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After my husband transitioned into my wife, I struggled to think of her as another mother to our kids

Jess deCourcy Hinds   

After my husband transitioned into my wife, I struggled to think of her as another mother to our kids
  • I always took on the typical mothering role in my family.
  • But when my partner transitioned into a woman, I struggled to see her as another mother to our kids.

After my husband transitioned to female and became my wife, I was taken aback when a friend wished us both a Happy Mother's Day. I'd gradually accepted and celebrated everything about my wife's transition — from her pencil skirts and kitten heels to her newfound inner peace and self-confidence.

But I wasn't prepared to consider how our role as parents — and my mom identity — might change during her transition. A stubborn, selfish voice inside me said, "I'm the mom. Not her!"

I was my children's birth mother, the one who sheltered them in my body and nursed them for arduous months. My spouse was Daddy until they were ages 8 and 2, and in many ways, he was the quintessential dad: the pillow fight, rough-house, silly guy. Mom is the one with the food and snuggles and keeps the family calendar on track.

Plus, there's societal pressure for moms to be the air traffic controller of all family activities — from dentist appointments to dance recitals — and the one who anticipates conflicts such as school closures. Mother's Day promises a token gesture of pampering and the invitation of self-care, a thank you for all we do.

But our family's gender shake-up turned everything on its head; we were ready to question everything.

My spouse's role in our children's lives changed

I was always a little uneasy with Mother's Day because I sometimes felt it reinforced the idea of mothers doing everything. I like stepping up and taking credit, but I'm also a big fan of sharing the wealth. Gender or sex doesn't make you more capable of managing a household; anyone can do it with practice and effort. Still, I found myself clinging to traditional roles even when my then-husband offered to help and relieve me. A part of me felt incomplete unless I was fulfilling a typical mom role.

When Stefanie began hormone treatment in the summer of 2021, her skin and emotional landscape softened. She felt lighter and less burdened by shame, so she had more mental space to keep track of the kids' field trip permission slips and Spanish quizzes. She worked from home and became the kids' primary caregiver. I handed over more and more responsibility to her.

When we filled out our daughters' school paperwork with emergency contacts, I remember whispering, "What should we call you?" Biologically, she was the father, but her gender was still evolving.

"How about 'parent'?" Stefanie suggested, and we both agreed that felt most comfortable. Initially, introducing Stefanie as "my kids' other parent" to school personnel and families in the neighborhood felt a little strange, but it got easier with time.

Mother's Day became confusing

On our second Mother's Day after her transition, Stefanie gave me flowers, as always; I gave her nothing and felt terrible. Didn't she deserve the flowers? Why couldn't I honor her today? But I felt a stabbing sense of loss when I thought of relinquishing — or splitting — my cherished role as a mom.

That Father's Day, I presented her with a gentle pink arrangement of peonies and said, "I don't know why I'm celebrating you in June and not May." I started crying. "What should we do? How should we celebrate anything?"

Stefanie kissed my forehead consolingly. She loved the peonies and the handmade card from our 3-year-old. Did it matter whether we called it Father's Day or a June Mother's Day? Why couldn't we reinvent the day to fit our family?

When our daughter's day care teacher asked how we should recognize Stefanie on Father's Day, I said, "Put Happy Parents' Day' on the card." When Stefanie opened the card with delight, our daughter was overjoyed and proud of her crayon scribbles. It didn't matter what the card said. All that mattered was that her beloved parent was acknowledged.

There's also Trans Parent Day, which was established in 2009 to commemorate trans parents' contributions on the first Sunday of every November. Our family now has three days on the calendar to celebrate ourselves. I now celebrate Father's Day, not because I identify as a dad, but because there's a part of everyone who can be both mother and father to our kids.

We are still finding our places in our children's lives

I have seen Stefanie grow and thrive as a parent over these last few years. She is totally a mom to our kids now. When we were questioning what our kids should call her, I did a Google search of names for trans parents and pulled up examples like "Maddie," which mixes mom and dad.

Then, after playing with different letter "M" words, I stumbled upon the idea of calling Stefanie "MoMA" after the acronym for the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

MoMa fits Stefanie because she's artistic, a mom, and our children's anchor and home base. I am freer when I have a partner who is a nurturing homebody so that I can explore other parts of my identity out in the world. Ideally, we will switch and swap roles as needed throughout the day. Being a mother is one of the most awesome life experiences, so I'd be greedy to keep it to myself.

I'm Mama, and she's MoMa, so we have lots to celebrate.

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