Aubrey and Ellen Parker are proud of their family; it's the reason they tell their story.
It's important to them that their two young children grow up knowing that having two moms is something they should feel nothing but happy about. "We're proud of what we have, we're proud of who we are, and we want our kids to grow up that same way," said Ellen.
By the time Windy City Times arrives at the Parkers' Oak Park home at 12:30 p.m., the couple has already had a full day. Their kids' cousins have been over for a morning playdate, and their 2-year-old son, Owen, is already down for his nap. Alec, their 6-month-old daughter, has been less cooperative about going to sleep, so she joined everyone in the dining room for the interview.
Owen loves having a little sister, they tell me. He loves holding Alec and helps out his moms by bringing her new diapers and toys. "It's all good for now until they have to share toys," Aubrey joked. "That's when I think it's going to go downhill."
When Aubrey, a divorce and family law attorney, and Ellen, chief resident of pediatrics at Loyola University Medical Center, met at Creighton University in 2005, they never imagined their lives would turn out this way. Neither of them were out of the closet when they were placed on the same dorm floor. They spent a long time as friends before beginning to date.
They told Windy City Times they feel lucky to live in a community that not only accepts, but embraces them. For example, their child-care facilities always make sure to include them in Father's Day celebrations, and on Mother's Day, they do their best to make it double special for the Parkers.
When I ask what kind of hardships they have experienced as a lesbian couple, they are quick to emphasize how fortunate they are that, compared to what so many LGBTQ people have gone through, with losing jobs, being arrested, losing housing, etc… their struggles are quite small.
"I wouldn't say hardships, I'd say challenges," explained Aubrey, "Some of the challenges have been coming out in general. It's not a one-time thing. It's something that we have to do routinely every time we meet someone new."
When it comes to struggles with parenting, Aubrey said, "Our struggles are not that different from the struggles that any family goes through with two kids and two working parents. At the end of the day it's all the same no matter what your composition is."
Right now, for example, their main focus is figuring out how to get baby Alec to take a nap. "We're just very boring average people," Aubrey said.
Aubrey and Ellen are happy to walk me through the types of challenges they face, but they seem far more interested in chatting about the positive aspects of their lives. They love, for example, that each one of them had the opportunity to give birth to one of their children, and they find it convenient that gender roles do not exist for them. When the two of them got married, they decided to combine their last names, Parlet and Klocker, into Parker. When I ask if it has been easier to make those kinds of decisions without gender roles getting in the way, they both answer with an emphatic, "Yes."
"It is easier, and not just with things like name change," said Aubrey. "I've had a baby, Ellen has had a baby. We both know what it's like to be the nursing mom. ... Even little things, like we have a house now with a yard. Who is going to mow the grass? And it's like, well you do the back and I'll do the front. So all around it is a little bit easier." Later, she added, "We're both just very even Steven. We're both very busy at work, we're both very busy with the kids."
Recently, the Parkers celebrated their family by attending the Chicago Pride Parade. While working around nap schedules was a bit of a challenge, they said, it is important to Aubrey and Ellen that their children grow up attending pride events.
"It's one thing to tell your kids, 'Hey this is all normal and great and everyone loves us, but I think when you are able to see other people celebrate you, then that is able to be more exciting," Ellen said.
The Parkers are a happy family, but they said they want other LGBTQ people to know that they had to get through a lot of hard parts before getting to where they are now.
"I do like to tell people that it gets better," said Aubrey. "I think we both probably went through a time where it was really hard. It gets better even if there are roadblocks in your life or people don't support you as much as you anticipated they did. They'll come around, or they won't and you'll find other people to fill that void, so it gets better."
"I think if you are in the depths of the process of coming out," added Ellen, "That consumes all of your head, all of your energy, every second of what you do or what you don't do, how you interact. It's hard, but [try to] at least give yourself the credit that things will get better and people will surprise you and there may be different things in store for you for the future that are even better than you can imagine."