“Wednesday Evenings” aims to show there is beauty in every family’s evening, even if we need an outsider to see it. Thanks to a continued partnership with Allstate, I am flying lifestyle photographer Raquel Langworthy across the US to document the nighttime routines of 12 families in four different cities.
Melissa and Jo live in Cambridge, Massachusetts with their two kids—3-year-old Harper and 13-month-old Elijah. They have been married for seven years. They are the first two-mom family I am featuring in this series and I am very excited they volunteered to share their evening.
Melissa, who runs a daycare in their home during the day, is the one who entered their family to be featured and described their evenings as “overtired, frazzled and loving.” Jo, a reading teacher at a nearby middle school, was a bit more hesitant to participate.
They are both fiercely protective of their kids and have chosen to live with another two-mom family in a two-family home, because they “value having a queer community” for themselves and their children.
“We share resources and support between us all.”
In addition to being a positive and powerful influence on her kids, Melissa says living with close friends right upstairs has been invaluable to them as parents.
“Sharing a two-family house with friends has been an invaluable experience, particularly while adjusting to life as parents. This includes everything from grilling together in the yard, borrowing a missing ingredient, having a seasoned mom come and check out a weird baby rash, or having someone take your baby monitor while you run a quick errand. But more importantly, having trusted friends around to talk to about anything and everything continues to be an incredible way to live.“
They also have lots of family nearby (grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins who they are “blessed to be able to see frequently”) since they are both Boston natives.
Jo comes home from work at 5pm, relieves Melissa of the kids and usually takes them to the park for an hour.
Melissa says her home is a “tornado” after daycare and this gives her time to clean up, decompress and recharge.
“On the days Jo is home early, she regularly takes the kids out for a bit. This gives them some time together after being apart all day and it allows me some space to recoup after being home with them. This break gives me a lot more energy and patience going into the evening hours.”
Melissa says she and Jo are “both moms in the traditional sense” which she describes as “primary parents playing an active role in every day-to-day decision regarding our children.” These decisions include everything from what sippy cup to buy to picking out shoes for school to scheduling their well-baby check-ups so both parents can be in attendance.
“We both have very nurturing roles with our babies.”
When Jo gets back, Melissa watches the kids while Jo makes dinner.
On this particular night (as they do on most evenings when the weather is nice), they played outside with the neighbor’s kids.
Melisa spoke candidly about the disadvantages of raising children in a two-mom household.
“We face discrimination and we know our children will as well. We are constantly evaluating our safety and that of our children to determine how much information is okay to disclose at any given time.”
But Melissa wants to be clear that despite those difficulties, they love being a two-mom family and wouldn’t want it any other way.
“Aside from just being generally happy with who we are, we are proud to be a part of the queer community. Though it wasn’t a choice for us, we would choose it if we could.”
Melissa says seeing two moms run a household is greatly beneficial to her children.
“Our kids are free to be who they really are, not what they are ‘supposed’ to be because of their sex. Since only women are around to run the house, our kids see women doing all the jobs adults do: being the primary wage-earner AND caring for the kids, putting in air-conditioners, shoveling sidewalks AND doing laundry. We like that they will grow up with an expansive view of what they can do and be, not limited by gender roles.”
When dinner is ready, they say goodnight to their neighbors and go inside to eat as a family of four.
Melissa and Jo live in a modest home, which Melissa says is a reflection of two incomes in the field of education.
After dinner is bath time.
Melissa usually handles bath time and teeth brushing while Jo gets lunch prepared for the next day.
Once the kids have their pajamas on, they play a bit before bed.
Elijah and Harper are both very strong and love acrobatics.
Raquel said at one point Elijah climbed from the floor to his changing table himself!
“We don’t know where their strength came from! We don’t exactly encourage it, but we do allow them to explore and experiment. We believe that they’ll be safer if they learn how to climb and navigate on their own so we avoid helping them. We know that allowing them to problem solve now, and deal with frustration, will help them learn to deal with bigger struggles as they grow.”
They all read books together before bed.
“Harper chooses two books each night, but who reads and who listens varies. Most nights, Harper listens and Elijah tends to just play in the bedroom.”
