The idea of “life hacks” is a growing phenomenon right now, especially in the geek community. A computer hack, in the non-malicious sense, is a small script or shortcut to facilitate common tasks. A “life hack” is any tip or trick to help cut through the clutter of our everyday lives. Several prominent blogs, notably Lifehacker and 43 Folders, devote themselves to such useful tricks and suggestions. These sites offer advice on such topics as putting together a basic household toolbox, recovering data from a bad hard drive, how to poach an egg, and cleaning and stain removal. There are even related sites specifically on “Parenting Hacks.”
Most of the above hacks are applicable to almost anyone, though they skew towards the techno-savvy. I thought I would offer, however, a few hacks specifically geared to lesbian moms:
- Make extra copies of your powers of attorney, living wills, and children’s birth certificates (and adoption papers, if applicable). Put a set into the glove compartments of all your cars and in all your suitcases. Keep one copy in your house, and the originals in a safe-deposit box. (If you don’t have the above documentation, find an attorney and get it drawn up right away.) Hope you never need it.
- Plan ahead what you will say when people ask questions like “Whose child is s/he?” or “What does his/her dad do?” Having answers prepared beforehand will keep you from stumbling and accidentally conveying to your child that there’s something wrong with your family.
- Talk to your children’s teachers (or daycare providers) before the start of the school year. Letting them know you are a family with same-sex parents may motivate them to be more inclusive in the classroom. It can also alert you to any potential problems you may wish to nip in the bud. (The Family Pride Coalition’s booklets on “Our Families and Schools” can be useful in figuring out how to approach this sort of conversation.)
- Don’t be afraid to use the many mainstream online parenting resources despite their straight skew. There can be useful nuggets at sites like Parenting.com, iVillage, and Babycenter.
- Find other lesbian families, whether this means joining a mom’s group, an online discussion list, an LGBT-friendly house of worship, or taking an Olivia Cruise. This can be a lifeline if you’re in a red town in a red state, but is even refreshing for those of us in fairly accepting blue-state areas. Most of my son’s regular activities are with children of straight families, and most of the time, it doesn’t matter. Still, there are simply some cultural differences between lesbian and straight families, and it can be reinvigorating to reconnect with those of similar experience.
- Make two lists of the ways you will make your children’s world better, a “micro” list and a “macro” list. The micro list is for things that immediately impact your child’s life: repainting his room, enrolling her in soccer camp, starting a 529 account. The macro list is for things that will mean greater acceptance for your child and a better world for everyone: sending in that donation to HRC or Lambda Legal, writing to your elected officials, doing a walkathon for cancer or AIDS or MS. Use the productivity hints on one of the life-hack sites to help you get this done. It’s easy to forget the macro while we’re immersed in the micro, but with a little selection and planning (Junior can sleep in the stroller during the walkathon), we can make it all happen.
The above hacks should be applicable if you’re a gay dad, too (though we’ll leave it up to you whether you’re more comfortable in moms’ groups or dads’ groups). Here’s one more, just for us gals:
- Recognize when you and your partner are PMS’ing. Track your periods on a calendar in your bedroom or bathroom so you know when this might be the case. If you feel yourself getting edgy, ask your partner to step up her childcare role for a few days. Likewise, if you see this happening to your partner, volunteer to give her some child-free space if necessary. You can also agree to call a “two-day delay” if you start an argument during PMS times. Say “I’ll discuss this further with you, but in two days,” hoping that by then, emotions will have subsided.