me ask you this: when was the last time you asked someone else about their paternal grandparents’ health history?! Never. You didn’t and you won’t. You ask in our case because you see us as “other” in a traditional sense of parenthood so you assume you can ask. I’m sorry, but you can’t.  This is also part of why “dad” didn’t feel right to me. So many people have imposed it on us connected to sperm rather than parenting. Abba is my name, and I am her parent.

Beyond the questions about paternity, the hardest part of raising Hadley for me is my fear of how who I am might negatively affect her. I will love her and give her the best life I can, and yet I cannot change the fact that society judges non-binary folks like me, and because of that, having me as her Abba might make my baby’s life harder. That is a very sad reality.

Hadley is my greatest gift, my world. I’m not a mom or dad, but that won’t stop me from being the best parent I can be. This I know; she will change the world someday.

Written by Caitlin Jones

Caitlin (CJ) Jones is a local Realtor and advocate for social change. CJ strives to provide inclusive real estate support to all members of the Tampa Bay, and embraces all opportunities to increase understanding of all marginalized groups. CJ has a Master’s degree in Higher Education and aspires to always use her words to embrace the power of education. Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BogertSalesTeam/

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