First recognized in 1910, Father’s Day was created to honor fathers and paternal bonds. Today, families have evolved, and the holiday celebrates those who have embraced the role of fatherhood in whatever capacity is unique to them.
For Mike Hoover, that means accepting the role of stepdad.
“When I found a partner that had a 3-year-old son, I was beyond happy,” he said. “I felt like I hit the lottery. I found the love of my life and a son all in one. Today, he’s 26 and attending college while living with his dad and me.”
This Father’s Day, Mike reflects on family, his definition of fatherhood and how to be a better dad.
A stepfather’s love
Father’s Day is bittersweet for Mike, who is Vice President of Systems Integration – Loan Services & Vendor Management at GM Financial.
“My parents divorced when I was 5. My biological father stopped speaking to me when I came out as a gay man at the age of 21, and he hasn’t contacted me in over 20 years,” he said. “But I had an amazing stepfather. He treated me and my siblings like we were his own. He showed me what a father should be.”
Inspired by his stepfather’s acceptance, Mike learned that love is greater than any genetic bond, which he portrays through his relationship with his stepson, Brandon.
“Having my biological father out of the picture, I had to redefine what family and fatherhood meant. My stepfather taught me that you can love a child as deeply as if they were your own DNA,” he said. “That’s the principle that I live by with Brandon — to treat him like he’s my own.”
With no shortage of love, building and shaping a family such as Mike’s can still require a lot of patience. Introductions can be nerve-wracking and finding a place in an established biological family can be challenging. Luckily, Mike was willing to work through it.
“Stepping into an instant family was a little bit of a shock, but I was in it 100%. I loved Chris and Brandon from day one. It was a big step for Chris to introduce me to his son initially, and there was a lot of trust and emotions involved,” he said.
Being part of the LGBTQIA+ community has presented unique challenges for Mike and his family as well as to his definition of fatherhood. One such challenge is living in a society that can often display homophobic beliefs. Another is family or friends arguing the validity of their family.
“To be honest, at first, I was concerned with perceptions and limited any physical contact with Brandon because I was afraid of what people would say about a gay stepdad. I had family members make disturbing comments about two gay men raising a boy. It negatively affected me for a while until I realized that I was letting hatred and bigotry shape my emotions and actions.”
Mike and Chris chose to sit down with their son and discuss it openly with compassion and honesty.
“We didn’t realize it was affecting Brandon as much as it was. So now, we intentionally hug more often and don’t hesitate to let each other know we love each other. It’s strengthened our bond and built trust.”
With so many important values shaping their family dynamic, Mike has the following advice to other dads out there on this Father’s Day.
“Don’t let others define what fatherhood is for you. Whether it’s two dads, a stepdad, an adopted dad or a biological dad, just be there for your children,” he said. “Try to be open-minded, as children are faced with challenges today that we’d never have dreamt of in years past. Be patient and be kind.”