It is 5.30 in the morning. An alarm clock wakes parents up, with their favorite song sung by John Legend, while it is still dark outside. Another day begins. The parents take showers, dress , and prepare breakfast. Around 6 a.m. they try to wake their two daughters up, which is not an easy task because the girls are not early birds type. Lily and Haley are 6 and 7 years old and they need to get ready for school. According to family’s morning ritual, the first thing they do together is eating breakfast. Haley loves corn cereals and Lily always expects her piece of toast and jam. Then, the parents do girls’ hair. A kiss for the road, and at 6.30 the girls are walked to the school bus. This is when Mitchell and Cameron go back home and drink coffee together. At 7 am they take their separate cars and Mitchell as a lawyer goes to his law firm, whereas Cameron heads to the local school he works at as a music teacher.
This family lives in California, where same-sex marriage has been legal since 2008. Mitchell and Cameron got married the day after homosexual marriage had been announced possible. It did not take them long to decide on adoption. Ever since they became a real family, they cherish every single day in spite of the difficulties that occur almost on every second corner. What matters to them is that they are together and have their lovely girls close.
Taking a look at the same type of situation yet with a different location mainly Europe, Poland, it goes without saying that being the same-sex marriage is not a piece of cake. According to Polish legal system it is illegal for homosexual couples to get married as well as to adopt a child. However, this does not change the fact that there are same sex families in Poland, bringing up children except that their status is not legally settled. In this context, problems can be easily enumerated be it on the private or public ground.
Marta and Ania, both in their mid 30s’, raise a little girl together – a 3 year old Magda. Ania got pregnant with Magda’s father who disappeared the moment he found out he would become a dad. Shortly after, Ania met Marta, and they have been together since that time. Little Magda has never met her biological father. As far as the child is concerned, when asked Magda, how many mothers do you have? Little girl unskillfully says Two mama. Despite the fact that same-sex marriage is illegal in Poland, somehow they managed to get shared last name. – It wasn’t an easy thing to do, to be honest. We shed many tears. – You shed tears, I told you to fight for what’s important and to stop whining. Marta laughs cheering her partner up, when she gets sad at the very recollection of how embarrassing and difficult the fight with the bureaucrats was.
According to Polish law, it is possible as well as legal to change one’s last name for various reasons, be it the fact that somebody does not want to have their father’s last name or the fact that they are not fond of it. Ania and Marta decided that Ania would adopt Marta’s last name. The bureaucrats they had to face were all reluctant about this idea, to put it mildly. They continuously said NO. Just for the sake of saying NO. They had no official reason to refuse, Ania recalls. After about a month of struggle and constant visits at registry office, they finally got shared last name. The reason for this attempt was their unofficial wedding. It took place in a park, with close friends around them, no officials involved. They are proud to wear their wedding rings.
After getting to know this story, an obvious question appears: Why did the bureaucrats in registry office kept on putting skids under Ania? The answer is equally obvious as the question itself: They do not know much, or even anything, about this type of relationship or family, allowedly people are afraid of and against things and ideas they do not know. This is the core of the whole problem. Polish society knows hardly anything about the same-sex couples and their children. It is a taboo. People tend to avoid the topic, or if they express their opinion, it is either by being completely against it, or by showing support.
Objectively speaking, there are still more people who are against homosexuals, unfortunately. However, the other part of society, those more open-minded people who restrain from judgment, bring the glimmer of hope. What Polish society needs is empathy. Once you put yourself into somebody’s shoes, the perspective changes. According to Ania and Marta, the biggest challenge they face are public institutions. Once more, when you consider how different services work, you will reach the conclusion that only legally registered couples and families can function relatively easily.
Ania and Marta provide an example of hospital. About a year ago, their daughter Magda got severely ill with the flu. She was taken to hospital in order to get proper treatment. Even though Ania and Marta were at the hospital together and announced themselves as Magda’s mothers loud and clear, the hospital staff kept on ignoring Marta. She was continuously sent to the waiting room, while the doctors discussed the medical condition of their daughter with Ania. Marta said I felt like an aunt from afar or even a ghost who speaks but no one hears a word I say. It was horrible because I really wanted to be involved. Just like a regular parent would. Luckily, little Magda rarely gets flues and there is no need for visiting hospitals.
On the other hand, there is a bright side of this story. All the time they do not fight for their human right to be regular citizens, they lead a simple life. As they say, they could not be happier though. Both moms work. Ania is a secretary and Marta works in a marketing department of a big corporation. Ola is a friend and nanny who takes care of Magda. As soon as they get back from work, they devote all their time and attention to their daughter. There is no strict division of labor in their household. It all works out naturally. One of them is more into cleaning the house and the other prefers cooking. Ania takes care of the running repairs and Marta always does the grocery shopping. Nothing is strictly settled but rather flexible so that everything can be adjusted to the needs of Magda and them as a whole family unit. They cherish every single moment they have, being aware of how valuable it is to have a family.
Luckily, not all the public spheres are against this family. One of the examples they give is the nursery Magda attends. Recently Poland celebrated mother’s day. One can only imagine that in terms of official circumstances, it can be quite a difficult day for the women. Still, the nursery staff surprised the moms by giving the gifts prepared by Magda to both of them. Apparently, it is possible to accept a different type of family among Polish society. Hopefully, step by step, there will be more areas of public service with open minded staff.
When looking at the situation of Californian parents, one can feel both optimistic about the future development of the world and sad when they compare the differences between the two countries. Maybe the fact that more and more same-sex couples come out with their stories, and seek acceptance, will eventually bring change in people’s thinking. Undoubtedly, it needs time to change someone’s attitude and perspective. It could be years or decades, but the point is that people are open minded and ready for novelties. Difficult as it is, before judging anything, one should always walk a mile in the shoes of another. Only then can they actually state what their opinion is.