Our special guests this week are London boys Lewis and Richard, dads to Jake and Georgia. Lewis and Richard navigated the adoption process twice, once back in 2016 and again just last year with Georgia's adoption journey coming to completion very soon.
Here, we talk to Lewis about becoming parents for a second time, life as two dads and their advice for future adoptive parents.
Welcome to Daddy & Dad! Tell us a little bit about yourselves.
We are based on the border of South East London and Kent, so rather suburban, although originally proper Londoners and consider ourselves to still live in London. We’ve been together now for seven years and got married in the summer of 2017. I'm 35 and Rich is 32, but sometimes we think we are still basically 21.
We have two beautiful children, Jake who is three years old (going on 18) and Georgia who is only nine months old.
Jake is the typical boisterous boy, wanting to build stuff, play any sport going and in general do what boys do. Georgia, is as you would imagine, the Disney Princess that any two Dads would want.
You've been through the adoption process twice - how did you find the adoption process the first time around?
The adoption process is something that we are truly positive about, as have always had a good experience but we feel this is a lot down to going into it with an open mind.
The first time around did seem to take a while, around 16 months in total but partly down to us as we were carrying out some extension works at home, so we put things on hold for a short period.
The assessment itself did seem to ask absolutely everything about your whole life from childhood to now, but we fully expected this and nothing felt too intrusive. We were very lucky with our social worker and local authority we selected, they were and still are amazing!
We couldn’t have asked for a more down to earth and supportive Social Worker.
The second time around, was the adoption process different, easier perhaps?
Second time around, things really did seem to happen so quickly. We had a chat with our social worker to explain we were keen for a second child and only had to complete the 2nd stage of the process (as already completed the 1st stage on first adoption).
We seemed to fly through the process as it all felt like something we already understood, although very different considerations to take into account when thinking about your family as a three, instead of the two of us like before.
We were matched extremely quickly which was amazing and our social worker says that it was a dream example of how the second adoption should work. We feel very lucky!!
Did the bond or attachment with your kids come naturally? How were the early days?
We had a quite different experience with bond and attachment. Rich felt a bond and feeling of attachment straight away with Jake. I had a slightly different experience; it took a while to feel a bond. I think I was perhaps being a little hard on myself, trying to be a good parent and to do all the practical things properly but forgetting to actually allow myself to build that bond. It took me a while to realise I don’t have to be so hard on myself as a parent, but you constantly think people are watching and judging your parenting skills. We have come to realise actually that’s just a stigma we imagine - on the most part, people are extremely supportive and positive.
Second time around, we knew what to expect and already had experience of the practical parenting stuff which made it so much easier to just focus on building an attachment with Georgia. We are by no means expert parents and everyone does things differently, but the key is to remember you are allowed to have difficult moments and talk to each other and other parents that you know, to come up with the solutions.
Did you know you wanted two children from the beginning?
It's funny you ask this, because we initially thought we wanted to go straight in for siblings and jump right into the deep end. Through the adoption assessment process we spoke lots with our social worker and decided that one younger child would be best for us. That was a sensible decision for us, as we know how difficult it is just to be a parent, let alone all of the additional needs of adopted siblings.
I’m sure there are super parents out there that can and do take on siblings, but for us we have quite an active lifestyle and are both in employment, so it was all about what suited our forever family best.
As for future, don’t know yet, but watch this space!
What are your experiences of Primary School or nursery?
All positive so far, although Jake is only in Nursery at the moment so we do not have much experience to go by. We were probably far more anxious and worried about things than Jake himself, who loves going to his Nursery, which must be called 'big school' and not 'nursery' as he isn’t a baby!
We have a number of new friends who are parents of other children at nursery and have constantly received positive feedback on what we are doing.
How do you share the parental stuff? Was it easy to reach a balance?
Well we don’t really want to say 'good cop, bad cop', but I guess this is sort of relatable to the way we parent our kids. This just naturally happened, as Rich is the one who works full time and is often the one who gets the fun play times and then is able to head off back to work. On the other hand, I'm there most of the time and really the person who needs to be able to discipline the kids properly - otherwise they would end up growing up to be naughty children that do not understand boundaries.
We are probably quite relaxed with some things when it comes to parenting, but we do love a routine and feel it's extremely useful for our kids themselves. We are flexible - we're not the sort who must have lunch or naps at specific times - that becomes too much of a military operation. Being a parent is all about being flexible with the times and plans.
This was something we learnt very quickly as social workers will tell you over and over again about how a routine is so important but also you need to be adaptable. Initially we couldn’t understand how they fit together, but now we know it’s about a routine with reasonable expectations. If you're too strict with routine you end up being too hard on yourselves, which is something we did initially.
Your Instagram has really taken off over the last couple of weeks! What are your plans?
In all honesty we don’t really know - we started this for a bit of fun and enjoyment. We would like to raise awareness of same-sex parenting, make it feel as normal to others as it does to our family, but have a laugh at the same time. We don't want to just go on and on about being gay or different. We just want to be considered normal like everyone else and on the most part that is our experience, so we wanted to share it.
It’s also been so lovely getting all the supportive comments from people and messages from people who are inspired by our day to day lives as two dads.
Follow Lewis and Richard on Instagram here - www.instagram.com/twodadsinlondon
Any plans to start your own 'Two Dads in London' blog?
We haven’t really considered a Two Dads in London blog, but based on the extremely positive support via Instagram, we may well consider this as being a great thing to do.
As long as we could keep things fun and interesting for others to read then it would be something we would really enjoy.
What one piece of advice would you give to people who are considering a family via adoption?
Start the process with an open mind and allow yourself to speak about your thoughts openly with those who know you are going through the process - be prepared to challenge yourself.
Whatever you do, don’t go into the process expecting to be a model parent or even be taught how to be the model parent - the adoption process and assessment isn’t a training course on parenting. It does not teach you how to change nappies or wake up in the middle of the night for feeds, but it does help you understand the important, unique techniques for parenting an adopted child.
Ensure you do your absolute best to build a positive network of people around you. Get to know people who have either been through the adoption process or are going through the process. As much as your family and friends want to be supportive about adoption, there are some things you can only fully understand through adoption preparation workshops and the assessment process.
If you're an LGBTQ parent (or soon-to-be parent) and would like to share your story with our readers, please get in touch here.