You know you’ve met your kind of parent when he describes parent sleep as “akin to sleeping the night before a really early flight and you’re afraid you’re going to sleep through your alarm clock.” Fresh back from a trip to climb Mt. Everest with Mandy Moore, we chatted with this dream dad on everything from his surrogacy journey to parenthood, the one question he wishes strangers would seriously stop asking, the best playground (and the place to spot Sienna Miller) in NYC, plus why he’ll literally never sleep the same again. Ah, the joys of parenthood, y’all.
Q: You initially started your career in the fashion world, then moved on to business school and now work for a non profit doing adult education at a Refugee Resettlement Agency. How did you land in your current position, and what made you leave fashion?
A: I landed my current position, honestly, because I blindly applied online. Utilizing your network and asking around is such a beneficial tool, but sometimes you just gotta click, “submit my resume”. My career in fashion ended, quite frankly, because I burned out. I happened upon the fashion industry; it wasn’t my dream. After 10 years of working 50+ hours a week, I hit a wall. My son was born around the same time and that caused me to stop and take stock of my life, and my priorities shifted. I felt this new love and hope and desire to do something a little more altruistic. The industry at that time wasn’t doing much in the way of contributing to global health, which was the direction I wanted to take my life. But who knows if I’m done with fashion for good. There’s been a lot of change, and there’s a much stronger sense of awareness within the fashion industry these days. Perhaps there’s a place for me within that field in the future. I like to leave doors open.
Q: In your time off, you’re an avid hiker. You just made the trek to Mount Everest Base Camp alongside Mandy Moore. Impressive! What do you love most about hiking, and how does it help refuel you as a parent and just a person in general?
A: Hiking, for me, is like an anti-depressant (of which, I’m also a big proponent!) that gives meaning to my life. It can be such a multi-faceted experience. Sometimes the views are absolutely stunning and the breeze is refreshing and you’re able to pause and just absorb how much beauty there is in this huge world. Other times, it’s hard as fuck and you can get really deep into “the pain cave”, a term coined by our Everest guide Melissa Arnot, where you work some shit out and face your demons. That catharsis is therapeutic for me. It’s so automatic for us to slip into our routine. I believe that the travel that’s required for a good hike (since I live in New York) and the adventure, experience and courage needed for that travel keeps my cup full. I’m the first to admit that I’m a better parent when my cup is full. I also cherish the time I get to spend with Mandy and our other adventure buddies on the mountain so incredibly much. Friends were made into family on those mountains. A huge thank you and honorable mention for Eddie Bauer too for helping us to #liveouradventure and remember why we get out of our comfort zones and hit the trails.
Q: You’re married! Tell us, how did you and your husband meet? When did you know you wanted to start a family together?
A: We met a decade ago in a very New York kind of way, in the East Village, the day after Halloween, well before any kind of online dating was around. Our initial meeting was kind of old-fashioned in that sense. He invited me over for dinner that night. After we met, I called my best friend and told her I just met the man I was going to spend the right of my life with, and the rest is history. We talked about our plans and dreams for having a family quite early on in our relationship. I will say, that’s a VERY good topic to cover at the beginning of your relationship. Having disagreements about what that area of your life will look like is not easy.
Q: You had your now four-year-old son Errol via a gestational surrogate. What made you pursue this particular path to parenthood, and can you tell us how the process works?
A: I can only speak to our experience with parenthood via surrogacy. We used an impeccable agency based out of Portland. They made every aspect of the experience, even the not so fun parts, incredibly positive and easy. They selected a surrogate for us based on our conversations with them and personal preferences with regards to how much contact we would have with her throughout Errol’s life, etc. Luckily, she was an angel. I was able to deliver Errol. My husband cut the umbilical cord and everything went off without a hitch. We are incredibly lucky and grateful for our experience. I thank god every day for the incredible luck we’ve had to be able to create and raise our family exactly the way we dreamed it. So many LGBTQI+ folks around the world aren’t so lucky.
Q: Biggest misconception about surrogacy?
A: The most frequent question I get is, “who is Errol’s real dad?”, which always irritates me a little bit for obvious reasons. Like, we both are. It’s so wonderful to have people be open, interested and curious about the process, and the biology is matter of fact and science, but frankly, I find that question to always be a bit invasive.
Q: Biggest misconception about same sex parents (particularly men)?
A: The biggest misconception I’ve had to face as a gay parent is that since he has two men raising him, he’s missing something in his life. But we are enough. Every same sex couple is enough and worthy of parenthood, and we are doing a marvelous job at raising our beautiful children in our own beautiful way.
Q: You grew up in a conservative, small town environment. What made you want to raise your son in a big city, moving from LA to NYC? Pros? Cons?
A: Despite what it may have looked like, or seemed like to the outside, my childhood in Nebraska was huge. My world was huge. I had tons of cousins and friends, and there were endless wide open spaces to run around in with my friends. I’d leave my house in the morning and not come home until sunset in the summertime. It was so rad! The irony of raising my child in such a huge city now is that his world is a a lot smaller. Of course his world view is massive; he’s exposed to so much more art and culture (we live in Greenwich Village so he sees a lot of all sides of humanity), but I do wish we had more access to grass and trees and nature and bugs and opportunities for him to get his hands and feet dirty. Raising a family in New York is hard. It’s expensive. It requires a lot of sacrifice, but it’s very rewarding to see him turning into such a worldly character.
