“I grew up with a terrible father and I knew I wanted to have a child so I could ensure them a better life than what he gave me.” - NolaPapa
We are nearing summer, and that means it’s both Father’s Day and Pride month across the country. Father’s Day is a time to show appreciation and gratitude to the men in all our lives. Pride is a time that commemorates the Stonewall riots that occurred in 1969 and remains a marker to recognize the impact that LGBTQI people have in our world. So we’re honoring both events this year by spotlighting some amazing gay dads. We connected with NolaPapa, a blogger and stay at home papa living in the south with his husband and two little girls, and asked what it’s like to raise two little girls in the south. Here’s what he had to say.
Kid’s Dream: Erik, thank you so much for taking the time to share your beautiful family with us. Could you give us a little introduction to you, your husband, your daughters and your decision to start a blog about your family?
NOLA Papa: Thank y’all so much for having us! I appreciate this opportunity to hopefully enlighten others about how unconditional love truly makes a family. My husband and I are dads to 2 sassy, independent and beautiful little girls. Alli Mae who is 3 and a half and Ella who just made 2. I was the general manager of a restaurant in the French Quarter for many years. When our second daughter was born I left that job to take on my new role of ‘stay-at-home papa’. My husband Douglas is in his second year of residency as a psychiatrist at a local hospital here in New Orleans. A little while after our first daughter was born I felt compelled to write about what it was like raising a child with 2 dads. I wanted to help break the stereotype of what the ‘traditional’ family looks like. We too are living the American Dream and I wanted to do my part by helping to remove the stigmas behind same sex families. So, I created my blog, nolapapa.com to catalog my thoughts in hopes that people would read them.
Kid’s Dream: What a much-needed idea for a blog! Did you always know you wanted to be a father?
NOLA Papa: I did. I grew up with a terrible father and I knew I wanted to have a child so I could ensure them a better life than what he gave me. I knew this from an early age. But it wasn’t until my mid thirties that the opportunity would lay itself before me.
Kid’s Dream: How wonderful, I’m glad it did. So what does Father’s Day mean to you now that you’re a father?
NOLA Papa: Well, at first it was validating and empowering. And don’t get me wrong, it still is, but now the novelty has worn off a bit and I am beat at the end of the day. Running behind two toddlers with a husband’s physician schedule isn’t for the faint of heart. So, to know I have two girls that think the world of me makes everyday father’s day in my eyes.
Kid’s Dream: That’s something to be proud of. So what does pride mean to you now that you’re married and have a family with two sweet girls who think of the world of you?
NOLA Papa: When the girls were born that definitely brought a new sense of pride to being gay. I used to not really be proud of being gay. It is a hard life. But being able to create our family despite being gay has allowed me to appreciate how truly special that is. And today, I want the world to know it.
Kid’s Dream: We’re glad you’re sharing your family with the world, thanks for sharing with us. What would you say are the biggest challenges of being a parent to two daughters?
NOLA Papa: Haha! In one word: PATIENCE. They are at the age now where that want to do EVERYTHING on their own. And it may take 35 minutes just to put on their shoes, so I have to find my zen and chill out. This too shall pass and I have to remember that and embrace this independent stage they both are in. Also patience helps with the temper tantrums- especially in public. So yes, patience. Lots and lots of patience. Oh, oh! And I pick my battles. If it’s not worth it, forget about it.
Kid’s Dream: On the topic of patience, what are the biggest challenges of being fathers in the south, where discrimination is still legal?
NOLA Papa: Progression takes a bit longer down here. The south will catch up to the rest of society but usually not without kicking and screaming. Come to think of it, the south is almost like toddlers. They’ll eventually catch on. New Orleans really is a wonderful city. The locals are incredibly tolerant. Often times, we get stares. A lot. In fact, almost like we are unicorns? But, not many situations where we are discriminated against. That has happened, but not often.
Kid’s Dream: Well you can’t possibly be the only unicorns in town, are there any supportive community groups for gay parents in NOLA?
NOLA Papa: There is actually. There is a Facebook group called Nola Gay Families that meet up once a month. And we also have dear friends that are also two gay dads that have two daughters our girl’s ages. There also other gay families as well. So yes, a wonderful environment for gay parents here in NOLA.
Kid’s Dream: That’s great to hear there’s a strong community of support in NOLA. What advice would you give to any couple looking to start a family by adopting?
