kids

Meet the family with three dads, one mum and a very happy toddler.

Everyone has daydreams: whisking yourself away to a quiet place where no one is screaming for you, or needs anything from you. A place where if you want to write you can write; if you want to draw you can draw. If you want to spend all day browsing high-end handbags online, you can do that. Except often, if you have a family, these daydreams stay exactly that: dreams.

Unless you’re Lori Tipton, that is.

When she started thinking about a family in 2012, she asked several parents what they considered their biggest challenge. “One answer stood out,” she writes. “‘I don’t have time for myself anymore’.”

Lori prides herself on her independence, so this was a problem for her. At the time she’d been in a relationship for 10 years and chosen to live separately from her partner the whole time.

“How was I supposed to find the energy to have a career, pursue my passions, and raise a child with the help of only one other person?” she writes.

“It’s a pressing question for all working moms in the 21st century. Then, I had a thought. What if my child had more than two parents?”

Two parents certainly aren't enough when it comes to creative Christmas cards. Image via PrimeMind // Lori Tipton

Her essay for PrimeMind, “Raising My Baby…With Three Dads,” explains how it worked out.

“A year later our son, Wilder, was born. He has three dads. My partner Andy, who had a vasectomy early in our relationship, and I moved into one household. Wilder’s biological father, Lee, and his partner, Clint, live less than a mile away. Wilder shares his time with all of us.”

It’s an arrangement you certainly don’t hear about every day, and unsurprisingly, Lori’s received the full gamut of both praise and harsh criticism.

“When I made the decision to co-parent with another couple, I received both praise and consternation — mostly from other women,” she explains.

“Women without children often told me that the way I challenged the fundamental two-parent family model was revolutionary. Some mothers joked that they wished they had thought of the idea, while others remarked that they would never be able to give up being with their ‘baby’ at all times.”

When it comes to logistics, Lori and Andy have Wilder four nights a week and Lee and Clint have him for three. Sometimes all four parents hire a babysitter so that they can spend time together. “It is deeply understood by every member of the family that our time with Wilder and our personal time are equally important,” she writes. “This is instrumental in preventing feelings of exhaustion or resentment.”

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She admits decision-making as a group of four can be hard but in the long run, all of them, and most importantly, Wilder, are happy—so she refuses to let her critics sway her.

Wilder with his dads Lee and Clint. Image via PrimeMind // Lori Tipton

“Wilder continues to amaze us with his response to all the different environments he’s exposed to,” she writes. “He shows no issue with sharing his time between our households. He acknowledges us as one big family.”

The four parents split traditional maternal and paternal roles between them. Lee, whom Wilder calls “Daddy”, is great at baking and sewing. Wilder’s “Poppa” Andy brings him to hang out with him at the bar/restaurant he owns. Clint, whom Wilder calls by name is “a beacon of patience with a penchant for film appreciation,” Lori explains. “He has taken Wilder to countless special screenings, with Wilder becoming one of the youngest honorary members of the New Orleans Film Society.”

Lori feels secure this was the best decision for her family. “Often at the park… I listen as morose mothers talk about all the things they wish they had time to do,” she writes. “Wilder’s three fathers and I have all been able to continue cultivating our passions.” And in Lori’s opinion, those passions are what make her a better mother. “When I am with Wilder, I work to be present,” she explains. “I will continue to stand up and rebuke the notion that such an approach to life makes me a bad mother, because I’ve learned that in order to be the best parent I can be, I have to first be the best person I can be.”

This post originally appeared on Flo & Frank. It's a happy place for smart women, come say hello.

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