No matter the result of the Australian Marriage Law Survey, aftershocks will ripple across our country for many years to come – an inevitable consequence of staging a public debate on how people live and love. I can’t begin to fathom the plebiscite’s impact on the mental health of LGBTIQ+ Australians, and as a Mum have found the targeting of families with same-sex parents shocking and offensive.
Today we speak with Jarrad and Michael Duggan-Tierney who, through The Real Dads of Melbourne, document their family life with seven-year-old Reid – take a glimpse at their profile and you’ll see the same ordinary and extraordinary moments of your own.
When asked about having two Dads, Reid responds, ‘it’s the same as everyone else,’ and he’s right. It’s love that makes a family, and the hearts of these three are full.
Looking back to the moment Reid was born, could you have imagined that seven years later you’d be sharing your life as a family with a community of over 60,000 on Instagram and beyond? Can you tell us a bit about how The Real Dads of Melbourne came about, and your stated mission of normalising same-sex parenting?
We had no expectations of the account in the early days; the name was a play on ‘The Real Housewives’ franchise as we’re big fans, and we posted as a way to stay in touch with family and friends abroad.
As time has passed, things have changed. We are inundated with messages of support for our modern family, as well as questions from parents of children who identify as LGBTIQ+ – we don’t always have the answers, but are happy to share our personal experiences.
By far the most rewarding part of our increased following is the ability to help others – not just the LGBTIQ+ community, but also causes close to our hearts (Michael recently abseiled down Melbourne’s St James Building to raise funds for Victorian children living in foster care as part of Anglicare Victoria’s Altitude Shift).
You both wanted to become fathers from a young age – and discussed starting a family on your first date! How does the reality of parenthood compare with what you envisaged?
To be honest, when we first met the idea of starting a family was literally a dream. Our path to parenthood was long and eventful, but becoming fathers to Reid – it has been everything. We know what an honour it is raise a child, and never for a second take it for granted. Every day, we try to help Reid feel happy, healthy, and secure so that one day he might contribute to the world in a positive way.
Michael, you run your own business; Jarrad, you also work part-time. How do you balance work and parenting (and posting to Instagram!), and can you give us a glimpse into how your days start and end with Reid?
Like all working parents, we’re always juggling and no two days are the same, though we’ve tried to stick to a routine since Reid was born. He normally wakes up between 6am and 7am – Jarrad starts work early and leaves home before 7am, so Reid and I have breakfast, do our daily quiz via the Nine News app, and are ready for school and work by 8.30am.
At the other end of the day, Jarrad does the school pick-up and, when there isn’t an after-school activity or play date, him and Reid get home, have a snack, and head outdoors to our local park before the usual household grind of homework, cooking, dinner as a family, and bed by 7pm. That said, there’s always something going on – some weeks we’re all over it, and others we’re a chaotic shambles!
Families with same-sex parents have been the target of damaging and unfounded commentary from those campaigning against marriage equality. How have you discussed this with Reid, and what advice would you offer to other families dealing with this debate?
We don’t have the television on at our house while Reid’s awake during the week, and we’ve felt nothing but supported by our local community. Thankfully he hasn’t been subjected to any campaigning against marriage equality, so we haven’t needed to explain this to him.
Our family respects the fact that everyone is entitled to their own opinion, and although people may feel the need to publicly voice their opinions, we reserve the right to not accept or understand them.
With just one week left of the Australian Marriage Law Survey, what might you say to someone who has yet to vote and may be considering a no?
We hope everyone who votes is aware of the impact their say will have, not just on families like ours, but on the youth of Australia – the message you send to them will resonate long after November 15th.
As for us, we were a family before the vote, and regardless of the result of this ‘poll,’ we will continue to be one.
Moving across time, what kind of adult might you like Reid to grow into? And how would you like him to remember you to his own family?
We’ve always thought along the lines that we’re not raising a child, but an adult. We hope he grows into a confident, happy, and secure gentleman. We would like to think he will look back on his childhood and the opportunities he’s had and remember laughing a lot.
Children’s clothing brand
We’re huge fans of the wonderful, Australian-owned kids label, Beau Hudson.
All three of us love our Shhh Silk pillow cases so much we take them on holidays!
Activity or outing
We absolutely love travel, so mini-breaks and holidays are always something we look forward to. We’re off to Gippsland this weekend – Reid is very excited for a visit to the Gippsland Jersey.
Lunch or dinner destination
Morris Jones in Windsor for dinner. Head Chef Matthew Butcher has worked alongside the world’s best and his menu is exquisite, but the atmosphere is relaxed. It’s very New York – we love it.
Book, film or show
The best show we’ve ever seen as a family was Kinky Boots!