The word "mother" means "nurturer" or "caretaker," while the word father usually connotes "a biological tie," said UC Berkeley PhD candidate Rafael Colonna , whose new research into same-sex parenting may shed some light on the ever-fraught question of who gets what title. To understand how LGBT couples navigate the "heteronormative" language of parenting, Colonna interviewed LGBT throughout the state. He asked same-sex couples about the division of labor in their households, whether or not they hew to traditional gender roles (ie, one person is a breadwinner, the other a homemaker), how their kids address them, and how they're perceived by the outside world. His findings were often illuminating.
It turns out that many lesbian couples designate one person to be the "mother," since it's apparently difficult for kids to address both parents with the same term. Others might both be "mom," just as gay male parents might both be "dad," to show that their roles are equal. Even the question of surnames can be problematic, Colonna notes. Some couples choose one person's surname for the whole family, while others give kids the same surname as their biological parents, in order to preserve a connection with the "real" mom and dad.
Colonna, who grew up in California's San Joaquin Valley and came out at age 13, says that he and his partner still haven't mapped out their own parenting plans. Both oldest children, they appear to have similar nurturing instincts.