Richard Hedger on same-sex parenting: 'This is just the beginning'

In the second of our ‘Men at work’ series on paternity leave, we hear from a father who lives in Sydney with his partner and daughter, three

We are a same-sex couple and we have a beautiful three-year-old daughter Scout. I am a freelance photographer and my partner Paul has a design studio in Surry Hills.

Hedger and his daughter at home.
Hedger and his daughter at home. Photograph: Richard Hedger/The Guardian

Our families and friends have been very supportive of our decision to have a family. Paul and I discussed the dynamics of our potential home life before Scout was born. We decided that I would be the primary carer, as I could continue to work freelance. I self-published a book for instance, Telling Tales: 40 Years of Floats, Fun, Fantasy and Fortitude, which was very successful. We sought some parenting guidance and were recommended a “baby whisperer”. This advice was invaluable but Paul and I soon found our groove.

Richard Hedger with Scout.
Richard Hedger with Scout. Photograph: Carly Earl/The Guardian

Of course family life is not without its challenges but that’s what life is all about. As a same-sex couple we are met with exactly the same surprises and learning curves as any family unit.

Apparently, there is a social shift to male primary carers but I am sure it has been happening for years. There are many variations of the family unit regardless of gender. Hopefully there will be a social mind shift and people will begin realising that primary caring roles can and should be carried out by both males and females. We have been questioned on this on numerous occasions but you become resilient and respond accordingly.

From a personal point of view, I would like to see some official changes to streamline formal documentation. Invariably when we complete paperwork relating to our family unit, particularly at doctors and specialists, there is no information required about the father or male guardian. We have found ourselves in various healthcare organisations unable to fill out forms as the father, because all the questions are formulated for the mother only. Initially, we found this extraordinary in a time when issues of equality present themselves in most parts of modern life. However, when its comes to childcare, nutrition and general wellbeing of your child, you quickly discover there is next to no inclusion of fathers. It is mainly female-centric.

As parents we cherish each moment and crave each milestone. “Oh wow, she just sat up!” “She just rolled over!” “She just took her first step!” Then the floodgates open, we’re all off and running, literally.

Sydney based photographer Richard Hedger and his two year old daughter Scout in Centennial Park. NSW, Australia. July. 2018
Sydney based photographer Richard Hedger and his two year old daughter Scout in Centennial Park. NSW, Australia. July. 2018 Photograph: Carly Earl/The Guardian
Sydney based photographer Richard Hedger and his two year old daughter Scout in Centennial Park. NSW, Australia. July. 2018
Sydney based photographer Richard Hedger and his two year old daughter Scout in Centennial Park. NSW, Australia. July. 2018 Photograph: Carly Earl/The Guardian

Scout attends a local playgroup a few days a week which allows me to work and take care of the family home. Paul and I share the drop-off and pick-up duties which works well for us both. The dynamics of our relationship have changed but we are a strong family unit. Most of the reactions we have had have been positive. From the “knowing smiles” to the most wonderful compliments.

As a family we regularly socialise with friends who have children of a similar age. When possible we attend rainbow family and gay dads community events. It is very important to us that Scout experiences and understands the diverse family structures of our society. Twice a week Scout and I attend a couple of local classes together. A music group and a sports group which are generally followed by the park, the zoo, the playground or even the beach.

Hedger and his daughter in Centennial Park.
Hedger and his daughter in Centennial Park. Photograph: Carly Earl/The Guardian

Last year was an emotional rollercoaster for our community and there is still a long way to go. It is not just about marriage equality, it is about equal rights and discrimination. Many of the remaining areas of discrimination don’t have the same level of visibility as marriage equality – particularly issues affecting trans, gender diverse and intersex people – but that doesn’t make them any less important.

We would love to have another child, a sibling for Scout. It is a long, drawn-out process which does not come without heartache too. Our daughter is amazing, and being a parent is amazing. We could not imagine life without Scout. She’s an absolute joy and continues to amaze us daily. We are truly blessed and this is just the beginning.

As told to Svetlana Stankovic. Photos by Carly Earl and Richard Hedger

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