NOLA Papa: First, reach out to anyone you may know that has experience in adoption. If you hit a wall then start your google searches. That's how we started. And down the rabbit hole we went. It’s a bit overwhelming but very educational. We learned a lot.
Kid’s Dream: What kind of advice would you give to straight parents who encounter a family like yours? How can they support your family? What’s an ice-breaker they could say to show their support?
NOLA Papa: Just be kind. Be empathetic. Maybe, think before you ask something that may be taken the wrong way. Smile if you are looking for a long time. Smiles go a LONG way. And talk to us! We don’t bite. A good conversation starter is to talk about our kids. Talk about them and then go from there. For instance, “Did y’all adopt?” And then, add in a personal touch like, “my cousin and his husband are wanting to adopt.” Even if you don’t have a gay cousin. Haha 😂
Kid’s Dream: Haha! Yes, opening the lines of communication is just a great practice for humanity. Well, aside from the challenges, what are some unexpected or exciting things about being gay dads from the south that you might not be able to experience anywhere else?
NOLA Papa: I was really surprised at the majority of love and acceptance we have felt. I am super sensitive and wear my heart on my sleeve. So to be surrounded by love really defuses any insecurities I may have. That was surprising. Down south, when you are a gay couple and walk in somewhere, people may wonder if they are gay and maybe nonchalantly look at each other... not really knowing... but if it’s two dads with kids, that is super obvious and for the most part I was surprised just by feeling accepted. USUALLY.
Kid’s Dream: You wrote a blog about being discriminated against where you live. What would you say to people who don’t understand your family and are rude, what are they missing out on the most (the fun, the love, etc.)?
NOLA Papa: We have not felt discrimination often, partly because we live in such a liberal area of the south but it definitely has happened. The saddest part for me is not being on the other end of it- but it’s when the hateful person has their children with them. They are missing out on a crucial teaching moment for their kids. Children are so impressionable and they are a product of their environment. Love and acceptance is taught early in life and teachable moments like this don’t happen all the time. If people don’t understand our life, observe us and our interaction with each other. They may have not interacted with gay parents before but they certainly have seen and felt love. We love our family just as anyone else does. UNCONDITIONALLY.
Kid’s Dream: What are some of your favorite family traditions?
NOLA Papa: Traditions are my favorite. As the girls get older, the amount of traditions we have will increase but right now, we love going to have picnics at the zoo. We love to play at the playground. We also love to go out to eat with our friends and their girls. And I love to bake cookies and give one to my oldest if she has a dry bed in the morning. During Christmas time we love to board the street car and ride up historic Saint Charles Avenue and see all the pre civil war mansions dawned with their Christmas lights as we make our way to the Roosevelt Hotel to gaze in amazement at their lobby.
Kid’s Dream: What are some of the best NOLA events that the girls get to dress up for?
NOLA Papa: We belong to a wonderful Episcopal church family and the girls enjoy getting dolled up each Sunday. And I love dolling them up too!
Kid’s Dream: Do your girls like to play dress up? What are their favorite outfits to dress up in?
NOLA Papa: They LOVE to play dress up. Our oldest is a great teacher to Ella as she finds her love of dressing up too! They have many Disney princess dresses. Each day I never know what princess will grace me with their presence. Alli Mae also LOVES to twirl. So, any dress that is light enough to give the “Alice in Wonderland’ effect she loves! Her new turquoise dress from Kid’s Dream is a twirl fave! Here is a recent photo of her in action!
Kid’s Dream: What life and fashion advice will you give your girls that you wish you had growing up?
NOLA Papa: My husband and I have, do, and always will teach our girls to accept everyone for who they are- That being different is not a bad or weird thing. Coming from rural Mississippi, I wish I was taught that.
As far as fashion, we want them to be who they are and to not be afraid to show it. I want them to dress how they want and not what they are forced to wear.
Kid’s Dream: That’s excellent advice for living life to the fullest and for embracing your own fashion sense. Erik, thank you so much for taking the time from your busy papa day to share a little more about your family with us. The Kid’s Dream dresses on Alli Mae and Ella look adorable and the photoshoot by BSA Photography is just lovely.
If you like the dresses featured by Nola Papa you can find the Circle Embroidery Chiffon Girl Dress here and the boho style Cotton Tassel Dress here. Use the special promo code ‘NOLAPAPA20’ to get 20% off your next order in the month of June.