I don’t have a lot of parenting experience. Actually, I have literally no parenting experience, but I have a ton of “daughtering” experience. I have been a daughter to my two gay dads since the day I was born. I have been a daughter every day of my life, and I have worn that label proudly.
It’s become a huge part of my identity because I wasn’t just a daughter, I was always “the girl with two gay dads.” That was my cool moniker back in 1993 when there weren’t a whole lot of other kids with gay parents. I had no examples of what it looked like to be part of a family like mine. There was no “Modern Family” or “Glee” for me to watch and emulate. And more than just being the girl with two gay dads, I am biologically related to both of my parents. Don’t worry: I’ll give you some time to get out a pen and paper so you can follow along. I was created with my dad’s sperm, my daddy’s sister’s egg and my cousin that carried me. Oh yeah, I bet you didn’t see that coming.
I loved and will always love being the girl with two gay dads. It’s what secured me a seat at the cool kids table. It was what made me special (or so I thought…but that’s a story for another time). My dads adore me. They fell in love the second I popped out of my cousin at 6:55 p.m. on July 2, 1993, and they still love me today, almost 28 years later. My parents worked tirelessly to show me how much I was loved. They set tough boundaries and always followed through. (Well, at least my dad did…my daddy has never said no to me to this day…). They instilled self-worth and self-confidence in me like you wouldn’t believe and yet nothing prepared me for the fateful day where someone point-blank asked me, “Well, were you worth it?”
I was sitting at a table with all of my friends in high school. Somehow the subject of my conception came up, which I was used to, being an anomaly and all. The girl sitting next to me asked, “How much did it cost for your parents to have you?”
I replied honestly, “I don’t know, but I guess a lot.”
And then I heard a voice come from across the table. I can still hear her piercing voice so clearly in my mind as she followed up with, “Well, were you worth it?”
All the girls at the table laughed. I was stunned and I wasn’t really sure what to do, so I laughed along, too, not realizing that about 15 years later I would recognize that conversation as the nexus when I started to question my enough-ness.
It instilled in me the idea that I had to prove that I was worthy of the time, energy, care, money, attention and all that it took for my parents to have me. It made me want to show everyone just how great the girl with two gay dads could be. I started to feel the need to be perfect. To achieve as much as I could as fast as possible. It made me highly determined to be successful at everything, but it also left me lying in bed at night feeling about two inches tall.
My dads never knew that I felt this way until about a year ago when I wrote it down in a blog post. My dads did nothing wrong. In fact, to me, they are and will always be the most phenomenal parents that exist. They made me believe that I could do anything, that everything I wanted could be mine if I put in the time, energy and effort, but still they didn’t know what was running through my mind when I was alone in my room at night.
What I do know about parenting, from a daughter’s perspective, is there will always be something your kid is grappling with that you know nothing about. But the peace of mind I can give you in all my years of being a daughter is that if you continue to show up for your children, to hold space for them as they are without impressing on them who they “should” be, to love them unconditionally and with fervor, to allow them to dream, to celebrate their efforts and not just their achievements, they will feel that and all of those incredible things you do for your children will not go unnoticed.
Growing up, my parents reminded me every day that I was enough just by waking up in the morning, and I certainly didn’t thank them for it then…I actually probably rolled my eyes and told them they were embarrassing. Now, as an adult looking back, my dads telling me that I am worthy of time, love and energy from myself and others is what has made me who I am: a strong, confident, loving woman who is determined to make her dreams come true.
Your child may not say anything to you, but they will feel it. And the positive energy you exude toward them can be greater than the feelings of “I am not enough.” It was because of my dads that the question of “Were you worth it?” didn’t paralyze me. It’s because of my dads that I wanted to keep pushing forward. It’s because of the example they set for me, their actions, that I believed I could do anything I wanted to because, after all, if two gay men could have a daughter that’s biologically related to them in 1993, then isn’t almost anything possible?
Chelsea Montgomery-Duban Waechter, otherwise known as Chelsea Austin, is a writer, speaker and life coach from Malibu raised by two of the most incredible parents, her dads. Chelsea has taken her story of being raised by two gay men and used it as a platform to spread love and tolerance and has advocated for the LGBTQ+ community since she was in high school. In 2010, she was voted one of the Top Fifteen LGBT Activists in the Los Angeles area. Chelsea has created a career out of sharing her experiences as the daughter of two gay men and a young woman navigating the world on her blog, “The Girl With Five Names,” her podcast, “Worthiness Warriors,” through speaking engagements, her upcoming course and as she prepares to release her first book about her life, her beliefs and her wish to bring peace, self-love and joy to as many individuals as possible. Chelsea is actively pursuing her life coaching certification and resides in Los Angeles with her husband, Dominic, and sweet puppy, Moe. To learn more visit chelseaaustin.com/