“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.