Q: Los Angeles or New York?
A: Los Angeles. My people are in Los Angeles. My friend family is in Los Angeles. But, that said, I am a New Yorker now. I’ve been here for more than ten years, so it’s home. I’d love to be bi-coastal one day, to get the best of both worlds.
Q: Do you find that people are pretty open about same-sex families nowadays or are there still instances where you face discrimination?
A: Shockingly open. New York is amazing. Los Angeles is amazing. We were just in Portugal, and it was absolutely stunning how open and warm people were. They were almost excited to see us. What gay families are doing that is so important right now is creating this incredibly strong case for our ability to raise exceptional people. We are taking advantage of what we’re able to do now. We’re doing the work. We are raising the kids. We are putting in the time. We are elevating the conversation, and I’m so proud to be a gay parent right now.
Q: Kids are curious and tend to ask a lot of questions themselves. Plus, they have no filter! Has Errol asked any tough questions about your family situation? Has he had to field inquisitive questions from other kids, and if so, how do you prepare him for these conversations?
A: Of course. He’s asked why he doesn’t have a mom. He’s been confused by that as a result of what kids in his school have said. That’s totally normal and natural so we resolved any insecurity about the issue quickly with a sensitive and thoughtful conversation. We keep the dialogue open; we talk about it. Our goal is to try to build in him a confidence and an ease about it so that, if and when, anyone gives him shit about it in the future his response can be something to the effect of, “Yeah, I have two dads…so what?!” or “Dude, yes. I have two dads, isn’t that cool?”.
Q: Based on your Instagram feed, you’ve taken Errol on some pretty epic trips around the world! Any travel tips you care to share? Or horror stories we can all relate to, ha!
A: Go forth! Be fearless! Be prepared. And don’t forget to relax. Traveling is good for you; it’s good for your kids, so enjoy the ride. And starting early helps a lot. And snacks and an iPad.
Q: How has being a father changed your life?
A: How has it NOT changed my life!? Mainly, it’s made me much more patient. Patience doesn’t come naturally to me, and Errol’s forced me to slow down and chill. I love him for that.
Q: Any plans for Father’s Day this year? As a same-sex family with double the dads, how do you celebrate? Any traditions?
A: We’re the worst at celebrating stuff. My mom’s in town so we’re going to all go grab dinner at Modern Love in Brooklyn, an amazing little vegan spot. I’ll be the first to admit that we have to start doing better with holidays and traditions. It’s hard to find the time and energy to plan!
Q: Dads always get a rep for being the fun parent, but there are two of you! So whose the “fun parent” in your relationship and whose the rule enforcer?
A: That’s easy, BOTH OF US.
Q: Hardest part of being a dad? Most rewarding?
A: Hardest part is sleep. Errol started sleeping through the night at three months (we did sleep training and it worked like a dream), but I have never slept the same since he was born. I’ll get 8-9 hours of sleep at night, but it’s so incredibly rare that I’ll get to that deep, restorative sleep place. Parent sleep, for me, is akin to sleeping the night before a really early flight and you’re afraid you’re going to sleep through your alarm clock. Does that make any sense? Can anyone else relate to that? The most rewarding part is watching him be a good role model for other kids. He’s already established good leadership skills, and I feel very proud of him for that.
Q: Best parenting advice you’ve received?
A: Raise your child to be a grown-up you want to hang out with.
Q: Best business advice?
A: Don’t take anything personally.
Q: Biggest #dadfail so far?
A: I plead the fifth on this one. But I did once lock myself out of my apartment taking out the trash while Errol was inside…in his crib. I handled it, but it was fucking terrifying.
Q: Top 3 dad essentials you couldn’t live without?
Q: Favorite LGBTQ-inclusive children’s books?
A: We Are Family by Pat Hegarty. It’s very sweet and charming.
Q: Favorite local restaurant?
A: Blue Hill.
Q: Favorite local kid’s activity?
A: The ropes playground in Washington Square Park is so nice. The grown-ups can pack a picnic and snacks, sit on the grass and the kids can go crazy. It’s a social place for grown-ups; we’re all very friendly there. Plus, Sienna Miller is always there, and she’s my icon.
Q: Favorite date night spot?
A: Home. We’re both big homebodies, and we love our apartment as if it were a member of our family so that’s always where we want to be. But, if we need to get out, we’ll hit up Mary’s Fish Camp in the west village.
Q: Favorite way to unwind after a long day?
A: WINE. And Rachel Maddow.
Q: Describe your personal style in 3 words.
A: Comfortable, black, and tailored.
Q: Fave menswear brands?
A: Acne, ATM Collection, Rag & Bone, Officine Generale. That’s 98% of my closet.
Q: Fave kid’s brands?
A: Anything on Dopple!