This Father’s Day, seven-year-old Max will buy three presents for his three dads.
Kids at school often ask Max: “Where’s your mum?”
Max says he doesn’t have one. Instead he has a “special lady” who helped his dads have him.
“He knows there was an egg donor and there was a surrogate. We’ve explained the process so that a seven-year-old can understand it,” says one of his fathers, Jason Schutze-Stafford.
“He’s very proud of the fact that he’s got three dads in his life. It’s never been an issue for him. He’s very upfront about it.”
Jason, Wayne and Brendan – Jason’s former partner who still plays a role in Max’s life – are gay dads.
They brought a three-week-old Max home after what Jason described as a relatively smooth two-year overseas surrogacy process that calls for a DNA testing to ensure that Max would be an Australian citizen, and preparing passports and exit visas.
“We had moments of stress but also had moments of joy, feeling really blessed that we were able to have Max in our lives,” Jason says.
The men are honest with their son, having regular conversations with him about their modern family. “Every family is different; some have two mums, some two dads, the combinations may be different, but every family is perfect in their own way,” Jason says.
“We don’t judge anyone because they’re different, or because their family is different to yours or anything like that.”
There’s no doubt the family model in Australia is changing. There were 47,000 same-sex couples counted in the 2016 census, up from 33,000 relationships in 2011.
While one-quarter of female same-sex couples have children; for men it is just 4.5 per cent.
Jason has shared books on diversity with Max’s school to encourage conversations around families, difference and acceptance.
“There’s a large proportion of kids who do have mums so we’ve just reinforced the message around diversity and not to assume that every family is the same,” Jason says.
“On a day-to-day basis, our family is very similar to a lot of others in terms of the challenges that we face with the whole parenting and working balance.
“The real thing that I always encourage is to have the conversations with your kids about diversity – different is OK. There’s nothing to fear about difference and not to judge anyone because of that difference.”
This article originally appeared online at The Sydney Morning Herald and in print September 3.