By Megan Wadding
Victoria Morales and Sundown Chavez are the mothers of six children and are in the process of adding another to their brood. The mothers are relatively new to navigating what it means to be a family headed by two mothers.
Morales and Chavez were set up through a family member three years ago. Chavez brought all six children in from a previous marriage. The children range in age from 28 down to 7.
“The oldest one is Gabrielle. She is our oldest and she's married and has a little boy, so we’re grandparents as well,” said Chavez. “Then there is Patrice, my oldest biological daughter. She is 27, and she graduated from ASU last year. Then there is Ezra who is 20 and a Marine. He joined right out of high school and is based in Australia right now. Then there is Jaden, who just graduated from high school, Kiana who is 16 and Ryder who just turned 7.”
When the two women first met, Morales was living in Texas, but their relationship moved quickly, and they decided they belonged together. “It went from getting to know you, to being friends, to dating, pretty fast,” Morales said.
Morales said that the idea of becoming serious with someone who already had a large family was never an issue for her because she also comes from a large family herself, but that it was still a transition for her once they decided to spend their lives together.
“I think I was mentally and emotionally prepared for the fact that it was going to be challenging and that it was going to be a lot,” said Morales. “But more than anything, I was really excited about it. I had always wanted to have kids and a family. So, there was never any question or doubt as to whether I wanted it or if I had it in me to take on whatever was going to come with that.”
The couple found that building a relationship with the older children was complicated at first, but in time, eventually, everyone was on-board. Morales said that the more time she spent with them, the better they all felt about it.
“It has been a matter of giving individual kid time and space and exposure to me at the rate that they feel comfortable with,” she said. “Building a relationship with older kids takes a lot of patience, and just because it was something that I knew I was choosing and that I wanted, I feel like they deserved the respect and space to take however long they needed to be comfortable with me and ideally, to choose me back.”
It did not take very long for all of the children to adjust to seeing their mother in a same-sex relationship, according to Chavez. She said they only see their love for each other.
“I think they’ve realized that it doesn’t have anything to do with the fact that we are two women,” Chavez explained. “They see the respect that we have for each other. It’s not even an issue for them. We are just parents. It doesn’t have anything to do with being gay or not gay.”
The couple wed earlier this year at a beach-side ceremony in Puerto Peñasco, Mexico, and the event was almost entirely a family affair.
Their three boys and three girls served as the wedding party, gave Chavez away at the wedding and walked her down the aisle, and their son-in-law was the officiant. They gave Morales a rose as a symbol of support.
“We were formally married in February, and I say formally because I felt like by the time we moved in together, that’s really not too much other than paper that changed,” said Morales. “We felt married to each other at least for a very long time.”
During the wedding, the family did a “sand ceremony,” which is where each person has a vial with their own color of sand, and then all of the vials are poured into one heart-shaped vial.
“The idea is that once the sand is put together, it can’t be separated. It was about symbolically blending our family,” said Morales.
The brides also exchanged two sets of vows, one for each other and one for their children.
Morales said that getting married really solidified their relationship and helped foster a sense of security and longevity, especially on the part of the kids.
“I think the paper and the legal stuff is super important, but I just think that mentally and emotionally, to where I think my relationship with all of the kids, each one of them, has come, makes it feel like there is stability for us to beyond the legality of things. For any reason, I know that our relationship will exist,” Morales said.
A two-mom family can sometimes be challenging when it comes to parenting, but the couple seems to be navigating the waters well so far.
Morales, who grew up in California, believes that Arizona is not quite as progressive regarding gay visibility as of yet, most likely due to lack of exposure. Morales believes that while having two moms may sometimes present unique challenges and foster some interesting conversations, their children have a pretty good handle on things. One of her biggest worries is that the children sometimes feel protective over their mothers.
“They have probably had to go to bat for us probably more than we will ever know. But we are very proud of the fact that they are warriors out teaching everybody else to be more loving and excepting people,” Morales said. “You never want to feel like you’re putting your kids through more challenges in the world than need be, but I think the other side of that is I feel really confident that all of their leaders in their own spaces, in terms of building awareness and acceptance and love.”
The couple has found that things are a little more complicated when it comes to parenting their youngest son, who just turned seven, as opposed to his older siblings.
“A lot of it is just about people not knowing, and other kids don’t know how to react or how to respond, and they’re not used to things that are different. So, the reaction [our son gets at school] is, 'That’s weird' or 'You’re weird', so it is a constant conversation with him to kind of explain where some of these things come from and the fact that not all people are comfortable with those that are different,” Morales explained.
Morales said that the father of their youngest is around and co-parents with them, but they still get the “Who's mom?” or “You have two moms” question when it comes to school.
The teenagers in the family seem prepared to handle conversations and questions that may arise, according to Morales, but regarding raising their youngest son, Morales believes it is more about the ability to build from a very young age a consciousness about different people.
“When we talk about people treating us differently for being a same-sex couple, it opens up a whole different realm of conversation where we can talk about people of different religions, people from different cultures and people from different countries, and just how much we can create a conversation around being more loving and accepting of people,” she said.
So far, in terms of dealing with the school, Chavez said they had not had any issues, but that everything comes down to the teacher and making the school aware that their son has two moms.
“[Our son] is about to go into second grade, so he hasn’t been in school for very long, but we have built a relationship with his teacher, and we are there for all the little parties and we make sure that we're there for all of the events,” said Chavez. “I think it really helped us to make the teacher aware because I definitely don’t think she would've known that he has two moms if we hadn't told her.”
Chavez said that they have been very lucky because so far, the teachers have always been great and have even made sure to send home two Mother's Day gifts for them.
Morales said that they still get the question as to who the biological mother is, but that they do not feel any need to answer that.
“We kind of just let that be confusing for everyone because to us, it doesn’t matter, so we try to make it clear to everyone that it doesn’t matter,” Morales said. “We get a lot of questions like that.”
Both Chavez and Morales said that they definitely feel most protective with their youngest and they worry about his friends and their parents. They are anticipating that there may be a day when having two mothers may cause an issue for him, but they seem confident they can steer their way through it.
“There’s a layer of that when he starts to have friends and do stuff, part of me that wonders how they will react to us and how all of that is going to transpire. I think we will go through it case to case,” said Morales.
For now, the mothers are just enjoying family life. They purchased a home with a pool last year and love playing host for as many family events as they can.
“We’re pretty big on game nights at home, especially if we can get all of the kids over,” said Chavez. “We have a lot of birthdays and family events and stuff that we host. That’s really an example of our love and our relationship and what our love has built. When it’s birthday time, dads, cousins, grandparents, there is no line or separation; we welcome everyone at our house as part of our family. If they’re important to our kids, they’re important to us.”
The couple is excited about trying to have a child of their own and are also open to the idea of fostering children in the future.
“We want to grow our family even more,” said Morales. “Being parents is the most important job we could ever have. We are very passionate about providing a loving, supportive environment for our kids and feel like we have enough love in our hearts to continue to grow that circle.”
Chavez said that all of their other children are excited and happy about the idea of adding a new sibling to their brood.
“We’re all pretty accustomed to adapting and growing together,” Chavez said. “I think we have grown closer in the process of anything new that’s come our way. We expect that bringing another baby into the house or even the idea of fostering in the future would be no different.