When the books are over, Melissa puts Harper to bed while Jo nurses Elijah in the master bedroom.
Melissa explained that Jo carried both kids, which was a very easy decision for them.
“Jo always wanted to be pregnant, and I am unable to carry for medical reasons.”
Currently, Elijah sleeps next to Jo at night, which Melissa says has a big impact on their evenings.
“We used to go upstairs and spend some of our evenings with our friends. Now Elijah needs Jo next to him and will often wake if she isn’t there.”
Nursing is done with the lights off and can last over an hour. During this time, Melissa cleans up and does the dishes.
Later in the evening, after Elijah has dozed off, Melissa and Jo are able to relax together and watch TV.
I asked Melissa what she and Jo thought about the pictures.
“We loved seeing the pictures. It was exciting to be able to step back and see what it looks like to watch us parent. The pictures reflected our evening more accurately than we anticipated and we were pleasantly surprised. Jo thought they were great and is glad we decided to participate in the shoot.”
I asked Melissa if she would change any of the adjectives she used to describe her evenings. She kept “loving and frazzled,” but decided to swap out “overtired” for “family-focused.”
Melissa had one final thought to add to her family’s photo shoot experience.
“Though the tolerance for gay marriage has grown exponentially over the past few years, there are still basic human rights that are not protected for many in the LGBTQ community. Our photo shoot took place during the height of the Kim Davis scandal which served as a reminder that bigotry and hatred is alive and well. I hope that by participating in the shoot more people will understand that our family is not all that different: we spend our days cooking food, building block towers, driving to soccer, wiping tears, folding laundry and showering our kids with love. Most days we are just trying to do right by our kids and make sure they are tucked in tight knowing they are loved.”
This post is part of the “Wednesday Evenings” series sponsored by Allstate. From bath time to bed time, every family has a special evening routine. This series aims to show the beauty in the day winding down. As the nation’s largest publicly held insurance company, Allstate is dedicated not only to protecting what matters most—but to guiding families to live the Good Life, every day.
This is an interesting and needed post in the blogosphere. I love that they share a home with another family. It seems so helpful and fun to have two more parents around. I am sad that this family needs to think about their safety and how and when to disclose information. I hope their children are able to raise a family in a more loving and accepting society. Thank you for this post. I admire them both for sharing their lives with us.
Loved all of this! The closing remarks put tears in my eyes. Very beautiful family. 🙂
I love what Melissa said about their kids being able to see two women in all those roles. I never thought of that benefit of a two-mom family. I agree with Leighanne, it’s nice to see a same-sex family featured. And I’m jealous of their living-with-friends arrangement – how awesome.
i really appreciate this post and that it didn’t shy away from the fact that the women are lesbians (not just like…these two women happen to have babies together) the end note was very powerful and i just really like that you included this family, ilana. i think some blogs would shy away from mentioning things like queer communities and discrimination faced by the LGBTQ community.
Thank you! I’m a liberal blogger from NYC. I’m not surprised I posted about Melissa and Jo. I think it says more about progress in this country that Allstate was eager to share their story too!
Awesome article, glad they decided to participate! I can’t imagine carrying the weight of my current worries as a parent along with worrying about discrimination. It’s unbelievable this is still an issue. Looks like a wonderful family!
This is such a lovely post; a great addition to the series. All families are different — but every family seems to have the same Ikea Kura bed!
My thoughts exactly! And, when I saw the bed, I thought, “We have that same thing!”
What a beautiful portrait of one of the many family types that make up our world! Jo and Melissa seem to be such thoughtful, loving parents. Thank you for this post, and for including Melissa’s final thoughts – they are wise words.
This has been by far my favorite in the Morning/Evening series that you’ve done. This was a story that needed and deserved to be told. Now excuse me while I finish off this box of tissues :,)
This has been my favorite one so far. These moms represent my life more even though I am a working mom in Oklahoma. I related to these 2 moms more than any other one in the series. I have so many questions on where you got things. I need those diapers the swinging bar and the gym mates. Also i love the kids bed.
Love is love. I’m looking forward to the day when a person’s sexual preference (whether gay, straight or whatever) doesn’t stand out or get mentioned and it will just be a non-issue. We’re on our way though….as usual, love this series!!
