Q: In which “kind” of family structure did you grow up yourself?
A: I grew up in a fairly typical nuclear family, Mum and Dad, my little sister Emily and me. Dad worked long hours while Mum worked at our school. Emily and I enjoyed a settled, happy upbringing.
Tom grew up in a large family with his Mum, Dad, two elder sisters and a little brother. They lived in rural Bedfordshire and also spent a lot of quality time together as a family.
Q: When did you wish to have your own children?
A: I always wanted to be a dad, from a very young age. I used to love spending time with my little cousins and I babysat for kids in the village. But, the 1990s was a difficult time for gay people who were wrongly portrayed as the kind of people you wouldn’t trust around children. Also, the government back then banned any mention of LGBT in school so I felt very alone and unable to talk to anybody about it.
As a result, growing up as a secret gay kid I didn’t think there would be any way I could be myself and have kids, so I buried the idea. A few years after meeting my fiancé Tom in 2002 we started talking about becoming parents and eventually we started to inquire about adoption. Fast forward a few years and here we are!
Q: How did the family model in which you now live evolve?
A: Like our families growing up, we would describe ourselves as a nuclear family. Two parents, two kids. Tom works full time as a sales director for a tech firm, I work from home as a writer and blogger, allowing time for the school runs and after-school activities. When you adopt children, whether you’re gay, straight, trans, whatever, you’re dropped right into the deep end without a huge amount of experience. So, when the boys arrived, we put routines into place at home to help the family settle in together.
Q: Have your children questioned their family model? Have you ever been questioned about your family model at school/kindergarten?
A: The boys haven’t ever really questioned our family – they find it completely normal. To be honest, they experienced a turbulent, confusing start to life with several carers and foster parents, so they were relieved to finally be settled into a family for life. Right from day one, Lyall and Rich called us Daddy and Dad and we bonded very quickly.
At school, other than a few inquisitive questions from kids, we don’t feel any different to other parents. As adopted children, Lyall and Rich receive some extra support at school, just to ensure they’re happy and coping with any complicated thoughts or feelings. That’s typical of any adopted child, mind you – we’re treated in exactly the same way as any other family.
Q: How do people in your environment respond to your family? Have you ever felt discriminated against as a family? If so, how did you handle the situation?
A: As a family we are aware we look different and sometimes attract attention from people as we go about our ordinary lives. It’s mainly positive though – we live in a diverse city with friendly people. We’re very resilient and quite protective over our boys so if we were discriminated against or if somebody had something horrible to say we would speak out and challenge it.
Our Daddy & Dad blog has become very popular and as a result we’re quite a high profile family, attending public events in London with the boys and raising awareness of same-sex families and adoption on TV and social media. The media environment for us is wonderful; we get to spend time as a family and the boys are treated to amazing, unique experiences that we wouldn’t have dreamed of before the kids arrived. People in this new environment make us feel very special and it reminds us that we have a unique, special family, even if it feels very ordinary to us.
Q: On a scale of 0 to 10: How much do you feel your family model is accepted by society? (0 = not accepted at all, 10 = fully accepted)
A: I’d say in our local community, it’s an eight or nine. We go about our ordinary lives without any bother.
In the wider society, online and in the media we’re still a novelty and there are respected, upstanding people and religious organisations who claim to be very accepting but say children belong with a Mum and Dad. I’d say wider society would get a six out of ten. Through our blog and social channels we’re challenging that by showing how ordinary and happy we are!
Q: What’s the best thing about your family?
A: As a family we have a special bond because we’ve overcome (and are still to overcome) so many issues and challenges together, as a team. We adopted Lyall and Rich when they were four, so we like to make up for missed time by spending loads of quality time together as a family. We love our weekends – we do everything together; cycle rides, trips into town, pub lunches, festivals, city-breaks, swimming, homework, BBQs and camping… the best thing about our family is enjoying time together.
Q: What do you wish for your family in the future?
A: We are going to encourage Lyall and Rich to develop their talents and hobbies. Lyall’s a keen footballer, writer and he’s interested in fashion. Richard loves rugby, climbing and music. We want them to become happy, confident young men. As a family we hope to travel to USA and further, to show the boys new places and experience new things.
We’re going to continue to account our family adventures on the Daddy & Dad blog.
Jamie and Tom are British dads to two boys, Lyall and Richard, through adoption. Jamie is a writer and blogger and Tom is a sales director for a tech firm. Their blog gives an in-depth account of adopting, the parenting experience, discusses LGBTQ affairs and features other bloggers.
You can check out more We Are Family interviews in our magazine.