Yo, Mama! is a monthly column, here at Momstown, featuring everyday Canadian moms just doing their thing…
This month we’re stopping by our nation’s capital to chat with LGBTQ advocate, award winning writer, and self-proclaimed ‘accidental lesbian,’ Amanda Jetté Knox.
The Ottawa-born writer shares glimpses into her familylife on her witty and down-to-earth blog, The Maven of Mayhem. There you can get acquainted with ‘the maven,’ herself, along with her transgender wife, Zoe, and their three kids: Aerik, 21, Alexis, 15, and Jackson, 11. Amanda hopes that by sharing some of her family’s life with readers, she can help normalize non-conventional families like hers. She says: “I talk about my family’s journey so that people can see the typicality – and especially the love.”
Through her advocacy work and speaking engagements, Amanda (often alongside her trans daughter, Alexis) aims to encourage more inclusive schools, public spaces, and workplaces for our LGBTQ community. Amanda’s stories have been featured on CBC, The Globe and Mail, Upworthy, Buzzfeed, Us Weekly, Uproxx, and Ottawa Family Living.
We caught up with Amanda to ask her some Yo, Mama! questions. Here’s what she had to say:
Our eldest just turned 21, our youngest is 11, and our 15-year-old is the middle child. Everyone is at different stages of independence, whether it’s learning to stay home alone, bussing across the city, or saving up money to move out. While I miss how cute they were when little, I’m loving the time my wife and I now get to spend together. We’re rediscovering dating (without the need for a babysitter!) and it’s awesome.
One of my idols is Brene Brown: author, speaker, and vulnerability researcher. In her book Daring Greatly, she wrote: “The question isn’t so much, ‘Are you parenting the right way?’ as it is: Are you the adult you want your child to grow up to be?” With that in mind, I try to live a life of purpose, self-care and unconditional love for my kids to model. I’m decidedly imperfect at it, but I do my best.
I want my children to be proud in their authenticity. We have two transgender family members and I was a closeted lesbian for 40 years. We all spent way too much time and energy trying to be who we’re not. Life is too short to hide, to fake it, to try and impress people. You’re the only you there is, so hold your head up high.
I had a lot of personal and social struggles growing up. I’ve never hidden that from my children, which I think has made me more approachable. They know I won’t meet them with judgment, only compassion. Life can be hard sometimes, but when parents are a safe place to fall, it can make a huge difference.
I have a trans child. She’s fifteen now and came out to us at eleven. Loving and accepting her is easy – dealing with outside judgment is the hard part. Fighting off people who have no personal experience in trans issues, but insist on debating the validity of my daughter’s identity is both frustrating and exhausting. Nobody knows her better than she does. I wish people could understand that.
I prioritize self-care. Like a lot of parents, taking time for me is something I never used to do, and it burned me out. These days, I work out 3-4 times per week at the gym, do a short yoga routine before bed, and write for a living because it’s what my heart loves most. Doing this makes me a better parent and partner.
Parenting has made me into bamboo: I bend with the wind, but I don’t break. In many ways, the woman I am today is a serious upgrade from the person I was. She’s stronger, fiercer, more confident, more empathetic, and far less judgmental. I’m grateful for the lessons my kids have taught me.
We love poutine. It’s pretty much a heart attack in a Styrofoam container, but it’s perfect with the right cheese (curds, always curds) and fresh cut fries.
Loving. Informed. Ally. (Honestly, I’m surprised she didn’t say “Grande Vanilla Latte.”)
The year my daughter came out, she went to Ten Oaks Project, a week-long camp for LTBTQ youth and kids with LGBTQ parents (affectionately known as “queerlings”) in Ontario. It was the first time she could truly be herself without worry or judgment. She came home a more confident kid. This camp saves lives, and each year my family raises money to help give another child the same experience ours had.
Chocolate oranges (it’s dairy AND fruit!), five-dollar lattes (because who needs to retire?) and The Amazing Race (all versions, all the time.)
I want to normalize families like mine. Sure, both my daughter and wife are trans, but that doesn’t mean we’re not unbearably typical in most ways. LGBTQ families have jobs, go to school, argue over whose turn it is to do the dishes, and agonize over what show to watch next on Netflix just like everyone else. I talk about my family’s journey so that people can see the typicality – and especially the love.
As someone currently writing a book, I have longed for a writer’s retreat, where I disappear into a cabin for a week or two and emerge with a good chunk of my memoir written. I’m planning on doing this very thing over the winter, and I can’t wait! But I’m bringing the dog, because after 21 years of parenting, I think that much time completely alone might be too much to handle!
My wife and I want to take my kids on a tour of Europe to visit historic sites. We want to see castles, Viking settlements, and pretty much everything in Rome. (Maybe if I stop drinking five-dollar lattes, we could make it happen!)
I watch all the movies no one else will watch with me. Watching solo means I don’t have to share the popcorn, which makes me a solid winner – even if the movie sucks.
Read and learn more from Amanda Jetté Knox at The Maven of Mayhem’s Facebook.
If you know a Canadian mom that you’d like to see featured on Yo, Mama! send a message to Shannon Day. We’re looking to chat with moms from all across the country.