What a beautiful family!
Thank you for choosing a two mom household for one of your Wednesday evening families. As a new mom in another two mom household, this was really wonderful to see. The whole mommy blog scene can be somewhat alienating, as it does not typically represent non-traditional families. I also loved seeing all of the shots of Elijah’s adorable cloth diapers!
Beautiful post. AND looks very similar to our evening! We have a 3 year old girl and a 14 month old boy. Almost all is the same (husband puts down 3 year old while I nurse the 14 month old who also has to sleep next to me). Nice to see another couple going through it.
Keep up the good work mamas!
I understand the point the moms made about how women can do every aspect in a family, but with Melissa having the kids during the day and another two mom family in the house- do the kids have a positive male role model? I assume it is with the family close being by, but its a good point that men too can do EVERY aspect of a family. I am sure the moms do try to make this a point as well, but Elijah should know that he shouldn’t just let the women do everything 🙂
I know you aren’t trying to be demeaning, but you basically just said that every single mom and every lesbian family are not doing enough to expose their children to men. In my experience, in a male-dominated culture, children see plenty of men in powerful roles, and as part of a family. there are also plenty of straight families where the kids never see the dad taking on certain roles in the family – all families are different, and just because Elijah doesn’t have a male parent, doesn’t know he won’t be a man or participate in a family. In fact, it sounds like his moms are making sure that he sees that all family members are responsible for the whole.
I agree that in the male dominated culture that we live in children see plenty of males in powerful roles in the business world- but I have to disagree about the home and family aspects. The statistics of children growing up without a father figure are staggering (and by role models, I mean ones that they actually know, not celebrities or people they “see” on tv). As I originally said, I am sure that both kids do get this from the extended family, or even from Melissa and Jo- but the fact that they brought up that WOMEN can do anything I thought was a little weird. Men’s ability should never be downplayed no matter the culture one lives in- doing so is just as sexist as if you flipped the coin.
Love this post! Question: how did the older girl get a Smith T-shirt? Is one of the moms profiled a Smith alum?
Thank you for this post, Ilana and Allstate. -And thank you Melissa, Jo, Harper and Elijah for sharing. (I also loved the note at the end.)
What a beautiful family! From one middle school teacher to another, it is such a hard job to work with big kids and come home to have love and enthusiasm for littles. Thank you for sharing your story and your beautiful children!
A beautiful and loving family. Thank you for including them.
I know this couple through the greater Boston lesbian community and have followed their relationship and the births of their two children. There is not a more loving set of parents or two more adorable children, and I say that with two grandchildren myself. Melissa and Jo are exemplary parents and I am thrilled they have shared a slice of life with the public.
Thank you for sharing such a beautiful family! I’m a single mom and have a lot of support from neighbors, so I can relate to their situation. I sincerely hope that they and their kids don’t experience much discrimination. They are wonderful moms, and these photos showed the love they have for their kids. Hugs!
Great to see a 2 mum family. As a previous person has said parenting blogs often are man and woman. I’m one part of a two mum family myself. There isn’t enough exposure of lgbt “families”. Regardless of our orientation we are all trying to raise our kids the best way we can. Fab blog. Thank you 🙂
beautiful post. thank you for sharing this story. i love this series and this is my favorite one yet. what a wonderful family and such loving parents!
beautiful family…love how the moms really work as a tag team to get the “work” done, sharing the responsibilities so that family time (dinner, bedtime) can be for everyone together. Yeah women!!!
As all others above, I agree this was a lovely post.
I spent a month in San Francisco last summer and we lived in a lovely house in Castro. Every day we (4 year old daughter & I) would walk along Castro and spend hours in Dolores Park and I remember thinking, ‘Wouldn’t it be great if we lived here and my daughter grew up seeing men holding hands in the street, attending library story time and playgroups and seeing that some kids have two mums and some two dads?’ And that would be her ‘normal’ world?
Even though I understand the reasons why this community stick together I think it is key that they live in every neighbourhood and our kids grow up with their kids. I think it would be hard for the adults of the future to discriminate against their own friends and families, who as this post points out, are just going through life like we all do.
Too naive? I don’t know… Sorry for the long post.
[…] Read Melissa's full evening here. […]